| 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]
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.
Red Cross Society of Georgia
| 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.
| 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
IFRC and USAID to strengthen resilience of South Caucasus communities to health emergencies
Tbilisi, 30 October 2019 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), together with USAID and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), today announced the start of a joint programme, “Strengthening resilience of local communities of South Caucasus to health emergencies”.
The newly launched programme will assist the most vulnerable communities in disaster-prone areas of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in managing health risks and effects of emergencies and disasters.
Volunteers and staff of the Armenian Red Cross Society, the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society and the Georgia Red Cross Society, as well as local authorities, will also be able to enhance their knowledge on the response to health-related consequences of disasters and crises.
“Local people are often the first to respond when a disaster or disease outbreak strikes. That is why helping communities and Red Cross Red Crescent Societies to learn how to act in health emergencies is extremely important,” said Olga Dzhumaeva, Head of the IFRC office for South Caucasus.
Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are particularly prone to natural hazards, including earthquakes, floods, landslides, and man-made emergencies such as industrial disasters and transport accidents. “Collaboration with IFRC/Red Cross Red Crescent will help national authorities and local communities build the capacity to prevent and respond to future health emergencies, putting local health systems on stronger long-term footing,” said USAID/Georgia Deputy Mission Director David Hoffman.
During the one-year project, local communities, as well as volunteers and staff from Red Cross Red Crescent societies, will be trained in pandemic preparedness, epidemic control, water hygiene and sanitation, response to mass-casualty events, first aid and psychosocial support.