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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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06/12/2021 | Press release

IFRC President Francesco Rocca meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Moscow/Geneva, 6 December 2021 – The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Francesco Rocca, met in the late afternoon of the 5th of December with the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. During the meeting, President Rocca discussed humanitarian priorities and challenges, such as; the COVID-19 pandemic, the equitable distribution of vaccines, the migration crisis at the border between Belarus and Poland, how to strengthen support to the Russian Red Cross, and the critical role of local actors to respond to emergencies. IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “We are honoured to have had the opportunity to meet President Putin: it is critical to engage world leaders in humanitarian discussions, particularly at this moment when the pandemic is affecting every country in the world. We know that the Russian Federation is a key player that is able to influence the global agenda: this is why it was so important to have this meeting. “I was very pleased for the productive discussion on common humanitarian priorities and challenges. I want to thank President Putin for his commitment to achieve COVID-19 vaccine equity, to support the work of the Red Cross with migrants and to support the Russian Red Cross." Local actors, like the Russian Red Cross, know the culture, speak the language and hold the trust of their communities. During COVID-19, with travel bans and restrictions, trained local actors, such as our Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, proved to be critical in saving more lives and reaching more vulnerable people. The IFRC is working together with the Russian Red Cross to scale up their humanitarian reach and impact.” Russian Red Cross President Pavel Savchuk said: “The Russian Red Cross is strengthening its work at country and regional level with a specific focus on healthcare and social activities. The first critical step to build a stronger national society is the “Red Cross Law”, which will soon be finalized and submitted to the State Duma. We are grateful for the engagement of President Putin in supporting this process. This law will clearly define our auxiliary role in providing humanitarian assistance and support to the most vulnerable people, including in emergency situations. We appreciate the IFRC’s commitment to support our plans to position our National Society both at the national and international levels.” The IFRC has been present in the Russian Federation since 1993. It provides technical and advisory support to the Russian Red Cross in programming areas including disaster response, health, social inclusion and migration, as well as strengthening its legal and statutory base. Among other activities, the IFRC has allocated 1.4 million Swiss Francs to help the Russian Red Cross in supporting people affected by the pandemic. President Rocca met on Friday the Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Ms. Tatyiana Golikova and the Minister of Health Mr. Mikhail Murashko. Today, he will also meet the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Sergey Vershinin and the Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters Mr. Aleksandr Chupriyan. President Rocca also attended the “We Are Together” international forum, an important opportunity to meet with volunteers and speak about their priorities. For more information and to set up interviews: In Moscow:  Ayuna Batoeva, +7 916 667 6977, [email protected] Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367, [email protected] In Geneva: Marie Claudet +33 7 86 89 50 89, [email protected]

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06/08/2021 | Press release

IFRC: Delta variant a huge threat in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia

Budapest/Geneva, 6 August 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for more assistance and for vaccinations to be stepped up in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia, where rising COVID-19 cases and deaths triggered by the Delta variant are putting health systems under severe strain. Europe now has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the world and has just passed 60 million coronavirus infections. There were sharp increases throughout July – and more than one million cases reported in the last seven days alone[i]. As the majority of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia is still unvaccinated, medical services in some countries are becoming overwhelmed. Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, said: “Time is of the essence. With the highly contagious Delta variant sweeping across the region, millions of people in fragile or unstable settings are at heightened risk. “With support from the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are working tirelessly to help those in need, but additional support is needed to save lives and address long term socio economic and health effects. The new wave of the pandemic is having a knock-on effect and will significantly impact the wellbeing of the most vulnerable.” In Georgia, new infections have skyrocketed by 90 per cent in the last fortnight. Authorities had to expand the capacity of pediatric wards recently, as more children were getting sick, and the number of hotels used as clinics for people with mild symptoms is up. In Russia, daily infections have almost tripled since the beginning of June, with 23,000 on average in the past week. In Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan hospitalisations are on the rise. The situation is also deteriorating in Ukraine, as well as in Turkey, Montenegro and Baltic countries. Younger generations, who often come last in vaccination campaigns, are being increasingly affected by COVID-19 in the region. This is adding pressure on health systems, as many need to be hospitalised, and can negatively impact other people around them too. Ebbesen highlighted that vaccination is the key to curb the spread of COVID-19, together with maintaining crucial preventive measures such as mask wearing, hand washing, physical distancing and meeting outdoors or in well ventilated spaces. However, there is a widening gap across Europe: in the richest countries, 60 per cent of people had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of 27 July, as opposed to less than 10 per cent in the lowest income countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia. “Vaccination, not vaccines, saves lives. Donors, governments and civil society, we must all do our part so that vaccines get into the arms of those who need them most. “But this depends largely on the availability of doses and people’s willingness to get immunised. It is essential to collectively step up our assistance so that everyone has access to vaccination and nobody hesitates whether to get a jab or not,” stressed Ebbesen. Worryingly, as holiday travel and easing of lockdowns further the risk of COVID-19 spreading, vital operational funds to support people in need are running out. “We are concerned about not being able to meet the growing needs, particularly as the socio-economic crisis deepens. Not even 60 per cent of IFRC’s COVID-19 Emergency Appeal is covered, which limits our capacity to provide basic humanitarian aid,” warned Ebbesen. [i] https://covid19.who.int/table For more information, please contact: In Budapest: -Ainhoa Larrea, +36 705 070 131, [email protected] - Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected] In Geneva: - Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]

