It is recognised by international agencies, that there have been never been so many displaced persons in the world as now on account of ongoing conflicts creating so many refugees living within refugee camps or IDP (Internally displaced persons) camps. Furthermore, rapid population growths in urban areas create informal settlements and slums lack any form of formal planning jeopardise the safety and security of many people living in these areas.
In every such situation Operation Florian recognises the risks that can be caused by fires causing loss of lives, with untold damage and loss of homes and livelihoods. In many settlements there can be common causes yet each environment will consist of differing variables. But Operation Florian firmly believes these risks can be reduced, safety can be increased, there can be less lives lost and fewer burns injuries sustained by developing various control strategies which are adaptable to the differing environments.
In 2014 Operation Florian members conducted fire risk reduction field studies in Kenya and Thailand which highlighted some of the key problems associated with outbreaks of fires. At the request of UNHCR field staff in Dadaab, Kenya Operation Florian responded to a request for assistance on account of a number of fires experienced in the camps. At the time Dadaab was one of the largest camps in the world and had suffered a number of significant fires. The 2 key fires which brought about the request occurred in IFO camp where a fire occurred in the market area destroying 55 market stalls and causing approximately 5.5. million Kenyan shillings of damage. The second fire in Dagaharley camp destroyed the MSF medical centre causing 800,00 euros of loss of medical supplies.
In Thailand, Operation Florian assisted the Coordinating Committee for Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand after the tragic fire in the Ban Mae Surin Camp where 38 refugee fires started. Undertaking assessment visits in 4 of the 9 camps managed by the CCSDPT provided valuable insight into many aspects of the camp management structure but also demonstrated fundamental differences which required a range of control strategies that contrasted those recommended in the Kenya study.
Operation Florian has developed a team of expertise to undertake fire risk reduction field research with a methodology adopting qualitative and participatory approaches to review and improve broad elements of fire risk analysing and improving preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response strategies. The work undertaken supports and goes beyond in greater detail current established safety standards and recommendations promoted within the SPHERE camp management standards and filling the void in many fire reduction strategies set up by international agencies and NGO’s.
Even though there have been no further field visits undertaken there has been continuous dialogue within FIRE AID and with DFiD, IOM (International Organisation for Migration) and UNHCR to offer continued support and lobby for improving safety.
It is further hoped that Operation Florian will continue to build teams of experts who can share their knowledge and skills with NGO staff, international development agencies and research institutions who are always contactable.