Hurricane Matthew: the IFRC regional director for the Americas takes a lead to strengthen partnership and cooperation

Published: 23 October 2016 22:41 CET

By Diana Media and Kate Roux

Haiti / Panama, 22 October 2016

Behind every large-scale emergency response operation is the critical navigation of coordination among global partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. From 18-20 October, Walter Cotte, Regional Director of the Americas for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), was in Haiti following the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, which violently struck the country on 4 October 2016.   

Cotte focused on consolidating support from the Movement to the Haiti Red Cross and the Haitian Government. He met with Jocelerme Privert, interim President of Haiti, along with Dr. Jean-Pierre Guiteau, President of the Haiti Red Cross, and Ines Brill, Head of Country Cluster Support Team for the Latin Caribbean, to strategize a joint action plan that efficiently brings aid to families most affected by the hurricane.

"As auxiliary to the government, the Haiti Red Cross has an important role to play in supporting the Civil Protection Department. The conversation with President Privert opens up new opportunities to enhance our response and reach areas most in need,” explains Cotte.

The Movement: an operational perspective
The Regional Director took the opportunity to witness the operation first hand in Jéremíe, one of the areas most affected by the hurricane. Cottee met with the Civil Protection authorities and Red Cross volunteers from Grand Anse.

"Many of the Red Cross volunteers have been personally affected by the hurricane, yet they to work tirelessly, endlessly, helping their neighbors", says Cotte.

Since day one, Red Cross volunteers in Haiti have been critical in reaching communities hit by Hurricane Matthew; their proximity is particularly vital given the significant logistical challenges in reaching affected areas. 

The Haiti Red Cross has deployed 900 volunteers to the field and 47 people of their permanent staff. Together with Movement partners, the Haiti Red Cross helped more than 3,000 families through the provision of more than 8000 non-food items, access to safe water, first aid, basic health and psychosocial support.

More than 199 tons of relief items have been sent by the IFRC into the country, and regionally the IFRC has provided support by deploying 48 staff to support in the operation, expanding the capabilities of the Haiti Red Cross. The International Committee of the Red Cross is supporting the Haiti Red Cross through their Restoring Family Links program.

With nine National Societies present in Haiti (Canada, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the United States), they are providing valuable support to the operation in terms of human resources, funding through the appeal and in-kind donations, as well as technical support on the ground.

Partnership for action
Following his visit to Haiti, the Regional Director returned to Panama to hold a meeting with several diplomatic representations consisting of Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Haiti, Honduras, Kosovo, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Venezuela.

The briefing also included the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, the Pan American Health Organization, and Movement partners including the ICRC, the American, Canadian and Norwegian Red Cross Societies. With the support of the American Red Cross online radio platform, approximately 342 users from 20 National Societies around the world were also connected to a live broadcast of the meeting.

The meeting provided a key opportunity to not only help fundraise for the emergency appeal, but to also discuss in detail the response capacity of the Haiti Red Cross with Movement partners. 

“This is a well-coordinated operation, and it is our goal to maximize the expertise of our global network to be as effective and efficient as possible", said Cotte.