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 the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have joined forces to offer mental health and psychosocial support services to more than 300,000 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 five 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.
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
“In Ukraine, the needs are growing every day,” says Red Cross President
Bucharest, 21 March 2022 - As the world’s largest humanitarian network responds to the unfolding crisis in Europe, its leadership returns from Ukraine with a warning about the coming days and weeks — and reaffirms that the Red Cross will strengthen support inside and outside its borders.
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), connected with some of the 6,000 Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers delivering aid to families experiencing the worst weeks of their lives.
“The devastating reality of Ukraine is that the needs are growing every day. Amidst increased violence and a disrupted supply chain, delivering essential goods in many parts of the country is getting harder — not easier. Responding to a crisis of this magnitude takes teamwork, which is why we’re working hand-in-hand with the Ukrainian Red Cross on the ground to let people know that they’re not alone. Not ever,” states Rocca.
Since the conflict began, the Ukrainian Red Cross has distributed hundreds of tons of essential goods and team members have supported the evacuation of approximately 57,000 people from Energodar, Sumy, Kviy region, Kharkiv and Kherson region. The Ukrainian Red Cross is not only providing first aid, but also teaching it to people who are taking cover in basements and shelters.
No one in Ukraine is left unscathed by the ongoing conflict. An estimated 18 million people — or one-third of the population — will require humanitarian assistance.
“Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers have lost homes, communities, and loved ones. Yet, they keep doing the work of delivering aid and comfort to families in need. I am humbled by their resilience and their commitment to humanitarianism in the midst of conflict.”
Speaking from the Romanian border in Siret, Mr. Rocca stressed the altruistic nature of community members around Europe welcoming the more than 3 million people who have fled Ukraine.
After Poland, Romania has received the second highest number of people crossing its borders in search of safety: more than 500,000 according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Romanian Red Cross teams have been working 24/7 at border crossings since day one, providing items such as food, water, diapers, feminine hygiene products, warm gloves, and other necessities. The Romanian Red Cross is offering SIM cards and mobile charging stations — to help people who have been separated from their loved ones in Ukraine to reconnect. Many who have crossed the border simply ask for a cup of coffee or tea. Seemingly simple aid like this can offer families peace of mind in an otherwise hopeless moment.
“We have provided more than 400 tons of aid to those affected by the conflict, but a hot drink and a warm welcome is what many of those fleeing say they appreciate most,” says Rocca.
In Romania and Ukraine: Tommaso Della Longa, +41 797 084 367, [email protected]
In Romania: Jenelle Eli, +1 202 603 6803, [email protected]
In Budapest: Kathy Mueller, +1 226 376 4013, [email protected]
In Geneva: Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, +41 79 213 24 13, [email protected]
| 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
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.
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.
Romanian Red Cross
| 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.