Amid the ongoing crisis in Manipur, the Indian Red Cross Society’s Manipur chapter has found itself at the forefront of relief efforts, navigating a complex web of challenges while striving to make a profound impact on the lives of those affected.
Led by noted actor and playwright Narendra Ningomba, who serves as the chairman, this chapter boasts of, approximately, 400 dedicated and active volunteers.
Since the onset of the crisis, the Red Cross demonstrated its remarkable ability to swiftly adapt to the ever-evolving needs of the situation.
The volunteers on the ground have been nothing short of heroes, continuously reassessing and recalibrating their relief efforts as the crisis unfolds.
They have gone to great lengths, even providing ambulance services for those injured amid of mob violence and firing incidents occurring in both the hills and valley districts.
To enhance their reach and strengthen their services, the Kakching branch of the Red Cross was established within the first month of the crisis.
This strategic move, aimed at improving ground access, has been crucial in their efforts, said Narendra while speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press.
According to Narendra Ningomba, the volunteers have facilitated the transport of as many as 200 injured victims during the ongoing crisis to nearby hospitals. However, one of the most significant challenges the Red Cross faces is negotiating access to areas directly impacted by the crisis, often amid security concerns and conflicts.
As a consequence of the crisis, the number of volunteers in Churachandpur district has dwindled to a mere 10, Narendra said, adding that there are restricted access issues for their valley-based volunteers in some hill districts.
He said, however, having volunteers in the Senapati branch has proven to be a tremendous asset in their relief efforts.
Through them, aid supplies from the Red Cross headquarters were able to reach the valley districts, as the Senapati volunteers faced no access restrictions, he added.
For Churachandpur district, he informed that the Manipur governor, who serves as the president of the Red Cross Society’s Manipur Chapter had even facilitated the transportation and distribution of relief materials.
Acknowledging that transportation in the valley districts for distributing relief materials and providing ambulance services posed great challenges initially due to a lack of recognition of the Red Cross among the public, he noted that the Red Cross’s efforts have now gained mass recognition, and access challenges in the valley districts are no longer a significant hurdle.
Going beyond immediate relief efforts, the Red Cross is also actively involved in capacity building and resilience-building initiatives for displaced individuals.
A notable project in this regard is “Basic Psychological Support,” carried out in collaboration with renowned psychiatrist Dr Lenin, founder of Share and Care, along with the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatrist Department of RIMS.
Through this initiative, the Red Cross provides vital psychological support, especially to children in different relief camps.
In these trying times, when many health experts emphasise the need for psychological support among those affected by the crisis, the chairman stressed that the Red Cross has also distributed stationary, games, and sports items to the relief camps under the project.
However, sustaining relief efforts in the midst of the ongoing crisis has become a challenge due to resource constraints. Fortunately, UNICEF, along with other foreign and national-based NGOs, groups, and even the DM University Teachers Association, has extended aid in the form of both monetary contributions and relief materials to the Red Cross, admitted Narendra Ningomba.
Among the significant relief materials distributed by the Red Cross in various relief camps are low-cost portable toilets, kitchen sets, hygienic kits, and water purification machines, among other essential items.
Despite their commendable and sacrificial service, there have been instances where Red Cross volunteers have had to skip meals, breakfast, or even endure thirst due to the closure of hotels and shops during strikes and curfews.
In the ongoing Manipur crisis, which has persisted for over four months leading to over 150 casualties, 60,000 displaced and destruction of many properties, the Red Cross stands as a shining example of and unwavering dedication to humanitarian work.
Their ability to navigate complexities, build trust, and collaborate with partners showcases the indispensable role they play in providing aid and support to vulnerable populations during these challenging times.