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Humanitarian Market Places

Yesterday I participated in a staff forum from my office at Swiss Red Cross. After some staff general information about latest organisational reorganisations – the waves of it will touch me a bit in the next time – we had the occasion to see some “market stands”, where parts of the organisation or affiliated entities presented their activities.

I first went to a presentation of the Humanitarian Aid of the Swiss Confederation, which has its central warehouse in the Red-Cross building. They showed us the activities of the Rapid Response Teams, which has to be prepared to react very fast in emergency situations world-wide such as earthquakes, droughts or floods. Besides natural disasters they have facilities for all kinds of technological disasters such as nuclear, biological and chemical incidents or other man-made conflicts. There is quite an infrastructure behind these rescue activities you normally just see on TV, and a number of trained volunteer specialists is ready-to-go within a short time to assist victims of disasters.

Afterwards I participated in a presentation of the ERU (Emergency Response Unit) of the Red Cross, where the Swiss Red Cross is closely collaborating with a number or European Red Cross societies in their network for Disaster Preparedness. At the beginning they highlighted what they just are doing, while the media report about the monsoon floods, which aren’t in the limelights yet, but have caused about 1.5 million people to leave their houses and have destroyed about 0.5 million homes. Specialists from the ERU have immediately left towards Pakistan to evaluate the situation on site and what and how can be helped. In case the situation is clearer, the members of the different teams immediately start organising the help with a complex network of specialists. They showed pictures of their mission during the floods in Mozambique and explained how they have to set up infrastructures in a situation where the local structures have collapsed or can no longer cope with the situation.

The last “market place” for me was a presentation of the Ambulatory for Victims of War and Torture about group therapies with children in the age of 6 – 18. Many children of victims, who haven’t gone through the experiences their parents had, are highly affected by the effects of the traumatisation of their mother or father. It was impressive to see how in the therapy they are using elements of meditation and rituals together with techniques of building up trust and inner security with the children.

I like these presentations where you can get an insight into working conditions which normally you don’t come much into contact, even if you are working in the same organisation.

Statues in front of the International Red Cross Museum in Geneva, symbolising victims of war

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