Polish Red Cross runs Poland’s largest ever international rescue exercise to prepare for disasters
“One minute is a lot of time.In a rescue, one minute can be decisive,” says Agata Grajek from the Polish Red Cross Medical Rescue Group based in Wrocław.
She’s one of 300 rescuers from seven Red Cross Societies in Europe who gathered last month in Malczyce, a small village in south-western Poland, to take part in the largest Red Cross rescue exercise ever held in the country.
The exercise took place in an abandoned factory to simulate an urban disaster requiring an urgent and complex search and rescue response.
Running for 30 hours non-stop, in both day and nighttime conditions, the gruelling exercise tested Red Cross volunteers and rescue dogs to their limits. Real people, rather than mannequins, posed as citizens injured in a collapsed building to make rescue efforts as realistic as possible.
“We mainly practised the skills of searching the area, coordinating search and rescue operations, and evacuating victims from upper floors,” said Marcin Kowalski, head of the Polish Red Cross rescue team.
The exercise was the 7th national gathering of the 19 specialized Polish Red Cross rescue groups based across the country. For the first time, they also welcomed fellow rescue teams from Lithuania, Germany, Croatia, Hungary, Spain and Finland to practise working effectively together during a response.
“If a humanitarian, construction or natural disaster occurs somewhere, we are always ready to help,” says Pasi Raatikainen, a Finnish Red Cross rescuer who took part in the exercise. Like almost all Red Cross rescuers, Pasi is a volunteer. He leads a four-person rescue team in Helsinki and takes part in exercises – all in his spare time.
“In Finland, there aren’t many training sessions dedicated to urban rescues with the use of rope techniques, so the exercise scenarios in Poland were very instructive,” he says.
It wasn’t just search and rescue teams who got put to the test, though. 60 recent volunteer recruits from the Polish Red Cross’ Humanitarian Aid Groups initiative also took part in the exercise to practise setting up shelters, distributing aid and providing psychosocial support to people affected.
“It warms my heart to see hundreds of people so committed to the idea of the Red Cross.” said Polish Red Cross Director-General, Katarzyna Mikołajczyk.
Based on the experience and learnings from the exercise, the seven Red Cross Societies who took part have now developed a cooperation framework so that they can work together more effectively on search and rescue in future whenever disasters strike across Europe.
No rescuer or volunteer ever hopes for disaster, or hopes they’ll need to put their training into action.
But in a world of increasing and increasingly complex disasters, it’s more important than ever that we take time to practise and prepare – so we can be there for people, whatever the disaster, and as soon as they need us.
Find out more about how the IFRC prepares for disasters on our disaster preparedness page.
Polish Red Cross Infoline offers care and support to people fleeing Ukraine
“Yesterday I was told I’m an angel. That’s why it’s worth doing this job.”
Alla Karapeichyk is a psychologist from Ukraine working at the Information Line of the Polish Red Cross, providing mental health and psychosocial support to people who call in.
Most of her callers are people from Ukraine who have not yet been able to adapt to their new circumstances. Many of them expected to come to Poland just for a couple of weeks or months, but now they’ve been away from home for over a year. They feel confused about their next steps in life and are looking for some guidance.
“By the time someone calls the Infoline, they already have a kind of solution in their mind for the problem. A well-timed, smart question from a mental health professional can help that solution take shape,” Alla explains.
Christina from Kyiv is also a member of the team of seven operators at the Polish Red Cross Infoline. With her colleagues, she responds to an average of 300 calls per week, providing referrals to medical and public administration services.
“Sometimes people who call are so stressed that they cannot stop crying. We’ve been trained to talk to them in a way that helps reduce their stress. When they receive the information they need, they can finally relax,” says Christina.
“I’m also far from home, so I feel the same way as the people who are calling us. I can absolutely understand their problems, and I’m glad to be able to help.”
Both Alla and Christina have received training in Psychological First Aid thanks to the EU4Health project supported by the European Union, so that they can better respond to the psychological needs of people impacted by the armed conflict.
“Just as many other things in life, the situation in Ukraine is beyond our control. What we can change is our behaviour – we can influence our environment and have an impact on the people around us,” concludes Alla.
