Geneva/Marseille, 19 July 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal to provide life-saving assistance to people in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea. IFRC teams will join maritime and humanitarian NGO SOS MEDITERRANEE’s crew on board the Ocean Viking rescue ship as of August 2021.
Lives continue to be needlessly lost in the Mediterranean Sea, particularly on the long and treacherous Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Europe. Already 792 people are known to have died on that route while trying to reach Europe in the first half of 2021, three times as many as in the same period last year. The actual number of casualties is likely to be much higher.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, it is still critical to move to the Mediterranean Sea to save lives and protect human dignity. It is unacceptable that people are still dying at sea, on Europe’s doorstep: this is a clear failure of the international community. This is why we decided again to take our vital emergency support out to sea, and we call on our partners and donors to support this operation.
“No one should be forced to leave their home, their community, their beloved because of poverty, violence, food insecurity and any other effects of climate change. No one should die searching for safety. We are proud to start this new mission, but we also call on the EU and its Member States to urgently increase search and rescue operations.”
The SOS MEDITERRANEE crew of search and rescue professionals will be joined by an IFRC team as of August 2021. IFRC will provide post-rescue support, including first aid, medical care, psychological support, food, dry clothes, blankets, toiletries and information to the people who have been safely brought on board the Ocean Viking. The IFRC team will include medical doctors, a midwife and professionals who can provide psychological support and assist those who are particularly vulnerable and in need of extra protection, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking.
“Being joined by the Red Cross and Red Crescent network onboard the Ocean Viking is an honour and a new milestone for our organization. IFRC’s commitment to reaching out to people in distress at sea through this partnership highlights the absolute necessity to try and save lives in the Central Mediterranean,” says Caroline Abu Sa'Da, General Director of SOS MEDITERRANEE Switzerland.
“Our partnership will be based on shared values and humanitarian principles upholding our duty to rescue at sea, a duty enshrined in maritime law and longstanding sea faring traditions – a duty that has been relentlessly damaged over the past five years in the Central Mediterranean. International humanitarian organizations such as ours are only plugging the rescue gap left by States in the area: it is not enough. To save as many lives as possible, we urgently need a coalition of European States and maritime actors willing to conduct lawful and humane rescue operations.”
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of two million Swiss francs to support the operation. This life-saving mission is an integral part of the Red Cross Red Crescent presence to protect and assist people in countries of origin, transit and destination across Africa, Middle-East and Europe. As a neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organization, IFRC’s global network provides critical humanitarian assistance to all persons in need, regardless of their legal status.
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Kuala Lumpur/Yangon/Geneva, 5 March 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is deeply saddened by recent loss of life in Myanmar and is urging immediate protection for all Red Cross volunteers and health workers.
Alexander Matheou, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Regional Director, said:
“Amid the spiralling violence, the Myanmar Red Cross has confirmed that over recent days, there have been very serious incidents where Red Cross volunteers were injured and wrongfully arrested. Red Cross ambulances have also been damaged.
“We express profound sadness that Myanmar Red Cross volunteers have been injured while on duty providing lifesaving first aid treatment to wounded people, in line with fundamental principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. Red Cross volunteers should never be targeted.”
The Myanmar Red Cross has mounted one of its largest ever first aid and patient transfer humanitarian operations with more than 1,500 volunteers and 120 ambulances in action across the whole country. In the past four weeks, the Myanmar Red Cross has provided first aid services, including some lifesaving interventions, as well as emergency ambulance transfers. In all, the Red Cross has helped more than 1,000 people.
Mr Matheou said: “There is escalating violence and the number of people killed or injured is rising each day. The IFRC urges restraint and a halt to violence across Myanmar.”
Amid the mass gatherings and violence over recent weeks, the IFRC is also very concerned about the risk that COVID-19 may be spreading unabated in areas of Myanmar.
“The IFRC is alarmed about the risks of another deadly wave of COVID-19 in Myanmar as testing and access to hospitals or other health services is very limited,” said Mr Matheou.
