Posted by: africanpressorganization | 25 June 2009

Red Cross to launch historic Zambezi River Basin Initiative





Red Cross to launch historic Zambezi River Basin Initiative



GENEVA, Switzerland, June 25, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – the world’s largest humanitarian and development network – is launching an historic, long-term and cross-border initiative to support hundreds of thousands of chronically vulnerable people living along the Zambezi river basin in seven countries.

The Zambezi River Basin Initiative – a joint programme between the Angolan, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe Red Cross Societies – will support more than 600,000 people living in villages and towns along the river basin over at least the next eight years.

Climate change: more disasters and more suffering

“In recent years, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the numbers of floods along the river basin,” said Farid Abdulkadir, the IFRC’s disaster management coordinator for the region.

“For many communities, these events are now annual crises – leaving them in an almost perpetual cycle of disaster, displacement and recovery,” continued Abdulkadir. “The Zambezi Initiative aims to break this cycle; to help communities be prepared for these disasters, and to encourage them to take steps to reduce the devastating impact that they have on their lives.”

The Initiative is being launched one week after the publication of the IFRC’s 2009 World Disasters Report. The report focused this year on ‘Early warning, early action’ – representing a call to governments and policy makers to adopt a more proactive and preventative approach to disaster management.

“Early warning and early action together can save thousands of lives and livelihoods, reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience,” the report warned. “Strengthening communities’ capacities to prevent and/or cope with the impacts of hazards is a concrete way to prevent disasters from retarding the development of the poorest countries.”

Other challenges addressed

The Zambezi Initiative aims to go beyond simply addressing and preventing the impacts of disasters. It seeks to address the broader vulnerabilities of communities as well, including HIV, exposure to water and vector borne diseases, and the compounding aggravation of weakened community structures.

“Vulnerability along the Zambezi is not defined solely by floods and droughts,” said Françoise Le Goff, the head of the IFRC’s southern Africa Zone. “HIV prevalence in countries that border the Zambezi climbs as high as 24 per cent. Life expectancy sits between 40 and 50 years and the vast majority of people are trying to get by on less than two dollars per day.

“The Zambezi Initiative seeks to strengthen Red Cross support for these needs as well.”

A cost effective approach

The Red Cross is appealing for approximately 8.63 million Swiss francs (ZAR 64.54 million/USD 7.94 million) to fund the Zambezi Initiative. Whilst significant, such a programme offers genuine impact for donors. The IFRC estimates that public money buys about four times as much humanitarian ‘impact’ if spent on preparation before disaster strikes than on expensive relief operatins.

“In recent years, the IFRC has appealed for over 10 million Swiss francs (ZAR 74.89 million/USD 9.2 million) to fund Red Cross responses to flooding along the Zambezi and its tributaries,” said Ms Le Goff.

“With global GDP forecast to decline for the first time in 60 years, and with the ever-growing challenges related to climate change, we must increase preventative activities like the Zambezi Initiative as the most effective way of saving lives and protecting development gains.”


International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)


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