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09/06/2022 | Press release

Preventing a second crisis: Health needs extend beyond Ukraine’s borders warns IFRC

Budapest, 9 June 2022 – A crisis is emerging in the shadow of conflict across Ukraine: one that extends beyond the country’s borders. Ukraine’s already stressed healthcare system is buckling under the weight of expectation and medical needs as people continue fleeing conflict areas seeking safety. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is working around the clock to address needs far greater than what’s visible to the eye. “We know it’s possible to prevent a secondary crisis, but no one organization or entity can do it alone,” said Xavier Castellanos Mosquera, IFRC Under Secretary General. More than 290 health care facilities and counting across Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed during the conflict according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 1.4 million people are without running water across eastern Ukraine, while UNOCHA reports an additional 4.6 million people in the country at risk for losing access to running water -- a growing risk of water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhea. Lack of electricity makes it impossible for water treatment and sanitation efforts to be effective. Health systems in immediate neighbouring countries, including Romania, Belarus, Hungary and Moldova, were already stretched prior to the conflict due to COVID-19. While each country is providing health support to an increased number of people, this can divert valuable health resources away from the people who are still recovering from impacts of COVID-19. The sheer volume of current and future health needs as the conflict continues requires additional resources. “The lack of medical supplies, health care staff and critical infrastructure grow day by day,” said Nick Prince, IFRC Emergency Health delegate. “The millions who have migrated to the western area of Ukraine and eastern European countries are at an elevated risk of infectious diseases given the overcrowded living conditions, limited access to shelter, nutritional stress and exposure to the elements.” On top of these factors, people on the move are forced to delay treatment for existing chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer and, in the absence of vaccinations to meet safe thresholds – including for COVID-19, there is the very strong likelihood of the re-emergence of vaccine preventable diseases. Ukraine also has some of the highest burden of chronic infectious diseases in Europe, particularly HIV and Tuberculosis – a massive risk not only for displaced people themselves, but also for Ukraine’s health care system once they return. “The Red Cross calls on governments and the international community to provide funds for inclusive access to health services and vaccines, testing and treatment, clean water and mental health and psychological support in the long-term,” said Castellanos Mosquera. In Uzhhorod, Ukraine -- where roughly 100,000 people from conflict-torn areas have fled, doubling the city’s population -- a Red Cross health center will open this month to treat both urgent and primary care needs free of charge to all patients. It’s the first of its kind in the area. In collaboration with local authorities, the clinic aims to serve people in need for years to come. The Ukrainian Red Cross has nearly a dozen mobile health teams in the country with more on the way and is providing mental health and psychosocial support to people who have been forced to flee. In addition, food, baby supplies and hygiene items are available to anyone in need. In Moldova, Red Cross teams are preparing to install more handwashing stations and continue to distribute hygiene kits. Access to clean water– the number one prevention mechanism for disease prevention – remains a priority. Red Cross volunteers across eastern Europe are also integrating with teams distributing emergency cash to people who have fled Ukraine to ensure they have access to critical health resources and information. In Hungary, the Hungarian Red Cross, supported by the Spanish Red Cross has set up health posts at the border crossings to provide first aid, primary health care, mental health support and emergency relief to people arriving by train from Chop, Ukraine. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Budapest: Katie Wilkes, +1 312 952 2270, [email protected] Merlijn Stoffels, +31 65 491 8481, [email protected]