If you left Ukraine because of the current conflict and need support, you can contact the Polish Red Cross Infoline on +48 800 088 136 (from within Poland) or +48 221 520 620 (from abroad). The Infoline is open Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 17:00 CET.
About the EU4Health programme: National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 European Union (EU) / European Economic Area (EAA) countries joined forces to offer mental health and psychosocial support services to hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine. Funded by the European Union and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the National Societies.
This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the IFRC and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
Healing the invisible scars of the Ukraine conflict: IFRC and European Union launch mental health project
According to the WHO, one in five people are affected by mental health disorders in post-conflict settings. If left without treatment and adequate support, people from Ukraine face long-lasting effects that could harm themselves, their families and communities.
“Wounds of war are deep, sometimes too deep to manage alone,” says Nataliia Korniienko, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
As a Ukrainian herself who had to leave the country when the escalation began, she understands firsthand the stress faced by those fleeing conflict. “People are craving for someone to take the time to sit alongside them in their pain, but this often lacking for many fleeing Ukraine right now.”
In a regional initiative to meet this massive need, National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 EU/EAA countries have joined forces to offer mental health and psychosocial support services to hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine. Funded by the European Union, and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the National Societies.
Support is offered in Ukrainian and other languages through various platforms, including helplines, mobile outreach and in-person group activities. Materials on psychosocial support in several languages are also going to be distributed among mental health professionals and the public.
Since the first days of the conflict, Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been assisting people at border crossing points, train stations and temporary shelters – listening and demonstrating empathy, sharing life-saving information, and taking care of vulnerable people.
Aneta Trgachevska, acting Head of Health and Care at IFRC Europe, said: “We try to reach everyone in need in a convenient, personalized way. Assistance will not be limited to just a couple of calls or meetings—a person will receive support as long as we are needed. This kind of early response can alleviate symptoms and prevent people from developing serious levels of distress or even mental health conditions.”
The content of this article is the sole responsibility of IFRC and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
| Press release
Ukraine: Six months in, IFRC warns of ripple effects and mounting humanitarian needs
Geneva/Budapest/Kyiv, 23 August 2022 – Six months into the escalation of conflict in Ukraine, humanitarian needs in and outside the country continue to grow. With the entire humanitarian system stretched, the conflict could have lasting impacts on the capacity of organizations and their donors to respond in Ukraine and to emergencies elsewhere.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Ukrainian Red Cross and 46 other Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies continue to scale up one of their largest responses in history to meet the humanitarian needs.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca says:
“People are at a critical breaking point. The human cost continues to mount, and the suffering has been unimaginable for millions. The devastating knock-on effects are only growing as the conflict drags on with rising food and fuel prices and worsening food crises. IFRC is continuing to scale up with the humanitarian need, but we cannot do it alone.”
In Ukraine and neighbouring countries, inflation, and shortages of essential products, such as fuel and food, impact the ability of people to afford basic supplies. The imminent arrival of colder weather in the weeks to come will bring additional humanitarian needs. While we have seen an incredible outpouring of generosity, these economic strains can affect how much host communities are able to assist people who have fled from conflict. On top of this, people who have fled are stuck between starting over or going back to uncertainty and potentially danger.
The conflict continues to have far-reaching consequences. The cost of food has gone up around the world. Ukraine is one of the world's biggest grain exporters. The country’s grain exports are down 46 per cent so far this year. This massive drop is having a major impact on the Greater Horn of Africa where more than 80 million are experiencing extreme hunger, the worst food crisis in the last 70 years.
As millions of people have been displaced, more than 100,000 local Red Cross volunteers and staff have rapidly mobilized in Ukraine, in bordering countries – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Russia and Belarus – and in 17 additional countries in the region.
Ukrainian Red Cross Director, General Maksym Dotsenko, says:
“People have had to leave everything behind and escape with their lives, many are living and planning day-by-day. With winter around the corner, we know that this will only become increasingly difficult for people who need the basics to survive – a warm place to live, food, goods, and services.”
“Our staff and volunteers continue to work around the clock to support people, even when many worry about their own families and their safety. Yet they continue to put on the Red Cross vest to deliver critical aid to those who need it. We are focused on being adaptable, flexible, and responsive to whatever happens next.”