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02/08/2021 | Press release

Hundreds of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers responding to wildfires across Europe

Ankara/Budapest/Geneva, 2 August 2021 – Volunteers from Greece, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Turkey are responding to several wildfires raging across Europe. Scorching temperatures, high winds and tinder dry conditions have forced rescues by sea and land, with thousands of people fleeing for their lives with just the clothes on their backs. In southern Turkey eight people have died and scores are injured. Hundreds of animals have been killed and countless homes lost in the worst hit areas of Antalya and Bodrum. More than 2,000 Turkish Red Crescent staff and volunteers are on the ground. Shafiquzzaman Rabbani, Acting Head of Turkey delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “We are very concerned at this week’s weather forecast, with temperatures tipped to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Antalya today. Teams of Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and staff are doing everything they can to assist those affected.” Turkish Red Crescent is providing food through its mobile kitchens, distributing water and hygiene kits, and providing shelter and psychosocial support to firefighters and affected communities. In Greece, Hellenic Red Cross rescuers and lifeguards have been evacuating trapped people by boat from the settlements of Kamares, Longos and Platiri. Earlier in the week they were helping the fire brigade quell a fire in Patras. Extreme temperatures forecast for this week have teams on high alert. Italian Red Cross has been assisting with evacuations in Sardinia and distributing water and food. They have delivered animal feed to farmers as fires continued over the weekend. More than 800 flare-ups were recorded this weekend, mainly in the south, and firefighters continue to flight blazes in Sicily. Spanish Red Cross volunteers have also been busy this weekend assisting at a fire at San Juan reservoir, 70km from Madrid, and 25 Russian Red Cross volunteers are still at the scene of a fire in Karelia, distributing food, water, bedding, hygiene kits and personal protective equipment to people affected. IFRC Europe’s acting head of Disaster, Climate and Crises Antoine Belair said the increasing number of wildfires year on year across the Mediterranean is linked to climate change causing more extreme weather conditions, including lower rainfall and higher temperatures. “Extreme weather conditions exacerbate risks of these events. Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies remain on high alert, providing support to affected populations, in close coordination with national authorities and firefighter teams,” he said. Footnote: Advice on how to prepare for a forest fire can be viewed here. For more information, please contact: In Ankara: Elif Isik, +90 539 857 5197, [email protected] In Budapest: Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected] In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]

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23/03/2021 | Press release

World Tuberculosis Day: IFRC calls for increased TB detection and treatment amid pandemic

Budapest/Geneva, 23 March 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging decision-makers to ensure tuberculosis (TB) patients receive life-saving treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, after new research showing the pandemic has set back TB detection by 12 years. Research by the Stop TB Partnership shows that during the pandemic, the number of people detected, diagnosed with and treated for TB in the world dropped by approximately one million, falling back to 2008 levels.[1] In Europe and Central Asia, there was a substantial decrease (35.5 per cent) in TB case notification during the first 6 months of 2020, and a corresponding decline in treatment – a worrying decline that could lead to 5,000 additional TB deaths, according to a WHO survey of 44 European countries. IFRC Regional Health and Care Coordinator for Europe, Dr Davron Mukhamadiev, said the WHO research was alarming, with half of European countries reallocating TB resources to COVID-19 and 60 per cent of countries having to reduce the number of TB facilities. “Every year, 1.5 million people worldwide die of TB – almost 4,000 people a day.[2] People with TB are three times more likely to die of COVID-19. We should be increasing TB services, not reducing them. “There has never been a more critical time to ensure continuity of essential services for people affected by TB. If people are unable to receive uninterrupted treatment, even more lives will be lost,” Dr Mukhamadiev said. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have continued supporting patients with TB throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in Kyrgyzstan, the Red Crescent uses its network of nurses to deliver drugs to patients, ensure compliance with the treatment, and provide psychosocial support. In Ukraine, the Red Cross visits long-term child TB patients in hospital, and in Russia the Red Cross visits detention centres, educating detainees, including migrants, about TB prevention. Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent uses an innovative approach of video-observed therapy for TB, allowing TB patients to take their medications remotely. And in Tajikistan, 100 Red Crescent volunteers provide food and psychosocial support to TB patients. [1] Stop TB Partnership [2] World Health Organisation

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24/12/2020 | Press release

EU, IFRC and Russian Red Cross improve living conditions of 2,800 displaced people from Ukraine

