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January 18, 2020

Let’s own Red Crescent potential for a resilient Pakistan

Islamabad

January 18, 2020

Since its creation in 1947, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS), as an auxiliary to the government, has always been on the forefront during manmade and natural disasters. Though a lot has been done to prevent and alleviate the human suffering in the last 72 years, a lot more needs to be done to make the PRCS a vibrant organization alive to the emerging challenges of the modern day world.

Feeling the growing pain of the vulnerable segments of the society and the urgent attention they need, the newly appointed PRCS Chairman Abrar ul Haq, who himself is a leading philanthropist, humanitarian and a social activist, has decided to revitalise the organisation by deepening and broadening the scope of humanitarian actions and making it better prepared to reduce human vulnerability to natural and manmade disasters.

As a first step, a 90-day ‘Plan of Action’ consistent with the current government’s initiatives launched for social wellbeing of the people is being devised that will be implemented from February to April 2020. The plan, which will act as a living document with the goal of generating a series of actions leading to the delivery of a more robust and sustainable system for humanitarian assistance, identifies a number of ‘quick wins’ to be achieved in the first 90 days of the new chairman taking the reins.

Blood transfusion is an essential component of the health care system and the patients needing blood have the right to sufficient supplies of safe blood. However, in a developing country like Pakistan, there are certain misplaced fears, myths, and misperceptions about blood donation, hindering painstaking efforts by the hospitals and clinics to recruit voluntary non-remunerated blood donors for ensuring abundant quantities of blood throughout the year.

Under the 90-day plan, the PPCS will undertake comprehensive efforts to increase blood collection by busting the myths and misperceptions about blood donation leading to an increase in the number of voluntary non-remunerated blood donors (VNRBDs).

It is a feather in the cap of the PRCS Regional Blood Donor Centres (RBDC) in Islamabad and Lahore that despite all hindrances and hurdles, they arrange blood for the deserving patients throughout the year. To date, the RBDC, Islamabad has collected and distributed thousands of blood pints

among the deserving patients. The fresh effort by the chairman will definitely contribute towards increasing the number of VNRBDs.

Keeping in mind that Pakistan is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the climate change, the 90-day plan includes a robust campaign to raise awareness among the masses of the risks posed by the climate change. The plan is in line with the ‘Clean and Green Movement’ launched by the government. The huge network of PRCS volunteers will be engaged to support the government-led plantation activities, especially the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, besides holding educational sessions to sensitize the public, especially the youth, to the objective of achieving a ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’.

Women’s role is vital in the progress of a society, but, unfortunately, women in Pakistan have been facing problems, which create hindrances in their progress. The PRCS is currently executing projects on women empowerment while funding is expected for a few more similar projects in the near future. Under the 90-day plan of action, all such projects would be linked with the ‘Kamyab Jawan’ initiative recently launched by the government of Pakistan for synchronization of efforts and a better service delivery.

It has also been decided to include ‘Search and Rescue’ in the PRCS response/emergency mechanism. Since search and rescue has not been the PRCS’ mandate, government’s support will be sought for incorporation of light search and rescue components into the mechanisms already in place. The government of Pakistan has huge infrastructure/facilities in the search and rescue domain and, once equipped, the PRCS can prove to be a big helping hand for the government.

Under the plan, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) and National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) would also be approached to plan Community Action for Disaster Response (CADRE) trainings for the PRCS staff and volunteers with special focus on the search and rescue component. Besides, case will be taken up with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to prioritize the PRCS for capacity building of its staff.

Balochistan is the focus of national development nowadays for going to become hub of economic activities in the near future in the backdrop of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. A lot of programmes have been launched by the government under the Balochistan Package to alleviate the suffering of the people. In line with the government’s initiatives, the PRCS has launched livelihood projects in the flood and drought-affected areas of Balochistan, which will be completed through funding by the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC). The RCSC will also be approached for continuity of funding for the Health and Fertility Centre in Gwadar.

Besides, construction of a medical centre in Quetta and renovation of 200-bed hospital in Gilgit are also part of the plan. Moreover, practical steps will be taken to make functional the 140-bed PRCS hospital situated in Rawalpindi. Discussions are underway with Fauji Fertilizer Company for establishment of a community centre for farmers in Rahim Yar Khan.

After the successful and timely relief operation through provision of food and cash assistance to the victims of recent earthquake in Mirpur, the PRCS is going to construct 100 shelters through the already pledged funding under the recovery and rehabilitation phase for the affected families.

Since the First Aid Program is the flagship program of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and First Aid Training is the strength of the PRCS, it has been decided to expand the initiative to far-flung areas of Pakistan. Under the 90-day plan of action, an effort will be made to tap more resources from the international donors to extend the programme from existing 52 districts to additional 10 to 15 vulnerable areas of Pakistan under the ultimate objective of ensuring a first aider in every house.

Under the plan, PRCS first aid posts will be established and ambulances stationed there to cope with any emergency round the clock. In this regard, an MoU is being signed with the National Highways & Motorway Police, Frontier Works Organisation and other stakeholders to set up PRCS first aid posts at rest areas along the M2 Motorway between Islamabad and Lahore. In subsequent phases, the same services will be extended to other sections of the motorway and major highways. An MoU with the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for establishment of PRCS first aid posts at important locations in the federal capital is also being worked out.

Under the 90-day plan of action, the Youth & Volunteers Department has been tasked with ensuring proper engagement of volunteers in all major activities, trainings, campaigns, activities, events, etc, on rotational basis in order to groom them and hone their basic skills on a ‘fair field and no favour’ basis.

In a nutshell, the 90-day plan of action provides a unique opportunity to make investment in ensuring that the PRCS is a humanitarian organization, which measures up to the challenges this century will continue to create.

Since the current government came into power to bring about a sea change in the mode of governance and is firing on all cylinders to uproot the decades-old deep-seated culture of status quo for building a better, merit-based Pakistan, the PRCS offers it the right platform to materialize its vision.

The PRCS’ extensive network in every nook and corner of the country and its huge network trained volunteers, comprising competent and dynamic young boys and girls, can help the government in bringing about the desired change.

Since the PRCS is an auxiliary as stated earlier, the government should own it, as has been the practice in the West, and utilize its potential and expertise to ensure the desired change.

(The writer is the Secretary General, Pakistan Red Crescent Society)