Much about the future of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine remains unknown. Even if the conflict were to end tomorrow, it will take years to repair the damage to cities and homes and the impact on families. This outlook requires humanitarian organizations, governments, and donors to commit for the long term. New sources of funding and resources will have to be found outside of humanitarian budgets.
Guided by impartiality, the IFRC, along with other members of National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, will continue scaling up, providing essential humanitarian aid; cash and voucher assistance; healthcare, including mental health support, first aid and medical supplies and care; and water and sanitation.
Note to editors:
We have experts available to provide the latest information from different countries and audio-visuals for use by the media.
For more information and to arrange an interview please contact:
In Budapest: Guy Lepage, +1 (365) 885-3155 (WhatsApp) | +36 204597933 | [email protected]
In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, +1 202-603-6803 |[email protected]
IFRC scales up cash assistance to people impacted by conflict in Ukraine
Three months into the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has distributed financial assistance totalling more than 4.3 million Swiss francs to thousands of people on the move.
IFRC Head of Emergency Operations for the Ukraine response, Anne Katherine Moore, said:
“The longer the conflict continues, the greater the needs become. The cost of basic necessities, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, is rising. Increases in the cost of fuel and apartment rentals are also being reported. Millions of people have lost their jobs and their savings are dwindling. Through a new mobile app, we have been able to ramp up our support to help people facing these financial challenges.”
The new technology makes it possible for the IFRC and responding National Societies to reach people at scale and to deliver cash assistance digitally. Successfully introduced in Romania, the mobile app allows refugees to self-register for assistance online, negating the need and cost involved of having to travel to a central location.
The app will soon be expanded to Poland and Slovakia, where cash assistance is already being provided through more traditional methods such as in-person registration, as well as Ukraine and other neighbouring countries.
“This is the fastest we have ever delivered cash at this scale. It has the potential to be a game-changer for our work not just in this response, but also in future operations,” Moore continued.
Cash assistance is a dignified and efficient way to support people impacted by the conflict, allowing them to purchase items specific to their individual needs, while also supporting local economies. It is one part of our integrated and wide-ranging Red Cross and Red Crescent response to the conflict that also includes the provision of health care, first aid, psychosocial support and the distribution of basic household necessities.
Speaking about next steps, Moore said: “There is no short-term solution to the needs of the more than 14 million people who have been forced to flee their homes. We know that even if the conflict was to end tomorrow, rebuilding and recovery will take years. People have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and access to timely healthcare. The IFRC, in support of local National Red Cross Societies in the region, will be there helping people now, and in the months and years to come.”
Watch: our response 3 months on
During the past three months:
Together, we have reached more than 2.1million people with life-saving aid within Ukraine and in surrounding countries. This is 1 in 10 people who had to flee their homes because of the conflict.
Along the travel routes within and outside Ukraine, we've set up 142 Humanitarian Service Points in 15 countries to provide those fleeing with a safe environment. There, they receive essential services like food, hygiene items, blankets, clothing water, first aid, psychosocial support, information, and financial assistance.
In total, we distributed 2.3 million kilograms of aid.
71,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are responding to the crisis.
Kuwaiti Red Crescent and Egyptian Red Crescent support people fleeing Ukraine
Since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, Kuwait Red Crescent Society and Egyptian Red Crescent Society teams have rushed to provide humanitarian relief to the neighbouring countries of Ukraine. The Kuwaiti Red Crescent has provided food, medical aid, and necessary supplies to fleeing people affected by the conflict. While the Egyptian Red Crescent has assisted and evacuated Egyptians from Poland and Romania, and provided humanitarian support to others affected alike, including Arabic-speaking people.
Dr. Hilal Al Sayer, President of the Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) said after meeting his Polish counterpart, Jery Bisek: “Kuwaiti aid includes medicines, medical supplies, food, milk for children and other necessities, and it reflects the Kuwaiti leadership and people’s solidarity with affected people living under such difficult circumstances.”
Al-Sayer affirmed his country’s keenness to participate in humanitarian relief in all parts of the world, in line with the Kuwaiti humanitarian obligations. He stressed the need to further explore all ways to enhance cooperation and joint coordination to help alleviate the suffering of refugees from Ukraine, with partner organizations in the humanitarian field and with the Polish Red Cross.
