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On call to help the world

HELPING HAND: David O'Meara at home after his mission in Ethiopia and inset the situation during an assessment in the south of Ethiopia.
HELPING HAND: David O'Meara at home after his mission in Ethiopia and inset the situation during an assessment in the south of Ethiopia. Trevor Veale

WITH just 24 hours warning, David O'Meara could be called to an emergency zone anywhere in the world.

The local mechanical and civil engineer and father of three has just returned from his most recent mission with the Red Cross in Ethiopia.

Mr O'Meara has been working in the international aid arena since his first mission to South Sudan working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2004.

Specialising in transitional shelter for displaced people, Mr O'Meara's work involves infrastructure assessment for the repatriation of refugees and the evaluation and reconstruction of emergency zones.

He said living in Malawi in South East Africa gave him and his family a deeper understanding of the disadvantage and suffering so many are forced to endure.

"You see the need, distress and plight by right of birth," Mr O'Meara said.

"Being exposed to the situations and state of living through no fault of the individual you understand that assistance is needed and so you go and assist as many people as possible."

Mr O'Meara has responded to a range of disasters including flood-affected Sri Lanka following the 2005 tsunami, reconstruction work in the Maldives, relief work in Papua New Guinea after cyclone Guba, the Philippines after cyclone Ketsana, Haiti following the earthquake, the floods in Pakistan and most recently the drought in East Africa.

In Ethiopia he was stationed at Addis Ababa working with the Red Cross and UNHCR and said the drought situation in the Horn of Africa was dire.

"It is the second drought year in a row and they don't have enough crops to get them through until the next wet season.

"With no crops in the ground, there is no food security and food aid will be needed until early next year at least."

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has classified 2011 as one of the driest years on record in the Eastern Horn of Africa.

According to the United Nations more than 12 million people in the region are in need of humanitarian assistance with two years of drought pushing food prices beyond reach.

Refugees from Somalia are still pouring into Ethiopia (at Dollo Ado refugee camp there have been 54,000 new arrivals this year with 50% of these children malnourished) and Kenya (in Dadaab refugee camp 1000 people arrive each day).

You can donate to the Australian Red Cross's East Africa Drought Appeal by visiting http://www.redcross.org.au/ and searching for 'East Africa'.



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