Putting the community at the centre of disaster response and risk reduction in Mali

Published: 5 September 2012 11:12 CET

As part of its mission to strengthen community resilience and reduce vulnerability, the Qatar Red Crescent Society has been working in Mali and Niger to support comprehensive action to minimize disaster risks.

In June, a four-person emergency response team from the organization visited the town of Gao in northern Mali, which saw outbreaks of violence in March. The purpose of the humanitarian mission was to distribute food aid to 1,000 households and conduct an assessment of the population’s needs in water, sanitation, health and food security.

During the mission, the team visited a number of health centres, water and power stations, and met with local groups concerned with food security and farming. These meetings revealed specific needs that require an urgent response.

For example, it was discovered that healthcare facilities in the Gao region lack vital materials, human resources and infrastructure to function effectively, and many were looted and ransacked during the violence. The assessment also revealed that the majority of Gao’s water stations are not operational and so people are forced to find their water from the river or ground water, which may aid the spread of water-borne diseases.

Food reserves in the region have also been depleted and the market cannot supply enough food and essential commodities. The general insecurity and unrest has reduced the goods available in markets, while prices have gone up, and farming has become more difficult.

Since returning to its headquarters in Doha, the Qatar Red Crescent Society has begun planning urgent humanitarian interventions to address the needs of people in Mali and Malian refugees in Niger, with a concentration on health, water, sanitation and food security.

On 2 August 2012, the organization and the Mali Red Cross signed a partnership agreement to ensure strong coordination in planning and implementing projects in northern Mali. They will also working closely with a group of civil society representatives and local elders in Gao to assess humanitarian needs and coordinate relief activities in the areas.

These partnerships represent the Qatar Red Crescent Society’s collaborative approach to engaging the local community at a grassroots level to ensure that needs are met and that resilience to future disasters is strengthened.

President Dr. Mohammed bin Ghanem Al-Ali Al-Maadheed pledged the National Society’s commitment to the Mali Red Cross and the Malian people: “The Qatar Red Crescent is extremely concerned about the worsening food crisis in the Sahel region, and in Mali specifically. With rising food prices, severe water shortages and the ongoing conflict, the people of this region need help to survive.

As a humanitarian organization, and a member of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, it is our duty to support the Mali Red Cross during these difficult times.”

Over the last seven years, the Qatar Red Crescent Society has been working in West Africa to help alleviate the suffering of vulnerable communities through disaster response activities and long-term, community-based programmes in health, water and sanitation and food security.