IFRC and other International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners continue to support Myanmar Red Cross in all its humanitarian endeavours at this critical time.
The Lebanese Red Cross is working around the clock to support hundreds of thousands of people affected by Tuesday’s disaster at the Port of Beirut, with medical treatment, shelter and psychological support.
The National Society deployed Emergency Medical Teams and more than 125 ambulances to the site of the explosion, rescuing injured people and transporting them to medical sites despite some hospitals having been damaged. First aid and triage stations have also been set up to help people with less severe injuries. Red Cross teams are also distributing food, water, hygiene kits, mattresses, masks, gloves and other essential relief items to survivors.
The explosion killed 150 people and has injured more than 5,000. Some 200 people are still believed to be missing.
Huge numbers of people lost their homes in the disaster, with the Lebanese authorities estimating that as many as 300,000 people have been displaced. The Lebanese Red Cross is providing emergency shelter for 1,000 families for the first 72 hours after the crisis and plans to provide shelter to as many as 10,000 families in the coming weeks and months.
Trained volunteers and staff are also providing psychosocial support to survivors and are running Restoring Family Links services to help put separated family members and friends back in touch.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 750,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support the Lebanese Red Cross in providing assistance to 15,000 of the most affected people for two months.
The Lebanese Red Cross is appealing for 19 million US dollars to cover the cost of providing emergency medical services for three months. Donations can be made by wire transfer or via the iRaiser platform.
Geneva, 31 July 2020 –Seventy-five years ago, on the morning of August 6, 1945, a B-29 warplane released a terrifying new weapon on Hiroshima.The nuclear bomb wiped out the city, instantly killing an estimated 70,000 people and leaving tens of thousands more suffering horrific injuries. Three days later, on 9 August, a second nuclear bomb devastated the city of Nagasaki, immediately killing 39,000 people.By 1950, an estimated 340,000 people had died because of the bombs' effects, including from illnesses caused by exposure to ionizing radiation. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Japanese Red Cross Society witnessed the unimaginable suffering and devastation, as medical and humanitarian personnel attempted, in near-impossible conditions, to assist the dying and injured.The 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes even as the risk of use of nuclear weapons has risen to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War. Military incidents involving nuclear states and their allies have increased in frequency, and nuclear-armed states have made explicit threats to use nuclear weapons.Additionally, agreements to eliminate existing arsenals are being abandoned as new nuclear weapons are being developed, putting the world on the dangerous path of a new nuclear arms race. These developments add urgency to the international community's efforts to prohibit and eliminate these unacceptable weapons. The indisputable evidence of their catastrophic impact makes it extremely doubtful that their use could ever comply with international humanitarian law."The horror of a nuclear detonation may feel like distant history. But today the risk of nuclear weapons being used again is high. Treaties to reduce nuclear arsenals and risks of proliferation are being abandoned, new types of nuclear weapons are being produced, and serious threats are being made. That's an arms race, and it's frightening. We must push all states to ban nuclear weapons and push nuclear weapons states to negotiate, in good faith, steps towards their elimination," said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)."The international community would not be able to help all those in need after a nuclear blast. Widespread radiation sickness, a decline in food production, and the tremendous scale of destruction and contamination would make any meaningful humanitarian response insufficient. No nation is prepared to deal with a nuclear confrontation," said Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).Proving the wide support for a nuclear-free world, 122 states in July 2017 adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The treaty will become legally binding for countries that ratify it after 50 do so; to date 40 have. The treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. For nuclear-armed states that join the treaty, it provides for a time-bound framework for the verified elimination of their nuclear weapons program.Mr Maurer and Mr Rocca commended the states that have already joined the TPNW and encouraged all others to follow suit, ensuring the events of 1945 never occur again. The two leaders said it was crucial that the TPNW becomes a new norm of international humanitarian law."Not since the end of the Cold War has it been more urgent to call attention to catastrophic consequences and fundamental inhumanity of nuclear weapons. We must signal in a clear and unambiguous manner that their use, under any circumstances, would be unacceptable in humanitarian, moral and legal terms," said Mr Rocca.There are over 14,000 nuclear bombs in the world, thousands of which are ready to be launched in an instant. The power of many of those warheads is tens of times greater than the weapons dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima."Weapons with catastrophic humanitarian consequences cannot credibly be viewed as instruments of security," said Mr Maurer.
