| Press release
Africa CDC and IFRC ramp up COVID-19 response in Africa
Addis Ababa, 25 August 2021 - The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today launched a new collaboration to strengthen community resilience and response to public health emergencies at community level. The two institutions have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ramp up pandemic response—including testing support to countries; community mobilization; advocacy and scaling up of contact tracing. In addition to COVID-19, the collaboration includes other areas of public health.
Africa CDC and IFRC will strengthen investments in locally-led action—for prevention and response purposes—while working with governments to ensure they intensify efforts to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, Africa CDC and IFRC will scale up advocacy against vaccine wastage.
This new initiative comes at a time Africa continues to face major vaccine shortages, amid a high level of community transmission in countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said: “Africa is facing a double-edged challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with health response gaps, and also trying to ensure that the continent prepares efficiently for future pandemics, using lessons from current challenges”.
Africa CDC has been implementing various public health responses to control COVID-19. These include the engagement of community health workers in risk communication and community sensitization; surveillance activities for early case identification; contact tracing and in facilitating referrals for testing and continuum of care.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: “What the IFRC and its network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies bring to this partnership with Africa CDC is our unparalleled access to local communities. Our community-based volunteers have the access and trust that are needed to address vaccine hesitancy and sensitize communities about adherence to preventive measures”.
The Africa CDC has been working to support African Union Member States to build a wide network of 2 million community health workers (CHWs) in line with the July 2017 African Union Assembly Decision. The collaboration with the IFRC network, which includes 1.2 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers across the continent is expected to strengthen community level interventions and consolidate gains in tackling the spread of the virus, while increasing awareness about vaccine benefits.
National Red Cross Red and Crescent Societies across Africa remain on the frontline of the response to COVID-19. They are providing ambulance services; conducting contact tracing and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation and provide emotional comfort and psychological support to people in need.
| Press release
Profits trumping humanity when it comes to vaccine equity
In response to the news that vaccines manufactured in South Africa are being exported to Europe, Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said:
“We have long been calling for companies to consider manufacturing doses in regions that remain inequitably served of COVID-19 vaccines. That they should then be exported to regions that have vaccinated a majority of their population is incomprehensible. The African continent is still the most underserved in terms of receiving doses -- barely 2% of people across the region have been vaccinated. Yet, it is clear that profits are still trumping humanity. If compassion will not open the door to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses, then let it be science, for none of us is safe until we all are. If parts of the world remain unvaccinated, this pandemic will not end.”
For more information
In London: Teresa Goncalves, [email protected], +44 7891 857 056
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, [email protected], +254 202 835 246
| Press release
Somalia: Three million face starvation and disease, warns IFRC, as it calls for swift action
Nairobi/Geneva, 11 August 2021—The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned that Somalia is on the cusp of a humanitarian catastrophe. One in 4 people face high levels of acute food insecurity and more than 800,000 children under the age of five are at risk of acute malnutrition unless they receive treatment and food assistance immediately.
In addition to food insecurity, Somalia’s humanitarian situation continues to worsen due to multiple threats, including the outbreak of diseases such as Acute WateryDiarrhoea, measles, malaria and COVID-19.
Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“Somalia is one of the riskiest places on earth to live right now. The country is a catalogue of catastrophes. Climate-related disasters, conflict and COVID-19 have coalesced into a major humanitarian crisis for millions of people. We can’t keep talking about this, we must reduce suffering now.”
Somalia is vulnerable to extreme climatic conditions, including repeated cycles of drought, seasonal floods, and tropical cyclones. The country has also been grappling with the impact of desert locusts. People regularly experience loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, malnutrition, and a scarcity of clean water. Seventy per cent of the country’s population lives in poverty, and 40 per cent is estimated to be living in extreme poverty.
The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are likely to lead to worsening nutrition outcomes among vulnerable groups—including poor households in urban areas and internally displaced people, many of whom live in crowded, unhygienic conditions and makeshifts shelters in the context of increasing food prices and reduced employment and income-earning opportunities.
The IFRC, Somali Red Crescent Society and other partners continue to provide support to vulnerable communities. However, the resources are unable to keep pace with needs.
Mukhier said: “We are doing our best to contribute to the reduction of hunger and disease. But, frankly speaking, available assistance remains a drop in the ocean, given the scale of suffering.”
To address some of the many unmet needs, the IFRC isseeking8.7 million Swiss francs to support the Somali Red Crescent Society to deliver humanitarian assistance to 563,808 people in Somaliland and Puntland over 18 months. This emergency appeal will enable the IFRC and the Somali Red Crescent Society to step up the response operation with a focus on livelihood and basic needs support, health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection, gender and inclusion, as well as helping communities to prepare for other disasters.
On 15 May 2021, the IFRC released 451,800 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to help the Somali Red Crescent Society provide more than 120,000 people in Puntland and Somaliland with health and nutrition support. The Somali Red Crescent Society has unparalleled access to remote and hard-to-reach families, including those living on mountains or nomadic communities. Its integrated health care programme, with its network of static and mobile health clinics, is a key provider of health services.
In a country with many nomadic and displaced people, it is challenging to reach communities with consistent health care: mobile clinics are one of the primary strategies to fill those gaps. The Red Crescent mobile teams are uniquely positioned to reach patients in areas that lack vehicle or ambulance services.
For more information, or to request interviews, please contact:
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613, [email protected]
In Geneva: Ann Vaessen, +41 79 405 77 50, [email protected]
Latest photos, videos and B-rolls, on the situation in Somalia, available on this link https://www.ifrcnewsroom.org/
To follow the conversation on social media, use this hashtag: #HungerAndDiseaseReduction
Preparedness to respond effectively to multiple hazards
By Olivia Acosta
Prevention, preparedness, early action, and response to disasters and crises are at the core of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). According to Mr. Jean Urbain Zoa, Secretary-General of the Cameroon Red Cross (CRC), one of the main challenges of the National Society is to be prepared for any emergency: “Better preparedness will help anticipate crises and disasters and build capacity to provide an integrated response. Preparedness can save lives, mitigate the severity of a crisis and engage the population and empower them to manage future disasters”.
Local actors are best placed to reduce disaster risk and to take early action when disasters strike. The commitment of the CRC volunteers, who support their own communities during emergencies, is essential – but the organization doesn’t forget that they, too, might need help. “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected some staff and volunteers of our organization, but we are trying to give the best response to the increasing needs in the most affected communities”, said the Secretary-General.
Indeed,nothing is the same since the pandemic arrived in Cameroon last year.Um Antoine, CRC first aid trainer,explains that“People in the communities are very afraid of Covid-19. They don’t want to be in touch with their neighbors to avoid contagion… the most disadvantaged people feel very lonely,some of themwithout any support or assistance”.
