Partnerships and preparedness: Philippine Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross over the years

By: Latasha Brown, communications coordinator

After Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) devastated the Philippines in 2013, affecting over 16 million people, the demand for humanitarian assistance was high. In response, the Canadian Red Cross quickly deployed a mobile field hospital with a team of medical support personnel to work closely with the Philippine Red Cross in providing relief to affected communities. Within weeks, the signs of early recovery were apparent as streets slowly became livelier and infrastructure began to be repaired.

Since then, the Philippines has been hit by back-to-back typhoons, the most recent being Typhoon Rai (locally known as Odette) on December 16, 2021. Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, responding to this crisis presented a unique set of challenges. Nonetheless, the Philippine Red Cross remained incredibly resilient thanks to its commitment to developing response readiness over the years.

“After each disaster, the National Society is learning and finding ways to improve the next response compared to the previous one,” says Mladen Milicevic, Canadian Red Cross Country Representative for the Philippines.
Philippine Red Cross key members pose for photos on stage, with the emergency response equipment on display.
Philippine Red Cross receives CAD $122,999 worth of Emergency Response Equipment from the Canadian Red Cross during a handover ceremony.

Ever since the field hospital was established in 2013, the Canadian Red Cross has remained a strong collaborator by providing ongoing training and equipment. Even in the face of difficulties posed by the pandemic, new opportunities arose to strengthen the partnership.

“In the beginning, everyone was confused on how to deal with the COVID response,” Mladen shares.

However, since the Philippine Red Cross is very involved in the health care systems within the country, it was decided that the best way the National Society could help control the disease and provide the public with useful information was to take a role in COVID-19 testing.

After learning that Alberta had the fastest COVID-19 test results processing at the time, they reached out to the Canadian Red Cross as an opportunity to learn and refine their own processes. Philippine Red Cross volunteers studying in British Columbia at the time were then connected with experts from the Canadian Red Cross Global Health Unit, as well as Jenn McManus, Vice President, Alberta and Northwest Territories.

The Philippine Red Cross volunteers learned everything from infrastructure to workflow and were able to share the knowledge with their colleagues back home and implement new changes.
Philippine Red Cross members are on stage, while one holds up an emergency kit item during the handover ceremony
Our Philippines Country Representative Mladen Milicevic alongside Philippine Red Cross Chairman Gordon at the Handover Ceremony. 

“The Philippine Red Cross is a very modern and dynamic national society. It is always looking for new opportunities and ways to meet the needs of the population in effective ways,” Mladen notes. “Currently the Philippine Red Cross is the leading agency for PCR testing in the country and has conducted over five million tests in the country, with the second leading agency conducting less than half that amount.”

Such an enduring and successful international partnership can be hard to come by.

“When working internationally as the Canadian Red Cross, we always have to be aware that we are guests in the National Society’s countries,” Mladen explains. “We have to accept the systems and rules that exist in these countries. The fact that some national societies do their work differently, does not mean that they are doing it wrong.”

He insists that an equal partnership is the most effective way to build the capacity of a national society. The successful partnership between the Philippine and Canadian Red Cross shows that this is true and will continue for years to come.

Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world, including the Canadian Red Cross, have been on the frontlines responding to the pandemic. The strength of the Red Cross is our combination of community-based and global support. Learn more about how we help

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