Spontaneous volunteers inspire Red Cross action in Mexico

Published: 27 September 2013 14:45 CET

Following the severe impact of Ingrid and Manuel, which are now hurricanes, Mexican Red Cross volunteers and staff have continued responding, sending aid to relieve the communities most heavily hit by the storms.

Since the onset of the tropical storms, the Mexican Red Cross has sent over 7,000 volunteers and technicians to respond to the immediate needs of affected people in the states of Guerrero, Veracruz and Tamaulipas.

“The operation has been difficult due to lack of access. Roads that lead to rural municipalities, the most distant from the cities, have been totally destroyed, most importantly those located in the mountains,” said Issac Oxenhaut, National Relief Coordinator at the Mexican Red Cross. Heavy rains have hampered relief efforts, prompting the use of helicopters and planes in order to deliver aid to hard-to-reach communities.

“What we have been doing is collecting all of the items we have in stock and are receiving, thanks to the generosity of the Mexican people. We have accompanied the brigades of the federal government authorities, the marines and Mexican army in their aircraft to get to communities that are cut off and deliver the humanitarian aid together,” added Oxenhaut.

The heavy rains that have lasted over a week, have brought on massive flooding and landslides, which have cut off many roads. Of particular concern was the corridor connecting Mexico’s capital to the city of Acapulco, where many communities have been hard hit.

With a corridor now open to Acapulco, the Red Cross will deliver much needed water and food to those stranded by the storm. Based on ongoing assessments, the most urgent needs continue to be food, personal hygiene items (such as soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and toilet paper), as well as household cleaning items.

As Hurricane Manuel moved north over the weekend to Sinaloa on the northern border of Mexico, the Mexican Red Cross, in coordination with government authorities, were placed on immediate alert with some 350 volunteers and staff ready to assist with emergency evacuations of shelters.

“What has been amazing during this response is the solidarity of the Mexican people. We have seen many people come to the collection centres and spontaneously volunteer their time to help those most in need,” said Fernando Suinaga Cardenas, President of the Mexican Red Cross.

A video posted on the Mexican Red Cross website shares a few takes from one of the collection centres where spontaneous volunteers work together with the Red Cross to package food and hygiene items to be delivered to those most in need. “It is simple fact of being able to help and wanting to help,” says Jorge Antonio, one of the spontaneous volunteer’s working at one of many collection centres.

“Volunteers are the pillar of the Mexican Red Cross and it is thanks to them that we are able to help our brothers who are facing this difficult situation. They are people that have made the vocation of helping others an important part of their lives without receiving anything in exchange, and even, risking their own lives,” added Fernando Suinaga Cardenas.

With bad weather expected to continue this hurricane season, the Mexican Red Cross headquarters and all of its branches in areas, which are in the path of the storms, remain on alert and ready to provide immediate assistance where required.

The Red Cross will continue to monitor the situation closely and remains ready to increase its response if necessary. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies disaster response staff are in close communication with the Mexican Red Cross and are prepared to deploy whatever support may be needed in the coming days.