Harry hails humanitarian volunteers
Thursday 26th September 2013, 7:21PM BST.
Prince Harry has praised the “extraordinary” volunteers of a humanitarian emergency response organisation as he was spirited to the heart of a devastating earthquake.
Harry spoke of his pride at being patron of MapAction which helps co- ordinate relief efforts in disaster areas as he watched a team responding to a mock earthquake.
The royal looked on intently as a small team of three MapAction volunteers battled to cope with the natural disaster inside a canvas field tent complete with satellite phones, first aid kits and dozens of maps.
MapAction, which is based near High Wycombe, produces maps highlighting not only the geography of an area but where need is greatest and the locations for vital humanitarian aid.
The organisation has successfully deployed to more than 40 emergency missions since its service was launched over 10 years, helping millions of people affected by disaster.
Speaking to potential MapAction donors and existing financial supporters and helpers at the Royal Society in London Harry said he had met volunteers.
He said: “I was struck by their willingness to drop everything at a moment’s notice – despite the fact I’d do that in my job anytime – and step into the heart of the crisis no matter where it is in the world, leaving loved ones behind.”
He added: “And to do this knowing that very few people will have any idea what contribution they have made. They are extraordinary people and this is an extraordinary organisation.”
The mock earthquake was based on the organisation’s efforts in Haiti whose capital Port-au-Prince was devastated by a natural disaster in 2010.
During the scenario Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic Survey who was part of the MapAction team sent to Haiti, told the audience: “We’ve got some text messages from people trapped in the rubble, we’re putting the locations into the maps and sending out teams.”
This was based on real events from Port-au-Prince as texts were used to track down survivors.
MapAction has been working in Syria since December to map the needs of affected communities and co-ordinate humanitarian efforts to ensure those most in need receive help first.
And last week two members of its team flew to the Sudan where weeks of heavy rains triggered flash floods in August.
Dozens of people were killed and hundreds of thousands have been affected by the disaster which hit the area around the capital Khartoum.
Harry told his audience, who included Liz Hughes the organisation’s chief executive: “The maxim ‘who, what, why, when and where’ is common to many organisations and across many different situations for a very reason.
“Without this information it’s just not possible to make effective decisions. In the context of a natural disaster it is of course vital to make decisions quickly in order to save lives and protect those who may still be in danger
“MapAction’s ability to have experts on the ground within hours, collating this information in support of decision makers, has placed them at the very heart of international response efforts over the last 10 to 11 years.”