Zambia, significantly affected by climate change, faces the dual threats of floods and droughts. The Zambia Red Cross Society in close coordination with key stakeholders diligently addresses the needs of communities and works to reduce the risks that come with these climate disasters, including the spread of waterborne diseases and food insecurity. In close collaboration with the Zambia Red Cross Society, and funded through the Programmatic Partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the European Union, as well as the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre and the Netherlands Red Cross’ data and digital initiative, 510, embarked on a crucial project to address challenges faced while responding to droughts and floods in Zambia. The Forecast-based Financing project aims to build and strengthen anticipatory action in Zambia through development of Early Action Protocols (EAP) and forecast monitoring systems. It aims to improve Early Action Protocols used for acting before these hazards occur and in anticipation of their impacts draw lessons from previous experiences, and explore further opportunities for digital transformation.

The drought Early Action Protocol is a cornerstone in our mission for disaster anticipatory actions and early response. It opens doors to crucial financial mechanisms, empowering the Zambia Red Cross Society to timely marshal resources effectively. This, in turn, enables us to proactively support our communities, alleviating the impacts of drought and floods. It’s not just about responding to crises; it’s about being steps ahead, ensuring that we can mitigate the challenges that lie before us with foresight and preparedness.

Wina Wina (Disaster Risk Management unit lead at the Zambia Red Cross Society)

The Pursuit of Impact: Collaborative Protocols
The project had clear objectives guiding the team’s efforts, driven by a comprehensive and proactive approach to tackle both drought and flood-related challenges. These included establishing a robust framework for the Zambia Red Cross Society to efficiently respond to droughts, as well as enhancing the effectiveness of already existing flood anticipation and response strategies. Furthermore, discussions were held with the Zambia Red Cross Society regarding enhancements to the efficiency of humanitarian aid distribution.

Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS) constantly shows its leadership and innovation on disaster preparedness in the region and the world notably by designing robust anticipatory action systems with a strong emphasis on a national collaborative vision. It is a privilege for us to work on the technical aspects of these programmes with ZRCS, the national Technical Working Group (TWG), the Netherlands Red Cross, and our 510 colleagues, and hope that their work can inspire others along this journey.

Dorothy Heinrich (Technical Advisor, Climate Centre)

In October 2023, a 510 and Climate Centre team traveled to Monze in Southern Zambia to facilitate a workshop to revise the existing flood EAP and finalizethe drought EAP which was in draft form. The agenda for the workshop was thoughtfully created and organized by the Zambia Red Cross Society who brought together all the members of the national TWG to work on various pieces of analysis and writing of both programmes. During the workshop, the National Society’s flood EAP was revised, drawing insights from Light Test Activation, Readiness Activities and past activation. Additionally, efforts were made to collaborate with the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) to enhance the flood EAP trigger by incorporating data from Global Flood Awareness System (GLOFAS) stations. A second key aspect of the project involved an exploration with the Zambia Red Cross Society of how to potentially digitize warehouse management workflows, aiming to streamline and modernize the processes associated with humanitarian assistance.

Another crucial element of the workshop involved completing the Drought Early Action Protocol. Collaborating with the National Technical Working Group for Anticipatory Action, we successfully finalized the various sections of the Drought EAP, including the impact sectors and the prioritization of early actions. These prioritized early actions were also validated with communities vulnerable to drought during the workshop. A significant achievement within the workshop’s timeline was the comprehensive finalization of the Drought EAP document.

Collaborating with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to facilitate the workshop was an enriching experience. The extensive expertise brought forth by various specialists within the team was crucial for the completion of the drought EAP. This collaboration created a dynamic of mutual learning where the exchange of diverse domain knowledge augmented the development process of the EAP.

Aklilu Teklesadik (Service coordinator, Anticipatory Action at 510)

Lessons learned
Technically supporting those making crucial humanitarian decisions on disaster response (like Red Cross Red Crescent national societies and their local counterparts) is a key role for 510 and the Climate Centre, and valuing strong relationships and collaboration with local partners is essential. The Zambia Red Cross Society expressed satisfaction with the technical support provided by 510, emphasizing the significance of collaborative efforts in effectively addressing complex challenges. Additionally, the Impact-Based Forecasting Portal (IBF Portal) serves as a digital one-stop-shop of information supporting the decision-making of disaster managers during anticipatory action operations. Hosting the Impact Based Forecasting (IBF) flood portal with the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU)/Smart Zambia emphasized the need for further exploration and enhanced collaboration among disaster management actors, shedding light on the balancing act required for dedicated teams to effectively manage multiple responsibilities.

Opportunities in Drought Monitoring Portal: An exciting opportunity surfaced in the form of collaboration with an existing Drought Monitoring Portal hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture. This presents a potential avenue for enhancing sustainable drought anticipatory action trigger systems through the utilization of existing forecast and monitoring resources.

This collaboration between the Zambia Red Cross Society, RCCC and 510 signals a significant step towards improving humanitarian aid through scientific, data and digital measures. As the teams work towards finalizing protocols, revising strategies, and embracing digital transformation, the project serves as a testament to the power of international collaboration in addressing the complex challenges of anticipatory actions and disaster response. The lessons learned will undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing efforts to enhance the speed, quality, and cost-effectiveness of humanitarian aid worldwide.

We want to hear from you!

Are you interested in hearing more about this project, or incorporating the IBF Portal into your National Society’s or organisation’s work, tailored to your context? Please reach out to: 

Service coordinator, Anticipatory Action: Aklilu Teklesadik  

Product manager, IBF Portal: Blaise Selvan