The Botswana Red Cross Society (BCRS) will launch the Zambezi River Basin Initiative (ZRBI) in Kasane on May 24, 2012 to avert flood disasters, prevent water borne disease outbreaks and improve livelihoods of communities living along the Chobe River, says Deputy Secretary General Titus Makosha.
According to Makosha, BRCS’ ZRBI launch, which is in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS), is rated as the world’s largest humanitarian and development network empowering an estimated 22 million chronically vulnerable riparian communities in the seven countries of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe through which the Zambezi River traverses.
Commemorating World Red Cross Day (WRCD) in Gaborone on May 8 the Deputy Secretary General said: “The launch of ZRBI under the theme: ‘Building Resilient Communities’ comprises a historic, long-term and cross-border humanitarian programme.
In Botswana, the affected communities intended to benefit from the ZRBI Disaster Risk Reduction programme include Gweta, Kachikau, Kasane, Kazungula, Lesoma, Mabele, Nata, Pandamatenga, Parakarungu, Satau and Zoroga.
The entire programme has been designed to reduce the vulnerabilities and strengthen the capacity of communities living along the Zambezi River Basin. The numerous instances of unanticipated river flooding in the incumbent countries are almost an annual catastrophe, affecting communities in varying degrees. Although flood operations interventions avert loss of life and livelihoods and prevent disease outbreaks, they are very costly and unsustainable.
“As ZRBI realizes that the challenges confronting the affected communities go beyond the scope of the emergency relief, the programme therefore offers an integrated and comprehensive long term mitigation intervention linking the relief and development to reduce vulnerability to floods and other threats in the river basin environment,” said Makosha.
ZRBI goes beyond simply addressing and preventing the impact of disasters such as flooding and droughts and strengthening the capacity of the respective Red Cross branches along the Zambezi River Basin to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in the communities and build resilience against disasters. The initiative also develops community based integrated livelihoods programmes capitalizing on the Zambezi River’s potential benefits and improve health standards through disease prevention and control strategies including HIV/AIDS.
BRCS Health & Care co-ordinator Chebukani Nkobodo said: “ZRBI addresses the broader vulnerabilities of communities as well, including HIV, exposure to water and vector borne diseases and the compounding aggravation of weakened community structures, re-enforcing Red Cross structures.”
Nkobodo said BRCS would hold a follow up launch of the 2012 WRCD in Kasane.
This year’s theme, “Youth on the Move”, underscores BRCS dependence on the youth to push the health agenda, forming the majority of volunteers. To date, BRCS youth involvement has been on Sexual Reproductive Health to both in-and-out-of-school youths, Kasane, Moshupa and Tshane 90 Youth Prison Inmate outreach programmes, peer education, mentorship and role modeling to orphans and vulnerable children and community TB Care Programme involving sensitization and administration of DOT at home, contact and defaulter tracing and general support for patients and their families.
“However, significant youth involvement is from the unemployed doing it for lack of engagement and livelihoods. The spirit of youth volunteerism should be encouraged for their increased participation during their formative stages so as to engender children social responsibility at a younger age,” she said.
BRCS is part of the global Red Cross movement established in 1968 in compliance with the 1949 Geneva Convention, following World War II. According to the Convention, states should set up independent and neutral Red Cross Societies, taking charge of humanitarian challenges in times of peace or war.
Despite the milestone achievement of BRCS in disaster preparedness and relief, humanitarian missions and welfare programmes, it faces critical challenges. These include humanitarian consequences of climate change, decline in volunteerism spirit and retention, shrinking financial base for humanitarian work due to donor fatigue and lack of capacity for the sustenance of programmes at grassroots levels.
The brains behind the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Henry Dunant (May 8, 1828 ÔÇô October 30, 1910), a Swiss businessman, and visionary philanthropist witnessed, during a business trip on June 24, 1859, the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in modern-day-Italy between two neighbouring belligerents. Thirty-eight thousand wounded, dying and dead, remained on the battlefield, and there appeared to be little attempt to provide care. Dunant himself took the initiative to organize the civilian population, especially the women and girls, to provide assistance to the injured and sick soldiers. Since they lacked sufficient materials and supplies, Dunant purchased the needed materials and helped erect makeshift hospitals and convinced the population to service the wounded without regard to their side in the conflict as per the slogan ‘all are brothers’.
After returning to Geneva in July, Dunant recorded his shocking memories and experiences in the book: “A Memory of Solferino” the prelude to ICRC creation in 1863.