By Cherno Omar Bobb
The Gambia Red Cross Society (GRCS) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) last Friday organised a Lesson Learnt workshop to review the operational mechanism and disaster response capacity of the July 2021 windstorm Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) operations.
This session, held at Paradise Suites hotel in Kololi, was aimed at enhancing their capacity to effectively and efficiently respond to future disasters as well as review the operational mechanisms and disaster response capacity of the GRCS.
It was also aimed at finding and offering ideas that may be useful to continue the strengthening of the National Society based on specific feedback and recommendations presented by both partners, beneficiaries and staff involved in the DREF operations.
Two strong windstorms swept across the seven regions of The Gambia on 5th and 7th July 2021 causing loss of lives, livelihoods, and destruction.
All the seven regions of The Gambia were affected. During the first hours after the disasters, the GRCS activated its contingency plan and sent teams to the affected regions. It also provided life-saving relief items to the affected communities whilst conducting assessments to establish the extent of the damage and the needs. The most vulnerable families were provided with sleeping mats, blankets, bed sheets, hygiene and sanitary items.
Isatou Joof, DREF Officer for The GRCS said they mobilized funds from the IFRC through its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund and supported 505 most affected households. She added that 217 households were additionally supported with cash for shelter and household items for three months. She further said that the funds enabled the GRCS to immediately scale up its response activities across the country.
Abdoulie Fye, Director of Programmes and Operations at GRCS said when disasters strike to respond within the first hours of the disaster by providing basic services to put people back to their lives in a dignified matter is critical. Mr Fye pointed out the importance of data, saying without data there cannot be response.
He added that after the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) operations they carried out various interventions. He expressed their willingness to mobilize more resources to support affected households that need support but could not be assisted. He went on to thank all partners who participated in the DREF implementation.
Alasan Senghore, GRCS Secretary General highlighted that their transformation process involves the timely, quality, adequate, appropriate and accountable response that they provide, adding that it has helped them to respond within 20 hours after the windstorm disaster to mitigate the impact.
Mustapha Yabo, representative of the Office of the President said when emergencies strike all stakeholders have the same intention to provide relief to those affected but noted that the primary responsibility rests with the Government. He therefore thanked GRCS for their leadership in the response which is supposed to be Government’s role.
Mr Yabo admitted that the Government was not fully prepared for disaster which was why it was late in its response. He appealed that the national response be looked at hence disaster does not discriminate.
Jato S. Sillah, GRCS President called on the Government to invest in Early Warning Systems for people to be partly prepared for disasters.
Victims/beneficiaries gave testimonies of their situations after being struck by the windstorm prior to being supported by the GRCS and how GRCS’s intervention has impacted their lives and livelihood.