Young volunteers step up in Europe
By Ainhoa Larrea, IFRC
They are young, they are almost a million strong, and they are leading the humanitarian response against COVID-19 in Europe.
More than 850,000 young volunteers of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are making a difference for millions of people affected by the pandemic, despite being increasingly affected as the Delta variant spreads.
Many are becoming sick and being hospitalised, as the young are often the last to be vaccinated. In addition, they are disproportionately impacted by the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic, from unemployment to mental health problems. However, they are still stepping up to help.
Daria Tkachenko, a university student, is volunteering with Russian Red Cross in her free time. She visits older people who cannot leave their homes, delivering medicines and groceries.
“I remember well one of the women. She was a home front worker during World War II and served as a volunteer at a local branch of Russian Red Cross for years. She is a very active woman who always shines with optimism and joy; even now, when she is bedridden,” Daria said.
“Living in isolation amid the pandemic is a big challenge for many older people, and not only for them, but also for relatives who cannot help their loved ones. That is why volunteering is so important.”
She is also helping replenish low blood stocks. “Hospitals are in need of blood donors and blood components. I am proud that I donated blood, which in the future may save someone's life.”
Ludovica, a 27-year-old psychologist, spent last Christmas on one of the Italian Red Cross boats where those arriving in Italy by sea undergo mandatory isolation and COVID-19 testing. She provided critical mental health support to migrant and refugee children.
“During the time I was on board, there were 51 children mostly from North Africa and the Middle East. I organised educational and recreational activities with them: Italian language, card games, dance.
“I had to carry out most of the activities at a distance, behind a desk. The most valuable moments were those when I was close to the children. I would then play the role of the white wizard, as the safety protocol obliged me to dress in a white jumpsuit, mask, gloves, goggles, cap and boot covers,” Ludovica said.
Scientific evidence shows vaccination saves lives, but some young people are still unsure whether to get a jab or not. The Red Cross Red Crescent European Youth Network is playing its part with a joint social media campaign with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Participants encourage their peers to get immunised, sharing that the main side effect of COVID-19 vaccines is “a feeling of hope and solidarity.”
Other young people are directly involved in vaccination roll-outs. Srna Spasojevic, 15 years old, is one of the youngest volunteers of the Red Cross of Serbia. Every working day, from eight in the morning until 6pm, she updates the lists of those waiting to get immunised in the Novi Sad Fair.
“Sometimes you realise, when you are having a hard time, that there are others who are going through even worse. I am happy to be able to contribute to our country’s battle against the coronavirus,” Srna said.
There are many more young role models among the 54 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe, each one helping to protect communities and to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.
| Press release
Hundreds of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers responding to wildfires across Europe
Ankara/Budapest/Geneva, 2 August 2021 – Volunteers from Greece, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Turkey are responding to several wildfires raging across Europe. Scorching temperatures, high winds and tinder dry conditions have forced rescues by sea and land, with thousands of people fleeing for their lives with just the clothes on their backs.
In southern Turkey eight people have died and scores are injured. Hundreds of animals have been killed and countless homes lost in the worst hit areas of Antalya and Bodrum. More than 2,000 Turkish Red Crescent staff and volunteers are on the ground.
Shafiquzzaman Rabbani, Acting Head of Turkey delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“We are very concerned at this week’s weather forecast, with temperatures tipped to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Antalya today. Teams of Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and staff are doing everything they can to assist those affected.”
Turkish Red Crescent is providing food through its mobile kitchens, distributing water and hygiene kits, and providing shelter and psychosocial support to firefighters and affected communities.
In Greece, Hellenic Red Cross rescuers and lifeguards have been evacuating trapped people by boat from the settlements of Kamares, Longos and Platiri. Earlier in the week they were helping the fire brigade quell a fire in Patras. Extreme temperatures forecast for this week have teams on high alert.
Italian Red Cross has been assisting with evacuations in Sardinia and distributing water and food. They have delivered animal feed to farmers as fires continued over the weekend. More than 800 flare-ups were recorded this weekend, mainly in the south, and firefighters continue to flight blazes in Sicily.
Spanish Red Cross volunteers have also been busy this weekend assisting at a fire at San Juan reservoir, 70km from Madrid, and 25 Russian Red Cross volunteers are still at the scene of a fire in Karelia, distributing food, water, bedding, hygiene kits and personal protective equipment to people affected.
IFRC Europe’s acting head of Disaster, Climate and Crises Antoine Belair said the increasing number of wildfires year on year across the Mediterranean is linked to climate change causing more extreme weather conditions, including lower rainfall and higher temperatures.
“Extreme weather conditions exacerbate risks of these events. Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies remain on high alert, providing support to affected populations, in close coordination with national authorities and firefighter teams,” he said.
Footnote: Advice on how to prepare for a forest fire can be viewed here.
For more information, please contact:
In Ankara: Elif Isik, +90 539 857 5197, [email protected]
In Budapest: Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected]
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
| Press release
COVID-19: IFRC warns Europe’s poorest countries are being left behind, as deaths hit grim milestone
Budapest/Geneva, 21 April 2020 – As Europe reaches the grim milestone of 50 million infections and 1 million lives lost to COVID-19, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls for more equitable access to vaccination to counter disparities across countries and ensure no one is left behind.