In turn, the President of the Polish Red Cross expressed his appreciation and gratitude after a Kuwaiti military aid plane loaded with relief materials and medical aid, estimated at 33.5 tons, arrived at Warsaw Airport in Poland.
Bisek said: “The Kuwaiti Red Crescent is one of the first National Society responders that stepped in to provide the necessary support and assistance for those fleeing Ukraine”, adding that "the needs are still massive".
In parallel, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society continues to provide aid and support to the Egyptian students and families it helped evacuate safely home after they had fled to Poland and Romania.
Volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure transportation for Egyptians fleeing from Ukraine across the borders of Poland and Romania to the airport. They also provided them with free hotel accommodation and food, travel documents, cash assistance, medical services, and psychological support.
Students and their families expressed deep gratitude to the Egyptian Red Crescent Society for standing by their side in this ordeal, meeting their needs, and ensuring their safe return to their home country.
The Egyptian Red Crescent Society, in collaboration with Polish and Romanian Red Cross Societies, has also established two relief centres at the Ukrainian-Romanian and Ukrainian-Polish borders to provide aid to Egyptians, Arabic speakers and others fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, especially women and children.
The Egyptian Red Crescent Society also published a slogan on its Facebook page “Safety and Relief Without Discrimination’.
Prior to the conflict, 6000 Egyptians lived in Ukraine, 3,000 of whom are students enrolled in the country’s universities.
| 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
Russia-Ukraine: International armed conflict
More than one year on from the escalation of international armed conflict in Ukraine, the devastation continues to affect every aspect of people's lives. Many of the millions who fled are unable to return home, and those who remain face dire conditions, with limited access to water, heat, health care and other essential services. The impacts on people's mental health, whether they are inside or outside of Ukraine, continue to grow. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC continues to support the Ukrainian Red Cross and other National Societies in the region who are standing side-by-side with communities, providing crucial and long-term humanitarian aid to meet a wide range of needs.
| Press release
#PowerToBe campaign launches to help shift perceptions of refugees
Ankara/Berlin, 18 January 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a campaign to tackle negative perceptions of refugees at an increasingly critical time across Europe.
The #PowerToBe campaign follows four passionate Syrians living in Turkey – Hiba, a musician, Eslam, an illustrator, Ibrahim, a swimmer and Mohammed, a coffee lover – who are regaining control of their lives through the help of monthly cash assistance funded by the EU, ultimately giving them more power to be themselves.
The four protagonists each meet digitally with influential people from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports and coffee. The campaign shows how people from all walks of life can connect with one another at eye-level despite differences in language or backgrounds.
In the #PowerToBe campaign, fifteen-year-old drawer Eslam speaks to well-known German illustrator Steffen Kraft, Italian street artist and painter Alice Pasquini and Swedish street artist Johan Karlgren about her passion for illustration. “Drawing a lot helped me to show the world, even if only a little, what happened in Syria,” Eslam said.
Ibrahim, who became paralyzed during the conflict in Syria, connects with Polish professional high diver, Kris Kolanus about the freedom and boundlessness they both feel in the ocean. “Even though many things can hinder me, I am trying to do something. For next year, I’m preparing myself to swim the competition across the Bosporus.”
Mohammed, a father of two, talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee. “When we came to Turkey to an empty house, we had nothing at all. Some Turkish brothers helped us, gave us some furniture.” They tasted his coffee and told him it was “the best they’ve ever had”.
Hiba, who now attends a music school in Istanbul, connected with Portuguese singer-songwriter April Ivy, whom she wrote and sang a song with. “I like to give people hope because whatever struggles we go through, there are actually nice things happening as well,” Hiba says.
Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population with almost four million who are trying to rebuild their lives. About 3.7 million of those are Syrians who fled the conflict that has devastated their country.
Funded by the European Union, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The ESSN is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC in coordination with the Government of Turkey.
The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year where many are facing deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19. Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy.
This year we have seen vulnerable refugee communities slip further into hardships, but we also see their hope and strength. Through this campaign, we wanted to highlight the contributions and resilience they have despite all the challenges. When given the right support, refugees’ potential is endless.
