Building response capacity of exposed local branches in Europe

Local earthquake response on Lesvos

12 June in the early afternoon a 6.3 Richter scale earthquake took place south of the Greek island of Lesvos, leaving behind extensive damaging to buildings in the village of Vrisa, 12 injured people and one casualty. Within a few hours Hellenic Red Cross, with the support of Danish Red Cross, was mobilized in the affected area to assess the situation. The Red Cross team met with key persons in the local community, and during the following days Hellenic Red Cross volunteers assisted the affected population.

 Despite the tragic consequences of the earthquake, the timely response induced some confidence within the local Red Cross branch on Lesvos and gave a good insight into the important change that Danish Red Cross is step-by-step bringing to its partners through targeted branch development investments, ensuring that exposed Red Cross branches, such as the local branch on Lesvos, are trained, equipped and capable of delivering relevant assistance to their communities during emergencies.

Exposed branches in crisis-prone areas

Whether in the conflict affected eastern parts of Ukraine, the war-torn Tavush region in Armenia, in Georgia or on Greek Islands exposed to unpredictable refugee influxes, Danish Red Cross in Europe focuses our branch development initiatives on improving the capacity of fragile Red Cross branches and local communities to prepare for crisis and emergencies.

 In Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia the branch development projects are developed and implemented in partnership with the ICRC delegations in the respective countries in order to ensure that we target the most vulnerable branches and communities, including branches in areas that can only be accessed by ICRC.

 The branch capacity building includes training local branch staff, youth and volunteers in assessment, planning, resource mobilisation and volunteer management; providing peer support through knowledge and experience sharing and enhancing collaboration with local authorities, local population and other actors in the field.

Building local preparedness

In the case of the local Red Cross branch on Lesvos, though there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of preparedness, the earthquake response showed that the local branch has been strengthened and empowered over the last year and is now able to contribute to local emergency response with relevant action, including community based assessment, psychosocial first aid, and supply of basic needs like water, food and clothing. - Compared to the situation only a few years back when the refugee crisis on Lesvos exposed the local Red Cross’ limited capacity to contribute to the humanitarian response, this displayed an important improvement in local preparedness.