COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Most people with COVID-19 suffer mild to moderate respiratory illnesses and flu-like symptoms. But it can cause serious illness and claim lives, with older people and those with underlying medical conditions most at risk.
Iran: Running for peace
Mojtaba Yadegari, a youth member of the Iran Red Crescent Society, has been running for peace since he was nine years old. Lately he ran for 17 consecutive days, throughout Iran’s 31 governorates, covering an amazing 310km.
“I really enjoy running and I enjoy it more when I do it for a purpose such as advocating for universal peace and friendship,” said Mojtaba, from the Red Crescent’s Markazi Provincial Branch.
“So far, I have done 27 sport activities totaling about 3,000km,” he said. “My objective is to follow the principles of Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. I want to use my efforts to strive for global peace and friendship and to serve as an ambassador for the Iranian Red Crescent.”
Through his sporting achievements, Mojtaba hopes to promote a culture of non-violence and peace, familiarize the public with the work and objectives of the Red Crescent, and encourage other young people to become volunteers.
The 17 days of running were not easy, and the weather was sometimes a problem. However, “Each time I felt weak, I told myself I shall continue until I reach my objective no matter how hard it might be. I kept telling myself the finish line is not so far. I've come all the way! So, I can do the rest,” he said.
The people in the villages and cities that Mojtaba ran through have been a constant source of encouragement. “Each time I arrived in a new city, people cheered for me and even accompanied me in my run as a gesture of solidarity and friendship.”
After crossing all Iran’s governorates, Mojtaba now plans to run for peace outside Iran. “My motto is to advocate for peace around the world. I do this in my own country, but I dream of doing it elsewhere as well. My dream is to go to Geneva, Switzerland and run 10km for peace there.”
On his arrival at the Iranian Red Crescent Headquarters in Tehran, Mojtaba was welcomed and honored by Secretary General of the Red Crescent Society, its Head of Youth Organization, the Managing Director of the Tehran Provincial branch, senior directors, and many youth members and volunteers.
Women are the agents of change for climate change in southern Africa
By: Dr Michael Charles
Today South Africa marks Women’s Day. Much like the women being commemorated for the march to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, women in southern Africa today may well hold the same flint that lights a “new movement” – climate change.
Southern Africa is one of the regions projected to experience the most serious consequences of global warming and the El Niño effect. In 2019, we experienced one of the worst disasters the region has ever seen - Cyclone Idai ravaged communities in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and continue to rebuild their lives.
Urgent action is needed to increase the region’s preparedness for natural disasters. It is only a matter of time until the next disaster strikes. Being female often automatically means that personal susceptibility to sexual and domestic violence, rape and assault in emergency situations is significantly heightened. Women experience additional difficulties because they are typically responsible for sourcing water and preparing food; caring for children, the injured, sick and elderly; and maintaining family and community cohesion.
Tackling climate change is, undoubtedly, women’s business. They have a vested interest in avoiding and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is time that humanitarian actors and policy and decision-makers mainstream gender in policy and practice. It is not a “nice to do”; it is crucial to making real and sustainable differences in the lives of affected people.
In 1956, 200,000 South African women declared that enough was enough and acted to defend themselves and the unity and integrity of their families from restrictive laws that required them to carry a pass to reside and move freely in urban areas.
Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock! was the rallying cry of that day, used to signify the women’s unshakeable and unbreakable resolve in the face of adversity as they marched to the Union Building in Pretoria, and sparked change in the course of South Africa’s history.
As countries in southern Africa ramp up their disaster risk management and humanitarian organisations work to strengthen community recovery and resilience, women in southern Africa should not just be considered victims and survivors who need special protection and assistance. They are forces for change who can be relied on to represent themselves within their communities and at the highest decision-making levels.
I am always inspired by the women I meet responding in disasters, most recently in Cyclone Idai. Women like, Sonia, a volunteer who was working long hours to support women in a shelter, displaced by Cyclone Idai or Flora, who was affected herself by flooding but was dedicated to helping her neighbours rebuild their homes and their lives.
Happy Women’s Day, South Africa. May the flame that was lit in 1956 and the fire of women’s empowerment and participation that was built over the decades rage on.
British Red Cross supports young refugees to integrate through theatre
By Gurvinder Singh & Debbie Busler
While performers recite famous lines from William Shakespeare on the Globe theatre’s main stage, a few yards away is a room where Abye and other young migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia are gathered. They alternate between periods of intense focus creating puppets to tell stories and bursts of laughter as they practice freezing into various dramatic poses.
