By Geneviève Déry 

In Mali, the winter is not very wintry at all. Instead, it’s the rainy season. Every year between July and September, heavy rains fall across the country. Some regions, such as Sikasso, are hit harder than others.

As the torrential rain floods mud houses in urban areas, and the Niger River bursts its banks and flows into nearby streets, the damage goes far beyond material goods. Families are left homeless, roads are blocked, and the flooded areas quickly become breeding grounds for diseases such as malaria, which is a leading cause of death in children under five.

Whether in Mali, in Canada, or elsewhere in the world, one of the essential roles of Red Cross volunteers is to support people affected by disasters. Lala is one of these volunteers.
Lala
“In the last few weeks, it has rained a lot in Sikasso. Many homes have flooded and collapsed. I was one of the first on the ground to start assessing the damage,” says Lala, as she prepares to distribute relief materials (tarps, pots and pans, soap, feminine hygiene kits, etc.) to two families that were particularly hard hit.
Mohamed and his son.
Lassina
In the Sikasso region, Mohamed Traoré and Lassina Diawara’s families are not the only ones waiting for help from the Red Cross — there are over 500 of them. The needs are immense and the territory to cover is vast, but Lala and her fellow volunteers are confident that they are up to the challenge!
The Mali Red Cross, with support from the Canadian Red Cross and the Government of Canada, prepared them through a project designed to build the organization’s capacity to meet the needs of people affected by disasters.

The project is already yielding results, explains Mr. Togo. He is the Red Cross secretary general for the Sikasso region, which is one of three areas targeted by the initiative. “Through this project, I was able to mobilize and recruit more volunteers in my region, train them to respond to emergencies, and ensure the local availability of emergency materials. Our teams are now more effective in assessing needs after a natural disaster and assisting local families. The distributions currently underway are proof of that.”

Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.