More than a year into the pandemic, the situation continues to worsen despite vaccination rollout. The Europe region accounts for one third of cases and deaths worldwide, and the socio-economic crisis is deepening as newly vulnerable people seek help to meet their basic needs.
Dr Davron Mukhamadiev, IFRC Regional Health and Care Coordinator for Europe, said: “Vaccine inequity is both concerning and dangerous. COVID-19 does not stop at borders, and our safety relies on widespread immunization. However, some of the poorest countries in Europe are struggling to move forward.”
As of 6 April, just 12.3 per cent of the population in Europe had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the lack of equitable access to immunization is still worrying: in low income countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, only 0.4 per cent of total inhabitants had been vaccinated, on average, while in the richest countries that figure stood at 17.7 per cent.
The IFRC is seeking funding for its immunization plan, targeting 500 million of the most vulnerable people around the world, as part of the organization's emergency appeal to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, at present this is only 51 per cent covered. Without more funding, IFRC will be unable to make a meaningful difference for those in need.
Dr Mukhamadiev said it is crucial for governments to step up their commitments towards ensuring that everyone has equal and timely access to the vaccine.
“Equity is both a moral and public health imperative. None of us is safe, until we are all safe. At the national level, it is essential to guarantee that homeless, migrants – irrespective of their status – and other vulnerable groups are included in vaccination plans.”
Hopes of Europe returning to normality are fading, as health systems in many countries continue to be overburdened and intensive care units reach a critical point.
“Worryingly, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are still witnessing the far-reaching impacts of the pandemic every day, everywhere,” warned Dr Mukhamadiev.
“Volunteers who run ambulance services or support nursing homes and hospitals are directly confronted with illness and death, while those providing other types of assistance now deal with increased human suffering and people in need, including the newly vulnerable: including those who have lost their jobs and can’t make ends meet and those who cannot deal with difficulties such as isolation,” he said.
In Spain, for example, 52 per cent of the people who asked for psychosocial support through the Spanish Red Cross’ ‘Cruz Roja Te Escucha’ service in the last months had never sought help from the organization before. Two thirds of the total reported having emotional distress most or all the time – including depression and anxiety.
Dr Mukhamadiev said the key to successfully combatting successive waves of COVID-19 is vaccination and testing, together with improved treatments and preventative measures. People should continue to routinely wearmasks, wash hands and keep physical distance, as those measures play a major role in mitigating the spread of the virus.
Note to editors:
National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe have reached nearly 100 million people with health and hygiene promotion activities since the beginning of the pandemic. They have also provided food and other material aid to more than 14.4 million, cash or voucher assistance to 2.9 million, and psychosocial support to 1.8 million.
Local teams are working tirelessly to help the most vulnerable, and continue stepping up vaccination, testing and awareness-raising interventions. Here are some examples:
In Spain, staff and volunteers have assisted more than 3.5 million people through the ‘Cruz Roja Responde’ multisectoral plan, which includes emergency services and the set-up of temporary hospitals and shelters together with other types of support; they are also testing migrants rescued from the sea, and supporting vaccination in nursing homes and for persons with disabilities.
In Italy, staff and volunteers are running one of the largest vaccination centres in the country, in Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Furthermore, volunteers are sharing information on a web radio station run by young migrants, and running podcasts on COVID-19; they are translating materials into migrants’ own languages, and circulating them in reception centres while operating a toll-free 24/7 hotline.
In Greece, staff and volunteers in the islands, Athens and Thessaloniki are giving a hand with the health screening for migrants, they are responding to thousands of daily calls to their multi-language hotline, and they are disseminating preventative messaging. They have also supported the routine vaccination of migrants, and stand ready to assist in COVID-19 immunization.
In Serbia, staff and volunteers are involved in the nation-wide vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and have assisted some 447,750 people – from phone calls for vaccination appointments to distributing leaflets, transporting vulnerable people, helping at the immunization points with temperature checks and paperwork – and, in some places, organizing vaccination in Red Cross premises.
National Societies in seven countries (Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain) are additionally scaling up COVID-19 testing thanks to a €35.5 million partnership with the European Commission.
 Data from the World Health Organization (WHO)
12 months of coronavirus in Europe
… in this together, with Red Cross Red Crescent
By Susan Cullinan, IFRC
The moment the first coronavirus case was reported in Europe – on 24 January 2020, in Bordeaux, France - no one could have possibly imagined the monumental scale of the year of loss and struggle ahead.
Nor could they have foreseen how Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies stepped up their activities across Europe and Central Asia, enabling them to be at the heart of the response.
Staff and volunteers from the movement have been running first aid tents, delivering critical supplies to the elderly, caring for the sick and dying, at the end of the phone for people unable to leave home. They’ve provided food, shelter, a kind word and a friendly face, supported those who fall through the cracks – the migrants, people on the move, people who are homeless. They’ve provided trusted information.
The numbers are staggering.
More than 12.5 million people across the region have received food and other material aid from Red Cross Red Crescent. More than 2.8 million people have received direct cash or voucher assistance and 1.3 million more received psychosocial support to help them through the tough times.
Red Cross Red Crescent ambulances carried more than 325,000 COVID-19 patients to hospitals. Accurate information was shared to help inform people about the virus and how to stay safe, and an estimated 60 million people in the region have been reached with this messaging.
