Norwegian minister lauds disaster-response volunteers

Jun 6, 2013

H.E. Mr Heikki Eidsvoll Holmas met with volunteers who were part of the rescue effort in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy. Photo UNDP Bangladesh

In a four-day visit to Bangladesh, Norwegian Minister of International Development Mr. Heikki Eidsvoll Holmas met with Fire Service Urban Volunteers and lauded their efforts in saving people`s lives at the Rana Plaza tragedy in Savar.

The volunteer groups were pioneered through a partnership between the Government of Bangladesh and UNDP, through the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme.

He was accompanied by Ms. Ragne Birte Lund, the Norwegian Ambassador in Bangladesh and other high level dignitaries. The Norwegian team also paid homage to the departed souls at the Rana Plaza tragedy and visited critically injured workers undergoing treatment at Enam Medical College and Hospital.

The visiting team was introduced to Fire Service and Civil Defence officials and CDMP professionals and inquired about various issues regarding CDMP`s urban risk reduction initiatives. Urban Volunteers Shumon and Sinthia along with Rana, Razu, Ferdouse, Mahedi briefed the Minister about their search and rescue operations experiences.

They informed the Minister that around 200 urban volunteers were engaged in Rana Plaza incidents on rotational basis composing of individuals from different walks of life ranging from students, businessmen, workers, housewives and youth group.

Mr. Abdul Latif Khan, Disaster Response Management Specialist of CDMP II explained the nature of the search and rescue mission to the Minister. He informed the Minister that with the aim of reducing urban risks CDMP developed a comprehensive urban volunteerism programme where tapping social capital is seen as fundamental in responding to large scale urban disasters.

Accordingly an urban volunteer network has been established and trained on search and rescue and first aid. This force, which will number 62,000 nationwide, not only represents a significant response capacity, but a clear commitment to one`s own community. CDMP II is supporting the Fire Service and Civil Defence to train 30,000 urban Community Volunteers in 9 urban centers including Dhaka, Chittagong, and Sylhet etc. Till to date around 19,000 urban volunteers have been registered and have been trained in addressing urban risk reduction initiatives.

The Honourable Minister Mr. Holmas congratulated the urban volunteers for saving the lives of people in need and for successfully undertaking search and rescue operations. He said that 100 years back Norway was considered a developing country but with the course of time their people organized themselves in persuasion of a shared goal towards becoming a developed country. He also reaffirmed Norway`s support for Bangladesh.