Several NGOs and organizations that used to bring relief to the area have left. Still, Red Cross volunteers continue to respond to the outbreak, carrying out activities such as house and school disinfection and encouraging the population to practice handwashing and other protective measures. Volunteers also organize programs through community radio to ensure that information on reducing the spread of the pandemic reaches a large part of the population, and specialists are available to address questions from listeners. CRC also works to stop the spread of misinformation, which can be spread through rumors circulating in the community. In addition, community feedback is collected and analyzed to meet information needs evolving over time.
Cameroon Red Cross is not just responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. CRC has been simultaneously responding to cholera outbreaks over the past year in the country. Through experience, the National Society knows the importance of detecting an epidemic before it spreads to save lives, protect livelihoods, and sustain long-term development. Well-trained and motivated CRC volunteers like Um Antoine visit members of their own communities, providing sensitization on the signs and symptoms of acute watery diarrhea, the seasonality of cholera outbreaks, and the need to report severe cases to volunteers or health centers as soon as possible.“We use available communication channels like megaphones, posters, social networks, and the radio to disseminate protection measures against cholera and raise awareness about transmission through contaminated food or water. We also work with the population to adopt hygiene measures to eradicate cholera from their communities”.
To reinforce its response in the fight against Covid-19, cholera, and other emergencies, CRC must continuously strengthen the capacity of its volunteers and staff at headquarters and in branches. Over the past years, CRC’s leadership, management, and operational teams have discussed the importance of being prepared. According to Mr. Renauld Bodiong, Director of Cooperation of the Cameroon Red Cross: “The effectiveness of the response depends on the initial preparation of the National Society. Therefore, it is important, and even essential, for a National Society to engage in the Preparedness for Effective Response (PER Approach) that is an institutional approach to NS Preparedness to assess systematically, measure, and analyze its strengths and gaps response system to take action. Always trying to work from an effective, proactive and innovative perspective”.
Upon request from the CRC, theInternational Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),the Swedish and the French Red Cross joined forces to organize, as part of the PER Approach process, an assessment of CRC’s capacitytoprepare for andrespond to various types of hazards, and support the CRC with the identification of its existing strengths and opportunities for further development.
The COVID-19 context posed a serious problem for the process to start, especially with the travel restrictions put in place as part of COVID-19 preventive measures everywhere.
As facilitators could not travel to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, due to travel restrictions related to Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2021, they provided technical support remotely from Canada, Greece, Russia, and Switzerland. Cameroon Red Cross branches don’t have internet access, and organizing interactive sessions remotely represented quite a challenge for all involved. Brand-new teleconferencing equipment was purchased and set up in Yaoundé, where 36 CRC participants were able to gather in a large meeting room, adhering to physical distancing recommendations. In addition, eight participants also got connected remotely from far regions of the country with the support of IFRC field offices.
Over the course of 5 days, the National Society checked its capacity to prepare for and respond to various types of emergencies, conducted an in-depth analysis of strengths and gaps, and built consensus around key priorities which require urgent attention. These priorities will form the basis of a work plan and feed into the National Society's strategic and operational planning and fundraising processes.
According to Bodiong, “It was very interesting to work online for the first time and be able to listen to everyone's input. For example, we identified that warehouses built in high-risk areas with pre-positioned equipment, well-trained volunteers, and adapted procedures would allow the CRC to respond effectively as quickly as possible to assist the victims of floods in many regularly affected departments of the far north region and prevent cholera outbreaks”.
The Cameroon Red Cross is now using evidence and recommendations from the PER Approach to guide the continuous strengthening of its disaster management systems to be better prepared to respond to emergencies that may occur in the future.
Urgent action needed to protect children against climate related disasters in Africa
This article has been prepared by IFRC's Protection, Gender and Inclusion (PGI) unit.
Nairobi/Geneva, 5 July 2021 - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Africa Region is calling on its partners to do more to protect children amid increasing vulnerabilities due to climate related disasters. This call comes ahead of the upcoming Africa Dialogue/Anticipatory Action event.
MohammedMukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“As drought and food insecurity take hold, we see again that Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to the effects of climate change and its related disasters. IFRC is deeply concerned about the disproportionate level of protection risks against children across Africa posed by climate related disasters. Anticipating need and taking effective action is essential.”
IFRC is calling on all humanitarian actors to do a better job at preventing children from increased violence, abuse and exploitation. IFRC’s study, “We Need To Do Better” shows that climate related disasters puts pressure on protective systems, leaving families in desperate situations, and reducing children’s chances of shaping their own futures.
Mukhier added: “Climate change related extreme weather and rising temperatures have increased the frequency of droughts and floods in Africa and around the world, leading to knock-on effects such as economic hardship, child labour, severe malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and WASH facilities, child marriage and lower school attendance. The consequences of these are felt today and will continue to undermine children’s protection for years to come. We need to invest more in preventative action including anticipatory action with a specific lens on child protection.”
Presently, the menace of floods, COVID-19, conflict, and locusts in parts of the African region, linked to the warming climate, is a key example of the risks. Yet, this may worsen in the coming months, especially between June and August 2021, with the exacerbation of food insecurity.
Furthermore, climate related displacement is a significant concern. Rapid and slow onset environmental degradation diminishes living conditions, forcing families to leave their homes and often separate from their children. Many children are also forced to reside in unsafe refugee and IDP camps in countries across the continent where they are at risk of trafficking, recruitment into armed groups and sexual violence.
Climate related disasters in the region also threaten children’s access to school including through forcing schools to close, intensifying dropouts, families having to choose between school and livelihoods, and making transport and access to school hard for the poorest. This is already happening in Eastern and Southern Africa, where around 28 per cent of the children are unable to attend school. The lowest attendance rates are observed in the Horn, where climate related disasters are particularly prevalent.
School attendance is vital for children because—apart from education—learning institutions provide an environment that protects children from abuse, violence and exploitation.
Children’s mental health is also affected by the short and long-term impacts of repeated disasters. Instability and separation from family can exacerbate the stress and trauma of the experience. Psycho-social support is crucial for the emotional wellbeing, mental health and development of children.
Girls are at particular risk in climate related disasters as they experience unequal access to school, resources and decision-making, particularly in areas facing severe poverty. During and after climate related disasters, girls are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Child marriage, for example, may be used as a coping mechanism by families who experience economic hardship induced by environmental disasters. Girls who are married are at risk of physical and sexual abuse, poor nutrition, and increased chance of maternal neonatal death.