The breathtaking spread of the virus
With Italy the centre of the first wave, and the first country to go into lockdown, it remained the hardest hit country in Europe for months. Italian Red Cross was the first National Society in Europe to deliver food and medicine to people in quarantine, and ramped up their ambulance service to cope with the escalating number of people infected.
By March Europe was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that on 18 March more than 250 million people were in lockdown in Europe. And now, nearly 12 months after the first case, sadly by 19 January 2021, 30.8 million cases were confirmed and 674,00 people in the region had died. 
The Red Cross Red Crescent response needed to be swift. On 30 January the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and the following day the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) allocated funds for a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and a preliminary Emergency Appeal. With its long experience in health emergencies it anticipated COVID-19 could develop into a pandemic with a devastating humanitarian impact and sadly it has shaped up to be one of the world’s most challenging crises, affecting every corner of the region with everyone vulnerable to contracting this virus.
In line with Red Cross Red Crescent’s unique role as auxiliary to government, and as a community-based and widely-trusted organization, in Europe region the Red Cross movement came up with innovative responses. The Austrian Red Cross developed a contact tracing app. British Red Cross surveyed people on their loneliness and pivoted to provide extra support for those newly alone. The Czech Red Cross trained volunteers to work in hospitals that had become overwhelmed. The Turkish Red Crescent researched people’s knowledge and attitudes towards the virus and pivoted to fill the gaps they discovered. Swedish volunteers helped children with their homework. The Red Crosses of the countries of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia worked together to get supplies across their borders to people in an isolated part of Croatia. Extra support was given to people with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia whose treatment was disrupted by the pandemic.
With the rapid surge in prevention activity, while case numbers grew at an alarming rate, by the end of Spring the situation had improved somewhat.
By summer as numbers plateaued government restrictions relaxed. The movement urged people to stay the course and maintain prevention measures in the face of pandemic fatigue and a sense the worst was behind us.
Sadly conditions deteriorated, leading to a second wave. From late July case and death numbers steadily worsened again. By October, the Europe region accounted for the greatest proportion of reported new cases globally, with over 1.3 million new cases in the last week of October, a 33% leap in cases in a week.
The national societies doubled down. Many had by now switched to remote and on-line support, however 23 National Societies continued to deliver COVID-safe clinical and paramedical services, including those in Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain and the UK. As well they ran quarantine and testing stations, triage facilities and outpatient fever clinics to support the public emergency medical service, and provided mobile care services.
Some National Societies also supported experimental treatments by collecting plasma from patients who recovered from COVID-19 and had antibodies, and in turn provided this plasma to hospitals to treat very sick patients. Countless training and guidance sessions for staff and volunteers on COVID-19 were helped across the region, on the proper use of personal protective equipment and ambulances cleaning and disinfection.
Vaccines – a potential game changer
By the start of December, the future started to look brighter. Countries started to plan for the possible arrival of vaccines, but this was taking place against a background of a relentless resurgence in the number of people infected with COVID-19. In the WHO Europe region, there had been more than 4 million new cases in November alone, with the region accounting for 40 % of new global cases and 50% of new global deaths. 
The vaccine results have come to be seen a large part of the solutions to containing the virus, but it has brought with it the challenge of countering misinformation and building trust in vaccines, as well as managing expectations that they will bring about a quick end to the pandemic. IFRC has supported local efforts to educate communities about their safety and efficacy.
Those hardest hit
In January more evidence came to light of the disproportionate impact the coronavirus was having on older people when the IFRC’s Europe office published the results of a survey which found older people had become sicker, poorer and more alone as a result of the pandemic. It added to a growing body of evidence that coronavirus had harmed the poor and most vulnerable the most, pushing millions more into poverty.  Sadly, migrants were also identified in new IFRC research as those least protected and most affected by the pandemic. 
And now, as we enter the start of the second year of the pandemic under ongoing harsh lockdowns, many countries are starting to see cases stabilise and even reduce.
This emergency has had significant challenges, including global flows of misinformation and disinformation, response fatigue and system-wide impacts of multiple waves of cases. The Red Cross Red Crescent movement is well-placed to do its part in the regional response given its extensive history with disease outbreak.
And planners in the movement acknowledge that vaccines will not be the silver bullet to end this pandemic alone. Red Cross will continue to work with communities to ensure they are informed about the virus, how it spreads and what to do to keep safe. It’s continuing to advocate for tracing and isolation of people who are ill as a central part of the response. To keep in the fight against COVID-19, the entire population must stick to the preventative measures which have been proven to help stop the spread of the virus – even as a vaccine becomes more widely available.
| Press release
Red Cross aid arrives for migrants stranded in freezing conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Budapest/Geneva, 15 January 2021 – Three truck-loads laden with emergency relief supplies for more than 3,000 stranded migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina are due to arrive in the country late today.
The warm clothing, blankets and drinking water from the Italian Red Cross will be distributed to the migrants who have been in miserable conditions near the Croatian border since the Lipa camp was destroyed in a fire last month, leaving an estimated 1,400 people without shelter. The supplies will also be distributed to at-risk migrants in other areas of the country.
Mobile teams from the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina continue their work on the ground providing food, hot drinks, warm clothing, bedding, and first aid to thousands of migrants throughout the Una-Sana Canton.