Partnering with the Compass Collective and the Globe Theatre in London, the British Red Cross facilitates a drama group for young refugees and asylum seekers. Abye and his friends at the group have developed a production that they performed at the Globe Theatre for the public during Refugee Week. Tickets for the show were sold out.
Abye and his friends arrived in London alone as children without their parents or families. They joined the British Red Cross to integrate into the local community and benefited from its protection services.
“My friends and I come from Eritrea. There are so many problems and not much future for us there, so I left. It took me nearly two years to reach the UK and I traveled alone through many countries. I spent months in Libya waiting to cross the sea. It was very hard times and we were detained and treated badly until we could pay to move on,” Abye explains.
Through the project, the British Red Cross and its partners are supporting young migrants and refugees to find their voices, express themselves, and share their experiences with the public.
Its benefits are summed up by Irfan from Iraq. He shares, “I joined this group because my friends told me about it. I am learning a lot. It has made me happy to meet these other guys and to do this together.”
Learn more about this project: https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/whats-on/voices-in-the-dark-2019/
Bangladesh: How Forecast-based Financing supported objective decision-making in advance of Cyclone Fani
When a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society receives a forecast of an imminent extreme weather event, one of their most urgent tasks is to decide what action to take in anticipation of a possible disaster.
In the case of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, this decision-making process has become clearer and more straightforward, thanks to its improved use of scientific information, as was shown in recent weeks before the arrival of Cyclone Fani.
Since 2015, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been using a Forecast-based Financing (FbF) approach with support from the German Red Cross. As a result, when Cyclone Fani approached, decision-makers could rely on an established system which provided them with robust forecast information and served as a basis to decide, when and where to act and with what resources.
The Bangladesh National Society, with support from the German Red Cross and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, had developed an Early Action Protocol for cyclones. This plan clearly defines forecast thresholds and details which early actions are needed, and where, to protect the population.
In the days before Cyclone Fani made landfall, the Bangladesh Red Crescent set up an Activation Committee in line with its established procedures for activating the Early Action Protocol. Its role was to continuously review the meteorological data and decide if according to the forecast information the trigger for activation was met. The Activation Committee is chaired by the Deputy Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent and also includes experts from the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, the Climate Centre, German Red Cross, and IFRC. Activation of the Bangladesh EAP is being funded by the IFRC’s financial mechanism to support early action, the Forecast based Action by the DREF, which was created in May 2018.
Based on the forecast information, the local branches in the coastal districts activated their control rooms, mobilized their resources, volunteers and officials for early warning and preparation of evacuation shelters. Eight members of the National Disaster Response Team were deployed in four districts (Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat and Barguna) to support the activities being conducted. In two districts, local branches with German Red Cross support also undertook a rapid stock-taking of local markets to ascertain if they were able to supply the food and relief items that would be required in case of an activation.
In addition, a database of the cyclone shelters, markets and accessibility was used by all stakeholders in preparation for Cyclone Fani. The database had been developed by the FbF project and proved to be very useful in preparing districts in the cyclone’s path for evacuation, and in obtaining real-time information from the shelters through the contacts listed.
The Activation Committee met several times before deciding not to activate the Early Action Protocol, as the forecasts did not meet the trigger that had been defined in the EAP and all the data and analysis suggested that the forecasted impact could be managed with resources from the local branch. Had the Committee decided for activation, the EAP Implementation Committee was there to coordinate and implement the EAP and districts were ready.
Thanks to the work on FbF, there was a clear framework for decision-making and the systematic monitoring of forecasts allowed the preparations to focus on those districts that were later affected by rains, using resources efficiently.
All these actions as well as the structures for coordination demonstrate the importance of forecast-based financing in supporting readiness activities and bringing all affected parties together to take anticipatory action.
The Grenada Red Cross - Saving Lives
Mary Lewis is poised… It’s one of the first things that you notice about her, aside from other obvious physical characteristics like her bright, beautiful smile. That this young, ambitious Grenadian seems ready to handle anything that may come her way should come as no surprise, after learning that she has spent the last eleven years in the hospitality industry.
