Many National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Middle East and North Africa region have taken an innovative approach to first aid.

Examples of this were heard in Tunis last week, where the representatives of 15 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies gathered for a regional first aid meeting from 21 to 23 February. This was the first regional first aid meeting in 10 years and it was hosted by the Tunisian Red Crescent.

Development of first aid applications for smartphones has been a new area for a number of National Societies that took part in partership with the Global Disaster Preparedness Center. As one example, Egyptian Red Crescent Society has developed first aid training curriculum for those who are hearing impaired or non-verbal, and Tunisian Red Crescent have courses in first aid for children from as young as four years old. Tunisian Red Crescent is also working together with the country’s Ministry of Education to organize first aid clubs in schools across the country.

“National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Middle East and North Africa have the leading role in first aid services, and many are adopting increasingly innovative approaches. They are constantly on the lookout for new ways to share first aid skills with more people, to secure a safer environment for the public under peace both in peace and conflict times”, said Maki Igarashi, health coordinator for the IFRC in the Middle East and North Africa region.

First aid is also facing many challenges in the region. Crises and conflicts in many countries have led to concerns for the safety of the volunteers. This has forced National Societies to find new ways to ensure that first aid can continue to be provided whenever and wherever it is needed.

“In many countries, the environment that first aid volunteers work in has deteriorated and became increasingly unsafe. Despite this, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers continue to find ways to deliver the lifesaving first aid for the women, men and children who are most affected by the hostilities.”

The regional first aid meeting in Tunis established five working groups that aim to unify the first aid trainings in order to qualify for the international first aid certificate, provide research and case studies to the Global First Aid Reference Centre s and to follow up and advocate on national legislation in the region, especially in regards to liability issues in first aid in legislation. A network of regional first aid focal points will ensure that all national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in Middle East and North Africa region are updated and well connected.

“Our aim is to harmonize first aid and to build a common ground for first aid education targeting different groups in society. We see first aid as the first step towards achieving the 1 Billion Coalition for Resilience”, said Dr Pascal Cassan (pictured), Director of Global First Aid Reference Centre in his speech.

Of the more than 16 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world, 770,000 are trained in first aid. In 2014, for example approximately 15 million people received first aid training from their respective National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society.

The regional first aid meeting was organized in partnership with the IFRC’s Global First Aid Reference Centre, and funded by the IFRC and Japanese Red Cross Society.