IFRC Secretary General
Hiba, Eslam, Ibrahim and Mohammed were forced to leave everything behind, but have held on to their dreams and continued to pursue them with passion. The ESSN programme offers a critical lifeline to them and 1.5 million other vulnerable refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to see the tangible difference it makes by giving them the opportunity to make choices for their lives.
EU Commissioner for Crisis Management
Click here to download more information about the #PowerToBe campaign, including short backgrounds on each of the people receiving ESSN assistance and the influencers taking part.
You can also visit the #PowerToBe website and learn more about the ESSN on our website here.
To arrange interviews, please contact:
In Berlin: Samantha Hendricks (Social Social), +49 1577 495 8901, [email protected]
In Turkey: Nisa Çetin (Turkish Red Crescent), +90 554 830 31 14, [email protected]
In Turkey: Corrie Butler (IFRC), +90 539 857 51 98, [email protected]
In Turkey: Lisa Hastert (ECHO), +90 533 412 56 63. [email protected]
| Press release
Joint statement by IFRC and ICRC on migration crisis at the borders between Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and other countries
Budapest/Geneva - November 18, 2021 - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are alarmed by the humanitarian tragedy unfolding at the borders between Belarus, Poland and Lithuania. At least 10 people are known to have died, including a 14-year-old boy due to hypothermia.The situation is set to worsen with the most serious winter weather yet to arrive.
IFRC has allocated more than 1 million Swiss Francs to Belarus Red Cross, Polish Red Cross and Lithuanian Red Cross, whose volunteers and staff are assisting thousands of vulnerable people with food, water, blankets and vital medical assistance.ICRC is complementing the response, providing support and additional technical expertise to Red Cross partners, notably to keep migrants in contact with their relatives and other protection-related issues.
Birgitte Ebbesen, IFRC Regional Director for Europe said: “There are extremely vulnerable people at the border, including people with disabilities, pregnant women, and hundreds of children – many of them without a parent or family member. They have been sleeping rough in freezing conditions for many days now. Our volunteers have been able to provide some assistance, but many are still hungry and cold. These are mothers, sisters, sons and daughters, people whose lives matter, and they should be protected and treated with compassion and dignity.”
Martin Schüepp, ICRC Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia said: “To protect people’s lives, health and dignity, as well as ease suffering and prevent further tragedy, all Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners and other humanitarian organisations need immediate, unrestricted access to all migrants, including at borders. The ICRC is providing support and additional technical expertise to our Red Cross partners, on reuniting people with separated family members and other protection-related issues.”
All migrants, irrespective of their legal status, should have effective access to humanitarian assistance and medical assistance, as well as to protection. Whether this is international protection, or a voluntary return to their home countries, migrants’ rights should be respected at all times and authorities should avoid separating family members and putting at risk their lives and physical integrity.
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
In Budapest: Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected]
In Budapest: Georgia Trismpioti, +30 697 180 9031, [email protected]
In Geneva: Florian Seriex, +41 79 574 06 36, [email protected]
In Geneva: Ruth Hetherington, +33 6 33 28 88 23, [email protected]
СОВМЕСТНОЕ ЗАЯВЛЕНИЕ МЕЖДУНАРОДНОЙ ФЕДЕРАЦИИ И МККК О МИГРАЦИОННОМ КРИЗИСЕ НА ГРАНИЦАХ БЕЛАРУСИ С ПОЛЬШЕЙ, ЛИТВОЙ И ДРУГИМИ СТРАНАМИ
Для спасения жизней и облегчения страданий гуманитарным организациям срочно необходим неограниченный и безопасный доступ к пострадавшим
Будапешт/Женева - 18 ноября 2021Международная Федерация обществ Красного Креста и Красного Полумесяца (Международная Федерация) и Международный Комитет Красного Креста (МККК) всерьез обеспокоены гуманитарной трагедией, разворачивающейся на белорусско-польской и белорусско-литовской границах. По подтвержденным данным, от переохлаждения скончались как минимум десять человек, в том числе мальчик 14 лет. С приближением суровой зимы ситуация будет только ухудшаться.