Brussels/Budapest/Moscow, 24 December 2020 – The European Union, together with International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Russian Red Cross, is implementing a humanitarian project providing support and protection in four regions of Russia for conflict-affected people displaced from eastern Ukraine. This project, started in October 2020, builds on the humanitarian response to the most acute needs of people displaced from eastern Ukraine that was already set up in October 2019. The project is funded through EU Humanitarian Aid and continues the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection services to the most vulnerable in the Russian regions of Belgorod, Lipetsk, Volgograd and Voronezh hosting the largest number of displaced people. It is focusing specifically on mitigating the health and socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The activities focus on supporting at least 2,800 displaced people whose legal status in Russia limits their access to basic health services, social benefits and legal employment opportunities. “The European Union responds to the needs of people who have fled the conflict areas and, in line with humanitarian principles, delivers emergency assistance. The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the situation of those who were already struggling, and we will continue to lend a helping hand to the most vulnerable. This is European solidarity in action,” said EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation Markus Ederer. “The IFRC is pleased to be part of this project in line with our focus on supporting the needs and improving the lives of the most vulnerable people, wherever they are,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC Regional Director, Europe. “We believe that this project is very important, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Migrants, refugees and displaced people have always been and remain an important category of people that the Russian Red Cross helps. We are grateful to the European Union and the IFRC for extending this project to the territory of the Russian Federation and to the Russian Red Cross staff for the tremendous work that has been done to help displaced persons," said Russian Red Cross Chairwoman Raisa Lukutsova. During the one-year project, conflict-affected displaced people from eastern Ukraine receive legal and social counselling, access to basic health services through provision of health insurance certificates, as well as psychosocial support and vouchers allowing to purchase basic food and household items. Particular attention is given topeople living with HIV, who receive comprehensive support, including access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy. Background Since the beginning of the conflict, the European Union has provided humanitarian assistance to the conflict-affected people in eastern Ukraine, both in the government and non-government-controlled territories. Over 1.1 million people from Ukraine have also fled to the Russian Federation. The regions of Belgorod, Lipetsk, Voronezh and Volgograd are hosting the largest numbers of displaced people. Since May 2017, the IFRC and the Russian Red Cross Society have been implementing projects that provide humanitarian assistance to 10,000 most vulnerable conflict-affected displaced people from eastern Ukraine in the Russian Federation. Funding has been granted by the EU’s Directorate-General of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). EU humanitarian assistance has also been provided to persons displaced from Ukraine to Belarus.

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18/12/2020 | Article

Displaced people from Eastern Ukraine’s new life in Russia

By Ayuna Batoeva, IFRC The stories of three families and howthey’ve created new lives after fleeing Ukraine for Russia with support from an EU-funded programme. Tatiana is a mother of three who was forced to leave her hometown of Mariupol in Ukraine due to hostilities in 2015. “When the conflict began, we no longer had the strength to endure these horrors, we were afraid for the safety of our family and we decided to leave,” she says. Arriving in Yelets, Russia, Tatiana turned to the Russian Red Cross for support: all family members were given several vouchers to buy groceries and other necessities, as well as free healthcare policies. “We have passed the circle of hell. We had nothing to sleep on: there were no pillows and bed linen, thanks to the Red Cross we acquired these necessary things. And thanks to healthcare policies, we were able to get free medical care, which we could not afford." [caption id="attachment_71411" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Elena with her 4 children, Lipetsk, Russia. Photo: Arthur Bondar for IFRC, 2020[/caption] Fellow Ukrainian Elena fled Horlivka, Donetsk region, in 2014. Since then, the family faced many difficulties on their way: they couldn’t find legal work due to lack of citizenship and couldn’t afford decent housing. “There was a time when we had to live with 10 people in one room. Work was also difficult to find due to a lack of citizenship. And because of the pandemic, there are even fewer opportunities to work,” shares Elena. The Red Cross supported Elena’s family by issuing food vouchers and health insurance, as well as providing psychosocial support. “The help was very significant. It allowed us to save money and buy furniture, take care of the paperwork – otherwise we would not be able to afford it,” she shares. [caption id="attachment_71403" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Christina with her son Nikita at the Red Cross office in Volgograd, Russia. Photo:Arthur Bondar for IFRC, 2020[/caption] Christina together with her husband and a small son had to leave her hometown of Luhansk in 2014 and settled in Volgograd. In an attempt to overcome stress and find the strength to move on, Christina contacted the Russian Red Cross for psychological support. “Red Cross helped me a lot. I had a chance to speak about my worries and issues. And my son, a child with special needs, receives psychosocial support as well: he can always come here, draw, and talk to the Red Cross staff.” Christina's family also received vouchers to buy food, legal assistance and free health insurance for Nikita through the programme. “When I come here, I feel like it’s home. People who work for the Red Cross are very kind and helpful. I am very glad that they are here for us and help so many people!” More about the EU-funded programme assisting displaced people from Eastern Ukraine Since 2014, over 1.1 million people from Ukraine have moved to Russia. The regions of Belgorod, Lipetsk, Voronezh and Volgograd are among those hosting the largest numbers of displaced people. Since May 2017, the IFRC and the Russian Red Cross Society have provided humanitarian assistance to more than 10,000 displaced people from Ukraine. The project focuses on helping displaced people who have not yet received asylum status or whose status is non-regulated in Russia, which limits their access to basic health services and social benefits. Funding has been provided by the EU’s Directorate-General of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) totalling 300,000 Euro between October 2020 and December 2021. Disclaimer: This document covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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