The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Francesco Rocca, called for a real common European approach to migration. He said that the humanitarian situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the result of the EU externalization strategy that exposes migrants to enhanced risks at its external borders, adding that migrants and local communities cannot be left exposed to high risks and vulnerabilities.
“We are extremely concerned for the welfare, access to services and protection of thousands of vulnerable migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We work with all stakeholders to ensure that migrants have immediate access to safe and dignified accommodation, including heating and water, while more permanent solutions are found.
“No one should live in these dire conditions. Migrants must have access to humanitarian assistance including health support and must not be left alone without shelter in freezing weather. This is unacceptable. EU Member States must show solidarity and not leave migrants and authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to cope with this situation on their own,” Mr Rocca said.
The IFRC also expresses concerns about the situation that local communities are facing. These communities were already vulnerable before the arrival of migrants and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased number of people in these communities has put pressure on services and infrastructure. As a result, the IFRC is supporting the local Red Cross to run mobile teams that aim to help 50,000 migrants and 4,500 people from host communities through the end of 2021.
| Press release
Red Cross expands COVID-19 testing in seven countries with €35.5 million EU support
Budapest/Geneva, 19 November 2020 – As Europe continues to experience a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, the Red Cross will scale up COVID-19 testing with the announcement of a €35.5 million European Commission partnership.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has signed an agreement with the European Commission, financed by the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), which will see COVID-19 testing carried out by National Red Cross Societies in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are scaling up their support to embattled national health systems. The European Commission’s funding will support staff training and allow access to equipment, lab items and reagents to take samples and perform PCR and rapid antigen tests in support of national health authorities’ work.
IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said that hundreds of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers in Europe and Central Asia are working tirelessly to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“We are truly grateful for this contribution, which allows an even stronger European Red Cross and Red Crescent engagement. Our volunteers are already working around the clock to keep their local communities safe and healthy.
“Besides COVID-19 testing, they are also assisting with transporting patients, volunteering in hospitals and health centres where medical personnel are sick or isolating and providing home care services and psychosocial support for vulnerable people. We are deeply grateful for their dedication and selfless work.”
Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said: “Testing tells us what the extent of the spread is, where it is, and how it develops. It is a decisive tool to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“Being efficient on testing also requires having the necessary resources, which is why we are stepping up our support to increase Member States’ testing capacity. Support and solidarity are key to overcome this pandemic,” she added.
| Press release
COVID-19: Red Cross Red Crescent steps up European response, urges Governments to strengthen testing, tracing and isolation measures
Budapest/Geneva, 11 November 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging Governments to strengthen their “test-trace-quarantine” systems to help prevent future surges of COVID-19.
This call comes as multiple European countries put in place new restrictions to stop community transmission and to avoid the collapse of health systems.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC President, said:
“The recent restrictions across Europe signal that more must be done, and we see ourselves as a critical piece of that puzzle. We understand that these measures are difficult for many people, but they are needed to both flatten the curve and provide an opportunity to fix what hasn’t been working.
“In many countries, we have been supporting local authorities in testing, contact tracing and isolation measures. This system can be effective only when it can be carried out fully and in a coordinated way. We are scaling up these critical activities across more countries. No one wants this second wave to be followed by a third or a fourth.”
Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are supporting embattled health systems by conducting COVID-19 testing, transporting patients and providing psychosocial support. They are also offering a range of services designed to ensure that highly vulnerable people can complete everyday tasks, including grocery shopping and picking up medicines, while still fully complying with restrictions.
However, with the situation worsening in many countries, the Red Cross and Red Crescent stands ready to do more, said IFRC President Rocca:
“Our collective effort to prevent transmission will pay dividends going forward. We offer our help to ensure the worst can be behind us and lockdowns won’t be necessary in the future. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are already supporting their own local authorities to flatten the curve, stop the spread of the virus and save lives – and we stand ready to do more.”
In France, Red Cross volunteers are supporting walk-in COVID testing units at railway stations across Paris. In Monaco, Red Cross volunteers are helping rapidly escalate the country’s testing regime. In the Netherlands, Red Cross volunteers are on hand to assist scaled-up testing and crowd control at numerous testing sites. And in Georgia, the local Red Cross is training medical students in testing for COVID-19 to supplement its ramped-up response to the pandemic, an effort that now involves tens of thousands of volunteers.
Red Cross teams in Slovakia are helping authorities test every person in the country. In the Czech Republic, Red Cross volunteers are training thousands of people to support health care workers in hospitals and in Italy, the Red Cross has deployed several field hospitals and has strengthened its ambulance services to support local health systems, as well as providing psychosocial support.
“Our volunteers have been doing all they can to ensure peoples’ needs are met in a safe manner with as many COVID-19 precautions in place as possible – and we will need to do more. Above all, we want to thank all people who have been helping for months on end to serve their communities. It will be a long path, but together, I know we can succeed,” Francesco Rocca said.
More than 300,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Europe, and in the past week the region has registered more than half of all new infections reported globally.
| Press release
Red Cross raises the alarm across Europe: “Your best defence against this virus is you”
Budapest/Geneva, 14 October 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging European governments and its citizens to simultaneously exercise leadership and remain vigilant as COVID-19 ravages the region.
More than seven million people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Europe, and 41 of 54 European countries have recorded a more than 10 per cent increase in positive cases compared to two weeks ago. In 23 of those countries, the increase in cases reached more than 50 per cent.
