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IFRC president: Ethnicity and nationality should not be deciding factors in saving lives

16/05/2022 | Press release

New York / Geneva, 16 May 2022 – President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Francesco Rocca calls on states to step up to their responsibility to save lives, no matter where people are from, ahead of the first review of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). Mr Rocca says: “When I was in Marrakech for the adoption of the GCM I made a statement that the world’s approach to migration is painfully broken – but that the GCM can fix it. As we begin the first review of the progress made since then, I am sad to say that this has not been the case so far. Not enough changes to policies and practices to ensure safe and dignified migration have taken place, and many more lives have been lost due to that failure to act.” On the world’s deadliest sea migration route, the central Mediterranean, the number of deaths has in fact increased since the GCM was signed. The Ocean Viking ship, operated by SOS Mediterranée with IFRC providing humanitarian services on board, saves people in distress on this route. “We need to carry out this work as state-coordinated search and rescue is absent in the area,” says Mr Rocca. “Our teams have already saved 1,260 people in the nine months we’ve been operating.” The Ocean Viking is one of the 330 Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs) in 45 countries that supports the ambitions of the GCM, providing assistance and protection to people on the move irrespective of status and without fear of reprisal. The Romanian Red Cross implements HSPs in Bucharest to support people fleeing Ukraine, providing information, food, water, hygiene items and financial assistance, while the Hungarian Red Cross has been operating a HSP at the Keleti railway station 24/7 to welcome people arriving from Ukraine by train with information, food, hygiene items and baby care products. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colombian Red Cross Society has implemented HSPs at the border with Venezuela, offering essential services like healthcare, while Libyan Red Crescent volunteers have provided support to migrants and displaced people, operating HSPs that provided access to information, food, and other necessities, as well as restoring family links services. At the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF), the IFRC is calling for individual and collective efforts on search and rescue; ensuring access to essential services for migrants regardless of status; scaling up support to people affected of climate related displacement; and the inclusion of migrants in all aspects of society and decision making. “The political, public and humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis has shown what is possible when humanity and dignity comes first, when there is global solidarity and the will to assist and protect the most vulnerable,” says Mr Rocca. “This must be extended to everyone in need, wherever they come from. Ethnicity and nationality should not be deciding factors in saving lives.” Listen to the recording of Francesco Rocca's press briefing at the UN in New York. To schedule an interview or for further information: In New York: Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367, [email protected] In Geneva: Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 6924, [email protected]

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16/05/2022
IFRC president: Ethnicity and nationality should not be deciding factors in saving lives
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IFRC president: Ethnicity and nationality should not be deciding factors in saving lives
16/05/2022
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Red Cross extends support to families separated by violence and conflict

13/05/2022 | Press release

Budapest/Geneva, 13 May 2022 – Ahead of the International Day of Families on 15 May, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is expanding its family reunification services with a new initiative. The Reunification Pathways for Integration (REPAIR) project is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and enables safe and legal family reunification in the EU by assisting beneficiaries of international protection and their family members before, during and after arrival. The three-year project is led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the Austrian, British, French and Slovenian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). National Red Cross Societies in these four countries are scaling up their support by offering a range of services including counselling, visa application support, socio-cultural orientation sessions, psychosocial support and language classes. They also provide integration support to help family members reconnect after a long period of separation. Building on the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement's longstanding work with migrants and refugees, the project aims to improve and expand the current service provision through the development of new tools and approaches, also to be shared with key stakeholders. Activities in the programme will contribute to the improvement of the Family Reunification journey for affected communities and a strengthened network of agencies in Europe and beyond. IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said the right to family life must be respected, regardless of where people come from: “Whether from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia, people who flee violence and persecution often become separated from their family members, which can have devastating consequences on their wellbeing. Without their loved ones, they are not able to resume normal lives. Family reunification is essential to realizing the right to family life in Europe and key for long-term integration in receiving communities.” The project is built on Restoring Family Links (RFL), a key mandate of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to deliver activities that aim to prevent separation and disappearance, look for missing persons, restore and maintain contact between family members, and clarify the fate of persons reported missing. Family reunification is one of the safe and legal routes to protection to Europe, yet families face many challenges due to the complex legal framework and practical obstacles. Bringing together beneficiaries of international protection and their relatives often turns into a lengthy and unsafe process. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is calling for a more holistic, protection-oriented approach that is safe, inclusive and provides the necessary support to families at every step of the way. Preparing local authorities and host communities for the arrivals should also be an integral part of the action. “A fair and swift family reunification process ensures dignity and helps prevent desperate families from taking dangerous journeys to join their loved ones, often resulting in tragic deaths and people going missing en route. We are not just helping people, we are saving lives,” Ms. Ebbesen added. For more information, please contact: In Budapest: Nora Peter, +36 70 265 4020, [email protected]

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13/05/2022
Red Cross extends support to families separated by violence and conflict
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Red Cross extends support to families separated by violence and conflict
13/05/2022
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Global COVID-19 Summit: “World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments.”

