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Off the radar: Ten disasters of 2023 you’ve likely never heard of

Maybe it's because the disaster happened in a remote, rural area, far from media hubs. Maybe it’s “too small” to warrant a global reaction. Whatever the reason, some emergencies don't get as much attention as others. For the people living through these crises, however, they are just as real, heartbreaking and life-changing as the big catastrophes that go viral or that benefit from the ‘CNN effect’. And when you’ve lost your home to a flood, fire or landslide – or you’ve had to leave town with nothing but the clothes on your back – you don’t have time for the world to catch on. This is why the IFRC has a rapid-response funding mechanism called the Disaster Response Emergency Fund (IFRC-DREF) that gets funds quickly to all crises, large or small. Here are ten of the least-known disasters that IFRC-DREF responded to in 2023. 1. El Nino in Ecuador In the later half of 2023, extreme rainfall generated by the El Niño phenomenon on the Ecuadorian coast caused rapid flooding. Fortunately, affected communities were more prepared than in the past thanks to actions they took ahead of the rains. When the El Nino’s impacts were first forecast, government agencies declared that preparing for and preventing damage from the expected heavy rains was a national priority. For its part, the IFRC-DREF allocated funds to ensure 1,000 at-risk families would have safe drinking water, proper waste management, food set aside and many other precautionary measures. 2. Cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe Like many other relatively localized or regional epidemics, the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe in 2023 has received little international attention. It started in February 2023 and to date, suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in 41 districts in all the country’s 10 provinces. The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal to support the work of the Zimbabwe Red Cross, but even before that, IFRC-DREF dispersed CHF 500,000 to support 141,257 people with health care and water, sanitation and hygiene support in key impacted areas. The goal is to prevent and control the spread of Cholera, interrupt the chain of transmission, facilitate the improvement of case management and improve basic sanitation, hygiene practices and access to safe drinking water. 3. Floods in Bosnia-Herzegovina The northwestern area of Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced intense rainfall in mid-May 2023, causing widespread flooding and extensive damage to people’s houses and local infrastructure. The floods also destroyed crops and rendered much farmland and dairy production inoperable. It was a severe blow to one of the lowest-income areas in Europe, a region that relies on local agriculture for sustenance and income. IFRC-DREF allocated CHF 126,504 to the Bosnian Red Cross to support 1500 people through a variety of assistance measures, including cash transfers, distribution of essential equipment and hygiene supplie, and dissemination of health information, among other things. 4. Storms and floods on top of drought and conflict Sometimes disasters are hidden by the larger crisis enveloping a particular region. The scale of the humanitarian suffering in Yemen is so massive and widespread, there was little notice of the tropical cyclone that hit the country in October 2023. Tropical Cyclone Tej made landfall over the southern coast of Al Mahrah Governorate on the night of 23 October and continued to move northwestward. The cyclone caused widespread flooding, infrastructure destruction, displacement of communities, and the loss of many lives. IFRC-DREF quickly supported the response of Yemen Red Crescent with CHF 281,000 to support internally displaced people, host communities, returnees, marginalized groups, and migrants/refugees. 5. Fires in Chile In Febuary 2023, strong winds and high temperatures caused dozens of forest fires across central and southern Chile, leading to casualties and widespread damage. They followed earlier, destructive forest fires in December 2022 that spread rapidly around the city of Viña del Mar. With IFRC-DREF funding, the Chilean Red Cross provided support to more than 5,000 people. Staff and volunteer teams provided medical support and distributed cash so that people could buy the things they needed to recover.More information. 6. Deadly Marburg outbreak in Gabon In early February 2023, the Government of Equatorial Guinea reported the death of nine people who presented symptoms of hemorrhagic fever and soon after the WHO confirmed the country was experiencing an epidemic of Marburg disease. The Gabon Red Cross contributed to the government’s preventive measures and by 15 May, the epidemic over. Roughly CHF 140,000 in emergency DREF funds are now being used to increase the Gabon Red Cross’s ability to respond to Marburg disease and other outbreaks in the future by ensuring the mobilized personnel can detect suspected cases quickly, anticipate spread and prepare for a coordinated response with health authorities. 7. Severe hail storms in Armenia In June 2023, severe hailstorms struck various regions of Armenia, causing extensive damage and disruption. In the southern region, rural communities near the border experienced heavy precipitation that overwhelmed sewage systems, flooded streets and houses, and rendered roads and bridges impassable. The hail and subsequent flooding resulted in significant damage to houses, livestock, gardens, and food stocks. IFRC-DREF quickly allocated CHF 386,194to support Armenian Red Cross's efforts to help 2,390 people who lost crops, livelihoods or who suffered extreme damage to their homes. 8. Population Movement in Benin Around the world, there are hundreds of places where people are fleeing violence that rarely gets reported in international media. Here’s one case in point: over the past three years, non-state armed groups in the Sahel region has increased in the border area of Burkina Faso with Benin and Togo, forcing thousands to leave their homes. The IFRC-DREF allocated CHF 259,928 to support Benin Red Cross in assisting displaced people and host communities in Benin. The funds were used to provide immediate food and material aid to the most vulnerable households, covering immediate needs (shelter, access to drinking water, basic household supplies) for at least 3,000 people. 9. Cold spells and snowstorms in Mongolia A devastating snowstorm swept across eastern parts of Mongolia and certain provinces in Gobi areas, starting on 19 May 2023. The storm brought high winds and 124 people (mostly from herder community) were reported missing after following their livestock, which wandered off because of the storm. A total of 122 people were found, but tragically 2 people died. There were also severe damage to infrastructure, including the collapse of 22 electricity sub-stations, which caused power outage in several counties. Nearly 150 households suffered loss or severe damage to their “gers” or yurts (traditional circular, domed structures), as well as widespread death of livestock. IFRC-DREF allocated CHF 337,609 to support the Mongolian Red Cross's efforts to provide shelter, cash assistance and psychosocial support to 3,400 people. 10. Drought in Uruguay Uruguay is currently experiencing widespread drought due to a lack of rainfall since September 2022 and increasingly high temperatures in the summer seasons—prompting the Uruguayan government to declare a state of emergency. The government officially requested the support of the Uruguayan Red Cross to conduct a needs assessment of the drought, so it could understand how it was impacting people and agricultural industries. With funding IFRC-DREF, Uruguayan Red Cross teams headed out into the most-affected areas to speak to more than 1,300 familiesabout the drought’s impact on their health, livelihoods and access to water. Their findings are helping the government make more informed decisions on how to address the drought, taking into account the real needs of those affected.More information.

