| Press release
IFRC warns that the growing heatwave in Europe could have tragic consequences
Budapest, 14 July 2022 - Extreme temperatures have spiraled countries into dangerous heat waves and wildfires across Europe. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) urges cities and communities to prepare to avoid a further disaster.
Since May, Europe has been among the fastest “heat wave hot spots” in the world. Forecasts show no sign of abating. Many parts of western Europe are experiencing extreme temperatures and countries like Portugal are battling raging wildfires, impacting thousands of people.
“With the climate crisis, this heat is part of our ‘new normal’,” says Maarten Aalst van, Director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. “These deadly events are now more frequent and more intense.”
In the past ten years, climate- and weather-related disasters have killed more than 400,000 people, affected 1.7 billion others and displaced an average of 25 million people each year world-wide.The people most at risk of heat waves include older people, children, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing health conditions. Heat waves have cascading impacts in other areas of society, such as reduced economic output, strained health systems and rolling power outages.
Staff and volunteers from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the region are supporting communities preparing for and impacted by the heat waves. At the same time, teams are responding to the devastating wildfires most notably in Portugal, but also Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Turkey brought on by the extreme heat.
“Many have had to evacuate their homes with the few things they can carry," saysAna Jorge, President of the Portuguese Red Cross."Our medical teams are focused on ensuring people are getting to safety, providing critical health care to those suffering from burns and other injuries and providing them with a bed to sleep in and the necessities as they decide their next steps.”
With heat waves becoming more likely around the world as the climate crisis worsens, more preparedness and early warning systems are required to reduce and manage the risks.
“People are not always aware of the dangers of heat. But when communities understand the risks and take simple measures to prepare for it, they can prevent unnecessary tragedies,” says van Aalst. “We urge cities and communities to prepare and take the necessary steps to save lives, now and in the long term.”
For more information and to arrange an interview:
In Budapest: Corrie Butler,[email protected]+36 704306506
In Athens: Georgia Trismpioti, [email protected] +30 6971809031
Note to Editors:
IFRC’s Heat Wave Guide for Citiesand Urban Action Kitare resources for city officials, urban planners and community organizations to anticipate and plan for extreme urban heat and reduce deadly risks.
C40’s Urban Cooling Toolboxprovides approaches to lower urban temperatures and reduce the impact of the urban heat effect; the Heat Resilient Cities Benefit Toolhelps city planners and decision-makers quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of adaptation actions.
A heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures and often high humidity. Extreme heat can cause shock, dehydration and other acute illnesses, and worsen cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
There is now a mountain of evidence that climate change is increasing the occurrence of deadly heat waves. For instance, scientists have concluded that climate change has made the 2022 heat wave in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely, the 2019 heat wave in western Europe at least 10 times more likely, the 2019-20 heat wave in Australia that contributed to the devastating bushfires 10 times more likely, and that the extreme heat in the northwest US and Canada in 2021 would have been virtually impossible without climate change. For details, see for instance, the World Weather Attribution analyses.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2022
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty The Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 17 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways.
The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, over 14 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 170 National Societies.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insight that will benefit the Movement as a whole. An innovation campaign was launched in December 2021 to further increase awareness of the Fund and what it stands for.
The campaign resulted in 52 proposals being submitted versus only 28 in 2021, and more innovative proposals compared to previous years, further strengthening the Fund’s positioning as supporting innovation.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
The selection process
The Fund received 52 applications in 2022, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 471,712 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jordan, Libya, Mongolia, Niger, Portugal, Serbia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Yemen.
The projects to be supported in 2022 cover a number of themes, including first aid and rescue, support for young people, disaster preparedness, health, social welfare and National Society development. The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate new insight and learning that will benefit the Movement as a whole. Reports from the National Societies whose projects were funded and implemented in 2020 generated insights in the areas listed below.
Top 10 key learnings from project implemented in 2020
Adaptability and agility
Taking a pilot approach
The 2022 grants
The Burkinabe Red Cross Society plans to strengthen psychosocial care and the capacities of community volunteers and first-aiders in communities affected by the crisis. The grant will allow the National Society to assist victims of attacks by armed groups in areas where security is a challenge.
In 2017, over 43.8% of Ivorians were illiterate, and the disparities between men and women and by places of residence were enormous. The Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire will use the grant to help improve the education and increase the autonomy of young women in the Bounkani Region who have not attended school.
The Croatian Red Cross will use the grant funds to spread awareness of the humanitarian ideals and educate children from an early age, through the Humanity Corner.
The Dominica Red Cross Society will provide support for and help introduce farming techniques and other solutions for managing climate change and other risks. The funds will be used to train 15 farmers as Agri First Responders in their community.