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10/03/2022 | Press release

Ukraine: Millions at risk as health concerns exacerbate vulnerabilities

Budapest/Geneva, 10 March 2022 – As the conflict continues in Ukraine and a cold front descends, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns of the dire health - including the spread of COVID-19 - and mental health consequences for millions of people both inside and outside of the country. The fighting in Ukraine has continued for two weeks and no one has been left unscathed. An estimated 18 million people – a third of the country’s population – will need humanitarian assistance, and more than 2.3 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. As the lives of millions are being upended, there is a real concern of diseases spreading, pre-existing health conditions worsening and mental health concerns increasing. “Many of the people affected were already vulnerable before the conflict and now face an even harsher situation as they are losing their homes and their livelihoods, being forced to seek shelter wherever they can or fleeing their country in search of safety. They urgently need food, water and shelter, but also emergency medical care, protective measures and psychosocial support to avert an even greater humanitarian catastrophe,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC Regional Director for Europe. At the Przemyśl railway station in Poland, a woman was crying and being comforted by a volunteer from the Polish Red Cross. When asked what had happened, she answered that she had spent the whole night and day waiting for the train from Ukraine that would bring her daughter to safety. The train had finally arrived, but her daughter had not. People fleeing conflict often experience highly distressing situations, loss and trauma, which may impact their mental health and ability to cope. Psychosocial support will be needed in the days, weeks, and months to come. In conflict settings, public health measures to prevent diseases from spreading become extremely challenging. People are forced to shelter in crowded spaces with limited sanitary conditions or access to basic health services, which increases the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, such as tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. The spread of COVID-19 is a particular concern as the vaccination rate in Ukraine is among the lowest in Europe with only one-third of the population having received the first dose. Ukraine also has one of the highest rates of multidrug resistant tuberculosis in the world. Adding to what is already a desperate situation, temperatures are dropping below freezing. There is an urgent need for warm clothing and adequate shelter to shield people in temporary locations and those who are queuing at the borders from the elements, the majority of whom are women, children and older people. “Our Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in Ukraine and neighbouring countries are doing their utmost to support anyone in need, in particular those who are most at-risk including unaccompanied minors, single parent households, older people, and people with disabilities. They have the full support of IFRC and our global network, but more funding is desperately needed as millions of lives are at stake. Even if the armed conflict was to end tomorrow, the humanitarian consequences will be felt for years to come,” said Bischoff Ebbesen. Notes to editors In Ukraine, Red Cross teams are providing first aid and first aid training, helping in reception centres and to transport people to safety, and distributing relief items, including warm clothes. Despite the mortal danger they themselves are under, 3,000 new local volunteers have stepped up to support their neighbours. In Hungary, Red Cross teams are operating three health service points at the border. They are also running reception and collection centres where they are welcoming people crossing from Ukraine and distributing relief goods. In Poland, where 60 per cent (more than a million) of people from Ukraine are fleeing, the Polish Red Cross has activated more than 20 rescue teams, including approximately 450 medics, who are providing round-the-clock health care and psychosocial support at five of the eight border points as well as in major cities. In Moldova, volunteers and staff from Moldova Red Cross have provided support to approximately 200,000 people who have crossed over from Ukraine. They are at all border crossing points offering hot tea, warm food, diapers, and personal protective equipment including face masks and sanitizer. Volunteers are also helping at reception centres, assisting with food preparation and playing with children. In Russia, Red Cross teams have delivered 187 tonnes of aid including clothing, hygiene kits, baby products and household items. They are providing psychosocial support, have opened a mental health support hotline and, to date, have provided 756 consultations. More than 160 calls have come in to the restoring family links hotline. In Romania, volunteers and staff from the local Red Cross are at various border crossings distributing food items, water, basic necessities, hygiene products, and thousands of SIM cards to people in need. The Red Cross is helping local authorities in equipping reception centres with tents, bedding, food and hygiene and baby items. Volunteers are also visiting placement centres, playing with children and helping local staff to prepare food and other necessary support. In Slovakia the Red Cross is at all three of the country’s border crossings, where teams are providing services such as warming shelters, referrals to essential services, and first aid. As people are quickly moving on from the border area, the Red Cross is quickly scaling up support along the routes. This support includes psychosocial support and providing child-friendly spaces; social services, particularly referrals for services such as education, healthcare and registration for legal status; providing first aid, health assessments, referrals to clinical care and COVID-19 testing. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: In Budapest: Kathy Mueller, [email protected], +1 226 376 4013 In Budapest: Nora Peter, [email protected], +36 70 953 7709 In Geneva: Caroline Haga, +358 50 598 0500, [email protected] Read more about the IFRC's emergency appeal for Ukraine and impacted countries. Photos and videos: Ukraine - Romania - Hungary - Croatia - Poland - Slovakia - Russia - Moldova - IFRC Newsroom

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25/02/2022 | Emergency

Ukraine and impacted countries crisis

Due to the conflict escalation in Ukraine, millions of people have left their homes and crossed into neighbouring countries. The Ukrainian Red Cross is helping people affected by the conflict as the security situation allows. National Societies in surrounding countries, with support from the IFRC, are assisting people leaving Ukraine with shelter, basic aid items and medical supplies. People from Ukraine will need long-term, ongoing support. Our priority is addressing the humanitarian needs of all people affected by the conflict, inside and outside Ukraine.