“Almost 250,000 people in Europe have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Every death is a tragedy, and we must all work together to try and stop further deaths. We need to take collective action and make the right choices now. Keep physical distance, avoid crowds and parties, wear a mask, wash your hands, and isolate yourself if ill. Hard choices now will pay off in the coming weeks. Protect yourself to protect others. Until this storm passes – and it will – your best defence against this virus is you,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, Head of the IFRC for Europe.
Dr Emanuele Capobianco, Head of Health and Care of IFRC, said: “We would not be fulfilling our humanitarian obligation if we did not sound the alarm in this dire moment of the pandemic’s trajectory. We ask governments to act with speed, courage and inclusiveness: to step up protective measures without delay, follow scientific evidence and recommendations and support the most vulnerable who are being affected by both the virus and its heavy socio-economic impact. We know it is a very difficult moment which requires difficult decisions: solving the health crisis will help solve the economic and social one.
“We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of front-line workers and citizens who are confronting this pandemic with great commitment and spirit of sacrifice. We can still turn this tide if we act courageously in this moment,” continued Dr Capobianco.
Across the continent, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams continue to play their part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and meeting the evolving needs of vulnerable communities:
In the UK, British Red Cross volunteers are responding to a shift in the type of calls to their free COVID-19 support line – with the public increasingly seeking emotional support and help with complex needs.
The situation is similar for the Italian Red Cross, where psychologists taking calls from the public via their toll-free number say common themes are loneliness, fear and shame of asking for help. Youth volunteers with the Italian Red Cross are also reaching out to young people in the country to explain the importance of personal protective measures and offering peer support.
The Netherlands Red Cross is supporting thousands of people who no longer have enough money to buy groceries through the provision of food vouchers, which will cover one meal per day over the coming months.
In Spain there’s been a huge response from young Red Cross volunteers, where more than 21,000 young people are helping the most vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19 by distributing food to people at home, accompanying the elderly, transferring patients and supporting families with educational help and resources for children
And in south-east France, which has been hit by recent severe flooding, in a partnership between the city of Arras and the Red Cross of Pas-de-Calais rescuers have taken to the streets of the city centre to remind people of the importance of COVID-19 safety measures. French Red Cross first aid workers have also been in primary and nursery schools talking to children about the importance of COVID-19 protections.
“Months into this pandemic, we know communities across Europe are craving a return to normality. But the figures confirm we are not out of the woods yet, and as we head towards winter it is more important than ever that we remain socially close while staying physically distant,” Ms Ebbesen ended.
 Source: World Health Organization
| Press release
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day: IFRC President visits Italy’s first “red zone” to thank COVID-19 response volunteers
Geneva/Rome, 7 May 2020 – This Friday, 8 May, on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), will visit Italy’s first COVID-19 “red zone” in Codogno (Lodi province) to meet with Red Cross volunteers who provided medical care and support to people affected by the pandemic.
Codogno is in the first area which went in lockdown for the virus at the end of February: Italian Red Cross local branch never stopped its support to the population.
President Rocca will hold a press briefing to speak about the COVID-19 response and to thank all the Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers working to support people across the globe.
He said: “This 8th of May is dedicated to celebrating and paying tribute to all our volunteers and staff who are relentlessly fighting against COVID-19 and supporting people through other major crises in every part of the world.
“It is a true honor for me to spend World Red Cross and Red Crescent day with our Italian frontline to show solidarity and thank all our women and men in the field.”
When: Friday, 8 May 2020, 3.30pm (Italian time)
Where: Italian Red Cross local branch of Codogno – via dei Mulini 10 – Codogno (LO)
Refugee footballers score integration goals with Italian Red Cross
By Mark Richard South, IFRCCapitalising on the global popularity of football, the Italian Red Cross are using the sport as a vehicle to support the integration of asylum seekers and refugees.Founding a team as part of the AVAIL project, the scheme has seen a squad of 25 asylum seekers hosted at the Bresso reception centre, training together and entering tournaments and leagues alongside local teams in their host community.“Football is so popular here in Italy, and in many of the countries refugees are coming from, so it was a natural fit when we were looking for activities that could bring refugees and people from host communities together,” said Monica D’Alò, AVAIL project manager with the Italian Red Cross.“It provides some normality and a bit of an escape from everyday life for the refugee players, but is also an opportunity for them to get to know people from the local community, and for the local community to get to know them, see their skills, and realise they are not so different from each other - they all love football.”Alongside organising and equipping the team, an information campaign has also been rolled out to raise awareness about the squad and their goal of building relationships between refugee and host communities.The team has also joined up with local footballers with learning difficulties, joining a recent tournament together and forming mixed teams so everyone could play, creating a positive narrative around diversity and promoting mutual respect.“So far the team is going really well, everyone’s enjoying playing, local teams have been really welcoming, and we have more games and tournaments planned for next year,” added D’Alò.
