Liberia

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Untold stories: Behind the headlines, hoping for the best while preparing for the worst

Since the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestine in October 2023, the Egyptian Red Crescent has delivered nearly 18,000 truck loads of medical supplies, food, and other goods into Gaza. ThePalestine Red Crescent Society, meanwhile, continues to provide emergency health services and coordinate the receipt and delivery of the aid.The process has not always been smooth.Aid deliveries were often blocked or delayed. But ultimately, thousands of shipments were able to get through. The Egyptian Red Crescent’s ability to scale up rapidly and respond effectively is largely due to its experience with supporting thousands of people who fled violence in neighboring Sudan.“In the case of the Egyptian Red Crescent, there were many learnings taken from the response to the population movement from Sudan last April,”saysDr. Hosam Faysal, regional head of the IFRC’s Health, Disasters, Climate and Crises (HDCC) Unit in the MENA region. “The learnings were about what the logistics system requires in each case, and how to build it quickly and scale it according to the needs of the response”.But the crisis today in the Middle East is also posing many new challenges, according to Lotfy S. Gheith, head of operations of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society.“We are facing a very different crisis from previous ones,”Gheith says. “We are used to working in Gaza, but now the situation is unpredictable, and we do not know how situations can escalate from one moment to the next, as has been happening.“This operation is a challenge, because we are sending trucks with humanitarian aid, which we have increased significantly. But it is not enough for the great, urgent needs of the population.”The making of an emergency responseThis is one side of the humanitarian equation that is often not told. It’s the story of what is done behind the scenes, before a crisis, to ensure the response is effective because it fits the local situation, culture and dynamics.The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, renowned for its intricate geopolitical dynamics, vast and diverse areas and cultures, is also a region grappling with some of the world's most daunting humanitarian challenges.MENA National Societies operate within this complex and ever-evolving context, navigating a wide range of challenges that span from civil unrest and violence to extreme weather — such as heatwaves, droughts and flooding — as well as technological hazards like the massive explosion that rocked Beirut in 2020.Getting readyNone of this would be possible without prior preparation by the National Societies. In order to provide an effective response, National Societies need to work on their response mechanisms.This means training staff and volunteers, going through simulations, building the capacity around contingency planning, as well as looking into learnings that can be gathered from other emergencies.The Lebanese Red Cross, for example, has several overlapping crises to deal with: the consequences of the August 4, 2020 explosion, the internal economic crisis, the Syrian refugee crisis, and now the conflict in Gaza.About this latest crisis, the National Society already had the mandate from the authorities to provide emergency medical services. The National Society could then improve its readiness by prepositioning stocks, increasing the alert level within their own Emergency Medical Services stations, and mobilizing more staff and volunteers to be ready for deployment.“We saw how it paid off when the escalation started in the south and the Lebanese Red Cross was immediately ready to respond and provide support to the affected and displaced population,”says Faysal.“[The Lebanese Red Cross] was indeed the only trusted entity to access the south to evacuate the wounded,”he adds. “All this has been possible through contingency planning, coordination, and the availability of resources”.In the case of Syria, the National Society is developing different scenarios in the event of an escalation of the conflict. As the context in Syria is one of protracted crises, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society mainly envisions the work it will have to undertake in case there is a need to increase the evacuation of wounded or affected populations.Its contingency plan includes protective measures for staff and volunteers when accessing risk areas, preparing to have more ambulances ready for evacuations, and carrying out more maintenance work to ensure the availability of these ambulances.TheJordan Red Crescent , meanwhile, is aiming to prepare for the potential evacuation of wounded people from the West Bank to Jordan for medical treatment. The Jordan Red Crescent has its own hospital, so its aim is to enhance medical services in order to receive and accommodate those in need for treatment.A need for more investmentThe MENA region has also been hit recently by several disasters, such as the earthquakes in Syria and Morocco, which left thousands of people dead and wreaked devastation in both countries.In the case of Morocco, the National Society had been working for several years on preparedness activities, updating its contingency plans and conducting simulation exercises with local authorities, as well as having a very clear and defined contingency plan at the national level.“The National Society has a well-defined and comprehensive contingency plan, and that's not something we see very often,” says Faysal. “It is very impressive. It includes coordination with other authorities and how to activate [the plan] at the national level”.Nevertheless, it is still necessary to develop and maintain sustainable actions and resources to ensure that National Societies respond adequately to crises and disasters.“In general, unfortunately, we see that in most cases resources only will be available when the emergency is in media headlines,”, Faysal adds.In response to this concern, the IFRC developed a multi-year programme on earthquake preparedness for eight countries in the region, using a multi-hazard approach. But, says Faysal, they received no support from partners and donors.“So, when the earthquake hit, we were in the same situation as we were in Syria [following the earthquake there in February 2023], with no considerations for us to be better prepared”, he says. “This is not about putting pressure on partners, because it's not just about resources, but also about availability and technical engagement.”This is why it’s critical to continually highlight the need for preparation, behind the scenes, before disaster strikes. Krystell Santamaria,Disaster Risk Management Coordinator forIFRCMENA Region, puts it this way: “We must continue to invest in preparedness, to ensure that resources are sustainable: Preparedness efforts must be updated cyclically and maintained over time, to guarantee that National Societies can respond effectively to the growing crises in the Mena region. This is the challenge”.By Olivia Acosta

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National Society Investment Alliance: Funding announcement 2022

The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies—particularly those in complex emergencies and protracted crisis—so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services. The NSIA can award up to one million CHF of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 CHF over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from elsewhere. This year, the NSIA is pleased to announce that the following six National Societies have been selected for accelerator funding in 2022: Burundi Red Cross Kenya Red Cross Society Malawi Red Cross Society Russian Red Cross Society Syrian Arab Red Crescent Zambia Red Cross Society These National Societies will receive a significant investment of up to one million CHF, to be used over a maximum of five years, to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability. Three of these National Societies (Syria, Malawi and Zambia) previously received NSIA bridge awards, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach towards sustainable development. In addition, 14 other National Societies will receive up to 50,000 CHF in bridge funding: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Sierra Leone. In total, the NSIA will allocate 5.4 million CHF to 20 different National Societies this year. This is more than double the funds allocated in 2021 and represents the largest annual allocation since the NSIA’s launch in 2019. This landmark allocation is made possible thanks to the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ National Societies. Both the ICRC and IFRC have also strongly reinforced their commitment, by allocating 10 million CHF and 2 million CHF respectively over the coming years. The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination, and Olivier Ray, ICRC Director for Mobilization, Movement and Partnership, said: “We are pleased to have been able to select 20 National Societies’ initiatives for funding by the NSIA in 2022. Our vision and plans are becoming a reality. We see Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies operating in fragile contexts accessing funds for sustainably developing to deliver and scale up their humanitarian services. This is localization in action and at scale. It is particularly encouraging to see that the NSIA’s two-stage approach, with initial funds providing a springboard to help National Societies prepare for increased investment aimed at achieving sustained impact on the organization and vulnerable communities, is working. We hope to see many more National Societies planning and following this journey. 2022 will be remembered as a milestone for the NSIA. Our ambition is to maintain this momentum and continue to grow in the years to come. We see this mechanism as a valuable and strategic lever to support National Societies in fragile and crisis settings to undertake their journey towards sustainable development.” For more information, please click here to visit the NSIA webpage.

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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.”

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