Established in 1973, the Mauritius Red Cross Society (MRCS) has provided assistance to the citizens of Mauritius and Rodrigues Islands. Extensively trained in the areas of emergency preparedness, the MRCS provides first aid classes, meal assistance and more to those in need.
At the start of World War II, when Mauritius was still a British colony, Governor Sir Bede Clifford requested that a branch of the British Red Cross be established in Mauritius. Once Mauritius gained its independence, a 1973 parliamentary decree incorporated the National Society and the Mauritius Red Cross Society (MRCS) was established.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recognized the MRCS as the 132nd member of the worldwide humanitarian organization International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The MRCS is a member of the Mauritius Council of Social Service (MACOSS), the National Disaster Committee and the National Humanitarian Law Committee. It is also a founding member of the PIROI (Plate-forme d’Intervention Régionale pour l’Océan Indien) for national disasters and epidemics in the Indian Ocean islands.
Structure and Operation
The MRCS is a non-profit, independent and autonomous voluntary relief organization dedicated to preventing and alleviating suffering. Committed to “Ensuring Community Resilience,” the main goals of the MRCS include reducing the impact of disasters in Mauritius and Rodrigues and promoting a healthier population overall.
With branch offices in six areas of Mauritius, plus one on Rodrigues Island, the MRCS is open to anyone needing assistance and those willing to help out. The society serves the region in a number of ways.
The MRCS offers first aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) courses, runs community based projects and programs for disaster preparedness and response, provides home visits to those in need, is able to arrange free ambulance services for ailing people, cares for the sick and wounded as prescribed under international humanitarian law and promotes the ideas and values of the MRCS’ mission. It also helps with financial support for food programmes targeting primary school children in certain localities, and assists with the distribution of food and clothing in some villages. In 2011, the MRCS served about 1,500 people through various endeavours.
When Cyclone Ethel threatened Rodrigues Island in January, 2012, the MRCS was there, providing food and clothing, helping with general clean up efforts and even repairing some damaged homes. The MRCS response team was also ready to intervene, if needed, when Cyclone Giovanna threatened Mauritius.
All of this has been accomplished with a staff of 20, plus 450 members and 500 volunteers. Members of the MRCS include locals, immigrants and foreigners. Following the non-discrimination principles set forth by the IFRC, all services are provided without regard to nationality, race, sex, class, religion or political views. The MRCS is in the process of creating a database identifying the specific skill sets (ranging from manual labour to specialisation in a particular field) of its volunteers to better allocate assets when addressing needs.
In cooperation with the Canadian Red Cross’ Programme des Mascareignes, a “training for trainers” for the Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) was held in Madagascar and then expanded to MRCS members and volunteers. Such training has now taken place in 23 communities. VCA is a means of determining how prepared a community is for meeting and dealing with disasters and less devastating hazards. As part of this preparedness process, a section of the MRCS headquarters has been converted into a storage area for local stockpiling of supplies.
The VCA training was followed with Regional Disaster Response Team training, and Branch Disaster Response Team training is in the process of being completed. National Disaster Response Team Training is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
As a not-for-profit organisation, transparency and accountability are of utmost importance to the MRCS. Half its revenue is generated through services such as first aid courses, first aid posts and lifeguard posts. Fundraising activities organised by the MRCS help supplement this income. Additional funding comes from some Mauritian companies, such as Pharmacie Nouvelle, Ltd. (supplies consumables and first aid equipment), Standard Bank, Ltd. (supplies disaster relief fund contributions) and Ducray Lenoir, Ltd. Other main MRCS partners are the ICRC, the IFRC and the MRCS’ major partner, the Canadian Red Cross. Through the cooperation of the Canadian Red Cross, the National Service has been able to introduce the VCA process in different communities throughout the island of Mauritius. The National Society is continuing to further broaden its pool of partners.
While the MRCS charges a fee to companies for services, individuals can obtain a different rate, and there is no charge to needy persons, schools or institutions that require services.
The MRCS gratefully accepts financial support from companies and individuals. Presently, there is an urgent need for an additional ambulance, the current “fleet” consists of one vehicle for the entire island! The greatest need, however, is for additional human resources. More members and volunteers would strengthen a variety of programmes. There are also employment opportunities for qualified individuals as positions arise.