Italian Red Cross refugee radio show takes to the web-waves
By Mark Richard South, IFRCTaking their project aim of “amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees” as literally as they could, the Italian Red Cross is doing exactly that with a new web radio show.Written, presented and produced by Gerald Mballe, an Italian Red Cross cultural mediator who has a refugee background himself, the show collects stories from around the country – sharing the voices of asylum seekers and refugees in Italy, but also the experiences and views of people in the host communities they have arrived in to.“We want the radio show to be a place where everyone can share their stories and gain practical information and news,” explained Gerald.Supported by a radio technician with more than 20 years’ experience, Gerald and his team are aiming to have nearly 50 bite-sized episodes available for streaming or download by the time the AVAIL project ends in early 2020, but now they are up and running they aim to continue producing the show beyond the end of AVAIL and into the future.Hosted on the Italian Red Cross website, the Italian-language shows are available to listeners throughout Italy and around the world, giving a glimpse into the lives of asylum seekers and refugees and the communities where they are living - with a particular focus on Red Cross activities bringing people together by supporting both refugee and host communities.“The team have been really dedicated to getting the radio show up and running and it’s something we’re all really proud of,” added Monica D’Alò, AVAIL project manager with the Italian Red Cross.“We’ll be getting stories from people all around the country, including from our staff and volunteers, so this can be a really valuable resource for us as a National Society, not just for AVAIL but into the future as well.”
| Press release
Albania: Red Cross responds after deadly earthquake
Tirana/Budapest/Geneva, 27 November 2019 – Red Cross and Red Crescent teams from across Europe have arrived in Albania to help the local Red Cross with rescue and relief efforts following yesterday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake near the capital Tirana.The earthquake has killed 31 people and injured more than 650, according to the Government. An estimated 100,000 people are affected and around 30,000 need immediate assistance, including 2,500 who are homeless. Aftershocks continue to rock the region and rescuers are still looking for people in the rubble of collapsed buildings in Thumane and Durres.The Secretary General of Albanian Red Cross, Mr. Artur Katuci, said he is touched by the solidarity shown by the Red Cross and Red Crescent family. “Our friends from across Europe have stepped up to help us in our hour of need. They have sent medical teams, relief teams, emergency aid and even rescue dogs. Their help is extremely appreciated. We will not forget this.”Mr. Katuci said Italian Red Cross has sent a team specialising in search and rescue, camp management and logistics who will help set up tents for the displaced. Turkish Red Crescent has sent two trucks with tents, blankets, hygiene kits and food. The Red Cross of North Macedonia has deployed a medical team and logistics team with a supply of blankets, sleeping bags, portable beds, food and hygiene kits.“This assistance is going directly to people who have lost their homes and are living in tents in a football field. Those affected by the earthquake are very grateful for the help of the Red Cross. Our staff and volunteers are doing an excellent job but our biggest work will be in the months ahead,” Mr Katuci said.The Swiss Red Cross has sent its highly specialised partner organisation REDOG rescue dog team with four dogs, four handlers and a doctor.The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), also has a team on the ground, joining around 500 staff and volunteers from Albanian Red Cross, who are providing medical care, first aid, psychosocial support, food, water, hot drinks, blankets and hygiene items at hospitals and tent camps set up by the Government.The Red Cross has supported more than 1,000 people since the disaster.Donations to the Albanian Red Cross earthquake response can be made here https://www.gofundme.com/f/1tnwbbmco0Photos and video are available here.
Genoa bridge collapse: one year on
By Nora Peter, IFRCThis time last year Paola Vicini was keeping vigil at the base of the collapsed Ponte Morandi in Genoa, anxiously waiting for any news of her missing son, Mirko. For five long days, she did not budge from the site, sleeping in a campervan provided by the Italian Red Cross, and being supported by its volunteers.“Mirko was working at a company close to the bridge. As soon as I heard about the disaster, I rushed to the red zone. Even though I knew it was impossible for him to survive under that debris, I did not give up hope,” she remembers.During those days of uncertainty and anguish, Paola was supported by Federica, an Italian Red Cross volunteer, and the two of them formed a strong bond. Federica was holding Paola’s hand when Mirko’s body was retrieved from under the ruins.“I don’t remember much from those days, but I can still recall Federica’s smile. She was my fortress.”On 14 August 2018, a 200-metre section of the four-lane bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed. Vehicles plunged 90 metres onto railway tracks, and buildings below, killing 43 people and injuring 29. 600 people have been displaced.Together with the military and state authorities, Italian Red Cross search and rescue teams searched for survivors for 26 hours. Two Red Cross nurses helped identify bodies at the Genoa morgue, while 15 other volunteers provided psychosocial support to the families of the victims. Altogether 500 Italian Red Cross volunteers took part in the operation that lasted for 35 days.Antonio Cecala was another who was helped by the Red Cross volunteers.“My brother and his family had left for a holiday. When I heard the news about the accident, I tried to call him, but he wouldn’t answer his phone. I got anxious and started making calls to the police and the local hospitals, but nobody had any information. So, I decided to go to Genoa to find out what happened to them,” remembers Antonio.Amid the chaos, he found support and comfort among the Red Cross volunteers who helped him in the search for his missing relatives. Days later his brother’s car was found under the ruins.Antonio was so moved by the work of the volunteers that he decided to become one of them. “Since the Red Cross gave me so much, I wanted to give something back to those in need,” he explains.A video tribute to the rescuers and volunteers, “Ponte Morandi: a year on” can be viewed here.