Mukhier called for a more proactive approach: “Local humanitarian actors need to take urgent, coordinated, and preventative actions to better protect children from the dire consequences of climate related disasters in the Africa region. We need to better anticipate protection needs and take practical actions. Children have not contributed to the climate crisis and yet they carry its heaviest burdens today and for the decades to come. We need to do better to ensure we work with children as partners and prioritize their protection and education.”
The IFRC urges humanitarian actors to: (1) recognize the impact of climate change related disasters on children; (2) invest in child protection and education systems, including localized coordination mechanisms; (3) include children, both boys and girls, in climate disaster related decision-making processes and the development of local solutions; and (4) prioritize anticipatory action to protect children from the impacts of climate disasters.
A new start for over 600 people affected by Cyclone Eloise in Mozambique
Nhamatanda, 20 February 2021—Survivors of Cyclone Eloise have received materials from Mozambique Red Cross Society (CVM) to construct houses and start a new life.
“I would like to thank the Red Cross for giving me and my neighbours these materials. We were suffering at the camp; there wasn’t enough space. With this donation, we will be able to construct our house and live a normal life again,” said Amelia Lewanhe, one of the families that received shelter materials.
Over 300,000 people have been affected by Eloise that made landfall on 23 January. Thousands were forced from their homes and have been living in temporary accommodation shelters. More than 117,000 hectares of crops were destroyed by torrential downpours and floods. The most affected districts are Nhamatanda, Buzi, Beira and Dondo.
Mozambique is prone to cyclones and tropical storms which can lead to flash flooding, hundreds of deaths, and massive destruction of property and crops. Eloise struck areas that have been devastated by previous cyclones, including Cyclone Idai. In addition, this is the third time for Mozambique to be hit by a storm this season: Tropical Storm Chalane hit the country in December 2020 and in February 2021 by Cyclone Gaumbe.
Speaking on Saturday during the ceremony of handing over shelter materials to 122 families, Mr. Giro Jose Custodio—the Provincial Secretary of Sofala Mozambique Red Cross Society (CVM)—said that CVM is committed to supporting the people affected by Eloise to start a new life.
“We are aware of their problems from the evacuation period to this time. We are mobilizing resources to assist the remaining people in other accommodation centers. Our aim is to get all the affected people out of the accommodation centres,” said Custodio.
CVM, with financial and technical support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) distributed shelter tool kits, kitchen sets, blankets, sleeping mats, bamboo poles, tarpaulins, ropes, and face masks for COVID-19 prevention, among others. With this distribution, the John Segredo accommodation centre has seen over 610 people moving out of the centre creating space for the remaining communities.
The Red Cross has been at the forefront of the response including through anticipation and early action that saved lives. Ahead of the landfall, Mozambique Red Cross Society (CVM) staff and volunteers shared early warning messages to communities in the path of the cyclone to minimize the impact. As a result, many families were moved to safer areas, where they are receiving support from our teams.
On January 23, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released 359,689 Swiss francs from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF)—to help Mozambique Red Cross Society (CVM) provide immediate relief and lifesaving assistance to 1,000 cyclone-affected families for three months with regards to health and care services as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene.
The road to recovery is long and the IFRC is appealing for 5.1 million Swiss francs to support the (Mozambique Red Cross Society (CVM) continue to deliver assistance and support early recovery of 100,000 people affected by Cyclone Eloise for 12 months. The appeal focuses on shelter and essential household items (EHI), livelihoods and basic needs, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), protection, gender and inclusion (PGI) and disaster risk reduction (DRR).
| Press release
Ebola: Red Cross intensifies response amidst fears of regional spread
Conakry/Nairobi/Geneva, 22 February 2021 – Red Cross teams in Guinea and across West Africa are ramping up response efforts to contain a deadly Ebola outbreak.
Red Cross volunteers and staff Guinea, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone have stepped up surveillance and community sensitization efforts. To support these live saving activities, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has issued an international emergency appeal for 8.5 million Swiss francs.
MohammedMukhier, the IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“Ebola does not care about borders. Close social, cultural and economic ties between communities in Guinea and neighbouring countries create a very serious risk of the virus spreading to Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, and potentially even further.
“That’s why we are launching an integrated cross-border operation aimed at rapidly confining the outbreak to its current location—and swiftly containing any eventual outbreak beyond Guinea.”
In Guinea, Red Cross teams in N’zérékoré were mobilized to conduct safe and dignified burials for two people who were killed by Ebola. They also disinfected a local hospital and started efforts to create broad community awareness about the return of the disease in the urban areas of N'Zérékoré and in Gouécké.
There are an estimated 1.3 million people living in the health zone affected by the outbreak. The Guinea Red Cross and IFRC plan aims to support about 420,000 of them with a range of services, including community sensitization, community-based surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, safe and dignified burials, infection prevention and control, as well as psychosocial support.
In surrounding countries, Red Cross actions will target an additional 6 million people. In Sierra Leone, a network 200 Red Cross volunteers in Kambia and Kailahun are now on high alert and are conducting surveillance activities. In addition, an alert was sent to the four other districts (Kono, Koinadugu, Western Area and Pujehun) bordering Guinea and Liberia, where an additional 100 volunteers are preparing social community awareness activities.
In Liberia, in areas along the borders with Guinea, Red Cross volunteers are on high alert and are currently conducting awareness in communities. The most at-risk areas include Bong, Lofa, Nimba, Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu counties. Liberia Red Cross will be sending Personal Protective Equipment to the region.
In Mali, Red Cross teams will provide services such as surveillance and community sensitization. The Senegalese Red Cross is beefing up surveillance efforts at border points, while ramping up community awareness activities.
In addition to enacting community response, surveillance and sensitization activities, Red Cross teams are also concerned about the needs being created by localized efforts to limit movements in a bid to contain the outbreak. As a result of these public health measures, people near the epicentre are already in need of water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as food assistance.
IFRC’s Mukhier said: “This outbreak is likely to complicate an already challenging situation. COVID-related containment measures currently being implemented have exacerbated food insecurity in the region and this may lead to the reluctance of communities to respect new preventive measures that are being put in place to contain Ebola.”
| Press release
Ebola outbreak in Guinea: Red Cross calls for a response that is “faster than the virus”
Conakry/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 February 2021 –A network of more than 700 trained Red Cross volunteers has been activated as part of a first wave of response to the new Ebola outbreak in the rural community of Gouéké in Guinea’s N’Zerekoreprefecture.
Drawing from theirexperienceduringthe2014–2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak,theRed Crossteams are rushing to contain further spread of the virus.
MohammedMukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“Time is of the essence.The resurgence of the virus inGuineacomes at the worst possible time whenthe country isalreadyfacing theCOVID-19pandemic.There are reasons for fear, but there are also reasons for hope.While we are extremely concerned, we are also reassured bythelessons we learned from previous outbreaks, and by recent medical advances.”
