This week Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary-General Abbas Gullet answers your questions.
1. Much has been said since a video of Tiaty residents enjoying themselves with beer donated by a Chinese firm emerged. Sir, did the donor break any established ethics or values of humanitarian assistance? Komen Moris, Eldoret
Really, I do not know the rationale behind the beer donation, but if you ask me priority should be food, water and health interventions.
These are the key needs on the ground. And from a humanitarian angle, we believe in dignified humanitarian support that empowers such vulnerable families.
2. What is Kenya Red Crossâ working arrangement with the government in times of disasters in the country? Do you have any memorandum of understanding with the government? Githuku Mungai
The Kenya Red Cross Society has never worked in isolation. We are enacted by an Act of Parliament (Chapter 256 Laws of Kenya) auxiliary to the central and county governments.
We work in coordination with both arms of government. Our presence in all the 47 counties ensures productive synergies with both arms of government.
At devolved levels, we have gone further to support counties in the development of disaster laws.
We are part of the government. Disaster preparedness and response requires our collective effort. At all levels, we sit on the disaster management committee.
3. Sir, one of the questions that keep coming up whenever Kenya Red Cross is mentioned is your long stay as secretary-general since 2001. Does KRCS have term limits? How is a secretary-general elected/appointed? Genaro Bwire, Nairobi
The Kenya Red Cross human resource management is guided by its Constitution and the Human Resource policy.
Everybody at KRCS is on a fixed term contract that is renewable every two years based on the personâs performance and availability of funds.
There is no exception for this rules including me as the Secretary-General.
The same HR policies and procedures apply for me, as it is the prerogative of the National Executive Council to hire and fire anyone.
In my case, it is upon them to determine my stay, as they are the hiring authority. No one can be in these jobs for eternity.
4. After the 2013 General Election the Kenya Red Cross came up with the idea of ambulance leasing and contracting to county governments. While some counties accepted to enrol in this package others didnât, especially because of the high leasing fee of over Sh900,000 per ambulance per month. What do you think has been the success of this scheme, and do you think the counties who signed up to the deal got value for money under this initiative? Dan Murugu, Nakuru
We have two sets of ambulances: the Basic Life Support and the Advance Life Support. Both are of global standards, with the latter being a moving ICU.
They are operated by highly qualified and trained paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians.
In the counties that have signed up with us, there is total improvement of emergency response and maternal health with mothers having successful delivery inside the ambulances.
Our nationwide ambulance coverage ensures timely response of global standards at the local level.
We operate a 24/7 call centre, meaning residents can access our ambulance at any time of the day or night; our biggest partner being the National Hospital Insurance Fund members.
There is absolutely no value for human life. Therefore, considering the quality, timely and world class service we provide, as well as the colossal responses we do in a month, our monthly price range of Sh600,000 â Sh750,000 is reasonable.
5. Sir, it is not in doubt that your organisation has always been the first to respond to calamities in Kenya. Yet, not long ago, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale raised doubt and complained in Parliament that you cannot account for all financial donations that you have received on behalf of victims of natural and man-made calamities. What do you have to say on this matter? Dan Murugu, Nakuru
Hon. Duale complained in a political rally and not in Parliament. But that aside, I am very ready to be investigated by the mandated agencies.
Accountability and transparency has been, is and will continue to be at the centre of Kenya Red Cross humanitarian work.
We have a very robust internal and external audit system, which continues to build donor confidence because we account for every cent and our work speaks for itself.
The Sh1 billion we got from the Government of Kenya has transformed the lives of Kenyans who were affected by the 2018 floods through the construction of over 5,700 houses in 26 counties, rehabilitation of community water points and strengthening community health systems.
The Kenya Red Cross has since reported to the line ministry on the utilisation of this money, accounting for each and every cent.
We have complied with the government accounting requirements and will always take donor support seriously, both from the government and non-state actors.
6. Sir, the government has announced that there is enough food to feed people in the drought-stricken counties. This then begs the question, why is Kenya Red Cross still asking Kenyans to contribute when there is enough food. What will the money raised be spent on? Is someone taking Kenyans for fools? Joan N. Ingari, Nairobi
We are not at odds with the government. On the reverse, we work together.
Since last year when we saw signs of the current drought, we have coordinated together.
World over, agencies like the Kenya Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations complement government efforts based on the nature of the disaster.
Our drought appeal was meant to support government efforts and not to contradict, compete or undermine the government.
