Supporting humanitarian work in different ways

ABB signed an agreement in 2016 to power the largest logistics hub in Africa of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) through a state-of-the-art microgrid. The agreement underscores ABB’s long-standing commitment to support the ICRC’s humanitarian work, and is aligned with the company’s strategic goals to extend the use of microgrid technology and expand operations in Africa.

Under the agreement, the microgrid is to be installed in 2017 at the ICRC’s logistics center in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where 170 employees work to deliver food and other essential items like medicines and relief supplies across Africa.

The microgrid, which integrates solar energy and diesel, can also be connected to the main power grid, and will ensure a reliable and stable energy supply in a region which is exposed to frequent outages and power quality issues. Integrating solar power will also reduce carbon emissions.

The agreement – the first such contract between ABB and a major humanitarian organization – was praised by both parties. “We are delighted to partner and support the humanitarian work of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “Microgrids have enormous potential in Africa, where more than 600 million people live without access to electricity.”

“Reliable power is essential for our staff to continue their life-saving work uninterrupted in the field,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer. “In addition, the ABB microgrid solution is in line with the ICRC’s goal to use environmentally friendly technologies. Solutions like this are proof that cooperation between the corporate and humanitarian sectors is not only possible, but imperative.”

It is the latest milestone in a partnership which started in 2005 when ABB joined the ICRC’s Corporate Support Group, comprising Swiss-based companies and foundations seeking to support the ICRC’s humanitarian work around the world.

Initially, ABB’s annual contribution was channeled into the training of ICRC delegates; in recent years, ABB’s funding has supported clean water programs for tens of thousands of displaced people who are victims of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.

The partnership has deepened in different ways. The microgrid agreement, for example, was highlighted by both ABB and ICRC at a panel run by the company at the COP 22 climate change conference in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2016.

In recent years there have been a number of exchanges on communications, logistics and learning and development. ABB employees have helped to train Red Cross engineers on motors and water pumps at workshops during an annual teaching program in Geneva. ABB executives have also visited humanitarian operations in Jordan and South Sudan to understand better how the ICRC operates in the field. In addition, the ICRC has provided ABB with briefings on international humanitarian law, and issues relating to human rights and security.