Enhancing Aid Capacities project presented at Solferino 2019
By Nora Peter, IFRCOver 10,000 volunteers from 140 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies gathered this year in Solferino, the small Italian town where Henry Dunant had founded the world’s largest volunteer-based movement.From 17 – 23 June, a Red Cross Camp was set up in Solferino hosting workshops and in-depth discussions, including a session dedicated to the Enhancing Aid Capacities project and the EU Aid Volunteers initiative.The EU Aid Volunteers workshop took place at the National Research Center - Institute of Environmental Geology and Geoengineering booth. The discussion centered around the topic of online volunteering, an invaluable resource in emergency operations and disaster risk reduction. A recent example for this was the Mozambique operation of the Italian Red Cross in support of the people affected by Cyclone Idai.The event provided a great forum for discussion on the integration of scientific partners in emergency information management, the use of mobile devices for data collection and the need for digital archives in dealing with emergencies.The two-year project 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 with the aim to improve the capability of organizations to provide quality support, managing enhanced pools of competent volunteers and staff for emergency response and improving remote support of operations.
| Press release
Thousands of volunteers from 140 countries celebrate 100 years of humanitarian action
Geneva/Solferino, 21 June 2019 – Fifteen thousand Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and more than 250 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders are have gathered this week in the historic Italian town of Solferino to debate pressing humanitarian concerns, and to celebrate the centenary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).The week-long “4th International Solferino Youth Meeting” has featured a series of workshops exploring issues as varied as climate change and violence, digitalization and the opportunities and threats posed by new technologies, protracted crises and the role that young people can play in shaping a safer and more humane world.Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC, said:“Young people are the present and the future of our organizations. We need their strength, passion, vision and commitment to reach more people in need, to scale up our activities and to identify and effectively respond to new humanitarian priorities,” said Mr Rocca.“The remarkable young people who have gathered here this week are a powerful antidote to the often-cynical representation given to millennials around the world. They are inspiring and give me hope that our network will remain as relevant and effective for another hundred years.”Khadijah Ahmed Alwardi, a young Red Crescent volunteer from Bahrain, said:“Meeting my peers from all over the world helped me realize that young people and the communities we live in often face very similar challenges. It was empowering to express my thoughts and the challenges that I face as young woman. I am leaving Italy with enthusiasm and I am committed to advocate fiercely for collaboration, mutual understanding, and for the role of young people in humanitarian action,” said Ms Alwardi.The week-long event is taking place in Solferino where, in 1859 Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organized local people to treat the soldiers' wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.Tomorrow (Saturday 22 June) 15,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers from all around the world will participate to the traditional annual “Fiaccolata” – a candle-lit march between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere.
| Press release
Global youth gathering of thousands to celebrate 100 years of world’s largest humanitarian network
Geneva/Rome, 6 June 2019 – More than 10,000 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders and volunteers from 140 countries will gather in northern Italy from 17-23 June to celebrate the centenary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).The weeklong “4th International Solferino Youth Meeting” will include a series of workshops for hundreds of young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders, focusing on major humanitarian challenges such as climate change, as well as some of the world’s most pressing and protracted crises. They will also contribute to the development of IFRC’s new Strategy 2030 that will guide the organization’s work for the coming decade.The week will culminate on 22 June with the annual Fiaccolata – a candle-lit march involving thousands of volunteers between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere. Solferino is the town where in 1859, Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organized local people to treat the soldiers' wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.Media opportunitiesThe International Youth Meeting offers numerous, compelling media opportunities, including the chance to speak with and profile young volunteers from around the world. These passionate humanitarians are committed to solving the problems they see. They are a powerful antidote to the sometimes-cynical representation given to millennials around the world.Below are some suggestions of how journalists and media outlets can capitalize on the event. Italian Red Cross and IFRC communications staff will be available in the lead up to and during the event to support.The event is highly visual, involving thousands of young people from around the world living in a Red Cross humanitarian base camp. The Fiaccolata march sets off from the medieval centre of Solferino at sunset, with participants carrying candles as they wind their way towards Castiglione delle Stiviere.Interviews/profiles of youth representatives from your countryMore than 10,000 volunteers, including more than 400 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders representing 140 countries are attending the event. These young and passionate leaders will be taking part in a series of events during their time in Solferino focused on identifying solutions to the world’s most pressing humanitarian problems both now and in the future.Interviews/profiles/discussions with young people on the front lines of today’s major humanitarian crisesAmong the participants are Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers responding to some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian emergencies. These are young women and men who choose to dedicate their time and even risk their lives to help people affected by conflicts and violence, stigma and discrimination, and disasters and health emergencies.The “Fiaccolata” (Saturday 22 June) - a highly visual and emotional march More than 10,000 volunteers will follow the path of Henry Dunant, walking from Solferino to Castiglione delle Stiviere. Setting off at sunset, this candlelit march is highly visual.Senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officialsIn addition to youth representatives, a number of senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officials will participate. The IFRC President, Francesco Rocca, will be present during the Solferino events, together with more than 60 Red Cross Red Crescent leaders.Media facilitiesJournalists are invited to attend the event on 21-22 June. Requests to attend on other dates will be considered.Some logistical support is available for journalists interested in attending the event. Please contact the media contacts below.A media centre is available on site with dedicated internet.Photos and video will be made available to media throughout the event via IFRC’s multimedia newsroom: www.ifrcnewsroom.org.