The Dominican Red Cross will help build young people’s capacity to carry out local social support activities. The grant will be used to develop a virtual introductory course on planning and coordinating social support activities that is adapted to the young people’s local reality, so that they are equipped with the techniques and tools to address the needs of their community.
The Ecuadorean Red Cross aims to identify and provide primary care for the negative feelings and emotions in young people from age 15 to 30 years in the city of Quito. The grant funds will provide immersion technologies to addresses the heightened need in the community owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jordan National Red Crescent Society has recognized young people and volunteers as the beating heart of the National Society, especially during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which they served local communities across the country, when mobility was restricted. This grant will help them improve the management system for recruiting, developing, promoting and retaining volunteers to support humanitarian operations.
Libya is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, given its arid climate. This grant will help the Libyan Red Crescent raise awareness of the risks associated with climate change and highlight personal behaviours that could help mitigate these risks for communities.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society wants to use digital communication tools funded by the grant in order to help ensure there is meaningful community participation across all programmes and operations, improve its public relations management and strengthen its transparency and accountability to communities.
In the event of an accident, smartphones can provide information that is essential for providing effective first aid. Thanks to the grant, the Red Cross Society of Niger will educate and inform the public about how to store useful information in the “emergency call” section of their phones.
The Portuguese Red Cross will address young people's social exclusion and the lack of space and opportunities to develop relevant skills and digital literacy, through the Platforms of Change, funded by the grant.
Through the “Their life is in your hands” digital marketing campaign, funded by the grant, the Red Cross of Serbia will raise the general public’s awareness of the value of CPR skills and AED use and provide the related training.
The Republic of Korea National Red Cross will focus on supporting disaster risk reduction in many countries in the Asia Pacific Region. The grant will fund development of virtual reality training content by the Asia Pacific Disaster Resilience Centre, provide sets of virtual reality devices to seven National Societies and provide virtual reality training on disaster risk reduction.
The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society is aiming for better nutrition and improved water, sanitation and hygiene in vulnerable communities that are drought-prone. The grant will introduce groundwater recharging practices into the catchment and tank ecosystem areas, to facilitate groundwater retention.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, communities face challenges in gaining access to reliable, up-to-date information and in overcoming the rumours, myths and misconceptions around the vaccine. Supported by the grant, the Tanzania Red Cross Society will develop a mobile application, “UJANJA KUCHANJA”, to enhance information-sharing, build trust and increase information access and reach.
In a mountainous district of Yemen, frequent rockslides often injure people and domestic animals, disrupt transport networks and cut people off from their livelihood activities. Thanks to the grant, the Yemen Red Crescent Society will take measures to prevent rockslides and help reduce the number of victims and the damage caused.
| Press release
#PowerToBe campaign launches to help shift perceptions of refugees
Ankara/Berlin, 18 January 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a campaign to tackle negative perceptions of refugees at an increasingly critical time across Europe.
The #PowerToBe campaign follows four passionate Syrians living in Turkey – Hiba, a musician, Eslam, an illustrator, Ibrahim, a swimmer and Mohammed, a coffee lover – who are regaining control of their lives through the help of monthly cash assistance funded by the EU, ultimately giving them more power to be themselves.
The four protagonists each meet digitally with influential people from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports and coffee. The campaign shows how people from all walks of life can connect with one another at eye-level despite differences in language or backgrounds.
In the #PowerToBe campaign, fifteen-year-old drawer Eslam speaks to well-known German illustrator Steffen Kraft, Italian street artist and painter Alice Pasquini and Swedish street artist Johan Karlgren about her passion for illustration. “Drawing a lot helped me to show the world, even if only a little, what happened in Syria,” Eslam said.
Ibrahim, who became paralyzed during the conflict in Syria, connects with Polish professional high diver, Kris Kolanus about the freedom and boundlessness they both feel in the ocean. “Even though many things can hinder me, I am trying to do something. For next year, I’m preparing myself to swim the competition across the Bosporus.”
Mohammed, a father of two, talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee. “When we came to Turkey to an empty house, we had nothing at all. Some Turkish brothers helped us, gave us some furniture.” They tasted his coffee and told him it was “the best they’ve ever had”.
Hiba, who now attends a music school in Istanbul, connected with Portuguese singer-songwriter April Ivy, whom she wrote and sang a song with. “I like to give people hope because whatever struggles we go through, there are actually nice things happening as well,” Hiba says.
Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population with almost four million who are trying to rebuild their lives. About 3.7 million of those are Syrians who fled the conflict that has devastated their country.