12/05/2022 | Press release

Geneva, 12 May 2022 - During the second Global COVID-19 Summit co-hosted by the White House, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Secretary General Jagan Chapagain underlined the network’s commitment to delivering COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to the most vulnerable and building back stronger health systems. While many countries have successfully rolled out COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, vaccine coverage remains below 10 per cent in many low-income countries including, Papua New Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti or Madagascar. Low-income countries can also not afford tests and other lifesaving tools such as antiviral drugs or oxygen supplies, leaving millions at risk of contracting the virus and suffering its deadly consequences. Mr. Chapagain said: “World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments. This means targeting those who are most vulnerable, have the greatest needs and are the hardest to reach. This pandemic is still spreading and killing people. It is too soon to drop our guard and give up our global efforts against COVID-19.” Since the start of the pandemic, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have supported more than 400 million people to access COVID-19 vaccination and provided mental health support to over 13 million people in 152 countries. Because they are part of the very communities they serve, their role is also critical to building trust, informing communities about public health measures and boosting vaccine uptake. For example, across Asia and the Pacific, millions of volunteers have helped tens of millions of people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Afghanistan has one of the world’s most fragile health systems and has vaccinated only 12% of its population with two doses. The Afghan Red Crescent has been operating a 50-bed hospital dedicated to COVID-19 patients and provided food or cash to more than 165,500 people. More than 1 million people were screened through their Mobile Health Teams and clinics in 2021. In Namibia where only 16% of the population has been fully vaccinated, the Namibia Red Cross has led a “get vaccinated – kick COVID-19 out of Namibia” road show campaign. Red Cross volunteers walk through the streets in communities around the country, carrying signs, singing songs, and leading chants about vaccination. At COVID-19 vaccination sites, Red Cross volunteers also support registration for vaccination and data entry and provide basic first aid. During the Summit, Mr. Chapagain expressed IFRC’s support to a pandemic financing mechanism that would allow community actors to access funding to strengthen community health systems and to increase their resilience to future health threats. Mr. Chapagain said: “We need to prepare for the next pandemic now. The world wasn’t ready for COVID-19, but we can be for the next pandemic. We must harness the lessons, successes and failures from the response to COVID-19 and build towards a future where communities are equipped to respond to the next health crisis.” To request an interview or for more information, please contact: In Washington: Marie Claudet +1 202 999 8689, [email protected] Click here to discover more examples of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' vaccination activities during COVID-19.

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12/05/2022
Global COVID-19 Summit: “World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments.”
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Global COVID-19 Summit: “World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments.”
12/05/2022
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En route to Europe I didn’t fear death—only dying without trying

11/05/2022 | Article

This piece was originally published in Politico, here. I sought safety. That was my destination. I wasn’t thinking of European cities or towns. I just wanted to be safe. That’s why I left my country. It’s why I didn’t stop in those nearby either—I had to keep moving. First through Sudan and Libya, then on a wooden boat across the Mediterranean Sea, where I was eventually picked up by a rescue ship. More than 10 years have passed since then, and I live in Italy now. But through my work, I find myself reliving that experience over and over. The most important part of my job is telling the people we rescue: “You are safe.” It’s as if I’m also telling their mothers, telling their brothers and sisters and all their villages too. I celebrate this moment with them; I celebrate their lives with them. Because too many others never get to hear those words. In the last few months, we’ve seen tremendous solidarity with those fleeing the war in Ukraine; it is incredibly inspiring. Yet witnessing the overarching willingness to help victims of this crisis, while so many who flee suffering and persecution elsewhere end up at the bottom of the sea, raises the question: do human lives really carry such difference in value? It was never my first choice to undertake such a dangerous journey to seek safety so far from home. But the lack of available legal channels to access international protection made it my only option — it was a necessity. And while states argue about migration policies and practices, for us volunteers, it is simply about saving lives and alleviating suffering. When I left Eritrea 20 years ago, fleeing compulsory military service and forced labor programs, I didn't know where Europe was, what it was like or how to get there. It also didn’t occur to me that I was saying goodbye to my family, and my country, for the last time. Like my brothers and sisters in Ukraine today, my only concern was avoiding bullets. And I am one of the relatively few from my part of the world fortunate enough to reach a place of safety in the end. When I was travelling through the desert in Libya, I remember seeing a group of people—women, men and children—lying crumpled on top of each other, naked. I asked the driver why they were naked, and he told me that their car had broken down and they had burned everything to try and attract attention, including their own clothes. What is the use of clothing anyway, when one is facing death? They were just some unknown people, who came into the world naked and left naked. People so off the radar they had to burn everything in the hopes of being seen. Still, even that was not enough. You meet merchants of death in Libya too—those who organize the trips to leave by boat, who are your only hope of escaping that hell. When you experience how horrible life there is—the prisons, torture, gangs and slave markets—you are not afraid of death, only of dying without trying. When I finally reached the coast and went toward the waiting boat, I could barely walk from both the fear and hope. I saw mothers throwing their children onto the boat and following after them. I did not wonder why a mother would throw her child inside this small boat. I was sure that whatever she had seen must be more terrible than the sea and its darkness. We set out at night. Eventually, the time comes when you can’t see anyone, not even yourself, but the prayers, crying and moaning remain. At that moment, the sounds of children are the only source of certainty that you are still alive. We were at sea like this for three days until the rescue ship found us. One might ask why someone decides to go through all this. But just look at what is happening in the countries people are coming from: the suffering caused by conflict, hunger, poverty, climate change and many other factors that are often present in their surrounding countries too. And those who leave don’t just do it for themselves—they’re an investment for their families and communities. One of my friends sends the money he earns back home to build a school in his village. Another one has funded access to safe water. The money that migrants around the world send home is three times more than what comes from aid. The Ukraine crisis and the response to it have now shown us what is possible when we put humanity first, when there is global solidarity and the will to assist and protect the most vulnerable. This must be extended to everyone in need, wherever they come from. Nobody should have to experience what I have been through—in my own country, on my migration journey or when I arrived in Europe. Everyone deserves to hear the words, “You’re safe.”