Международная Федерация выделила более 1 миллиона швейцарских франков национальным обществам Красного Креста Беларуси, Польши и Литвы, чьи добровольцы и сотрудники снабжают тысячи беззащитных людей продовольствием, водой и одеялами и оказывают им жизненно необходимую медицинскую помощь. МККК содействует усилиям своих партнеров по краснокрестному движению, предоставляя им практическую помощь и рекомендации, в частности для поддержания контактов между мигрантами и их родственниками и в связи с другими вопросами предоставления защиты.
«Среди скопившихся на границе людей есть те, кто находится в крайне уязвимом положении, в том числе инвалиды, беременные женщины и сотни детей, многие из которых остались без сопровождения родителей или родственников. Уже много дней подряд все они вынуждены ночевать на морозе, прямо под открытым небом. Нашим добровольцам удается оказать им какую-то помощь, но многие по-прежнему страдают от голода и холода. Эти люди — чьи-то матери, сестры, сыновья и дочери. Их жизни имеют значение. Они имеют право на защиту, сострадание и достойное обращение», — заявила Биргитта Эббесен, директор Европейского регионального офиса Международной Федерации.
«Чтобы защитить жизнь, здоровье и человеческое достоинство этих людей, облегчить их страдания и не допустить новых трагедий, всем составным частям Международного движения Красного Креста и Красного Полумесяца и другим гуманитарным организациям срочно необходим неограниченный доступ ко всем мигрантам, в том числе на границах. МККК помогает своим партнерам по Движению и делится с ними опытом в деле воссоединения разлученных родственников и по другим вопросам предоставления защиты», — отметил Мартин Шюпп, глава Регионального управления оперативной деятельности МККК в Европе и Центральной Азии.
Все мигранты, независимо от их правового статуса, должны иметь эффективный доступ к гуманитарной и медицинской помощи и должны пользоваться защитой. Их права — будь то на международную защиту или на добровольное возвращение домой — должны соблюдаться во всякое время, и власти должны воздерживаться от того, чтобы разлучать родственников и подвергать опасности здоровье и физическую неприкосновенность людей.
Получить более подробную информацию или договориться о проведении интервью можно, обратившись к:
Georgia Trismpioti, +30 697 180 9031, [email protected] (Будапешт)
Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected] (Будапешт)
Florian Seriex, +41 79 574 06 36, [email protected] (Женева)
Ruth Hetherington, +33 6 33 28 88 23, [email protected] (Женева)
| Press release
Action needed now to prevent further loss of life on the Belarus border
Budapest, 15 November 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for an urgent de-escalation of the situation at the Belarus-Poland border and for access for humanitarian organisations, to prevent more deaths.
At least 10 migrants are thought to have died as conditions reach below freezing along the 1000km border between Belarus and neighbouring countries Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
“We are concerned about the increasingly serious situation on the Poland-Belarus border, after large groups of migrants arrived there on November 8. We call for access for the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations so that all people in need, at the border and other locations, can receive medical treatment, humanitarian assistance and protection services,” said Andreas von Weissenberg, IFRC Europe’s head of Disasters, Climate and Crises.
“While Belarus Red Cross has thankfully been given some access to provide vital life-saving aid to people enduring hunger and freezing conditions, we need that access to be regular and also get access on the other side of the border. People need to be treated humanely,” von Weissenberg said.
An estimated 2,000 people are living in makeshift camps near the border. Belarus Red Cross has been coordinating aid from partners since November 9, distributing food, water, blankets and warm clothes. 50 staff and volunteers are involved in a continuous response to the situation with migrants, 20 of them are involved sorting and distributing packages, as well as helping authorities set up heating tents for women and children.
Belarus Red Cross has also provided food, clothing and hygiene kits for three children who were hospitalised in Grodno and is assisting migrantswho come to its office in Minsk.
Andreas von Weissenberg said Polish Red Cross has also been responding to this crisis for several weeks.
“They are working with authorities to deliver blankets, sleeping bags and clothes. Local branches are supporting migrants in Podlaskie and Lubelskie provinces, near the border, with food, water and hygiene kits. They are providing first aid and helping people trace family members. But they need unhindered access to migrants at the border in line with our humanitarian mandate and in accordance with our fundamental principles.
