This blog post is written by Stephen Hagerich, a British Red Cross worker who has been working in Uganda.
The American Red Cross is building their support for cash in emergencies and are developing some Emergency Response Unit roster members to become specialists and work on programs alongside other Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. The Uganda Red Cross is continuing their response to flooding and landslides and decided to use cash grants to those affected. The role was to provide support to the Uganda Red Cross and document the process to share the learning for future programmes in other locations.
We arrived in Nairobi for meetings with Red Cross soceities that work in East Africa before beginning the process of documenting why and how the Red Cross is using cash assistance during emergencies. In other words, to discuss how we can help people affected by a disaster by directly providing them with money in addition to other relief items such as tarps, tents and water containers.
From Nairobi, we headed to Kampala, Uganda, straight to the Uganda Red Cross headquarters. It was still early morning but the roads were already bustling so we walked on the deep red coloured dirt path lined with street vendors.
When we arrived, we met with a number of different groups, still quite busy with managing the ongoing response to the April and May flooding. It was only our second day but it was already 6:30pm and we still had lots to do. It would be a long night ahead, planning our field visits to the programs.
On our last day in Kampala we met a Uganda Red Cross staff member who spent theprevious week in the field to catch up on all she learned and prepare for what needs to be done next week. We had one final meeting with the Danish Red Cross, where I realized I worked with the Head of Region during my last emergency response deployment, in Madagascar in 2007. It’s like we always say – it’s a small Red Cross world!
With the meetings done, it was time to put the plan into action. In preparation, we decided to try walking ourselves through the process of registering for a local SIM card and opening a mobile money account. Of course we had no idea how to do this and African hospitality saved the day. A hotel staff member walked us down the road to a little shack where a man was selling miscellaneous auto parts and motor oils. He also was an MTN agent, the mobile company we have partnered with on this program.
He was very friendly and when we explained we were researching the process, he agreed to answer all our questions. Registration took about 10 minutes and he told us we’d have to go to a larger service center if we wanted the account activated today. Because our normal taxi driver wasn’t available, the hotel staff ordered us what we thought would be a taxi. Instead a boda-boda (a motorbike taxi) pulled up right in front of us and wanted both of us to hop on the back. But recalling our Red Cross safety training we asked for a taxi.
We arrived at the service center and had our account activated, which meant that we could actually buy products and services our mobile phone. We could also go to any MTN agent and essentially withdrawal money as if they were a bank. With some slight alterations this is the system we will set up for the people we are here to help.
To see more about Stephen’s deployment and the Cash Transfer Program check back tomorrow for the next installment.