The Crisis Response Register
Tuesday, 11 August 2020
Exactly one week ago there was a horrific accidental explosion in the port of Beirut. Current estimates are that more than 200 people have died, 7000 people are injured, 300,000 people have been made homeless. Up to $15bn of damage has been caused. As I watched this terrible event unfold I wondered, as I often do when these crises like this happen, what I could do to help.
There are, of course, many excellent, highly capable and well-equipped organisations and charities who are working hard to address the immediate needs. Supporting these organisations, helping them do what they do best, is a given.
However my thoughts turned to the water and sanitation challenges that this accident has created. 300,000 homeless people in a country which had, even before the accident, an unsatisfactory sanitation infrastructure. For those poor homeless Lebanese families this coming winter is going to be incredibly tough. Ensuring that there is no cholera outbreak is going to be a particular challenge.
I was sure that I was not be alone in wanting to apply my professional knowledge to help, but I didn’t know how to do it. How could I ensure that my well-meaning input would be channelled through the right organisations to ensure it complimented the ongoing relief efforts, rather than frustrated them. On a more practical level, how did I even begin? Who should I talk to? And once I had found them, how would they determine whether my skills were useful and complementary, or redundant and superfluous?
It all felt too difficult, too impenetrable. Perhaps I should do what I always do at times like this: feel a little guilty that I couldn’t do more, but tell myself that sitting back and letting others do the do the heavy lifting was actually the best result.
No damn it. No.
Over the past 72 hours I have spoken to multiple organisations and relief agencies. I had thought (hoped even!) that somewhere there would be a register of global water professionals who could be called upon at times like this and all I would need to do is add my name to that list. But time and again I was told that no such register existed. In fact, I was told, if such a thing did exist it would be hugely valuable. After the 4th time I was told this the penny finally dropped…
With this in mind, we are launching the Crisis Response Register. It is for water professionals who feel they may have something they could contribute – be it for this Beirut disaster or any future disasters. Whether you work within a water utility directly, or are part of the supply chain (contractor, consultant, tech company) your input, and perhaps that of your organisation, could be the thing that makes a difference.
If you feel this strikes a chord then follow this link and register your details. I have no idea if you will be called upon, or if the call comes what it might entail. It will vary depending on the crisis, and the expertise you have to offer. For some it might be that you can provide professional advice from afar, for others it might require getting on a plane. The first step however is creating that register of expertise; an army of willing water-professionals who can be mobilised as and when required.
This is not to take anything away from the excellent organisations who provide support currently. Be it the Red Cross, Unicef, Oxfam, Global Crisis Response or the multitude of others. RedR for example are brilliant. They provide trained people to help during an emergency response. What we are creating here is a register of water professionals who can be called up to these organisations.
If I discover that someone has already built this Register then brilliant, no one will be happier than I to fold our database into an existing one. But until someone tells me that it exists we are going to create our own. I ask you, I appeal to you, please join me in registering your name and listing the areas where you may be able to help. You may never be called upon. But then again, you just might. And it might be your input which makes a real difference to someone in need.