Ghana Red Cross: recent floods a good test for disaster preparedness

Published: 20 November 2007 0:00 CET

Ghana Red Cross was one of the National Societies which responded to the recent floods that devastated West Africa. To find out more about the aftermath, Jean-Luc Martinage spoke to Andrews Frimpong, Secretary General of the Ghana Red Cross Society, who is currently taking part in the General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva.

Question: What is the situation in Ghana now that the flood waters have receded?
Answer: The situation has now stabilized but Ghana was severely hit by the floods. Actually this was one of the most severe catastrophies our country ever had to face. As soon as the water started to rise, our volunteers, who live in the communities, were mobilized. They were very quick to help with the evacuation of many affected people to higher ground. However our resources were too limited to cope with such a disaster, so we quickly asked for and received additional assistance from the International Federation offices in Lagos and Dakar. A regional disaster response team was deployed followed by a Federation assessment and coordination team. An international appeal was launched, which made it possible for us to assist 60,000 people. The appeal was well covered.

Question: what lessons did you draw from the crisis?
Answer: We realized that we still had a long way to go to be able to fully respond to a disaster of such a scale when it happens so abruptly. We have a large network of volunteers but they are not as well equipped as we would like. So we need to strengthen the capacities of our National Society. We also realized that we needed to coordinate our action more closely with the Federation regionally but also with our different partners like the government and UN agencies.

Question: The Mothers’ Club project is another major activity of the Ghana Red Cross. How is the project going?
The Mothers’ Clubs have been the flagship project of Ghana Red Cross for quite a long time. Our volunteers provide basic public health education to women in their communities. This programme is very successful in avoiding the spread of preventable diseases through education and hygiene promotion. It won a national award from UNICEF and from the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs. We would like to expand it further and apply the same principle to all of our chapters so that they each provide the same service to their local communities.

Question: What are your main challenges for the coming months? Besides the flood recovery programme itself, our priority is definitely disaster preparedness for future natural disasters but also for problems linked to everyday life such as road safety, since car accidents kill many people every day in our country. HIV is another priority, all the more since many people living with HIV are faced with stigma and discrimination. In Ghana it is often difficult to speak openly about being HIV positive, many people hide their status and the stigma also fuels the infection. We need to do more to improve the situation.