Princess Anne has implored engineers to come forward and support the efforts of engineering disaster relief charity RedR to help it cope with a record demand for its services.
Last year RedR trained nearly 7,400 aid workers – 1,700 more than last year – with more than 95% trained locally through the agency’s international programmes.
But the year was also a tough one financially for RedR, as the ongoing economic slowdown hit donations.
“We are only limited by the funds we have available,” she said. Princess Anne is RedR president and was speaking at its annual Patrons and Supporters drinks reception.
“Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the current economic climate, RedR is managing to deliver more and more humanitarian training each year.
“So we are making a difference but we could be making a bigger difference,” she said. “And we can measure the differences we make in ways other agencies sometimes find hard to do.”
Princess Anne highlighted RedR’s ever-expanding portfolio of courses that are increasingly delivered locally.
“Our international programme has broadened to include 40% more events with 12 new courses after assessing humanitarian needs in Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Pakistan,” she said.
“A huge success is local courses – getting people who are highly motivated not necessarily qualified, but competent.
“In 2012 nearly all RedR’s international programme’s trainees were nationals.
“These are the people who will respond first in the event of a disaster. They can save so many more lives than an aid worker who flies in 24 to 48 hours later,” she said.
Experts from the UK and beyond also remain key. Last year saw 475 RedR members actively being involved in humanitarian work, with another 48 RedR members added to its register of skilled and experienced professionals.
The innovative thinking that they bring is invaluable,” Princess Anne said, citing the ongoing Syrian conflict where lateral thinking is helping to save lives.
“In the Syrian conflict civilians have been dying of injuries caused by tank shelling, aerial bombardment and shrapnel,” she said.
“These injuries don’t have to be fatal. Quick access to surgery could save lives. But all the hospitals in the major cities have been bombed time and time again. Medical equipment and hospital buildings themselves are badly damaged.
“That’s why humanitarian engineers have been piloting the use of plastic altitude chambers like the ones top athletes use to train in, in the warzone. These airtight ‘bubbles’ create the perfect sterile environment in which to perform surgery and are quite portable and plug-inable.”
“Much of the content of RedR’s training is grounded in the core technical skills that relief workers must have to allow them to improvise like this when they get on the ground.”
But training needs are not always technical, she added. In Kenya, for example, RedR responded to demand by developing a course on election preparedness. The new training was rolled out in several locations within a couple of weeks; a truly rapid response.
“Soft skills are important too,” she said, “and even can be learnt by engineers,” she added.
Princess Anne was speaking after RedR chief executive Martin McCann outlined the severity of the resource challenged faced by the agency.
“The need for skilled aid workers could not be more clearly demonstrated than by the incredible demand for our services we have experienced over the past year,” he said. “In 2012 we saw our work reap benefits for local communities throughout the world.
“But there is so much more that we want to do.
“We would like to send a Needs Assessment team to Syria and neighbouring countries but we currently do not have the funds,” he said.
“We have the experience and the knowledge needed to deliver all the necessary training for the region.
“We are desperate to help and support the humanitarian agencies in Syria or wherever in the world we are needed.
“And that is why we need more friends and more support for our work,” he said.
Princess Anne also welcomed new Patrons to the RedR family at the annual reception.
NCE, Costain and Laing O’Rourke all received certificates from the Princess.
A special RedR Engagement Award was also made to Beale and Company Solicitors in recognition of their commitment to employee fundraising for the charity.
In the three years they have been supporting RedR, Beale and Company’s charity group, The Buns of Steel, have raised over £25,000 for the charity, completing the 3 Peaks Challenge and the Lake District 6 Peaks Challenge among other fundraising initiatives. The team will soon begin planning their 2014 challenge.