Her easy, self-possessed manner serves her well in her position as Supervisor ay the Blue Horizons Hotel, located in St. George’s, Grenada. It’s a trait that helped her to save the life of a guest of the hotel not too long ago. That and the first aid training provided by the Grenada Red Cross.
It was that training and her enviable calm that allowed her to recognise the signs of a stroke when she was called upon to assist a guest who was found unresponsive in the hotel in early 2019. In 2017 or thereabouts Mary, along with other members from varying departments at Blue Horizons, was selected by hotel management to participate in first aid training that was being offered by the Grenada Red Cross. The training which can sometimes be referred to as BLS or basic life saving took place at the offices of the Grenada Red Cross. There the staff members of Blue Horizons learnt CPR, how to deal with a stroke patient, how to use a defibrillator, the signs of a heart attack and how to deal with burns.
It was an ordinary evening at the hotel, Mary was following her usual routine preparing for the arrival of guests when she was called upon by her Manager to respond to an emergency. A guest had called and indicated that his wife was unresponsive on the floor of the bathroom. “My heart went down in my toe”, was how she described her initial reaction at having to put into practice all that she learnt because she was concerned about remembering everything. But when she arrived at the room her natural calm took over and she told herself, “you put on your brave hat now”. In fact, it was her presence that allowed the ill guest’s husband to also remain calm and answer Mary’s questions about his wife’s medical history. The couple’s eleven year old son also helped by providing details about their activities that day.
Luckily for that family, Mary was able to immediately make a number of observations about the woman’s condition: her inability to move one side of her body, the difficulty she was having speaking and the secretions coming from her mouth. She recalled from her training that she had keep the ill person alert and awake if they are conscious and she did that by talking to her until the ambulance came. Though the ordeal only lasted for forty-five minutes it is probably an experience that none of the parties involved will ever forget. The woman was flown via air ambulance to Miami and her husband sent word back to the hotel that she is doing ‘ok’.
“Good Mary, you did very well.” That is what Mary told herself when it sunk in that she saved someone’s life. She is glad and proud of herself that she was able to use the knowledge gained from the training to save the woman’s life. Her Manager is also very happy with her and probably with the investment made in the staff learning life saving techniques.
That was not the only person Mary saved, however, as she recently experienced a situation that hit much closer to home. She again put her training to good use and was able to save the life of a family member. Despite them residing in America, more that two thousand miles away, Mary was able to convince her stepmother to go the hospital based on a description given by her father. This description was given to her over the phone but she was still able to recognise the signs and urge them to seek treatment. At the hospital it was determined that her stepmother had indeed had a mild stroke.
Now that she has successfully utilised her training on more than one occasion Mary Lewis is confident that she is capable if called to act in an emergency, all thanks to the Grenada Red Cross.
Clean-up operation begins after deadly Cyclone Fani hits India and Bangladesh
Powerful Cyclone Fani, at its worst an “extremely severe” storm, brought heavy rainfall and winds of 209 km/h to communities across India and Bangladesh. About 15 deaths have been reported so far, and hundreds of homes are likely to have been damaged.
As a massive clean-up operation gets under way in the affected areas of India and Bangladesh, the Red Cross and Red Crescent are assessing what help people need. Roads are being cleared and communication lines restored, although it might be up to two weeks for full connection to be restored to some remote areas. Staff and volunteers in Bangladesh and India are coordinating with the authorities and partners to support the affected communities.
The approach of the cyclone - one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades - was met with intense disaster preparedness work by the Indian Red Cross Society and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.
Tens of millions of people in the cyclone’s path received warnings. In India, about 1.1 million people were evacuated away from the coast; in Bangladesh, 1.6 million were evacuated. In India and Bangladesh, in coordination with government agencies, staff and volunteers issued warnings to communities at risk. The Indian Red Cross opened 65 shelters in Odisha state, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. More than 15,000 people stayed in Red Cross shelters.
In the hours before Fani hit, final preparations were in full swing to keep people safe. In the Indian state of Odisha in the path of Fani, Indian Red Cross staff and 1,500 volunteers trained in first aid, disaster management and rescue passed on life-saving early warning messages to some of 20 million people in at-risk districts. Among the messages: Try not to panic. Listen to the radio and follow instructions. We will help. The Red Cross is here with you.
Bangladesh’s renowned and life-saving cyclone preparedness system swung into full action. Volunteers in the Red Crescent/government cyclone preparedness programme alerted communities and provided information about the threats, potential impact and dangers through social media, megaphones and loudspeakers, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. An estimated 50,000 cyclone preparedness community volunteers were involved.