More than 11,000 people were killed duringthe worst-everEbola outbreak in history in 2014-2016.
Mukhier said: “We need a response that is faster than the virus itself. Unless the response is swift, the health, economic and social impacts are likely to be immense for millions of peoplein a country witha relatively weak healthsystem, andwheremore than half of the population lives below the poverty line.”
In response to this new outbreak, the IFRC and Guinea Red Cross have activated their “epidemicpreparedness and response network”in the country.Through thissystem, Red Cross teamshavebeen helping communities prepare and prevent the spread of diseases.
Red Crossvolunteerswill provide services such as, contact tracing, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene and—if needed—safe burials.
Guinea Red Cross has almost 2,500 volunteers across the country which gives it extraordinary reach into communities.
| Press release
Red Cross officially activates anticipatory actions ahead of Cyclone Chalane in Mozambique
Maputo/Geneva, 28 December 2020 – In anticipation of Cyclone Chalane’s potential landfall on Wednesday in Mozambique, the Mozambique Red Cross, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and German Red Cross has activated its recently approved Early Action Protocol for Cyclones, with a series of preparedness actions to minimise the cyclone’s impact on communities.
Forecast-based Action is a new form of Red Cross readiness and preparedness actions. It is governed by an ‘Early Action Protocol’, consisting of a preparedness phase with the strategic prepositioning of materials that are tailored to reduce the impact of disasters, and a readiness phase consisting of a tranche of funding that is disbursed up to 72 hours prior to an impending disaster when a cyclone reaches a “trigger” level. In doing so it allows humanitarian actors who are on high alert to kick into action before the event takes place.
Jurg Wilbrink, Forecast-based Action Project Manager IFRC Southern Africa, said:
“Our emphasis at this stage is on anticipation and not reaction. Instead of waiting for the cyclone to hit, we are preparing for its impact. By Wednesday, if the cyclone makes landfall, Red Cross staff and volunteers will have launched early warnings and supported reinforcing houses and public structures, as well as strategic stock in place to limit the potential damage caused to people and infrastructure in targeted vulnerable communities.”
Early actions will include the delivery of shelter kits and other emergency supplies like items for increased hygiene and sanitation, as well as COVID-19 hygiene kits, quick efforts to fortify houses and the distribution of non-food items to buffer the impacts of Chalane. Red Cross volunteers will also be active in sharing potentially life-saving information, including the position of safe areas, medical help and key actions to take before landfall in the area.
Mozambique is a country prone to cyclones and tropical storms which can lead to flash flooding, hundreds of deaths, and massive destruction of property and crops.
Chalane is expected to strike the districts of Buzi, Beira, Dondo and Muanza in Central Mozambique - areas that were devastated by Cyclone Idai in March 2019, and was again hit by severe flooding in February this year, with thousands displaced from their homes and many left clinging to trees to avoid being swept away by the rising river. Cyclone Chalane is expected to reach windspeeds of up to 125km per hour. Recent Red Cross analysis suggests that, even if it makes landfall with windspeeds of 72km per hour, 30 per cent of vulnerable housing structures could be destroyed.
Jânio Dambo, Forecast-based Financing Project Manager at the Mozambique Red Cross (CVM) said that early action will roll out over the next three days ahead of Wednesday evening’s predicted landfall:
“We were busy finalising the details of the early-action protocol in Mozambique when Cyclone Idai hit. At the time, what needed to happen was being put down on paper. This time around, we are putting everything into action. Early action.” Less than a month ago, over 1,000 individual actors participated in a large-scale simulation exercise, testing the workings of the protocol in Moma, Nampula. The lessons learnt during that exercise have already proved invaluable for how decision-makers are approaching Mozambique’s potential cyclone.
For photos and videos of the ‘Early Action Protocol’ simulation exercise in Moma, Nampula, held from 27 November to 6 December 2020:
| Press release
Sudan: Red Crescent ramps up operation as influx of Ethiopian refugees grows
Khartoum/Nairobi/Geneva, 23 November 2020 – The Sudanese Red Crescent Society has scaled up its operation at the border with Ethiopia to support the growing number of Ethiopian refugees coming into the country. Since fighting began in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on 5 November, more than 30,000 people have crossed the border into Sudan and the number is increasing by the day.
At the transit centres located in Lukdi in Gedaref and Hamdaiet in Kassala state, there is an urgent and immediate need for food and water, shelter, first aid and medical care as well as psychosocial support. The Red Crescent has distributed emergency relief items to 500 families and is mobilising more support from partners and the Sudanese government.
Dr Afaf Yahya, Sudanese Red Crescent Secretary General, said: “We have completed construction of four communal shelters, seven communal kitchens and four emergency latrine blocks. We have also rehabilitated the road from Doka to Um Rakoba to speed up and ease the transportation of the refugees to settlement camps.”
In Kassala state, the Red Crescent is operating in two clinics where health and nutrition screenings and medical consultations are being conducted. Red Crescent teams are providing psychosocial support and transferring those with complicated medical conditions and in need of surgery to hospitals.
“We are concerned by the rate at which humanitarian needs are growing. Many of the refugees are exhausted and hungry from the long distances they have walked to reach here. They are worried about the families they left behind and from the look on children’s faces, they are evidently deeply affected to by what is happening,” said Dr Yahya.
Mohammed Omer Mukhier, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa, said:
“The needs at the border transit points and settlement camps remain high. There is an urgent need for more emergency shelter for refugees, who are still arriving in big numbers. Distribution centres need to be constructed and existing health centres also need to be rehabilitated.”
The Sudanese Red Crescent Society—which has an expansive network of 400,000 volunteers across the country—has also mobilised volunteers to assist with temperature checks and registration at border transit points. The Red Crescent has responded to previous population movement crises including, the South Sudanese refugee’ emergency.
This influx of refugees comes at a time when Sudan is already in the throes of a major and complex humanitarian emergency. Unprecedented flooding since July has left over 875,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. Food crops already depleted due to a desert locust invasion, and livestock have been wiped out. Soaring inflation has led to prices skyrocketing, and stagnant and contaminated water continue to pose a serious health risk alongside the threat of COVID-19. Kassala State—an area heavily affected by the flooding—is now hosting incoming refugees, adding further strain to resources and local communities.
| Press release
East Africa: Red Cross raises the alarm over a “triple menace” of floods, COVID-19 and locusts
Nairobi/Geneva, 20 May 2020—A series of mutually exacerbating disasters is unfolding in East Africa, on a scale rarely seen in decades, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Ongoing heavy rain—which has killed nearly 300 and displaced about 500,000 people—has slowed down operations aimed at controlling the worst locust crisis in decades and increased the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Simon Missiri, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“The ongoing flooding crisis is exacerbating other threats caused by COVID-19 and the invasion of locusts. Travel and movement restrictions meant to slow down the spread of COVID-19 are hampering efforts to combat swarms of locusts that are ravaging crops. Flooding is also a ‘threat amplifier’ with regards to the spread of COVID-19 as it makes it hard to implement preventive measures.”
