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From avoiding having your drink spiked, to how to shelter from gunfire and avoiding a roadside ambush, this two-day security training course is probably one of the most important things these Red Cross workers will ever learn.
Their facilitator is New Zealand Red Cross aid worker Jacqui Dixon, who is working for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Juba. Jacqui, a former police officer from Morrinsville, has previously been deployed as a security delegate after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Here she explains the work she is doing in the world’s newest nation.
“I’m analysing and monitoring the security situation, putting out security advisories, talking to people on the ground, including in the South Sudan Red Cross and the IFRC. I do field assessments when we’re moving into different areas and I’m also training local staff in security, including using radios. When the local national society has a security framework it not only helps build their own culture of security awareness but also improves the situation for delegates in terms of safety.”
Jacqui spends time building the capacity of the South Sudan Red Cross staff, a part of the job she really enjoys, and has so far trained 150 people.
“The best part of my job is recognising that there’s massive potential, and being able to start implementing things that help them fulfil this potential. They’re extremely dedicated and real humanitarians. Some say that they would do this work even if they weren`t paid, as they say, ‘I want to help my community, it’s my responsibility’.”
Jacqui is also trying to get radio rooms in South Sudan Red Cross branches around the country up and running. Many branches were badly affected by the fighting that started in December 2013, and some still have no radios, cars, water, toilets, or even buildings. She says the lack of resources for branches creates additional challenges.But despite the challenges she says the staff are doing an incredible job.
“Two people have really stood out for me. The branch director from Aweil and the security coordinator. The latter walked from South Sudan to Uganda at age six with his parents and 3 siblings due to the fighting breaking out in his home town. He’s now 30 and was brought up in a refugee camp in Uganda. After attending the school in the camp, followed by a high school in Northern Uganda for which he was supported financially by his older brother, he gained a government scholarship to attend university after being one of the top ten A level performers in his school. Since university he has been employed in humanitarian work. Because as he says it was something he had always wanted to do after seeing the suffering of so many people around him growing up.”
“And there’s the Aweil branch director –he was pursuing training in Rome but came back when his mother was injured in a fall. He supports his whole extended family including nieces and nephews. There are often challenges in terms of resources flowing through, but he’s always got a smile on his face and motivates his team and still turns up every day.
Sometimes people might come to work after being up all night because of gunfire or disturbances in their neighbourhoods, but they still turn up with a positive attitude.
South Sudan Red Cross Juba branch director Joseph Lukak Charles says Jacqui’s training courses are extremely important.
“The training package covers things like field movements and personal security. The radio training is also good, we got to fix mistakes we were doing without even realising.”
He says the outbreak of the conflict in December last year were tough on his staff and volunteers. Many had to leave their homes looking for a safe place for their families and several found themselves in extremely dangerous situations.
Joseph says his previous security training helped him when he and some volunteers faced risks in an encounter while heading to help at the local hospital during a very volatile time in December.
“I told the volunteers to stay calm. It was a very serious situation. Of course I was scared but just tried to maintain calm and to use the knowledge of the safer access training. In the end, staying calm helped us get through that situation.
“That is why Jacqui’s training is so important. I think she’s very professional, she knows what she’s doing. If she was not here we’d have someone in the national society to do this but some things would be missing. I appreciate her input very much and if we are ever in the same situation as December again it will prepare us.”