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National Society Investment Alliance: Funding announcement 2022

The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies—particularly those in complex emergencies and protracted crisis—so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services. The NSIA can award up to one million CHF of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 CHF over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from elsewhere. This year, the NSIA is pleased to announce that the following six National Societies have been selected for accelerator funding in 2022: Burundi Red Cross Kenya Red Cross Society Malawi Red Cross Society Russian Red Cross Society Syrian Arab Red Crescent Zambia Red Cross Society These National Societies will receive a significant investment of up to one million CHF, to be used over a maximum of five years, to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability. Three of these National Societies (Syria, Malawi and Zambia) previously received NSIA bridge awards, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach towards sustainable development. In addition, 14 other National Societies will receive up to 50,000 CHF in bridge funding: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Sierra Leone. In total, the NSIA will allocate 5.4 million CHF to 20 different National Societies this year. This is more than double the funds allocated in 2021 and represents the largest annual allocation since the NSIA’s launch in 2019. This landmark allocation is made possible thanks to the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ National Societies. Both the ICRC and IFRC have also strongly reinforced their commitment, by allocating 10 million CHF and 2 million CHF respectively over the coming years. The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination, and Olivier Ray, ICRC Director for Mobilization, Movement and Partnership, said: “We are pleased to have been able to select 20 National Societies’ initiatives for funding by the NSIA in 2022. Our vision and plans are becoming a reality. We see Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies operating in fragile contexts accessing funds for sustainably developing to deliver and scale up their humanitarian services. This is localization in action and at scale. It is particularly encouraging to see that the NSIA’s two-stage approach, with initial funds providing a springboard to help National Societies prepare for increased investment aimed at achieving sustained impact on the organization and vulnerable communities, is working. We hope to see many more National Societies planning and following this journey. 2022 will be remembered as a milestone for the NSIA. Our ambition is to maintain this momentum and continue to grow in the years to come. We see this mechanism as a valuable and strategic lever to support National Societies in fragile and crisis settings to undertake their journey towards sustainable development.” For more information, please click here to visit the NSIA webpage.

