In the Seychelles, saving lives comes first

Publié: 8 octobre 2003 0:00 CET

Hugues Albert, Seychelles Red Cross, in Cap Ternay

“In a country prone to natural disasters such as tropical depressions and floods, our aim is to have a first aider in every home,” says Colette Servina, President of the Seychelles Red Cross (SRCS).

Servina is not being overly optimistic. Despite employing only two full- time paid staff, the SRCS does have more than 400 active volunteers.

Broadening first aid know-how is just one way the SRCS intends to cope should disaster strike. The National Society completed its first national disaster response team training just as Abaima, a moderate tropical storm, hovered over the Indian Ocean.

Hit twice by such disasters last year, the archipelago’s 80,000 inhabitants are expecting the Red Cross respond again. Strategically based in La Réunion, the Indian Ocean Regional Intervention Platform (PIROI) – a French Red Cross structure supporting national societies in the region – is also ready to intervene.

Based at the Cap Ternay Youth Village, the training camp was designed to increase the competency of the Red Cross Society of Seychelles in dealing with small and medium size disasters at a district or even national level.

Topics covered during the seven-day training included disaster management systems, needs assessment, radio communication, first aid, water and sanitation, disaster policies and principles and rules in disaster relief.

The National Disaster Response Team (NDRT) is a replica of the Regional Disaster Response Teams (RDRT), a structure created by the International Federation in East Africa and other regions of the world, with the aim of having trained experts ready to respond should a catastrophe strike a country in their region.

Drawing on expertise available in the region, a key facilitator in the exercise was Farid Abdulkadir, the Director for Disaster Preparedness and Response of the Kenyan Red Cross and one of the RDRT team leaders.

The Kenyan expert shared his knowledge, acquired in a series of disaster emergency missions, both with his own National Society as well as with the International Federation. Key theory and practical exercises focused on co-ordination, planning and implementation of disaster management operations.

The training site, where a temporary clinic was set up, was located in the vicinity of Cap Ternay, about 60 km from the capital Victoria. The very narrow access road provided the grounds for an ideal training scenario: a bus accident.

Thirty “injured” passengers were scattered across the accident site, in a ravine. Trainees were requested to provide first aid to the victims of the bus crash as well as to prioritise, according to the seriousness of injuries, prior to transferring people to the nearby Red Cross clinic. The participants also evaluated the needs and issued an emergency appeal.

“I am impressed with the interest shown by volunteers and the dedication with which they engaged in this training. They take their work very seriously and are an inspiration for anyone," said Abdulkadir, who recently returned from an emergency relief mission with the International Federation in Turkey on the border with Iraq.

Attending the emergency simulation exercise were 25 volunteers, all trained to varying degrees in first aid and emergency treatment and working under the gaze of Roy Nibourette, the Disaster Response Coordinator of the Seychelles Red Cross.

“First save a life, then help people overcome the difficulties of a disaster. We consider it a must for every volunteer to have solid first aid skills before engaging in relief activities,” says Nibourette, a pillar of the Regional Disaster Response Team.

He also stressed the need to work in tandem with other emergency service providers in his country. Said Nibourette: “We are not Lone Rangers, but trying efficiently to meet the needs of people affected by disasters in situations where aid is not immediately available from other agencies.”

And this training proved it with participants from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Local Government's Emergency Brigade studying and working alongside Red Cross volunteers.

The ambition of the national society is to provide the opportunity for more people to access first aid training, thus spreading the concept of humanitarian values and principles. Although essential, training and techniques are not the sole components of first aid.

“A first aider brings human warmth, a sympathetic smile that helps promote tolerance and the values and principles of our movement,” says Servina. “It demonstrates a respect for human lives, and makes the difference between indifference and solidarity.”

A living proof that this approach pays is Trevor Renaud, a volunteer who last year received the country’s Special Youth Award for having dedicated most of his free time participating in the national society’s first aid activities.

His relationship with the Red Cross started when he was six years old, when the Seychelles Red Cross launched an appeal to other National Societies to seek medical assistance for Trevor, who was born with a congenital heart disease. With support from the Italian Red Cross, Trevor underwent four operations, without which he would not have survived.

Today Trevor is much better. Indeed, he has participated in a number of emergency response operations of the Seychelles Red Cross, responding to requests for his services whatever the time, date or weather.

Against all odds, he has made a success of his life and presented himself as an asset for the Red Cross and his community.

Related links:

Activities in the Seychelles
Disaster management
First Aid
More information on PIROI (French)