Funded by the European Union, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The ESSN is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC in coordination with the Government of Turkey.
The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year where many are facing deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19. Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy.
This year we have seen vulnerable refugee communities slip further into hardships, but we also see their hope and strength. Through this campaign, we wanted to highlight the contributions and resilience they have despite all the challenges. When given the right support, refugees’ potential is endless.
IFRC Secretary General
Hiba, Eslam, Ibrahim and Mohammed were forced to leave everything behind, but have held on to their dreams and continued to pursue them with passion. The ESSN programme offers a critical lifeline to them and 1.5 million other vulnerable refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to see the tangible difference it makes by giving them the opportunity to make choices for their lives.
EU Commissioner for Crisis Management
Click here to download more information about the #PowerToBe campaign, including short backgrounds on each of the people receiving ESSN assistance and the influencers taking part.
You can also visit the #PowerToBe website and learn more about the ESSN on our website here.
To arrange interviews, please contact:
In Berlin: Samantha Hendricks (Social Social), +49 1577 495 8901, [email protected]
In Turkey: Nisa Çetin (Turkish Red Crescent), +90 554 830 31 14, [email protected]
In Turkey: Corrie Butler (IFRC), +90 539 857 51 98, [email protected]
In Turkey: Lisa Hastert (ECHO), +90 533 412 56 63. [email protected]
COVID-19: Scaling up testing and strengthening national health systems with EU support
Since the beginning of the pandemic, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe have been supporting their countries’ health authorities in the fight against COVID-19 through a wide range of services to help curb the spread of the virus and ensure nobody is left behind.
In Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, National Societies expanded mobile testing capacities thanks to a EUR 35.5 million partnership between the European Commission and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The European Commission financed this project as part of its Emergency Support Instrument to boost testing capacities and provide immediate support to Member States. The project’s success – it trained and equipped more testing teams as initially targeted – shows the value of a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic amongst European Red Cross National Societies.
From September 2020 to September 2021, this initiative has been a vital part of the COVID-19 response, making RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing available for more people. Local Red Cross teams performed more than 1.2 million tests within the scope of the project. Moreover, 6,800 Red Cross staff and volunteers were trained for testing and 1,428 mobile teams were set up and equipped to provide COVID-19 testing services.
The outreach role of National Red Cross Societies and their capacity to reach vulnerable groups has been particularly important in countries like Greece and Malta, where the Red Cross provided health and care services to migrants and refugees. Set up in camps and remote areas, these testing facilities aimed to help contain the spread of COVID-19 where access to health services was often limited.
“Testing is essential to help contain the pandemic. With all its initial targets surpassed, the project has proven that National Societies can play a key role in supporting national health systems in Europe and has opened new possibilities for further collaboration with health authorities,” said IFRC project coordinator Francisco Fong.
Local Red Cross teams also set up testing stations at transport hubs where a large number of people pass by every day. In Italy, staff and volunteers offered rapid antigen tests free of charge at 10 train stations across the country for travellers and commuters. In countries like Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, the Red Cross mobile testing teams have been invaluable in reaching out to marginalised communities in the countryside, where many people don’t have health insurance.
As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge across Europe, collective efforts are more important than ever to disrupt transmission chains and save lives. The partnership between the European Commission and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been instrumental in providing support to health authorities and curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Portuguese Red Cross
| Press release
Red Cross expands COVID-19 testing in seven countries with €35.5 million EU support
Budapest/Geneva, 19 November 2020 – As Europe continues to experience a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, the Red Cross will scale up COVID-19 testing with the announcement of a €35.5 million European Commission partnership.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has signed an agreement with the European Commission, financed by the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), which will see COVID-19 testing carried out by National Red Cross Societies in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are scaling up their support to embattled national health systems. The European Commission’s funding will support staff training and allow access to equipment, lab items and reagents to take samples and perform PCR and rapid antigen tests in support of national health authorities’ work.
IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said that hundreds of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers in Europe and Central Asia are working tirelessly to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“We are truly grateful for this contribution, which allows an even stronger European Red Cross and Red Crescent engagement. Our volunteers are already working around the clock to keep their local communities safe and healthy.
“Besides COVID-19 testing, they are also assisting with transporting patients, volunteering in hospitals and health centres where medical personnel are sick or isolating and providing home care services and psychosocial support for vulnerable people. We are deeply grateful for their dedication and selfless work.”
Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said: “Testing tells us what the extent of the spread is, where it is, and how it develops. It is a decisive tool to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“Being efficient on testing also requires having the necessary resources, which is why we are stepping up our support to increase Member States’ testing capacity. Support and solidarity are key to overcome this pandemic,” she added.