Panamanian Red Cross uses new technology to streamline distribution of humanitarian aid

Publié: 18 juillet 2014 15:34 CET

By: Enrique Jair Guevara

Although authorities have stated that the water of the La Villa river is now fit for human consumption, doubts persist regarding the safety of the water in the region of Azuero following the contamination of the river that left 20,000 families without access to potable water.

Panamanian Red Cross (PRC) continues providing support to local and national authorities with the distribution of water, jerry cans for water collection and storage as well as providing information on water and sanitation, through activities which are being led by Panamanian red Cross.

We were able to speak with Alberto Cabrera innovation delegate working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies who has been working with the PRC to deploy these new tools in the field to facilitate beneficiary registration and aid distribution.

EG: Alberto you have had experience using these tools in Haiti, Peru and Guatemala, among other countries. What are your expectation for their use in Panama?

AC: I am very happy and excited  because this is the first time we are deploying the kit with ODK and MEGA V in the Americas. We have three of these kits pre-positioned in the zone and this is the first operation during which one of the kits is deployed. In other operations we may have  used one or the other, but not both at the same time.

EG: From a technical point of view, what is the advantage of having both tools in one kit coupled with how easily deployable it is to support a humanitarian operation?

AC: Having the tools in one case gives us an enormous advantage in implementing these new technologies. In this case having them together allows us to promote their complementary implementation. That is to say, we can improve beneficiary registration through ODK and then speed up distribution of aid by using the MEGA V bar code system.

EG: What is in the kit?

AC: The kit is a large pelican case which holds 15 Samsung X-cover model smart phones (which are water resistant for 30 minutes in a meter of water). It also contains two bar code readers, a Lenovo lap top computer, all the necessary plug ins and a converter which allows us to charge the equipment using vehicles in the field.

EG: How are will these tools be used during the operation in the region of Azuero?

AC: We are suing ODK in the communities for beneficiary registration, so that we can later conduct the first distribution of relief items, which in this case will be the jerry cans,  used to store and transport water. Then we will use the MEGA V system to analyse the data we have collected and select the families and people who are most vulnerable ensuring that they receive aid first. Without a doubt these tools will help the PRC further support local and national authorities by facilitating data collection and ensuring a better selection of beneficiaries.

EG: How are the new tools being received by the personnel and volunteers of the PRC?

AC: The PRC has been fundamental enabler during this response, clearly recognized an asserted by the affected communities and authorities. We have presented the tools to the authorities and they have been very impressed with the PRC’s capacity to respond in terms of data collection, reports, damage evaluations done in real time, and as a result their ability to carry out more faster and more focused interventions with more dignity for the beneficiaries.

All of the personnel with whom I have been able to interact in the presentation and training sessions are very happy and motivated to use this new technology. They are eager to sue them and see the results. At the moment we are doing some tested and you can certainly get a feel for the expectation not only of the Red Cross  but also of the authorities and those affected who are anxious to see the results and added value of this technology.

EG: Why should we use tools like these?

AC: ODK and MEGA V allow us to capture higher quality information in a shorter amount of time, which translated to a more coordinated and effective response aimed at addressing the most vulnerable. If we don’t use these tools we will continue to do business as usual, with a lot of enthusiasm trying to do our best, but taking too long and using incomplete information. Using these tools is about providing assistance to those affected by disasters in the most dignified way possible.

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