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11/05/2022
En route to Europe I didn’t fear death—only dying without trying
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En route to Europe I didn’t fear death—only dying without trying
11/05/2022
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Syria remains in crisis – the world, and donors, must not turn away now

10/05/2022 | Press release

With Syria now in its 11th year of unrelenting crisis, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement again calls on the international community to not forget the continuing humanitarian needs in the country. Right now, people in Syria need continued solidarity and committed support in order to cope with ongoing hostilities, economic woes, crippled infrastructure, and immense humanitarian needs in the country. At present at least 14.6 million people need assistance and are more dependent on aid than ever before. Humanitarian actors, including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, provide a lifeline in response to enormous needs. Despite security challenges and political blockages, we are finding ways to repair critical infrastructure and make sure people have access to basic services such as clean water, electricity, and functioning health services. To be able to meet these humanitarian challenges, we need continued financial support from the international community. The importance of support to continue vitally needed humanitarian action cannot be overstated. While much of the world’s attention has turned towards other crises, such as in Ukraine, millions remain in need in Syria. "The armed conflict in Ukraine is adding another layer of challenge to the situation in Syria," said Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC’s regional director for Near and Middle East. "We’re worried about more food insecurity and ever-increasing prices. Even if the Ukraine conflict ended tomorrow the underlying impact of the climate crisis and the pressure this is putting on water resources and food production would still leave us with many issues to cope with.” Our Movement has been responding to the needs of people in Syria since the first days of the conflict, with volunteers and staff providing vital aid to people in areas that others cannot reach. Without them, this humanitarian catastrophe would have been much worse. Each month, we assist millions of people inside Syria; for this life-saving work to continue, humanitarian workers must have sustained, safe, and non-politically motivated access to all people, families, and communities in need. We ask that States and all parties to the conflict ensure international humanitarian law is respected in their operations. Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, IFRC Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said: “We have seen with the Ukraine crisis how reducing restrictive measures on humanitarian activities has enabled our Movement to rapidly reach millions of people who need assistance, desperately. I call on donors, to apply the same flexibility to the Syrian context. Ideally, by extending the same humanitarian exemptions and licenses. This will create better conditions to minimize unnecessary suffering and bring dignity to affected people.” Millions of Syrians living outside their homeland also continue to need support; neighbouring countries currently host the majority of people who have fled from violence in Syria. In Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are providing support to those who have fled, as well as the communities who host them. Countries in Europe have been implementing a wide range of activities to help Syrians integrate into their host communities, from offering psycho-social support programmes, to running reception centres, to facilitating reunification procedures with family members left behind. For further information please contact: ICRC: Jesus Serrano Redondo (Geneva), M +41 79 275 69 93, email:[email protected] IFRC: Rana Sidani Cassou, M: +41 76 671 57 51 / +33 6 75 94 55 15, email:[email protected]

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10/05/2022
Syria remains in crisis – the world, and donors, must not turn away now
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Syria remains in crisis – the world, and donors, must not turn away now
10/05/2022
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