| Press release
Red Cross Red Crescent warns of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people in Europe
Budapest/Geneva, 7 June 2021 – The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching impacts for entire generations, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Several studies by Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across Europe show an alarming pattern, which requires increased efforts to tackle inequity and assist those most in need.
Antónia de Barros Mota, head of Mental Health/Psychosocial Support for IFRC Europe, said:
“The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are like invisible scars or hidden wounds. Young people and children are suffering stress, bereavement and loneliness, which can worsen as time passes. Their parents may have lost their jobs. Lockdowns and other restrictions continue to hamper their access to education, training and work.”
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a critical point recently.
Four university students took their own lives in a campus in southern France in the last quarter of 2020. French Red Cross set up a 24/7 rapid intervention team[i] to support those at risk. During the first six months they dealt with 11 students including eight who required immediate hospitalisation.
“With end of school year exams approaching, staff and volunteers are on high alert,” explained Sara Salinas, coordinator of the French Red Cross emergency service in the county.
A Spanish Red Cross study[ii] among families with young children revealed the majority now live in extreme poverty. Nearly 40 per cent are unemployed and three quarters cannot afford expenses such as glasses or hearing aids for their children. Most parents reported feeling worried or stressed, impacting their ability to emotionally support their children.
Research by Austrian Red Cross[iii] found sleep and eating disturbances among children had doubled, and that after the second lockdown in 2020, 16 per cent of children interviewed in North Tyrol (Austria) and South Tyrol (Italy) were likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Refugees and migrant children are also significantly affected by the pandemic. A Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC study[iv] found a third were unable to access online school lessons. Another study with German Red Cross in Turkey showed that when forced to stay home children displayed more behavioural problems, and traumatic memories were triggered for some.
Europe has had more than 54.6 million COVID-19 cases and 1.1 million deaths to date[v] – a third of infections and fatalities worldwide. Declining trends are promising, but the pandemic’s effects could be long-lasting.
“Authorities and civil society organizations must scale up programmes and resources to help vulnerable youth and children – including basic livelihoods assistance and tailored mental health and psychosocial support. It is crucial to promote resilience at the individual level and within society as a whole,” de Barros Mota concluded.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, IFRC and Red Cross Red Crescent societies throughout Europe have provided mental health and psychosocial support to 1.8 million people.
[iii] Silvia Exenberger; Anna Wenter; Christina Taferner; Nina Haid-Stecher; Maximilian Schickl; Barbara Juen; Kathrin Sevecke; Heidi Siller. "The experience of threat through Covid-19 in children: Gender as moderating factor" has been received by European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The submission id is: ECAP-D-21-00298, May 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.
IFRC releases forecast-based funds against impact of super cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh
As super cyclone Amphan heads towards the West Bengal-Bangladesh areas, Bangladesh Red Crescent has triggered the release of forecast-based funds from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to reduce the storm’s impact on vulnerable communities living in the nine coastal districts of Bangladesh.According to the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) in Bangladesh, more than 14.2 million people are in the path of the cyclone, of which 7.2 million are women and 1.4 million are children. This has put these communities at a dual risk amid the existing COVID-19 pandemic.This forecast has triggered the pre-agreed release of 134,317 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).The funding will help support more than 20,000 vulnerable people with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19 through the disinfection of cyclone shelters and provision of personal protective equipment sets.IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said:“In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working tirelessly alongside local authorities, sharing early warning information and pre-positioning relief supplies, as well as having teams to support evacuations as super cyclone Amphan approaches Bangladesh.“With the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, we are enabling communities to take all sorts of preparedness measures to reduce the loss of life and livelihood in the coastal districts including the camps in Cox’s Bazar, where around one million displaced people reside in temporary shelters. Forecast-based actions mean the communities no longer wait for a cyclone to hit, rather anticipate it and act early.”“We have seen many mega cyclones in the past that have brought massive devastation in this region. This funding allows Bangladesh Red Crescent to take actions to reduce the impact of such an event.”Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people take early actions ahead of cyclones rather than only having access to support after they have been hit.The goal of Forecast-based Financing is to anticipate cyclones, decrease their impact as much as possible, and reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is reached. As part of this mechanism, an Early Action Protocol for cyclones outlines which anticipatory measures the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society will implement to reduce the cyclone’s impact. This work is developed by National Societies with the technical support from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said:“We are scaling up our preparedness measures and early actions to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are in the direct path of cyclone Amphan. The current COVID-19 crisis is slowing our efforts down, but our volunteers are not stepping back from reaching out to the most vulnerable communities.”Over the past 10 years cyclones have affected more than a million people in Bangladesh, causing death and injury, destroying homes and undermining livelihoods.The Early Action Protocol for cyclones in Bangladesh has been revised considering the current COVID-19 epidemic. While the priority remains to move people to safe shelters if an evacuation order is issued, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are taking action to help prevent further outbreaks, including sharing hygiene information and items, identifying alternative evacuation spaces to enable physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting cyclone shelters.This is only the second time IFRC’s early action funding mechanism has been used after over 210,000 Swiss francs were released to Mongolia Red Cross in January 2020 based on the forecast of an extreme winter season. The funding provided cash grants to vulnerable herder families to help protect their livestock and livelihoods.German Red Cross is providing technical expertise and funding support to the Forecast-based Financing project and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Head of German Red Cross’ Bangladesh Office Gaurav Ray said:“The impending cyclone, Amphan, is putting the lives of the most poor and vulnerable families at risk. By taking forecast-based early actions well ahead of the cyclone, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is setting a precedent, especially in the face of this dual crisis. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme will play a critical role in alleviating the distress faced by communities at risk.”Notes Read the Bangladesh Cyclone Amphan Early Action Protocol for Cyclones and the early action protocol activation announcement for Cyclone Amphan. The Forecast-based Action by the DREF was established with support from the German Red Cross and the German Government Federal Foreign Office.