Flooding has left thousands of people homeless, many of them now seeking shelter in temporary accommodation centres where it is not easy or not possible at all to observe physical distancing. As a result, thousands are now at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or waterborne diseases and need emergency food assistance.
“We are facing an unusually complex humanitarian situation. We are worried that the number of people who are hungry and sick will increase in the coming weeks as flooding and COVID-19 continue to severely affect the coping capacity of many families in the region,” added Dr Missiri. “Harsh weather conditions are having a multiplier effect on an already difficult situation and this could potentially lead to worrying levels of food insecurity in the region.”
Red Cross teams in the affected countries are rushing to respond to multi-faceted and overlapping crises. To respond to flooding, COVID-19 and locusts, the IFRC has provided over 7 million Swiss francs to Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in East and Horn of Africa.
Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda are helping communities mitigate the negative impacts of the triple disaster through community awareness and direct food and non-food support. In Kenya, the Red Cross is conducting assessments in 16 counties, using drones and satellite images. Red Cross teams are also airlifting household items to families that have been marooned by floods.
“Flooding is a recurrent phenomenon in the region. To break this cycle, we call upon Governments and partners to invest more in preparedness and flood control methods,” said Dr MISSIRI.
| Press release
Tragic attacks on responders and increased violence threaten to reverse positive gains in Ebola response, warns Red Cross
Goma/Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 28 November 2019 –Several violent attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have killed, wounded and displaced many. Those killed included four Ebola responders.
The President of DR Congo Red Cross, Grégoire Mateso, said:
“We are profoundly saddened by the tragic killings of people, including several Ebola responders in Mangina and Biakatou following violent attacks. We are also extremely worried by the escalating violence in Beni.”
The spike in violence in recent days has also forced communities to flee for their safety, making it easier for the virus to spread to neighbouring areas. Mangina and Biakatou are areas where there are the highest rates of Ebola cases at the moment. Red Cross teams in Beni are unable to travel due to the ongoing violence, and insecurity in other areas have put Red Cross Ebola activities on hold.
“In the last few months we have made major progress in the Ebola response: Cases are decreasing, there are less deaths in the community and a growing community acceptance and involvement in the Ebola response,”said Jamie LeSueur, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)’s Head of Operations for the Ebola Response. “But violence and insecurity are major factors that set us back and threaten to reverse all the positive gains we have made in this response.”
More than 1,100 DRC Red Cross volunteers have been engaging with communities to address fear, suspicion and concerns;conducting safe and dignified burials, and helping improve infection prevention and control in health facilities and prisons.These teams have been critical to preventing thousands of infections and saving the many lives.
“Without Red Cross staff and volunteers having access to respond in hot spot areas, the risk of Ebola’s spread is extremely high. We’re worried about what this could mean for our frontline staff and volunteers who are risking their lives every day to engage with affected communities,”said Grégoire Mateso.
“We call on all actors to exercise restraint and respect civilians and humanitarian and Ebola responders.”
GeoWeek is here!! Join a mapathon
We love maps and community. OpenStreetMap Geographic Awareness Week is the most wonderful time of the year connecting humanitarians, volunteers and GIS experts to learn and share all about OpenStreetMap. There are mapathons around the world. FIND A LOCAL EVENTIf you can't join a mapathon, you can always pick tasks from the Task Manager or even do some Mapswipe. ****** Thanks to all the organizers across the OSM community and National Societies. Special thanks to Andrew Makachia for his leadership in the IFRC Africa region and Rachel Levine, American Red Cross and OSMGEO week champion. There was a mapathon with the Finnish Red Cross last week as a pre-event for climate action. The American and Canadian Red Cross are also participating in events. Here are some of the activities that the IFRC Africa regional office is supporting/participating: GuineaMaliSierra Leone Uganda Kenya Happy mapping[photo credit: Community mapping in Buguruni (Dar es Salaam), August 2019. Heather Leson ccby 4.0]
Stakeholders Convene Synergy on Effective Disaster Management Aid Localisation
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
A two-day high-level gathering on localisation of effective disaster management was recently organised by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, The Gambia Red Cross Society, National Disaster Management Agency and the Economic Community of West African States, at Senegambia Beach Hotel in Kololi.
Funded by the European Union, the gathering targets to equip authorities with knowledge of ECOWAS and IFRC tools (DW handbook, 2018-2022 plan of action, ECOWAS assessment tool, IDRL guidelines, model act and the checklist for domestic preparedness and response). It also aims to encourage consultation on the elements of the DM Handbook towards its finalisation; share progress in the field of disaster law at regional and national levels over the past 10 years; stimulate discussion on the localisation of aid through legal facilitation of international response and empowerment of local capacities; and development of ideas and prosperity areas for future work on disaster law in consideration of existing DM legal frameworks.
Gambia Red Cross Society program manager Abdoulie Fye said they are confident that Gambia will soon legislate the disaster law for effective and efficient coordination of international disaster response and train all the humanitarian actors and government authorities on the law for its smooth implementation.
Maria Martinez, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Africa region disaster law programme coordinator said as co-conveners of the localisation work stream within the Grand Bargain Initiative, the IFRC is committed to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the humanitarian ecosystem by increasing international investment and respect for the role of local actors (both government and non-governmental) in humanitarian response, particularly those at community level.
Sanna Dahaba, executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency said they are building a truly proactive attitude towards risk reduction and called on all actors to invest in risk reduction. He urged government institutions to mainstream such priorities into their departmental policies.
Alasan Senghore, secretary general of The Gambia Red Cross Society said; “We all have obligations to support government in ensuring that they adhere, respect and contribute to the implementation of policies and developed legal frameworks.”
Mr. Senghore said in Africa, there is a syndrome of panic when disasters strike, saying at the Red Cross, they are committed and willing to help government push through the legal process.
Saikou Gassama, Permanent Secretary Number 1 at the Office of the President said he believes that the objectives of the gathering would help put different government departments and stakeholders at the same level about the happenings and investments in disaster reduction from legal, political, technological social and economic perspectives with the ECOWAS sub-region and beyond.
Author: Cherno Omar Bobb
© Copyright The Point Newspaper. All rights reserved.
| Press release
Volunteers in Comoros, Mozambique and Tanzania prepare as Cyclone Kenneth forms
Nairobi/Geneva, 24 April 2019 – Teams of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are on alert as a Cyclone Kenneth makes its way to Comoros and potentially on to Tanzania and Mozambique.