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Empress Shôken fund 100th distribution announcement

The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan. The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, 169 National Societies have received 14 million Swiss francs. To mark the Fund’s 100th year of awarding grants, a short video was developed to highlight what the Fund stands for and showcase how it has supported National Societies through the years. The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evident in the regularity of their contributions to it. The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier due to the weekend. The selection process The Fund received 28 applications in 2021 covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 475,997 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Argentina, the Bahamas, Benin, Costa Rica, Estonia, Georgia, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam. The projects to be supported in 2021 cover a number of themes, including youth engagement, disaster preparedness, National Society development and health, especially the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit the Movement as a whole. The 2021 grants The Argentine Red Cross is taking an innovative approach to talent management using new technologies. It will use the grant to develop a talent-management module to be implemented in 65 branches, enabling the National Society to attract and retain employees and volunteers. The Bahamas Red Cross Society will put the grant towards building staff and volunteers’ capacities and expanding its network on five islands, with a view to implementing community- and ecosystem-based approaches to reducing disaster risk and increasing climate resilience. The Red Cross of Benin seek to help vulnerable women become more autonomous. The grant will support them in developing income-generating activities and building their professional skills. The Costa Rica Red Cross will use the grant to enable communities in the remote Cabécar and Bribri indigenous territories to better manage emergencies, holding workshops on first aid, risk prevention and emergency health care in connection with climate events and health emergencies, including COVID-19. The Estonia Red Cross is working to build competencies in four key areas, including in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers. The funds will support the development of a volunteer database to help effectively manage information, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. With widespread COVID-19 transmission in Georgia, the Georgia Red Cross Society is working to help national authorities limit the impact of the pandemic. It will put the grant towards promoting good hygiene and raising awareness of the importance of vaccination. The Red Crescent Society of Islamic Republic of Iran is focused on building local capacity with youth volunteers by boosting small businesses in outreach areas. The grant will be used for training, capacity-building and development in local partner institutions, generating income for community members. The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have affected how the Kenya Red Cross Society does its humanitarian work. The grant will be used to launch an online volunteer platform to encourage and facilitate youth volunteering. The Malawi Red Cross Society must be ready to respond to disasters due to climate variability and climate change. The funds will allow the National Society to establish a pool of trained emergency responders who can swing into action within 72 hours of a disaster. The Nicaraguan Red Cross is working to protect the elderly from COVID-19. The grant will be used in three care homes located in the municipalities of Somoto, Sébaco and Jinotepe to provide medical assistance, prevent and control infections, and promote mental health as a basic element of self-care through training and support sessions and other activities. The Pakistan Red Crescent seeks to improve how it manages blood donations. The funds will enable the National Society to increase the capacity of its blood donor centre and raise awareness of voluntary unpaid blood donation by holding World Blood Donor Day in 2021. The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for All project of the Philippine Red Cross aims to develop WASH guidelines and promote them in the community. The grant will be used for training and capacity-building around providing health services in emergencies. In Romania, teenagers in residential centres are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence for a number of reasons, including a lack of both psychosocial education and staff trained in dealing with this kind of violence through trauma-informed care. The grant will enable the Red Cross of Romania to reduce the vulnerability of 60 teenagers in residential centres by increasing knowledge and aiding the development of safe relationships. The South Sudan Red Cross is working to encourage young people to adapt to climate change by planting fruit trees. The grant will support this initiative, which aims to reduce the impact of climate change and increase food production. In 2020 the Timor-Leste Red Cross launched an education programme aimed at increasing young people’s knowledge about reproductive health. The funds will be used to expand the programme – already active in five of the National Society’s branches – to the remaining eight branches. The Viet Nam Red Cross aims to further engage with authorities and become more self-sufficient through fundraising. It will use the grant to build its personnel’s capacities by providing training courses on proposal writing, project management and social welfare.

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