Philippine Red Cross trains water and sanitation volunteers for the next disaster

Publié: 20 mars 2014 17:45 CET

By Kate Marshall and Kate Roux

Brian Kae Enriquez is only 27 years old, but he is a key staff member for Philippine Red Cross, especially when it comes to the provision of water and sanitation in emergencies. In 2013, Brian managed the organization’s 240-member watsan emergency response team during the country’s four recent major emergencies – the Bohol Earthquake, Luzon Floods, Zamboanga crisis and Typhoon Haiyan.

Enriquez’s work with Philippine Red Cross is a prime example of how the National Society encourages and promotes capable young professionals to senior positions. Like many of his peers at the Red Cross, Enriquez began as a volunteer. He later began training Red Cross volunteers on hygiene promotion and HIV prevention. While he is now responsible for the water and sanitation emergency response teams, he also leads the training programme that prepares staff for deployment.

Working alongside Enriquez is the watsan specialist, Akbar Prasetya. He was seconded from a senior position with Palang Merah Indonesia, also known as Indonesian Red Cross Society, as part of the Regional Disaster Response Team for the Haiyan operation.

Their exchange of expertise is extremely valuable as there are striking similarities between the two Southeast Asian neighbours; namely the vast geographical spread and number of islands, which can hamper response in times of disaster.

The challenges of a disperse population

“Similar to Indonesia, the Philippines has thousands of islands,” Prasetya says. “For us at Palang Merah Indonesia, one of the challenges is how to distribute equipment when a disaster strikes, and the Philippine Red Cross is facing the same issue. We have our own solutions in Indonesia that may not work in every context, but we are exploring options together.”

Palang Merah Indonesia also does a lot of water and sanitation training; it has trained 300 teams in four years. Prasetya brings this experience to the work with Enriquez.

Mohammad Janisa Manalao, a registered nurse, is one of the Philippine Red Cross staff that received watsan training recently from Enrique and Prasetya.  “I’ve gained a valuable skill set with their help” he says. “In Yolanda (typhoon Haiyan), almost everyone was depending on water and sanitation teams to provide drinking water. It’s hard work, but the communities relies on us.”

His boss, Enriquez, smiles when he hears this. “The training can be difficult and it takes time to assimilate what you are taught,” he says. “But when I see the volunteers and staff grow in confidence, applying what they’ve learnt in the field and learning from their experiences during responses – that is my reward.”

Enriquez expresses his hope that the work they are doing with Red Cross Red Crescent partners, such as Palang Merah Indonesia, will help strengthen the capacity of Philippine Red Cross to respond to water and sanitation needs in 2014 and beyond. “We all know that disasters will never stop, especially in the Philippines, so it is important we are ready.” he says.


Getting the balance right

The IFRC has well-established disaster response mechanisms and capacities. Through our emergency assistance and long termGlobal Water and Sanitation Initiative, in 2012 we brought water and sanitation services or information on hygiene and disease prevention to 3 million people.