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Improving emergency response in Afghanistan: Q&A with Hani Dajani

Every year, more than 250,000 Afghans are affected by disasters. Due to their established neutrality to provide assistance inside and outside of conflict zones, and role as an officially recognized disaster response organization, the Afghan Red Crescent Society is uniquely situated to provide disaster relief assistance. However, the complex environments they work in, and challenges they face in delivering life-saving aid are vast.

Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Hani Dajani, the Canadian Red Cross Country Representative for Afghanistan. He talked about the work the Canadian Red Cross is doing to help overcome some of these challenges and to build the capacity of the Afghan Red Crescent Society to improve emergency relief and disaster response operations to reach the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan.  

Hani Dajani with an Afghan Red Crescent staff member

Hani Dajani with Afghan Red Crescent Society Project Management Unit staff member, Abdul Musaweer.

Q: What does a “day in the life” of your role look like?

Hani: My main role is to facilitate the work of the Canadian Red Cross in Afghanistan and to ensure coordination between the Afghan Red Crescent Society, Canadian Red Cross and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). On any given day I’m following up on different components of the project, implementing activities and sourcing the resources that we need.

Q: From what you see on the ground in Afghanistan, how is the project going so far?

Hani: There have been some challenges related to security in the past few years, which means the project has been building at the headquarters level. However, local staff and volunteers have been trained and supported to get out into the field to support local districts.

The power of the Afghan Red Crescent Society is their ability to reach areas where other humanitarian actors have little to no access to, ultimately allowing us to reach the most vulnerable. For example, we have plans to branch out to the East where the focus would be on the internally displaced people, which is a very hard to reach area, but also one of the most disaster prone areas.

Q: What motivated you to get involved with the Red Cross, and in particular with the Afghanistan project?

Hani: I’m originally from Palestine and grew up in a refugee camp so I can relate to the needs on the ground here and to the Afghan people.

The biggest draw for me was the uniqueness of the project – it’s not just direct humanitarian aid, there’s the capacity building component as well. This ensures greater stability after the project is complete, ultimately allowing the Afghan Red Crescent Society to better plan for and respond to disasters and emergencies. Part of this approach includes us working to ensure that the project aligns and fits into the overall strategy for the society. 

Q: Why should Canadians care about this project?

Hani: We are all humans and I emphasize the importance of that human-to-human approach.
Disaster can strike anywhere in the world and some countries are better equipped to respond than others. There are over 33 million people living in Afghanistan, and a third of them are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

The values that we, as Canadians, believe in should be the main driver for why we should care about this.

Learn more about our collaborative work with the Afghan Red Crescent Society, thanks to funding provided by the Government of Canada.

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