| Press release
IFRC: Delta variant a huge threat in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia
Budapest/Geneva, 6 August 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for more assistance and for vaccinations to be stepped up in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia, where rising COVID-19 cases and deaths triggered by the Delta variant are putting health systems under severe strain.
Europe now has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the world and has just passed 60 million coronavirus infections. There were sharp increases throughout July – and more than one million cases reported in the last seven days alone[i].
As the majority of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia is still unvaccinated, medical services in some countries are becoming overwhelmed.
Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, said:
“Time is of the essence. With the highly contagious Delta variant sweeping across the region, millions of people in fragile or unstable settings are at heightened risk.
“With support from the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are working tirelessly to help those in need, but additional support is needed to save lives and address long term socio economic and health effects. The new wave of the pandemic is having a knock-on effect and will significantly impact the wellbeing of the most vulnerable.”
In Georgia, new infections have skyrocketed by 90 per cent in the last fortnight. Authorities had to expand the capacity of pediatric wards recently, as more children were getting sick, and the number of hotels used as clinics for people with mild symptoms is up.
In Russia, daily infections have almost tripled since the beginning of June, with 23,000 on average in the past week. In Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan hospitalisations are on the rise. The situation is also deteriorating in Ukraine, as well as in Turkey, Montenegro and Baltic countries.
Younger generations, who often come last in vaccination campaigns, are being increasingly affected by COVID-19 in the region. This is adding pressure on health systems, as many need to be hospitalised, and can negatively impact other people around them too.
Ebbesen highlighted that vaccination is the key to curb the spread of COVID-19, together with maintaining crucial preventive measures such as mask wearing, hand washing, physical distancing and meeting outdoors or in well ventilated spaces.
However, there is a widening gap across Europe: in the richest countries, 60 per cent of people had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of 27 July, as opposed to less than 10 per cent in the lowest income countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.
“Vaccination, not vaccines, saves lives. Donors, governments and civil society, we must all do our part so that vaccines get into the arms of those who need them most.
“But this depends largely on the availability of doses and people’s willingness to get immunised. It is essential to collectively step up our assistance so that everyone has access to vaccination and nobody hesitates whether to get a jab or not,” stressed Ebbesen.
Worryingly, as holiday travel and easing of lockdowns further the risk of COVID-19 spreading, vital operational funds to support people in need are running out.
“We are concerned about not being able to meet the growing needs, particularly as the socio-economic crisis deepens. Not even 60 per cent of IFRC’s COVID-19 Emergency Appeal is covered, which limits our capacity to provide basic humanitarian aid,” warned Ebbesen.
For more information, please contact:
-Ainhoa Larrea, +36 705 070 131, [email protected]
- Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected]
- Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]
Armenian Red Cross Society
| Press release
New study finds coronavirus has left older people poorer, sicker and more alone
Budapest/Geneva, 13 January 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic is having catastrophic health, social and financial impacts on older people in Europe’s South Caucasus region, according to a new study led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The study, which was carried out in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, shows that the consequences of COVID-19 are being borne disproportionately by poor and older people who have become poorer, sicker and more isolated.
The research involved 2,200 older people, as well as health care workers and Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteer aged-care workers.
Olga Dzhumaeva , the head of the IFRC’s Country Cluster delegation for the South Caucuses, said older people make up a growing proportion of society in all three countries, and were already facing diverse and complex challenges before the onset of COVID-19.
“In all three countries, access to appropriate care among older people was found to be deficient.
Key findings from the report include:
The ability of older people to cover basic expenses has dropped significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak due to decreased family support.
The report sets out short and long-term recommendations for those involved in older people’s health and social care to ensure better coverage, targeting and quality of services so the risks to older people are reduced in the current pandemic and future crises. These include improved coordination, guidance and support to public bodies and service providers engaged in older people’s health and social care to ensure better coverage, targeting and quality of services.
The report can be found on the IFRC website. It was carried out in collaboration with the Armenian Red Cross Society, the Red Crescent Society of Azerbaijan, the Georgia Red Cross Society, the Austrian Red Cross, the Swiss Red Cross, and the UN Population Fund.
Worsening of older people’s health was registered as a secondary effect of COVID-19, along with negative impacts on mental health and spiritual wellbeing, physical activity and nutrition and diet, mostly due to pre-existing emotional instability, lower self-esteem and limited mobility. Access to health care services has become significantly more difficult for those not receiving home-based care, due both to the lock-down and the shift in focus of health care facilities to the control of COVID-19 cases.
Social contact with neighbours, family and the broader community has decreased. This, combined with limited mobility brought on by COVID restrictions and, hence, even greater dependence on support from neighbours, relatives and community, has adversely affected older people’s emotional states, especially in urban areas.
COVID-19 restrictions have limited older people’s access to most public services and infrastructure, posing a challenge on top of the digital divide between the young and older generations.
Ageism along with physical and financial abuse was reported in all three countries, particularly in urban areas, and that discussion of these forms of abuse was taboo.
Caregivers were under increased pressure despite changes in their own personal and family situations but they continued to provide care regardless.
Nagorno-Karabakh: Fleeing conflict, facing the unknown
The IFRC is working alongside both Armenian Red Cross Society and Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society, in coordination with International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners, to support people affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
By Jessica Timings, IFRC
On the outskirts of a small town, a kindergarten that usually resonates with the joyful sound of children is eerily silent. Just three children play quietly in the dusty yard out front. Washing hangs above a rainbow-coloured fence, the fading artwork of small children decorates on the walls inside.
This kindergarten had been closed because of COVID-19, but in the last few weeks its doors have opened to a new group of people in urgent need.
At its peak, around 80 people – mostly women, children and the elderly – were living, sleeping and eating here. The people arrived in waves from areas affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which escalated significantly on 27 September 2020.
One family of eight, a mother, her five daughters and two grandchildren, have been staying in a shared room for the past few days. They left their home almost as soon as the conflict escalated, recalling the walls of their home shaking from shelling close by.
“Our children were afraid,” describes the mother. “One of the boys could not speak for two days. That is when we knew it was not safe.”
The kindergarten has basic washing and cooking utilities, shared by all who stay here. It is unclear how long people will need to stay, and resources generously provided by community members are running low. Food and other essential items are provided by Armenian Red Cross Society, local authorities and other agencies.
Armenian Red Cross Society volunteers also provide psychosocial support to children staying in shelters, and to the wounded in hospitals and their loved ones.
“The humanitarian needs of affected people are diverse, from social and health to psychological issues”, Armenian Red Cross Society Secretary General Anna Yeghiazaryan says. “The Armenian Red Cross Society, which o
perates throughout Armenia as a neutral, independent organization, is committed to doing everything it can to respond to these needs.”
“As winter arrives, the needs of these people will multiply. We are working to ensure continued access to basic services and necessities, including heated accommodation, electricity, water, and support to host families.”
Though the ceasefire announcement has meant that some have returned to their homes, more are afraid to go back. The family of eight is among those who feel they cannot yet return, but do not know where they can go from here.
Many children are unable to attend school, though some have been able to attend schools near their temporary places of shelter.
“I am in my last year of school, I want to finish. I am planning to continue my education at university next year, but I don’t know whether I will be able to get back to school,” shares one of the young women staying at the kindergarten.
“We want people to know we are here, we exist, we are not forgotten.”