Red Cross volunteers in northern Mozambique are alerting communities in areas where the concern of flooding, erosion and landslides are particularly high, including Nacala-Porto and Nacala-A Velha districts. Tanzania and Mozambique Red Cross are prepositioning supplies and preparing teams in anticipation.
Kenneth formed into a cyclone earlier today (24 April), and it could strengthen further before reaching Comoros as early as this evening.
Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Regional Director for Africa for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“We are concerned about the impact that this storm could have across the three countries. We are especially concerned about its possible impact in Mozambique where communities are still recovering from the devastation of Cyclone Idai.
“We are supporting local Red Cross and Red Crescent teams on the ground across Comoros, Tanzania and Mozambique, ensuring they are ready if and when Cyclone Kenneth strikes.”
An IFRC specialist is en route to Comoros to support local Red Crescent efforts.
More than one month ago, Cyclone Idai affected approximately 1.8 million people across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and killed nearly 1,000. IFRC has launched an Emergency Appeal for 31 million Swiss francs to support the Mozambique Red Cross to provide 200,000 people with emergency assistance water, sanitation and hygiene; shelter, health, livelihoods and protection services over the next 24 months.
Light at the end of the tunnel: displaced persons in Zamai Camp (Cameroon) find a reason to smile
By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC
The long-awaited day has finally arrived: The lives of internally displaced persons in communities settled at the Zamai camp, in the Far North region of Cameroon are changing for the better.
It was a sunny morning. The smiles on the faces of people at the Zamai IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp were already showing signs of their joy and excitement as Red Cross volunteers were getting set to start the distribution of farming aid and tools destined to support 150 people in farming activities.
Clad in a special attire, Sherif Moussari is one of the people who received the grant at the Zamai settlement hosting 2562 IDPs.
“I have been waiting for this day for a very long time. Farming has always been my passion and my only source of income to cater for my family. I have not been able to work as I used to do back in my village, and this has affected me and my household. We have never been used to begging from others but being in a foreign land, with no means, we have been living thanks to the generosity of well-wishers.”
Moussari hails from the Mayo Mouskota village in the Far north region of Cameroon. His village and many others along the border between Cameroon and Nigeria have, for the last few years, witnessed armed groups’ attacks, including kidnappings, killings, looting, burning of villages and theft of foodstuff. Moussari sought shelter at the Zamai camp two years ago, alongside his two wives and 12 children aged between two and 20.
To survive in his new host environment, Moussari has been working in people’s farms and keeping the livestock of those who need that kind of service. “I do not earn money for the work I do. I am being paid with foodstuff, which helps me to feed my family. Sometimes when I have much food, I take part of it to the market and retail to be able to buy oil and in some rare occasions I buy meat. For the livestock, my contractor has promised to give me one small ram for each ram that delivers. If he keeps his promise, I should be able, in a few years to come to have my own livestock and start my own animal farm. I just have to be patient and keep working hard,” says Moussari
A livelihood programme launched by the Cameroon Red Cross in three divisions of the affected Far North region, has mobilized 130 volunteers to support targeted families. These volunteers have been trained in farming and livestock techniques.
“At the Zamai camp, we have trained 15 volunteers who in return have extended the training to 150 people supported by the project. Each volunteer will have to follow up a group of 10 people as the latter shall start the farming activities. The volunteers shall assist the families in each of the stages of the farming process; from the reception and distribution of the farming inputs to the preparation of soils, the seeding and plowing, watering fertilization and phytosanitary treatment,” explains Ichaga Saidou, IFRC food security and livelihood supervisor.
Encouraged by Red Cross teams, most potential beneficiaries started a home garden as an experimental stage of the project and as a measure to test their level of commitment to carry out the agricultural project and be eligible to support.
The pilot stage of the project was a success for the Moussari family who, in addition to the home garden, has already identified a piece of land measuring 50 square metres to start commercial gardening. “I am confident that with the support we received we will be more resilient and fully integrated in our new host community,” adds Moussari.
“For 2019, as part of the project, there are plans to extend its actions to support river crops, in addition to commercial gardening and animal farm. However, the two major challenges faced by farmers remain the scarcity of arable land and limited access to water. Most of the land given to displaced families is arid and unproductive and the problem of drying water points is a general concern in the region,” concludes Saidou.
The ongoing project supported by the IFRC and the Swedish Red Cross intends to improve the livelihoods of 540 internally displaced persons and host communities in targeted Mora, Mokolo and Maroua localities through agriculture and livestock farming. The overall intervention is part of the lake Chad basin initiative to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable IDPs from armed conflicts who live in dire conditions in settlements and host families.
Open wounds: Hadja Bintou has never been able to find stability in her new environment after she fled from her village because of violence
By Mirabelle Kima, IFRC
It is in the neighbourhood of Sararé Lougueo—in the Far North capital city of Maroua in Cameroon—that Hadja Bintou, together with her husband and their seven children found refuge. For the 35-year-old woman, what she thought would be a temporary situation became permanent as her village Amchide in the Far North and other villages near the Cameroon border with Nigeria have been targets of recurrent suicide bombing attacks for close to five years now.
“My return to my home village has only been a dream which has never come true. I have become a permanent internally displaced person in my country, living from hand to mouth with the little savings we had and depending on others. Finding myself in this condition and getting to survive with my children has been a heavy load for me to carry especially as I left my house leaving every belonging behind. After three years of struggle with my husband, he died and left me all alone to face the hard realities of life,” sais Bintou.
The Far North region has, for the past years, witnessed massive displacements of close to 246,000 people, most of whom are women and children in dire need of assistance. Most of these poeple settled in the Diamaré, Mayo sava and Mayo Tsanaga divisions of Cameroon.
“At the beginning of the crisis, spontaneous solidarity was expressed by host communities who shared their food and provided shelter and clothing to vulnerable internally displaced people (IDPs). But after few months of constant assistance by the host communities, the burden became too heavy for them to bear given their limited means and other life challenges which they also face,” explains Ali Adoum, Red Cross local President in Maroua.
Bintou’s family, just like for many others, has been struggling to rent a house, feed, pay school fees for children and provide medical care for them.
“I was able to raise capital from the sale of my valuable jewelleries in order to start a business to support my family. However, no matter how hard I have had to work, I still have not been able to cope up with my responsibilities. Sending my daughters to school has always been a matter of honour to me as I was not lucky to enjoy that privilege. I hope that if my daughters are educated, they will stand a better chance to succeed in life,” adds Bintou.
Today, because of the precarious condition in which Bintou finds herself, she has had no choice but to send three of her children to a neighbouring village where they assist her sister in her business, in the hope that she would, someday, be able to have all of her family back together to live in a more dignified way. “All I am crying for is to have an income generating activity to relieve me from the chaotic condition in which I presently am and to enable me to care for my children with dignity.”
