New Zealand Permanent Mission Geneva, Switzerland

Melanie Ogle “Disaster management all in a days work”

Melanie Ogle

Aucklander Melanie Ogle says she hasn’t travelled much this year. Based in Nairobi she’s responded to disasters in Botswana, Malawi, Benin, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. Most of her work involves floods, but the area is also prone to droughts, landslides, earthquakes, pestilence and storms.

She’s also responded to fires, cholera and malaria outbreaks, food insecurity, and the odd boat sinking and plane crash.

The New Zealand Red Cross disaster management aid worker has been with the IFRC in Nairobi since mid-2012, and until recently her area of responsibility covered 25 different African countries. Now Melanie is responsible for 10 countries in southern Africa – from Angola down to South Africa and from Namibia in the west to Mozambique in the east.

Melanie’s day to day work involves helping Red Cross national societies with their disaster response and ensuring the quality and accountability of emergency operations. That could come in the form of an emergency appeal or a disaster relief emergency fund (DREF). She also meets with small groups of beneficiaries to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

“They’re always extremely grateful but it’s not until you sit down and talk to them that you’ll find out things like they’d rather have wood to rebuild their houses than to build latrines, or that instead of building 120 private latrines you should build one community latrine,” she says.

“It can be challenging to get things done quickly in Africa. ‘African time’ can be challenging but you’ve just got to learn to go with the flow. But if we weren’t here I’m not sure the African national societies would have the resources to do this job.”

Before she worked for New Zealand Red Cross, Melanie lived in London and worked for the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and for a donor organisation on their international grants programme.

She says Nairobi is a good place to live.

“It’s quite exciting. The traffic is terrible but it’s actually really green and lovely. I like my job. It’s busy but I enjoy meeting beneficiaries and also the volunteers from various national societies. I definitely think that we make a difference.” 

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