President of the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Tadateru Konoe spent a whirlwind two days in Guyana assessing the country’s disaster preparedness and prevention.
The visit by Konoe, who is also President of the Japanese Red Cross, marks the first time that a sitting president of the IFRC has visited Guyana.
At a press briefing yesterday, he said that Guyana and other Caribbean nations needed more cohesion and to work together to assess how to prepare for common interest areas. “We requested Caricom to invite us as an observer to their decision-making bodies and their meeting and they assured us…hopefully at the decision-making level our voices will be heard,” he said.
He noted that Guyana was very active and committed to a variety of programmes aimed at the health and wellness of society and not just disaster preparedness. He mentioned that the local Red Cross body has worked tirelessly in the fight against HIV/AIDs and that by sharing information and implementation mechanisms the Caribbean could better tackle various common issues.
Konoe stated that after the 2010 earthquake which devastated Haiti, the IFRC had pronounced that strengthening local communities in their disaster preparedness was critical. This was echoed by Dorothy Fraser, Secretary General of the Guyana Red Cross Society. She said that the Disaster Risk Reduction Programme targeted families and communities to be prepared. Fraser said that while government has an obligation, all preparations had to begin at the individual level and that was why communities needed training. Fraser said Konoe was visiting the Caribbean and several countries in preparation for the IFRC’s general meeting in Sydney, Australia in November. She noted that the short trip, which also included a visit to Trinidad and Tobago, was aimed and finding inclusionary methods to have the Red Cross involved with other NGOs and with the government in dealing with disaster prevention and health care issues.
She noted that sharing best practices across the region was imperative to ensuring that the Red Cross has a singular message that was being transmitted across the board. The IFRC president met President Donald Ramotar and Secretary General of Caricom Ambassador Irwin LaRocque on Thursday.