Mr. Tadateru Konoe, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has been in Sri Lanka about 35 hours on a four day trip to see the work of the Red Cross in the recent floods operation, the IDP programme, and the US$ 800 million tsunami programme which is coming to an end. Another important aspect of his visit was to strengthen ties with the Government and the Asian Development Bank, who is a partrner of the IFRC, and Water Boiard of Sri Lanka. in Jaffna. .
I accompanied Mr. Konoe on an interesting day where he met Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development and in charge of the IDP programme in the north. With the President of the country being overseas, the Minister represented the President.
With the Sri Lanka Red Cross, supported by the IFRC, Minister Rajapaksa and President Konoe spoke at length on the IDP programme, the Tsunami recovery operation, and the current floods that are affecting the lives and livelihoods of over a million people. Here were two men who knew the nuiances of relief, recovery and economic development and it was a pleasure to hear them discuss how the IFRC can support the people of Sri Lanka through the Sri Lanka Red Cross.
Minister Rajapaksa produced some very large photographs out of an even larger folder and showed them to Mr. Konoe saying, "Look at these photos of Red Cross houses' "
“These are so good and they go up very quickly and I keep showing them to other organisations and say I don't want donor driven houses, I don't want contractor driven houses, I want owner driven houses like the Red Cross are building in Kilinochochi and I show them these photos."
He was full of sincere praise for the work of the SLRCSin the Tsunami, the IDP programme and the current flood relief operation.
President of the Sri Lanka Ped Cross, Jagath Abeysinghe and DG Tissa Abeywickrama attended the meeting also and explained in detail the work of the Sri Lanka Red Cross country-wide.
One could see the commitment and passion towards vulnerable people in Sri lanka in the eyes and words of President Konoe and Minister Rajapaksa. Although their roles are very different, they found much common ground in saying how we must increase risk reduducyion programmes at community level to empower the people to look after each other when disasters occur.
A view of the whole team meeting Basil Rajapaksa
The Minister gave the example of how as soon as the recent floods occured he gave huge cooking pots that could feed hundred of people, and gas stoves to all temples, mosques and churces telling the leaders, " He went on to say beacsue these building are built on high ground high they are are usually above the flood water.” In response Mr. Konoe spoke of the lessons learned from the Tsunami and how Red Cross was able to rescue people by boat immediately the floods struck and through their grass root volunteer network, provided immediate assistance.