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29/06/2021 | Article

A true hero of a COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit in Hungary

By Ainhoa Larrea, IFRC Rebeka Szilágyi was working as a midwife in a hospital in Budapest when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she decided to join the Hungarian Red Cross’ H-HERO Health Emergency Response Unit. Her story illustrates the struggles and rewards of frontline volunteers: “When the first wave of coronavirus reached Hungary and the pressure on hospitals intensified, I worked in a COVID-19 ward for six weeks. So when numbers started to rise again in autumn I volunteered, telling my boss that I would be happy to go back. “One day in November I got a phone call saying that the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was in dire need of help. I expected that this would be a much bigger and serious task than it was in the spring – and I was right. I have been working in the ICU for seven months now, and I don’t regret it at all: I would come again. “The COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit where I volunteer is like an enclosed arena where you have to fight a new enemy day in and day out. You never know what challenges you’re facing that day, because every patient is different even if the illness is common to all of them. “At first, it bothered me that after a few minutes I would be warm under the plastic coverall, double mask, glasses and three gloves, but later I didn't even notice them. Now I get caught up in tasks and sometimes realise that four or five hours have passed without me taking a sip of water, eating a bite or just sitting down. It’s a job that – as we say – can’t be finished, just stopped. “We don’t spare time or energy for our patients, and it’s difficult to accept that sometimes nothing can be done. Our hearts squeeze as sobbing relatives come in to say goodbye to a loved one. That was the case with a patient I had a small conversation with recently, and who was put on ventilation in my shift. I saw that COVID-19 was finally crushing his system. Smiling photos of grandchildren and relatives appeared from his belongings as I prepared the inventory of his personal items. I let out a sigh, and my own family came to mind. And the people I saw the day before in the supermarket, not keeping their distance, the mask pulled down to their chin... And the social media posts where they debated how severe the situation is, how effective vaccines are. “Our team in the hospital is fantastic. We are like a small family. On the toughest days, we keep our spirits up together. I truly look up to my colleagues: from doctors, nurses and other medics to cleaning staff, each and every one of them are true heroes! I am proud to be one of them, to work with them. “The situations I have experienced over the last months have left a deep impression on me. I have learned a lot in terms of humility and perseverance in addition to professional knowledge. The desire to help – the reason why I chose healthcare for a living – has become stronger in me. But, along with my colleagues, I am of course looking forward to the end of this devasting pandemic.” Hungary has registered more than 808,000 confirmed cases and 30,000 deaths linked to COVID-19. With support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Hungarian Red Cross has significantly scaled up both prevention and response activities. These include awareness-raising initiatives; direct support to hospitals with equipment, material resources and volunteers, logistical assistance, help with testing and vaccination, and operating the dispatch centre of the national ambulance service.

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18/07/2019 | Press release

Red Cross assists storm-affected Hungarian villages with 67 million forints

Budapest, 18 July 2019 – Hungarian Red Cross is helping 7,200 people affected by severe storms in late June, with financial and technical assistance from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). IFRC has contributed 230,000 Swiss francs (67.3 million Hungarian forints) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to allow Hungarian Red Cross to assist 2,400 families with food, sanitary kits and construction materials. The storm hit eastern Hungary on 27 June, causing serious damage in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County, particularly in the settlements of Nyírmada, Nyírkarász, Pusztadobos and Rétközberencs. 2,500 rooftops were destroyed by the rain, and 30 families had to be evacuated as their homes became uninhabitable. The storm also ravaged kitchen gardens and crops, jeopardizing the livelihoods of many families. Together with local authorities and civil society groups, the local branch of Hungarian Red Cross immediately deployed 30 staff and volunteers who helped remove debris and cleaned the roads. István Kardos, Director General of the Hungarian Red Cross said: "With our network of volunteers on the ground we are able to help quickly and efficiently in such situations. Although the immediate needs were met, full recovery in the affected communities will require a lot more time and resources. Therefore, we are launching a fundraising campaign to help as many families as possible.” With the IFRC emergency funds, Hungarian Red Cross will distribute one month’s supply of dry food as well as sanitary cleaning kits for 2,400 families. It will also supply construction materials for skilled volunteers to do temporary repairs to damaged roofs. The humanitarian operation started today at Nyírmada, where Hungarian Red Cross volunteers and local government staff started the distribution of aid to the affected families. Elkhan Rahimov, IFRC’s acting Regional Director for Europe said: “As a result of climate change, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently in Europe. This poses a challenge to humanitarian organizations as society’s most vulnerable are often the ones who are most exposed to forces of nature.” Background information: Photos of the damage are available here. Those wishing to contribute to Hungarian Red Cross storm local appeal can do so here. Hungarian Red Cross is a member of the IFRC. One of the key disaster management tools available for members is the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Following a disaster, within 48 hours, emergency funding can be applied for and distributed, enabling Red Cross staff and volunteers on the ground to respond quickly.