Red Cross joins EU Aid Volunteers initiative
Four European Red Cross societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) joined EU Aid Volunteers, a programme of the European Commission that provides opportunities to European citizens to get involved in humanitarian aid projects, support the provision of needs-based humanitarian aid in third countries and engage in volunteering opportunities through deployment and online volunteering. A two-year project named EU Aid Volunteers - Enhancing Aid Capacities is implemented by the IFRC in partnership with the Red Cross societies of Austria, Bulgaria, Italy and The Netherlands.
The project’s overall objective is to improve the capability of potential sending organizations to provide quality support, managing enhanced pools of competent volunteers and staff for emergency response and improving remote support of operations. European Red Cross societies can become a sending organization by completing a certification process that enables them to deploy volunteers in emergencies of non-EU countries through the EU Aid Volunteers scheme.
There are four learning events planned for 2019 that are partially funded through the EU Aid Volunteers initiative: Cash Assistance and Coordination, Assessment and Planning (CAP) for Red Cross Red Crescent Operations trainings taking place in Bulgaria, as well as Information Management and Coordination/Assessment trainings to be hosted in Austria.
To find out more about the EU Aid Volunteers project, visit the official webpage.
Cameroon: Fleeing violence and searching for stability
By Mirabelle Kima, IFRC
It is in the neighbourhood of Sararé Lougueo—in the Far North capital city of Maroua in Cameroon—that Hadja Bintou, together with her husband and their seven children found refuge. For the 35-year-old woman, what she thought would be a temporary situation became permanent as her village Amchide in the Far North and other villages near the Cameroon border with Nigeria have been targets of recurrent suicide bombing attacks for close to five years now.
“My return to my home village has only been a dream which has never come true. I have become a permanent internally displaced person in my country, living from hand to mouth with the little savings we had and depending on others. Finding myself in this condition and getting to survive with my children has been a heavy load for me to carry especially as I left my house leaving every belonging behind. After three years of struggle with my husband, he died and left me all alone to face the hard realities of life,” sais Bintou.
The Far North region has, for the past years, witnessed massive displacements of close to 246,000 people, most of whom are women and children in dire need of assistance. Most of these poeple settled in the Diamaré, Mayo sava and Mayo Tsanaga divisions of Cameroon.
“At the beginning of the crisis, spontaneous solidarity was expressed by host communities who shared their food and provided shelter and clothing to vulnerable internally displaced people (IDPs). But after few months of constant assistance by the host communities, the burden became too heavy for them to bear given their limited means and other life challenges which they also face,” explains Ali Adoum, Red Cross local President in Maroua.
Bintou’s family, just like for many others, has been struggling to rent a house, feed, pay school fees for children and provide medical care for them.
“I was able to raise capital from the sale of my valuable jewelleries in order to start a business to support my family. However, no matter how hard I have had to work, I still have not been able to cope up with my responsibilities. Sending my daughters to school has always been a matter of honour to me as I was not lucky to enjoy that privilege. I hope that if my daughters are educated, they will stand a better chance to succeed in life,” adds Bintou.
Today, because of the precarious condition in which Bintou finds herself, she has had no choice but to send three of her children to a neighbouring village where they assist her sister in her business, in the hope that she would, someday, be able to have all of her family back together to live in a more dignified way. “All I am crying for is to have an income generating activity to relieve me from the chaotic condition in which I presently am and to enable me to care for my children with dignity.”
In response to the most urgent needs of IDPs in the Far North region, the Cameroon Red Cross has been involved, for the past two years, in water sanitation and hygiene promotion activities. The actions which have been implemented by 148 volunteers and senior staff include providing communities with awareness-raising messages on good hygiene practices, improving their knowledge on environmental hygiene, handwashing and food hygiene. These activities were all carried out with a view to reducing the risk of exposure to waterborne diseases, and particularly the cholera endemic in that part of the country.
World Water Day: Leaving no one behind in Cox’s Bazar
“We have good water like medicine. It tastes good and does not cause disease but if we have this water and not enough toilets how can we stop disease?” said Halama Khaton, 40, who fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine in August 2017. “When we came at first, the water was not good. There was one borehole and the water had too much iron. You could see the iron colour and it tasted bad but we had no choice. People were sick but we didn’t know if it was because of the water or something else.”