In response to the most urgent needs of IDPs in the Far North region, the Cameroon Red Cross has been involved, for the past two years, in water sanitation and hygiene promotion activities. The actions which have been implemented by 148 volunteers and senior staff include providing communities with awareness-raising messages on good hygiene practices, improving their knowledge on environmental hygiene, handwashing and food hygiene. These activities were all carried out with a view to reducing the risk of exposure to waterborne diseases, and particularly the cholera endemic in that part of the country.
| Press release
DR Congo: “Ebola is spreading faster, and many people are no longer seeking care”
Nairobi/Geneva, 11 April 2019 –The deadly Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is worsening as trust in the response effort falters, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
This warning follows confirmation of 18 new Ebola cases on Tuesday (9 April) – the highest single day figure in the now eight month-long outbreak. DR Congo’s Health Ministry also reported that 10 died people from Ebola on Tuesday, including eight who died in their communities having not sought treatment and support.
“This is a very distressing development,” said Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s Director of Health and Care. “The bottom line is that Ebola is now spreading faster, and many people are no longer seeking care. It is clear that some vulnerable communities do not trust Ebola responders.”
Redoubling efforts to engage with these communities is critical, according to Capobianco.
“Trust can be built by going community to community, working with local leaders and villagers, listening to their concerns with empathy, and incorporating their feedback and preferences into how we work,” he said.
In-depth community engagement is central to the Red Cross operation in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in eastern DR Congo, where more than 700 Red Cross volunteers from Ebola-affected communities are at work. They have reached more than 1 million people with locally adapted information and have collected more than 130,000 “pieces” of community feedback.
“Our research and experience show that when in-depth community engagement takes place, acceptance of outside assistance improves significantly,” said Capobianco.
For example, intense community outreach and engagement in and around the city of Butembo has had a direct and significant impact on the willingness of communities to welcome, and in some cases, request Red Cross ‘safe and dignified burial teams’. The safe burial of people who have died from Ebola is a critical intervention in preventing disease spread, as dead bodies are particularly infectious.
The efforts of the Red Cross and other responders are also hampered by considerable funding shortfalls. Last month, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – IFRC, and the International Committee of the Red Cross – launched a revised emergency appeal for 31.5 million Swiss francs to support response activities in DR Congo as well as preparedness activities in neighbouring countries. So far, only 11.1 million Swiss francs have been received.
Cyclone Idai: Giving back to Buzi
Stranded on rooftops for three days as floodwaters rose around their hometown of Buzi, Ismail and Manuel watched the worst disaster in their community’s recent history unfold before them.“Most of our home is now destroyed, but my family is safe. We are lucky,” Ismail said. In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, his motivation to help – and that of his fellow Red Cross volunteer Manuel – is stronger than ever.Ismail, who has been volunteering for 12 years alongside his work as an advocate for school children with sight impairments and for neighbours suffering from malaria, has been organising a group of 30 local volunteers to carry out an assessment of homes damaged by Cyclone Idai. He also spends hours separating grains of rice from caked mud in hopes they can be made edible again.Manuel, a Red Cross volunteer for the past five years, said that all local volunteers in Buzi have refused the relief items offered to the community. “We let others go first,” he explained. “These are our people, and they need the help. I am here to give back.”Nearly all of the men’s possessions were waterlogged or lost during the disaster.“We rescued our Red Cross vests and hats,” Manuel said. “We knew we would need them to help. We have our pride.”Words and photo: Katie Wilkes/IFRC/American Red Cross
From a football fan to a Red Cross first aid trainer
By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC
Guided by his passion for football, Martin Domwa joined Cameroon Red Cross in 2004 to serve as a first aid volunteer, during football tournaments in his hometown Garoua, in the northern region of Cameroon. Within a short period of time, he became a skilled first aid volunteer and could assist injured players and spectators while watching football.
“In 2008 while serving as a teacher, I joined the Mayo Sava Red Cross branch where I gained a lot of experience in my duties as a first aid team leader, focusing on providing assistance to people that are exposed to situations of violence and armed attacks in the region,” says Domwa.
The Mayo Sava is a division of Cameroon's Far North region, which since 2014, has experienced a series of suicide bombing attacks which claimed many lives and forced hundreds of families to flee further to other regions for safety.
Martin Domwa is one of the 16 first aid trainers of the Cameroon Red Cross to have participated in the first training organized by the institution on Advanced First Aid. The main goal was to adapt the existing skills to situations of blasts, fragmented injuries and mass casualty incidents.
“The training programme has enabled us acquire knowledge on how to provide assistance in cases of specific incidents, on how to instruct colleagues on administering first aid, and most essentially, on how to manage all types of first aid material and equipment especially in low resources settings,” says Domwa.
Today, Martin has trained 32 volunteers in the Mayo Sava area and plans to train an additional 48 volunteers from villages in the Cameroon's Far North region along the border with Nigeria and where communities continue to be exposed to violence from armed groups. “Thanks to the training programme, we gained more confidence in the way we manage our teams and provided first aid care to people injured following suicide bomb attacks, which occurred recently in Amchide (a village along the border with Nigeria in the Far north region in November 2018),” says Domwa.
“We however continue to face challenges in terms of the distances to cover during interventions and the lack of appropriate individual branded jackets for easy identification of volunteer teams during night operations,” adds Domwa.
The International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Swedish Red Cross continue to provide funding and technical support for the ongoing operation to address the urgent needs of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who are affected by the Lake Chad crisis inCameroon’s Far North. The intervention also provides Red Cross teams with skills in psychosocial support and advanced first aid in a bid to strengthen their response capacities.
| Press release
Mozambique cyclone: “90 per cent” of Beira and surrounds damaged or destroyed
Beira/Nairobi/Geneva, 18 March 2019 — The scale of damage caused by cyclone Idai that hit the Mozambican city of Beira is massive and horrifying. This is the initial assessment of a team of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aid workers that reached the devastated city yesterday.
Jamie LeSueur, who is leading the IFRC assessment team into Beira, said the following after taking part in a Red Cross aerial assessment:
“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 per cent of the area is completely destroyed.”
The IFRC team that arrived yesterday was among the first to arrive in Beira since Idai made landfall on 14/15 March. With Beira’s airport closed, the team drove from the capital Maputo before taking a helicopter for the last part of the journey. Roads into Beira have been cut off by flooding.
While the physical impact of Idai is beginning to emerge, the human impact is unclear.
“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible,” said LeSueur.
“Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city.”
