The heroic work of first responders

Photo credit: Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville / IFRC / CC BY-NC-ND

Homa Reto is a social media platform for first responders. It helps to communicate, organize, and share information to care for vulnerable people. First responders are on the front line of incidents, disasters and conflicts to ensure the safety and well-being of the population. Their position exposes them and the people under their care to great danger and potentially traumatic situations. Individuals like you and me can be trained to respond to an emergency or crisis, we may be firefighters, rescue workers, medical technicians, mental health counselors, police officers, social workers or first-line soldiers. In times of crisis such as extreme weather or epidemics, different levels of government are usually expected to provide a response. However, governments don’t always have adequate structures at their disposal. In those instances, networks of civil society are often forced to respond independently since their requests for help are not met.

A female paramedic (Photo by: Getty Images)

Over the last years, first responders have been on the front lines of humanitarian emergencies during the Ebola and Covid-19 crisis as well as natural disasters in Nepal, Haiti, Italy, and Spain. They have also been called in response to a range of conflicts including Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, Gaza, and South Sudan. Yet, those wanting to help face dire threats and a lack of funding, especially for organizations in the global South. First responders often lack the formal training needed to deal with complex events and are forced to work with inadequate resources under dangerous conditions. In the past 30 years, there has been an alarming rise in violence against doctors and aid workers, who regularly face violent attacks. More than 1000 aid workers were killed in attacks on hospitals, including medical personnel and civilian patients. Local actors require networking services to expand their outreach and gain support, both monetarily and physically. Homa Reto hopes to bridge this gap and acts as a tool for organization and communication between people in need and involved helpers. Our goal is to offer a mutual support tool where users can post their immediate needs and request public services while being able to access reliable information.

2020 NS in Americas COVID-19 content (Photo by: IFRC Americas)

Through its software, Homa Reto is committed to making humanitarian action as local as possible. Its mission is to reinforce the action capabilities of local and national first responders, as well as encourage and coordinate partnerships. The occasional lack of preparation of the state can also result in a fruitful collaboration between civil society, governments, and established humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross. The International Federations of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are fostering collaborative efforts by mobilizing broad partnerships of local and global actors which are committed to building resilience. Recent global agreements such as the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Grand Bargain resulting from the World Humanitarian Summit have demonstrated the importance of collaborating with a wide variety of actors. Nonetheless, national and local responders including the Red Cross and local civil society are often the first to respond to crises. Local actors have a better knowledge of the environments and have the advantage of remaining in the communities they serve before, after and during emergencies.

Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images

The recent events in Morocco’s rural northern province of Chefchaouen have demonstrated the essential work that first responders perform. The Moroccan civil defense was mobilized to undertake relief operations for a five-year-old boy who fell down a 32-meter deep well. Rescue operations lasted 5 days and were a result of a collaboration between residents of the village, civil defense workers, Red Crescent volunteers, and local authorities. In similar contexts, Homa Reto can be used as a tool to coordinate and prepare rescue efforts between local and national responders. Providing material for the operations such as helmets, high-visibility vests, carried stretchers and ropes as well as finding workers and local experts with well-digging skills was an effort of cooperation that could be facilitated through our app. The Human Network helps to avoid working in fragmented ways and instead brings skills, resources, and actors together. Moreover, if radios have been the most used first responder tool in case of emergencies, smartphones are now their most preferred tool. Homa Reto being an App that features both online and offline modes, it can prove to be a valuable tool to facilitate the important work of first responders. To find more information, visit our website and find out how it works!

Author: Suzon Mazataud

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