The Bangladesh Red Crescent is providing clean water and sanitation for people from Rakhine, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Perched on top of a hill at the camp are at least two 5,000 litre tanks that supply water to seven tap stands. Community volunteers maintain the pump and carry out chlorine treatment and testing to keep the water safe.
Mosi Ullah, a camp volunteer from Rakhine who works with the IFRC water and sanitation team, said: “During the rainy season, the solar panels were not working because it was cloudy. We had to install a generator to pump the water from the borehole to the tank up on the hill.”
Access to clean water is not the only challenge in Cox’s Bazar – helping people to reduce hygiene risks in tough conditions is also crucial. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers go door-to-door, sharing tips and doing practical demonstrations with camp residents.
Since August 2017, the Red Cross Red Crescent has reached more than 93,000 people through hygiene promotion. Over 40 million litres of safe water have been distributed to more than 170,000 people living in Cox’s Bazar camp and close to 500 toilets and 200 washing facilities have been built. Nearly 70,000 jerrycans have been provided so residents can safely store water for use at home. However, the needs are immense. More must be done to meet minimum humanitarian standards to ensure that no one is left behind.
Jordan National Red Crescent Society
Cyprus Red Cross Society
Norway: Red Cross mountain rescue team retrieves bodies of avalanche victims
By Roar Dalmo Moltubak, Norwegian Red Cross
The leader of a Norwegian Red Cross avalanche rescue team has told of the heroic efforts she and her team went to, in retrieving the bodies of three skiers killed in an avalanche last month.
The team of 35 managed to recover three of the four people killed in the Tamokdalen avalanche in Troms county, several weeks after the 2 January accident.
Julia Fieler, head of the avalanche team and volunteer at Troms branch, says temperatures were 26 degrees below zero, with wind and bad weather.
“The work required a lot from everyone who participated.Small windows of good weather meant that the crews were prepared not to be able to travel down before the evening came.”
“We had a backup with a view to sleeping up there.We were prepared to spend the night in the mountains,” says Fieler.
Working alongside several other rescue organizations, the team used signals from the skiers’ avalanche alarms to find them and dig them out. However, they were only able to find three people before police decided to suspend the search until spring due to the avalanche danger.
“We think a lot about the families of the victims - that they get their loved ones home is the biggest driving force for us," says Fieler.“I am proud of the cohesion and the efforts of the avalanche team in Troms.”
Icelandic Red Cross
Red Cross integration programme helps relocated refugees to settle in their host countries
Three European Red Cross societies have launched a joint initiative that focuses on the social integration of refugees and asylum-seekers.The two-year project “Action of Red Cross on Integration of Relocated and Resettled Persons” runs under the acronym ARCI and is implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the German, Bulgarian and Croatian Red Cross.
ARCI aims to provide personalized and accessible information for refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in these countries through EU relocation and resettlement programmes but brings benefits for the integration of larger groups of asylum-seekers and refugees in these countries. The project allows refugees and asylum-seekers to receive information in their native language from the moment they arrive in a host country. It also enables them to participate in skills and language training, and to receive some support in finding a job or a school for themselves or their family members.
To better understand the needs of the people arriving in a new country, a series of interviews have been conducted with refugees and asylum-seekers themselves and the National Societies are regularly coordinating their support with key authorities and organizations active in the field of integration. The programme also aims to foster acceptance in the host communities and sensitize local authorities through a series of trainings and sessions.
"Our experience has shown that integration is most successful when both host and refugee community are working together. Local Red Cross volunteers who engage in activities like drawing or yoga with refugees on a daily basis can build the initial bridge between the two groups. We couldn’t do all this without their dedication,”
Policy Officer at the German Red Cross
Both EU Relocation and Resettlement scheme have allowed the transfer of persons in need of international protection to access long-term solution of integration and protection in EU countries. As of June 2018, over 34,000 people have been relocated within the EU and more than 25,980 resettled since 2015. Although the EU Relocation scheme has officially ended, Germany, Croatia, and Bulgaria have received altogether 10,979 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy who have needed integration support from the moment they have arrived at their countries. Through the linkages of pre-departure and post-arrival needs assessment, the project is also looking at identifying good practices that can benefit further humanitarian admission programmes.
The ARCI project is funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
The content of this article represents the views of the author only and is his or her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made on the information it contains.