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©Till Mayer / International Federation

On the road to recovery

The Iranian city of Bam is on the road to recovery five months after the devastating earthquake, that killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed 85 per cent of all buildings. Traffic and street vendors are the most evident sign that Bam is returning to a semblance of normality. In addition, all of those made homeless have moved to prefabricated housing provided by the government. But fear of another earthquake remains.

With reconstruction well under way, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is playing its part in rebuilding Bam. "The Iranian Red Crescent, supported by the Movement, is rehabilitating and reconstructing the health care, education and social welfare infrastructure. They are also rebuilding IRCS facilities which were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake," explains Mohammed Mukhier, the head of the International Federation's Iran delegation.

"At the moment, the Red Crescent field hospital is still the only operational hospital providing emergency and medical care for the people in Bam."

©Mohammed Babikar / International Federation

A new regional resource

"Disaster management could mean the difference between life and death. I am very happy to be a part of the national disaster response team," said Red Cross volunteer Asif Shahab.

The Indian Red Cross is breaking new ground by setting up the first national disaster response team (NDRT) in south Asia. The region's geographical features render it perennially vulnerable to a number of natural calamities, such as cyclones, droughts, floods, earthquakes, wild fires, landslides and avalanches.

The idea behind the NDRT is to allow rapid deployment of a team with varied skills. It would have an operational manager on the ground working in close cooperation with national headquarters. Crucially, the people chosen to make up the team would be available locally, thereby increasing the speed with which it can be deployed.

"The establishment of the NDRT is meant to shorten the response time by providing relief assistance with relevant technical knowledge on the ground immediately after a disaster, instead of waiting for regional or international aid to arrive, as happened in the past," said Dr Vimala Ramalingam, Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross Society.

The NDRT is a rapid response tool. A "crack" team comprising ten Red Cross staff and volunteers will swing into action as a disaster strikes. Equipped with a self-contained mobile disaster response unit, it would be the first to initiate response on the scene by gathering information, assessing needs and mobilizing immediate relief by drawing up a plan of action.

The NDRT will also provide regional support to the field assessment and coordination teams and the regional disaster response teams, filling gaps in relief as needed.

Previously its approach was more relief-oriented, but the creation of the national disaster response team is the Indian Red Cross's latest step towards a more holistic disaster management strategy.

©Simon Pluess / ICRC

Help for Haiti

The ICRC organized a series of seminars for medical staff of various hospitals in Haiti. The focus of the seminars was on war surgery techniques, triage procedures and the basic provisions of international humanitarian law, particularly those affording protection to medical personnel, facilities and patients.

An initial seminar was held on 7 May at Le Justinien Hospital in Cap-Haitien, the country's second-largest city. It was attended by 42 doctors, surgeons, nurses and interns. Another seminar was held on 10 May for 50 medical staff at the University Hospital of Haiti, the country's largest public hospital, located in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Dr Hassan Nasreddine, the ICRC surgeon who organized the seminars, said they provided an opportunity for exchanging experiences with Haitian colleagues and sharing ICRC expertise in the field of war surgery, with a special focus on the treatment of gunshot and stab wounds.

Two similar seminars were held in April at hospitals in Gonaïves and Port-de-Paix. Further seminars on war surgery and medical ethics will be held in June by the ICRC together with the Haitian Ministry of Health.

In addition, the International Federation is supporting the Haitian Red Cross by funding the rehabilitation of the Cité Soleil Red Cross branch. Cité Soleil (Sun City) is the largest slum in the capitalPort-au-Prince, and is home to an estimated 500,000 people.

The ICRC will provide technical support to finish the construction work. The building will offer a safe place where members and volunteers can meet and plan how to address some of their community's problems. Red Cross bibs have also been ordered.

Restoring human dignity through community action will be the branch's priority in this long-neglected corner of Port-au-Prince.

©International Federation

North Korea blast

It was lunchtime. The school in Ryongchon was emptying and the children headed homeward. Then came the explosion. The youngsters were cut down by the blast and flying debris, and burned terribly by the wall of fire that followed.

Ryongchon, a town of 27,000 people in North Pyongan Province of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), was devastated in April when two rail wagons containing explosive material blew up while being shunted in a siding.

Of the 161 people known to have died in the North Korean rail explosion, 76 were children. So were more than two-thirds of the most seriously hurt of the 1,300 injured people. Their faces were burned and lacerated. Their eye injuries were horrific.

The blast obliterated the station and all around it, damaging buildings in a four-kilometre radius. Around 40 per cent of the town was affected, with 1,850 homes destroyed or uninhabitable, another 6,300 partially damaged, many public buildings shattered and electricity and water supplies disrupted.

But amid the suffering of this blighted town there was no greater grief than that of mothers weeping for their children.

The impact of the explosion will be felt for months and, in some cases, for years to come, explained a representative of the International Federation.

After the blast, thousands of kitchen sets, blankets, water containers, tarpaulins, water purification tablets and first-aid kits were distributed quickly from a Red Cross relief centre at Sinuiju, five kilometres from the disaster.

Support for the overwhelmed health-care system was another immediate priority for the Red Cross. Medical supplies, including antibiotics, basic essential drugs and anaesthetics, were distributed by the DPRK Red Cross and the World Health Organization.

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