Following its landfall in Mozambique Cyclone Idai continued west to Zimbabwe as a Tropical Storm, wreaking havoc in several districts in the eastern part of the country, with Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in Manicaland Province being the hardest-hit. At least 31 deaths have been reported and over 100 people are missing in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is the latest country in Southern Africa to be hit by heavy rains and violent winds, after Malawi and Mozambique. The death toll in the three countries is currently estimated at 150. But this number is likely to change as the full extent of the damage becomes clear. More heavy rain is also anticipated and this may lead to further devastation.
IFRC has already released about 340,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund which will go towards an initial response effort for about 7,500 people. However, given the scale of the disaster, more resources may be needed to support Mozambique Red Cross efforts on the ground. Already, the team in Beira has identified shelter, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene as priorities.
Early detection, early action: preventing DRC’s Ebola outbreak from spreading into nearby Uganda
Written by Aggrey Nyondwa, Uganda Red Cross
Communities living along the porous borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remain at high risk of the spread of Ebola. Thousands cross each day to sell and buy goods, tend to their farm and visit family and friends. With the epicenter of DRC’s largest Ebola outbreak only 100 kilometers away from the Ugandan border, it is crucial to contain and stop the virus from spreading.
Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been scaling up its response to help prepare communities and to prevent the spread of the virus. Volunteers are in high-risk areas, sensitizing communities about Ebola – providing information about the virus, what they can do to protect themselves, and screening the thousands of individuals who cross the border each day. Community engagement through music, drama, and mobile cinemas have also been employed to reach thousands of people.
“We would like to see communities that can easily detect diseases, potential epidemics and communities that can respond in case epidemics occur,” said Dr. Kasumba Joseph, Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program Officer with the Uganda Red Cross.
“Most importantly we want communities that can actually prevent these epidemics. We are doing this through our volunteers.”
Karungi Shamillahis a Uganda Red Cross volunteer trained to educate families about Ebola and other health issues in her community.Photo: IFRC/Corrie Butler
Halting the virus before its spread through a real-time mobile system
Through Uganda Red Cross’ extensive network of community-based volunteers, a powerful surveillance system has been set up, in coordination with other actors and the Ministry of Health. This system helps stop the virus’ spread, detecting outbreaks before they happen.
Uganda Red Cross has trained community-based volunteers to recognize the signs of potential Ebola illness and to alert the authorities for follow up and care of people with such signs. With the help of the ‘Kobo Collect’ Mobile App, these cases are logged and are instantly shared with local health authorities for rapid action. If a case is detected the person can receive prompt treatment and the disease can be contained. This enables the reporting of any epidemic alerts in real time with low costs and resources.
“These communities being near the border are quite vulnerable. We have a lot of movement across the border, especially on market days, the risk of an Ebola outbreak is imminent,” says Kasumba, based in Bundibugyo.
“We have now trained 50 community-based volunteers who are using this technology as a surveillance tool to help prevent the threat of Ebola in Uganda.”
Only weeks after the training, volunteers have already started working in their communities where they hold sessions with community members and sensitize them about Ebola. Others, like Mugenyi Adam, have already sent out alerts to their supervisor.
“I have so far sent two alerts to my supervisor. I am proud that the community trusts me already and in case of any suspicions, I am the first one they call. This is what makes me proud – the response is so, so fast.”
He recalls one alert he submitted after conducting door to door community sensitization:
“A lady called me and told me her grand-daughter was sick, showing some of the symptoms of Ebola. I called my supervisor and informed him about it. I was amazed to see a response in just 25 minutes. They checked on the girl, took her to hospital and fortunately she tested negative for Ebola. I kept checking on the family to ensure that they were doing the right hygiene practices. I am so proud, I believe I saved her life.”
In Bundibugyo district, volunteers are conducting, what is called “passive” community-based surveillance. This means volunteers report alerts as they encounter them in the community while they conduct community health awareness activities. During large scale outbreaks, surveillance moves into an “active” phase where volunteers proactively reach out door-to-door ensuring alerts are quickly identified for a faster, more effective response.
Community-based surveillance, on its own, is not enough: coordination is key
Well before the community-based surveillance system was launched through the IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3), significant coordination was done with stakeholders, including government ministries, health care workers, sectors for animal health, agriculture and environment, development partners, civil society, and the communities themselves.
“We have been trained in this approach by the Red Cross and we have worked closely with them to tackle community epidemics in this region. Given that Ebola is the major threat at the moment, all efforts have been focused on prevention and preparedness because of our proximity to neighboring Congo where Ebola has already killed many people,” said Dr. Samson Ndyanabaisi, the District Veterinary Officer in Bundibugyo district.
“The future of this project is very bright and the government always welcomes such support and collaborations.”
Communities remain at the heart of preparedness
With epidemics and pandemics continuing to take place around the world, it is increasingly important to ensure communities are prepared to respond in order to stop outbreaks early. Ebola is only one of the many health risks that IFRC’s CP3 is helping combat. The vision is that Uganda will use this as a model and continue to expand it to other epidemic and pandemic risks that are faced in the community, such as cholera or measles.
“As the Red Cross, we’re very strong at mobilizing to support communities when something happens. We’re one of the first who are there to take action. But we can do better than this,” explains Abbey Byrne, Community Based Surveillance Delegate with the IFRC.
“We’re also there before the epidemic. We can halt the spread instead of reacting once these diseases have already reached epidemic proportions.”
There is no one who understands a community more than its own. When challenges arise, they are the ones best suited to come up with the solutions. During epidemics, these community members are the first to respond and can, ultimately, save lives.
More about the CP3 programme
Launched in 2017 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) scales up efforts towards global health security. The program strengthens the ability of communities, National Societies and other partners in 8 target countries to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats and play a significant role in preparing for future risks.
Delivering health and dignity for mothers and babies in the world’s third-largest refugee camp
Life can be frightening and stressful for pregnant women, new mothers, and families with young children in a large refugee camp such as Nyarugusu, in Tanzania. But vulnerable women, children and families in this camp can rely on the dedicated volunteers and staff of the Tanzania Red Cross Society, which runs a hospital, health clinics, ante- and post-natal support and paediatric services for the camp’s residents and people living in neighbouring host communities.
Tanzania Red Cross workers also provide emergency medical treatment, health care, shelter, water and sanitation support, and distribute relief items such as blankets and buckets to people in need.
The camp was initially set up to host Congolese refugees in 1997, but has expanded significantly in recent years following the arrival of large numbers of people from Burundi. It is now the third-largest refugee camp in the world, with some 150,000 residents.
Access to health care is improving, thanks to the Tanzania Red Cross with IFRC and other partners, but refugees and host communities alike are still struggling with inadequate support services and infrastructure for the growing population.
Visit inside-nyarugusu.com to view their stories