| Press release
10,000 Red Cross volunteers take part in Europe’s largest annual volunteer gathering
Solferino, Italy, 24 June 2018 – More than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers representing more than 60 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from around the world have gathered in the northern Italian town of Solferino for an annual tribute to the events that led to the foundation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.The two-day festivities culminated last night in the Fiaccolata, a torch lit march that retraces the steps of the women of the town of Castiglione delle Stiviere in the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Solferino in 1859. These women provided first aid and care to the many wounded left laying on that battlefield, paying no attention to a soldier’s nationality, and laying the foundations for neutral and impartial humanitarian action.Swiss businessman Henry Dunant, inspired by the people he met in Solferino and Castiglione, sought to transform the devastation of the battlefield of Solferino into something positive and innovative – a global humanitarian network with the goal of helping those in need during times of conflict, and to change the nature of warfare.“This is an important weekend for the Red Cross,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “It is a chance to reflect on our history and our humanitarian principles. But more importantly, it is a chance to pause and look ahead, to consider our world, and to think about the kind of organization we will need to be in the future.”On Friday and Saturday morning, leaders from 35 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies took part in a session of the Solferino Academy designed to explore future humanitarian challenges and to consider how a global organization like the IFRC will need to respond.This meeting comes amid rising humanitarian needs around the world, fuelled by conflicts, increasing disasters, and the emergence and spread of new or forgotten diseases. All this is taking place in a world where respect for basic humanitarian norms and for international humanitarian law seems to be on the decline.“Next year, we will adopt a new Strategy 2030. We don’t know what our world will look like in five or ten years. But we can be confident that some of the challenges we face will be different to those we are currently grappling with,” said Mr Rocca.“Our goal isn’t only to anticipate what those challenges will be, but rather to make sure that we are the kind of organization that can adapt to new demands, that can be agile in its thinking, and rapid in its response.“Key to this is the need to invest more in strengthening local capacity.”
| Press release
Italy’s Francesco Rocca elected President of world’s largest humanitarian network
Antalya, 6 November 2017 – Italian lawyer and humanitarian, Francesco Rocca, was today elected the new President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).Mr Rocca was elected by his peers from 178 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that were present at the IFRC General Assembly in Antalya, Turkey.He paid tribute to the courage and dedication of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers around the world, and vowed to focus on ensuring they have greater support.“We owe it to them to change and to strengthen our capacity,” he said. “One of the first things I will focus on is addressing any integrity issues within our network. We owe it to our volunteers who risk their lives every day. We owe it to the communities who look to us for support, when no one else can help. And we owe it to the people around the world who look to the Red Cross and Red Crescent as signs of hope.”Mr Rocca’s election comes at a critical juncture for the IFRC and the wider humanitarian community. Aid organizations are responding to a range of complex and global challenges, and are struggling to respond to rising needs while balancing increasingly constrained budgets. The new President will play an important role in ensuring that Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies can continue to support the most vulnerable and isolated.Mr Rocca joined the Italian Red Cross in 2008, taking over as National President in 2013. He has built the Italian Red Cross into the country’s pre-eminent humanitarian organization, with Red Cross volunteers and staff playing leading roles in response to earthquakes and the ongoing arrival of vulnerable migrants.He has been a strong advocate on behalf of vulnerable migrants, calling consistently on political leaders to put the safety and dignity of people at the centre of their migration policies.A lawyer by training, Rocca started his professional career fighting organized crime. He then moved into health administration. In 2013, he was elected Vice President for Europe of IFRC.Mr Rocca will take over from Tadateru Konoé who is completing his second term.The General Assembly also elected four Vice-Presidents: Mr Abdoul Azize Diallo (Senegal), Mr Miguel Angel Villarroel Sierraalta (Venezuela), Mr Chen Zhu (China) and Dr Kerem Kinik (Turkey).
| Press release
World Refugee Day: Digital information platform for refugees and migrants launches in Italy
Rome/Geneva, 20 June 2017 – A new digital platform launched on World Refugee Day (20 June) in Italy will put critical and relevant information in the hands of vulnerable migrants and refugees.The “Virtual Volunteer” – a mobile friendly web application developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and IBM – helps people migrating access reliable and practical information and support wherever they are. Virtual Volunteer has already been rolled out in Greece and Sweden where it has been used by 30,000 people.“Virtual Volunteer fills a missing piece in the global response to migration,” said Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Under Secretary General for Programmes and Operations. “People moving are often caught in a fog of poor information. They don’t always know what services are available to them. This is a tool that will help give them a clearer view so that they can make informed decisions.”The platform shows in real time the services provided by the Red Cross and other organizations, including outpatient clinics and maternal health centres, as well as places people can access free legal assistance and psychological support. It uses the geolocation of users to ensure that the information is relevant.Safe pointsIt will also alert people to the three Italian Red Cross Safe Points in Catania, Trapani and Cagliari. Safe points are spaces run by volunteers where migrants can find further information and assistance, and access health and legal services.Users will also find detailed information about Restoring Family Links services that can help them search for and connect with members of their family.“The use of technology is crucial in humanitarian action,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross. “Information saves lives. Ensuring that people can access unbiased, factual information has a big impact.”Thousands of people continue to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Most of those who reach Europe report having been detained in Libya, with many having experienced or seen beatings, abuse, sexual violence and forced labour.IFRC urges authorities at all points along migration routes to ensure that vulnerable people are provided with humanitarian assistance and protection throughout their journeys, irrespective of legal status.