“Access to humanitarian assistance and to protection in the territory must go hand in hand. All migrants arriving at the EU’s borders should be able to effectively apply for international protection and receive an individualised assessment of their claim, in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention and applicable EU law,” von Weissenberg explained.
IFRC is in the process of providing Belarus Red Cross with emergency funding. It has already allocated 429,426 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to help Polish Red Cross support up to 4,300 migrants with food, clothes, hygiene items, first aid and family reunification services.
IFRC has also allocated 338,885 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help Lithuanian Red Cross support up to 4,000 migrants with medicine, clothes, hygiene kits, personal protective equipment against COVID-19, family reunification and psychosocial support services.
In total the financial support provided by IFRC to the three Red Cross Societies will be more than 1 million Swiss francs.
Lithuanian Red Cross teams have been supporting migrants close to the border with water, hygiene kits, footwear and clothing, as well as toys for children. In five large reception centres volunteers provide food and other humanitarian aid, offer psychological support and legal assistance and help people reconnect with their loved ones by providing mobile phones and SIM cards.
But more needs to be done.
“Humanitarian organizations must be granted unconditional and safe access to all people in need, irrespective of their legal status. People are crossing the border with just the clothes on their backs. They need food, medicine, hygiene items, clothing, and protective equipment against COVID-19. We must be allowed to deliver critical assistance and we want to see a peaceful, humane and rights-based solution to the situation,” von Weissenberg concluded.
Photos of the Red Cross response can be found here
For more information, please contact:
In Budapest: Georgia Trismpioti, +30 697 180 9031, [email protected]
In Budapest: Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected]
| Press release
COVID-19: IFRC calls for urgent action to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Europe amid increase in violent incidents
Budapest/Geneva, 30 September 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for urgent action to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Europe, where there has been a worrying increase in violent incidents against COVID-19 related health infrastructure and personnel.
The pandemic is far from over in Europe, where an average of 2,000 people die of COVID-19 every day. More than one million people get infected every week, and hospitalisations are going up in half of the EU/EEA countries, including among young people and children, but particularly among unvaccinated adults. Intensive Care Units are getting dangerously filled up in Bulgaria and Romania, for example, which have low immunisation rates.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently projected 236,000 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 by 1 December across Europe,[i] and there are growing concerns about soaring infections and deaths in some parts of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.
In addition, disinformation about vaccines’ side effects and potential risks, coupled with the introduction of ‘vaccine passes’, is sparking anger and violence, which have led to concerning incidents against medical services, media and the general public in countries including Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Poland, Slovenia and France.
Vaccination saves lives, but there is still a deadly gap in the distribution and uptake of vaccines in the region: almost 70 per cent of people in high-income countries have received at least one dose, whereas in the poorest ones barely 20 per cent have been partially vaccinated.
Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, said:
“We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 in Europe.
“Access to COVID-19 vaccination remains a challenge due to the shortage of supply in some countries. In addition, low acceptance and barriers for particularly vulnerable individuals are critical elements as well.
“Increased community engagement is needed to tackle vaccine hesitancy, myths and disinformation. Without addressing people’s concerns and fears, vaccines may not find their way into the arms of those most at risk, even where doses are available,” Ebbesen warned.
With support from the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are working to build trust. Local teams have reached out to more than 300,000 people on the importance of getting vaccinated and have helped immunise 31 million people, actively engaging communities to ensure they have accurate information and can protect themselves.
According to a survey conducted by the Collective Service for Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), of which the IFRC is a part, at least three quarters of people in most countries worldwide would agree to be vaccinated, if it was available and recommended.[ii] The data also suggests that in areas where there were high levels of hesitancy initially, increases in vaccinations overall may have impacted acceptance.
More support is needed to address vaccine hesitancy and speed up immunization campaigns across the region, though. “If we don’t step up collective efforts to strengthen community trust and make vaccines widely available, it will be too late,” stressed Ebbesen.
At the moment, IFRC’s COVID-19 Emergency Appeal[iii] is only 60 per cent funded.
For more information, please contact:
In Budapest: Ainhoa Larrea, +36 705 070 131, [email protected]
In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
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