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IFRC explores health, politics, partnership

Delegates and volunteers from the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement are meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, this week (3-6 June) to analyse the impact of the political and socioeconomic environment on their work in eastern Africa. Among other issues, 90 participants from Africa, Europe and the US will be exploring how the movement can respond faster and more efficiently to the needs of those affected by natural or man-made disasters, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stated on Monday. Africa hosts two-thirds of the world's population living with HIV/AIDS, and the disease is "an unavoidable reality" in eastern Africa, the Federation said on Monday. With the Red Cross Red Crescent movement also directly affected, it needed to explore the consequences for national societies as employer and volunteer organisations. "Participants, some sufferers themselves, will look at how they can improve workplace policies and educational programmes in order to fight HIV/AIDS related stigma," it added. In addition to HIV/AIDS, health disorders such as measles, meningitis, malaria and cholera "put East Africa under a heavy yoke", so delegates would be holding a special session to address health and care issues, evaluate present initiatives and integrate best practices in the capacity building process of national societies, according to the Federation. In addition, it highlighted water as a source of potential national disaster, and of conflict, and said this week's meeting would explore which partnership mechanisms it could develop to ensure both conflict prevention and a more rapid response in case of catastrophe. The Kenya Red Cross Society, with support from the Federation, has recently played a key role in coordinating assistance to some 60,000 displaced from their homes and over 175,000 affected by Kenya's recent flooding, the worst to have hit the country since the El-Nino phenomenon of 1998. Beyond HIV/AIDS, broader health issues and disaster response mechanisms, delegates at this week's Red Cross/Red Crescent meeting would be seeking ways to strengthen partnerships which would benefit those affected by diseases, natural disasters and conflicts, according to the Nairobi office of the world's largest volunteer humanitarian network. "From the earliest times, hunting, gathering and farming benefited from community partnership," said Mamdouh Gabr, Vice-President of the International Federation. In Kenya, Gabr said, there was a "Harambee" (Kiswahili for "pulling together") tradition by which community action was used to benefit all in times of hardship, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent needed to draw on such a spirit in responding to crises. "Today, joint action at community level is accepted as the best approach to encourage further development and utilisation of resources... Partnership is the key to success when assisting the most vulnerable", he added.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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