Tropical storm Alicia heralded the start of cyclone season in the south-west Indian Ocean. As in previous years, PIROI is again active in assisting local populations and the region’s Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies with disaster preparedness. This year preparation for cyclones is happening in a singular context, acutely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent years PIROI has been particularly busy during cyclone season. Cyclones IDAI in Mozambique, KENNETH in Mayotte and the Comoros, and more recently BELNA in Madagascar and Mayotte all showed the need to prepare pro-actively for disasters related to natural hazards. After these response efforts PIROI began to rebuild its stocks in order to be ready to act again effectively in the event of a new disaster.
PIROI manages eight warehouses that are pre-positioned with relief supplies, each addressing three types of response: regional, national and local (the warehouses are in the Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar, Mauritius/Rodrigues, Seychelles and Reunion).
In total, more than 550 tonnes of supplies (emergency shelters, water and sanitation treatment equipment, essential non-food items) are stored in these warehouses.
This year the new local capacity-building project on disaster preparedness for the most vulnerable sub-regions – made possible thanks to backing from Europe’s DG ECHO – aims to provide an even faster, more effective, and needs-adapted response by working as close as possible to local populations.
Training Red Cross and Red Crescent teams
In terms of skills, PIROI is engaged in ongoing training of Red Cross/Red Crescent teams in fields such as water treatment in emergencies, logistics, basic health care, telecommunications, and first aid.
Since 2008, a regional disaster response team called “Surge” (formerly “RDRT”), has been operational. It consists of volunteers from the seven PIROI-member National Societies.
Factoring the pandemic
Following the previsions for the 2020-2021 cyclone season announced by Météo France weather service on 16 November, the PIROI-member National Societies met online for a preparation exercise. It was based on responding to a fictional cyclone, taking into account the impact COVID would have on emergency operations.
Since the start of the pandemic the contingency stocks in PIROI’s warehouses have also been reviewed to better meet the needs of healthcare workers and public health authorities. This has led to the purchase of greater quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, sanitiser gel, and disinfection sprayers.
Raising public awareness
Since 2011 PIROI has carried out various community awareness-raising projects about the disasters that can affect the region (Paré pas Paré, Dengue, nout fami lé paré and Inondation, nout kartié lé paré in Reunion; Zeness Pran Kont in Mauritius). During such volunteer-run outreach events, special attention is paid to cyclone preparedness: best practices to get ready for the period, the different types of alert, how to put together an emergency kit, etc.
Disaster preparedness is all the more important in the current COVID-19 pandemic context, which reminds us of the very real need to adapt to current and future upheavals.