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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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19/02/2021 | Press release

Kazakhstan: IFRC and Red Crescent launch bot to counter COVID misinformation

Budapest/Almaty, 19 February 2021 – A social media chatbot has been launched in an innovative bid to share accurate, trusted information to counter vaccine hesitancy. The chatbot was developed by the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). It followed research undertaken late last year by the IFRC and the Red Crescent that found high numbers of people saying they would refuse the coronavirus vaccine for themselves or their children. The study also found people’s most trusted sources of information about coronavirus infection were social media and television, with these channels far ahead of more formal sources, including medical personnel. Yerkebek Argymbayev, President of the Red Crescent Society of Kazakhstan, said: "Creating a chatbot is an opportunity to keep up with the times and simplify many processes. With this bot people will be able to learn what they are interested in; from the myths associated with the coronavirus and vaccines, to the opportunity to enroll in first aid courses. “We have also provided food and vouchers to more than 14,000 people since the beginning of the pandemic so the bot will relieve some of the burden on employees and allow them to perform their tasks more effectively,” Dr Argymbayev said. The chatbot is a computer program that interacts with people through social media. When people ask it a simple question or a comment the chatbot automatically provides an answer, directs people to the service they want, or passes on the comment to the best person. This hugely increases the ability of the National Society to provide people with direct access to accurate, reliable information, while freeing up staff and volunteers who would otherwise be responding. Bayarmaa Luntan, Head of the IFRC’s Central Asia office, said the IFRC is supporting the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan in investing in online and social media communication to ensure people can access credible and reliable information about the disease and vaccines. “People are telling us that social media networks and messaging apps - and the platform Telegram in particular - are their main sources of information. “While there was high recognition among people of the need to take preventative measures (90%) the research also pointed to knowledge gaps; for example, only one in three people reported respiratory droplets or contact with an infected person as a way for COVID-19 to be spread.” Further research supported by IFRC is ongoing in Kazakhstan and nearby Tajikistan, listening to people’s fears, doubts, hopes and needs, and using this knowledge to support people through this crisis. IFRC is also supporting Georgia Red Cross Society to develop a chat bot to respond to questions, feedback, misinformation and rumours on COVID-19. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Red Crescent of Kazakhstan has provided food and vouchers to vulnerable people across the country including older people living alone, people with disabilities, single parents and large low-income families.

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04/05/2018 | Press release

European humanitarian summit closes with commitments on migration, increasing diversity among volunteers

Almaty, Kazakhstan, 4 May 2018 – Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders have reaffirmed their support for all migrants regardless of status and have flagged improved trans-national cooperation to ensure more consistent care and protection for people on the move.This announcement came at the end of the 10th European Regional Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which was held for the first time in Almaty, Kazakhstan.“Migrants are vulnerable whatever the reason they embark on their journey towards a better life, and it is our duty to support them,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “What we have seen here in Almaty is a renewed commitment from all 53 European National Societies to stand with migrants, to stand against intolerance, and to stand for improved cooperation and increased impact.”The conference adopted the “Almaty Commitments” which set out Red Cross and Red Crescent priorities for the coming four years. In addition to migration, the declaration carries clear pledges on improving engagement with volunteers and young people, and on strengthening cooperation and coordination.Dr Kerem Kinik, IFRC Vice President for Europe, said: “Our commitments will see us expand our support to local communities, ensuring we work in an affective and inclusive way - that is key to us making sure we are effective and relevant.“There is suffering here, in Europe, and much of it is unmet. We need to expand our volunteer base, drawing from more diverse groups, including from marginalized communities. And we need to invest more in improving their skills, so they can reach people in need,” said Dr Kinik.

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26/03/2018 | Press release

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

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

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03/07/2017 | Press release

IFRC President “inspired” by visit to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

Astana, 3 July 2017 – The work of the Red Crescent in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is building hope and resilience in both countries, Mr Tadateru Konoé, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said today. The IFRC President visited the Central Asian nations to meet with volunteers and staff of the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan and the Kazakh Red Crescent, and to hold high-level discussions with Government leaders on how best to support and promote humanitarian activities in their countries. “What I have seen in both countries has inspired me, and gives me a great deal of hope,” said Mr Konoé. “Red Crescent volunteers and staff are working very hard to support people in need and to promote dignity and resilience in communities across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. “Both countries are home to very diverse communities, with diverse challenges and opportunities. But the sense of social cohesion and respect for diversity shone through very clearly, as did the people’s admiration for the Red Crescent.” In Uzbekistan, Mr Konoé was welcomed to Tashkent and Samarkand by the President of the Red Crescent, Prof. Khamid Yakubovich Karimov, and was given briefings on the organization’s work and its successful membership structure, which has encouraged more than a million people to become supporters and volunteers. This was the first visit by a serving IFRC president since the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan was founded in 1925. In a series of high-level meetings, Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mrs Tanzila Narbayeva, and other ministers spoke of their understanding of and support for the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan’s work as an independent humanitarian auxiliary to the Government, and agreed that this unique role should be strengthened to help build more resilient communities across the country. During his visit to Kazakhstan, Mr Konoé was welcomed by the Kazakh Red Crescent’s president, Dr. Yerkebek Kambarovich Argymbayev, and met volunteers and staff at the Astana branch. He learned of the Red Crescent’s work in health, blood donation, disaster response and prevention, and social support services, and met several labour migrants who are being supported by the Kazakh Red Crescent and partner organisation Zhariya. “I was particularly encouraged to meet labour migrants who were so empowered by the help they received that they are now serving as Red Crescent volunteers themselves,” said Mr Konoé. “One young volunteer told me that she believes everyone wants to do something good in the world. The Red Cross and Red Crescent give this opportunity to everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, and I can see the positive results in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.” Mr Konoé and Dr Argymbayev met with Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister, Mr Kayrat Abdrakhmanov, on 3 July. The IFRC President thanked the Minister for his Government’s support to the Kazakh Red Crescent, and asked him to consider exploring an enhanced partnership that would include the adoption of a Red Crescent Law in Kazakhstan, and further backing for the Kazakh Red Crescent’s plan to host the 10th European Regional Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Almaty in May 2018.

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