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25/06/2019 | Press release

Red Cross urges public to check on neighbours as Europe braces for heatwave

Budapest/Geneva, 25 June 2019 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on people to check on vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends as Western Europe readies itself for possible record high temperatures. According to European meteorological offices, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary and Switzerland can expect temperatures in the mid to high-30s during the week, with temperatures potentially climbing to 40°C in Paris on Thursday (27 June). IFRC’s Europe Region health coordinator Dr Davron Mukhamadiev said: “The coming days will be challenging for a lot of people, but especially older people, young children, and people with underlying illnesses or limited mobility. “Our message this week is simple: look after yourself, your family and your neighbours. A phone call or a knock on the door could save a life.” Across Western Europe, Red Cross staff and volunteers are on high alert. In France, volunteers are patrolling the streets, providing water and hygiene kits and visiting isolated and older people in their homes. “If necessary, the emergency operations centre at our headquarters can be opened to coordinate the response to this emergency,” said French Red Cross spokesperson Alain Rissetto. In Spain, 50 staff in the Red Cross operations centre are currently calling vulnerable and older people to check they are safe and to give advice on how to cope with the heat. And in Belgium volunteers are distributing water and checking on older community members. Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of heat extremes globally, underscoring the urgent need to manage heatwave risks effectively and to prevent avoidable strain being put on already stretched health care services. The risks are particularly high in cities, where the impacts can be most severe. Heatwaves can have a catastrophic human toll. In 2003, for example, an estimated 70,000 people died during a record-breaking heatwave in Europe. Next month, IFRC and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre will launch new guidelines designed to help cities better support their vulnerable residents during heatwaves.

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26/03/2018 | Press release

Red Cross warns of risk to thousands as floods in Europe threaten to worsen

Budapest, 25 March 2018 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is warning tens of thousands of people across the Balkans and Eastern Europe could be at risk from flooding as extreme weather is set to worsen this week. A sudden rise in temperature has seen snow and ice thaw rapidly, swelling rivers and lakes. This combined with heavy rain has caused flooding across swathes of Europe including Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Montenegro and Romania. In Eastern Europe, Belarus was the hardest hit with more than 50,000 people affected and hundreds of homes submerged. Kazakhstan has also seen flooding in the east. Hundreds of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have been helping with evacuations and providing emergency supplies like food and drinking water for thousands of people in flood-hit towns and villages. IFRC Regional Director for Europe, Simon Missiri, said: “Given the forecast for the next few days and weeks, we’re expecting tough times ahead that could put thousands more people in danger. “We have already seen weather patterns change rapidly - from snow and freezing temperatures to heavy rain and rapidly melting ice, within the space of a few days. This looks set to continue. “Thousands of people have already seen homes swamped with water and villages have been completely cut off in some cases.” Water dumped from hydro-electric power plant reservoirs in Albania to protect the integrity of dams is causing levels in lakes and basins to rise - causing concern in the country and neighbouring Montenegro. Red Cross emergency teams are working with emergency services in Montenegro and preparing for major flooding. Croatia has been among the hardest hit by floods so far with heavy rain causing seven landslides in the last two weeks which wiped out homes and left roads blocked. More than 200 Croatian Red Cross volunteers and staff have been responding, with specialist boat teams also sent to villages left marooned.

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