At the time of the appeal, over 1.1 million people were in need of aid, and with the deteriorating drought conditions the number will rise.
Our appeal targets to do cash transfers to 300,000 people in the most affected and hard to reach areas, alongside water projects and health outreaches. That is where the money will be spent.
We respect every Kenyan and partner, and at no point will anyone at KRCS take advantage of them.
Drought is real and the situation may worsen with the delay of rains. Let us be our brotherâs and sisterâs keeper.
7. Why did it take Kenya Red Cross so long to realise that people were dying of hunger? You started asking for assistance to deal with the crisis only after it was highlighted in the media, yet we have agencies like National Drought Resistance Management Authority which you have been working with to get the early warning signs of the impending drought. Did you not get any advance warning? Okulo Andrew Guya, student – University of Nairobi
We started talking about the looming drought last year after the below average 2018 short rains.
At the same time, we embarked on assessments and preparedness on how we could cushion the vulnerable familiesâ way before the drought crisis became a headline.
Our decentralised operations and the fact that our staff and volunteers live within communities ensures we receive first-hand information, closely coordinating and collaborating with the central and the 47 county governments.
8. On the current famine situation in the country, on one side, the government has said that there is nothing of the sort and the only problem has been with food distribution. On the other hand, the media is awash with photos and articles portraying what they consider as reality on the ground. Whom should Kenyans believe? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi
First and foremost, what we are experiencing is drought, and not famine.
On April 10, 2019, the government held a press conference led by the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and updated the country about deteriorating drought conditions if the rains keep delaying, which would lead to widespread crop failure, malnutrition, disease outbreaks among other issues.
We have also been consistent about the rising needs as a result of the drought.
It is real and we must keep doing our best to shield the affected families from reaching the tipping point.
9. Since Kenya Red Cross launched the current appeal for donations from Kenyans to help drought-stricken Kenyans in 23 counties, the response especially in social media spaces has been, to say the least, very negative. Questions have been raised as to how Kenya Red Cross spent the more than a billion that was raised during Kenyans for Kenya (K4K). Part of the donations was to go towards long term projects to deal with food insecurity. Yet photos of abandoned farm in Nakinomet in Kibish Sub County tell a totally different story. Sir, can you set the record straight of how the K4K cash, especially the part for long term projects was spent by Kenya Red Cross? Paul Mburuh, Gatundu South
Audit reports regarding the K4K initiative have been on our website since 2012 (www.redcross.or.ke), and I encourage all of you to peruse through as they provide an in depth picture of what was raised in cash and in kind, criteria for selecting the three long term projects namely the Kaikor irrigation farm in Turkana where water still flows to date, the Chesirmion Dam in Tiaty, Baringo, a main source of water in this current drought and the Walda irrigation farm in Moyale, Marsabit that is doing exemplary well.
10. Though Kenya Red Cross is a not-for-profit organisation, it is worth noting that you have been engaging in a lot of commercial services, which generate profits, like the ambulance leasing project, the Boma hotels and a commercial television station. All these generate profits yet in times of disaster, Kenya Red Cross still comes back to Kenyans to ask for donations. Why canât Red Cross use the surplus it makes from such commercial ventures to deal with disasters rather than every time coming to Kenyans with a begging bowl? Dennis Opangâa, Mombasa
These businesses are long term. World over, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies engage in cross-sector businesses to remain sustainable.
In most countries, they are also funded by the government. Globally, humanitarian aid is shrinking as NGOs are increasing and the aid pot is not increasing.
In the context of Kenya Red Cross Society, we have learnt to fend for ourselves for purposes of being sustainable and reach those in most need of humanitarian support.
Globally, we have been lauded by all and sundry for becoming the centre of learning within the Red Cross Red Crescent movement, other humanitarian actors and even governments.
Everyday, we respond to disasters that most Kenyans do not know of such as fires, road crashes, collapse of buildings, and armed conflict.
The responses that are made possible due to the internal disaster kitty that is sustained by the surplus we get from our business enterprises even as we service loans we took loans to start them.
In the past three years alone, we have responded to more than 3,200 road traffic accidents, 1,257 fire incidents, 334 flood incidents, 103 sea/lake incidents, 47 collapsed buildings to just mention a few, using revenue from these business enterprises.
The investments are long term and in 10-15 years, we hope to be a leader in financial sustainability and independence. For now, we will always strive to be the first one in and last one out.
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