Bangladesh: How Forecast-based Financing supported objective decision-making in advance of Cyclone Fani
When a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society receives a forecast of an imminent extreme weather event, one of their most urgent tasks is to decide what action to take in anticipation of a possible disaster.In the case of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, this decision-making process has become clearer and more straightforward, thanks to its improved use of scientific information, as was shown in recent weeks before the arrival of Cyclone Fani.Since 2015, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been using a Forecast-based Financing (FbF) approach with support from the German Red Cross. As a result, when Cyclone Fani approached, decision-makers could rely on an established system which provided them with robust forecast information and served as a basis to decide, when and where to act and with what resources.The Bangladesh National Society, with support from the German Red Cross and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, had developed an Early Action Protocol for cyclones. This plan clearly defines forecast thresholds and details which early actions are needed, and where, to protect the population.In the days before Cyclone Fani made landfall, the Bangladesh Red Crescent set up an Activation Committee in line with its established procedures for activating the Early Action Protocol. Its role was to continuously review the meteorological data and decide if according to the forecast information the trigger for activation was met. The Activation Committee is chaired by the Deputy Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent and also includes experts from the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, the Climate Centre, German Red Cross, and IFRC. Activation of the Bangladesh EAP is being funded by the IFRC’s financial mechanism to support early action, the Forecast based Action by the DREF, which was created in May 2018.Based on the forecast information, the local branches in the coastal districts activated their control rooms, mobilized their resources, volunteers and officials for early warning and preparation of evacuation shelters. Eight members of the National Disaster Response Team were deployed in four districts (Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat and Barguna) to support the activities being conducted. In two districts, local branches with German Red Cross support also undertook a rapid stock-taking of local markets to ascertain if they were able to supply the food and relief items that would be required in case of an activation.In addition, a database of the cyclone shelters, markets and accessibility was used by all stakeholders in preparation for Cyclone Fani. The database had been developed by the FbF project and proved to be very useful in preparing districts in the cyclone’s path for evacuation, and in obtaining real-time information from the shelters through the contacts listed.The Activation Committee met several times before deciding not to activate the Early Action Protocol, as the forecasts did not meet the trigger that had been defined in the EAP and all the data and analysis suggested that the forecasted impact could be managed with resources from the local branch. Had the Committee decided for activation, the EAP Implementation Committee was there to coordinate and implement the EAP and districts were ready.Thanks to the work on FbF, there was a clear framework for decision-making and the systematic monitoring of forecasts allowed the preparations to focus on those districts that were later affected by rains, using resources efficiently.All these actions as well as the structures for coordination demonstrate the importance of forecast-based financing in supporting readiness activities and bringing all affected parties together to take anticipatory action.
Forecast-based Financing: Early Action Protocol in place to protect Peru’s alpaca herders
The Red Cross and Red Crescent’s first ever Early Action Protocol funded by IFRC’s Forecast-based Action by the DREF – which will use forecast-based financing to support herder families in the high Andes region of Peru – is now in place and ready for activation.The protocol is designed to help herder families to protect their lives and livelihoods during periods of extreme cold weather. The early action will be activated based on a five-day climate forecast, which will give the Peruvian Red Cross a period of four days to act before the start of an extreme cold wave.This EAP was developed by the Peruvian Red Cross with support from the German Red Cross, the German Foreign Office, IFRC and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and is designed to shift humanitarian action from response to anticipation – a shift that could save lives and dramatically reduce costs compared to traditional emergency relief.
Red Cross integration programme helps relocated refugees to settle in their host countries
By Nora Peter, IFRCThree European Red Cross societies have launched a joint initiative that focuses on the social integration of refugees and asylum-seekers. The two-year project “Action of Red Cross on Integration of Relocated and Resettled Persons” runs under the acronym ARCI and is implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the German, Bulgarian and Croatian Red Cross.ARCI aims to provide personalized and accessible information for refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in these countries through EU relocation and resettlement programmes but brings benefits for the integration of larger groups of asylum-seekers and refugees in these countries. The project allows refugees and asylum-seekers to receive information in their native language from the moment they arrive in a host country. It also enables them to participate in skills and language training, and to receive some support in finding a job or a school for themselves or their family members.[caption id="attachment_50887" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Refugees in a transit camp of the Harburg German Red Cross branch: language course.[/caption]To better understand the needs of the people arriving in a new country, a series of interviews have been conducted with refugees and asylum-seekers themselves and the National Societies are regularly coordinating their support with key authorities and organizations active in the field of integration. The programme also aims to foster acceptance in the host communities and sensitize local authorities through a series of trainings and sessions."Our experience has shown that integration is most successful when both host and refugee community are working together. Local Red Cross volunteers who engage in activities like drawing or yoga with refugees on a daily basis can build the initial bridge between the two groups. We couldn’t do all this without their dedication,” says Yasemin Bekyol, EU Relocation Policy Officer at the German Red Cross.Both EU Relocation and Resettlement scheme have allowed the transfer of persons in need of international protection to access long-term solution of integration and protection in EU countries. As of June 2018, over 34,000 people have been relocated within the EU and more than 25,980 resettled since 2015. Although the EU Relocation scheme has officially ended, Germany, Croatia, and Bulgaria have received altogether 10,979 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy who have needed integration support from the moment they have arrived at their countries. Through the linkages of pre-departure and post-arrival needs assessment, the project is also looking at identifying good practices that can benefit further humanitarian admission programmes.The ARCI project is funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. The content of this article represents the views of the author only and is his or her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made on the information it contains.