The Uganda Red Cross society (URCS) has earmarked a five-year strategic plan aimed at creating a resilient community that aligns with their core activities.
The strategy, which is from 2021 to 2025, was done through a consultative process of all stakeholders at local and international levels.
The Secretary General Uganda Red Cross Society, Mr. Robert Kwesiga, said the strategy will handle core values with the community such as disaster management, first aid, blood mobilization, strengthening membership and volunteer base in Uganda.
“The entry point is for communities to be able to withstand any emergency or challenges that they face. We are, therefore, aiming at how to make communities be aware of the calamities, equip themselves with tools to know when a calamity or disaster is likely to happen and how they could be empowered to manage some of these or avoid them,” he said.
Mr Kwesiga added that even if the unfortunate happened, the community would be able to ensure that life and property is not lost.
The strategic plan, first of its kind, was launched by First National Vice Chairperson Al-hajj Moses Kigongo at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday April 29.
Mr Kwesige said the institution needs to mainly work on creating sustainable institution systems which require adequate staff, experts plus reliable sources of finance to implement the strategy.
“Red Cross needs to increase the number of members and volunteers plus the branches across the country. These are the ones that link our services to the community,” he said.
The institution had taken a wrong route, especially in its organization systems, a thing which prompted government to freeze its tax exemption for some time.
“Five years back, we had financial issues, government was demanding us revenue because the previous staff was not paying tax to URA. This accumulated a debt of Shs6 billion, which fortunately government has exempted us from paying,” Mr Kwesiga said.
He added that in the new regulation under gazette and waiting be made a law (Red Cross Act CAP 57 2021), the financial issues will be sorted and that the government has agreed once again to exempt tax from the institution.
Mr Kwesige, however, noted that for the previous five years, Red Cross had embarked on a deliberate process to change the direction of the institution convincing the donor community and other stakeholders to regain their trust.
The Red Cross has also intervened in areas of humanitarian research through making partnerships with different higher institutions of learning such as Makerere and Uganda Christian University.
The new strategic plan has a budget of a conservative figure of Shs235.05 billion compared to the previous conservative figure strategic plan 2016- 2020 of Shs225billion. Though, this was expected to exceed due to emergencies and other crisis.
“We also need to finance projects that are temporary and not earmarked, this gives us space for those projects that are not provided for through income generation projects and the government,” he noted.
Mr Kwesiga added that the organization has focused on being self-sustained and ensuring that it has what it takes to serve.
The main aim was to make sure that at least 1% of Ugandans joined membership of the Red Cross society.
Dr. Halid Kirund, the chairperson of the Governing Board, noted that the new strategic plan will be more proactive rather than reactive.
Red Cross currently has 51 branches scattered in different parts of the country with 450,000 volunteers and members.
United Nations Coordinator, HE Rosa Malango, also present, noted that if Uganda was to achieve the global sustainable development agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), then it had to invest in robust indigenous capacities who can identify, prepare and respond to crisis situations and help communities deal with the impact of being the real first responders in times of emergencies.
“On behalf of the UN, I pledge commitment to continue working with the government, Uganda Red Cross, development partners, private sector, communities and other key stakeholders to build an effective disaster preparedness and response framework,” she said.
“Red Cross needs to strengthen their partnership with the UN system and its partners across the country by considering an annual joint retreat to review achievements, constraints and lessons. The organization should be part of the meeting with the Youth SDG Coalition to help increase awareness of their work and enhance the impact of work at community level informed by the SDGs,” Malango noted.
The Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda, Mr. WimVanhelleputte, urged corporate organizations to extend their support towards the development and implementation of the strategy as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
He said Red Cross has also offered collaborative services, and therefore needs funds from partners, donors, corporates, governments and individuals.