Africa: Giving communities a voice in disaster response
National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Africa are set to
improve the way they work with people affected by disasters, thanks to a
newly trained team of community engagement and accountability (CEA)
specialists who are ready to be deployed whenever and wherever needed.
The CEA Regional Disaster Response Team (RDRT) members can be sent to
emergencies across Africa to help the Red Cross and Red Crescent
increase their reach, impact and levels of community participation
during a disaster response. This includes establishing systems such as
feedback and complaints hotlines, tools for social and behaviour change
communication including mobile cinemas, radio programmes and SMS, and
approaches that help improve understanding of community needs.
Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Africa Director for the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), explained:
“Working in partnership with communities has always been at the heart of
the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. We
know that engaging with communities leads to better quality operations,
which support the goal of reducing vulnerability and building safer,
more resilient communities.
“However, across the Movement and more broadly within the
humanitarian sector, there is still a gap between rhetoric and reality.
Often, in our haste to deliver assistance, we can overlook the
capacities of local communities and, without meaning to, undermine them.
This training highlights the commitment of the IFRC in Africa to
improve the way we work with communities during emergencies and ensure
we always put their needs, capacities and priorities front and centre.”
Twenty-nine participants from 16 African National Societies – Benin,
Burundi, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi,
Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan and Zambia –
were trained at the event, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 22-29
November and organized by IFRC.
Participants covered general IFRC emergency response and RDRT
deployment processes and procedures during the first two days. The
following days involved learning about CEA in emergency response
operations and participating in a live field simulation exercise.
This exercise was carried out in an informal settlement in Nairobi,
where Kenya Red Cross Society has an active cholera response. During day
one, participants assessed the communities’ knowledge, practices and
beliefs about cholera and how and where they access information and
provide feedback. On the second day, participants ran a mobile cinema
and live radio show on cholera prevention, sent out SMS to community
members, and set up a system to track rumours circulating about cholera
that affect how people protect themselves.
CEA is increasingly recognized as essential to operational
excellence, building acceptance and trust, and contributing to long-term
community resilience. The approach ensures local actors and
communities are leaders and equal partners in humanitarian response,
and that programmes and operations are driven by the voices of the most
The recently published International Red Cross and Red Crescent
Movement Guide to Community Engagement and Accountability helps
implementers in the field to take a more people-centered and
participatory approach when working with communities. The guide can be
accessed at www.ifrc.org/CEA.