Beirut/Budapest/Geneva, 10 July 2020 – Red Crescent societies in Tunisia and Libya are seeing an increase in drownings on the shores of North Africa.
Warmer weather and relaxed COVID-19 lockdowns are thought to be behind an increase in numbers of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.
Many are not surviving the perilous journey, with 20 per cent more people estimated to have died in June this year as opposed to last year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“While Red Cross volunteers in Italy support those who have managed to survive the crossing, unfortunately on the other side of the Mediterranean, both Libyan and Tunisian Red Crescent volunteers are left to collect the bodies of those who didn’t.”
Libyan and Tunisian Red Crescent volunteers have the difficult task of finding the bodies of those who perish along the shoreline and transferring them with dignity to local hospitals. In the month of June alone, Red Crescent teams recovered 26 bodies in Libya and more than 30 in Tunisia.
President Rocca said:
“Each person who dies trying to cross that deadly stretch of water is more than just a statistic. They are someone who was full of hope for a better future, with family and friends who loved them, who likely faced countless hardships along the way only to have their life ended, we cannot forget this.”
More than twice the number of people have arrived on the shores of Italy this year compared to the same time as last year, according to the UN. However, this does not paint the full picture of the situation. The Italian government has declared its ports unsafe since April due to COVID-19 and any disembarkation of migrants has either been prevented until they can be rerouted to other countries or has been substantially delayed. This results in migrants being left on board for long periods of time with limited access to health, protection or any other type of assistance.
When they do arrive, Italian Red Cross volunteers are the first people they see, providing first aid and psychosocial support, facilitating quarantine measures and sharing information.
“Year after year the crossings continue. Our fear is that the situation will only get worse, with the deepening economic crisis caused by COVID-19,” said President Rocca. “We know that migrants already struggle with a lack of access to healthcare and hygiene facilities. They are too scared to seek help when sick and it is almost impossible for them to keep a physical distance from others in crowded refugee camps. These can all be contributing factors to people making the decision to attempt the crossing.”
Saving lives at sea and providing migrantswith effective opportunities to access assistance and protection are collective responsibilities. EU Member States cannot face this alone. Across the sea, North and Central African countries also should not be left alone: humanity and solidarity are the only answers.
Beirut/Geneva, 7 November 2019 – A young Albanian boy will be reunited with his family in Italy later today following a successful repatriation effort involving the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and different authorities.
The young boy had been living in al-Hol camp in northern Syria. He was taken to Syria by his mother in 2014. His mother was later killed during fighting.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC President, accompanied the child from Syria to Lebanon this morning. He said:
“I would like to thank all those involved in securing the safe return from al-Hol camp of this boy to his family in Italy. In particular, I want to thank the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and its President Khaled Hboubati, for the huge efforts that have been made to facilitate this repatriation, and for the tremendous dedication that it has shown and continues to show in its response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.”
According to authorities, more than 100,000 people are living in camps in northern Syria, including 68,000 in al-Hol camp alone. This includes an estimated 28,000 children from more than 60 different countries. Rocca continued:
“This news is positive, but it is barely a drop of relief in an ocean of suffering. We call on the national governments of the foreigners in the camp and all concerned parties to take action in a manner that alleviates the suffering of a very vulnerable group of people. Ideally this approach would allow individuals to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“We appreciate that this situation is complex. There are legitimate concerns that have been raised by governments. But those concerns must be balanced with the need to treat people humanely. Today’s news demonstrates that, with political will, a solution is possible,” said Rocca.
Khaled Hboubati, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said:
“We recognize the importance of our duty to restore family links. We spare no efforts to meet this responsibility today and in the future, in parallel to the other humanitarian responsibilities we shoulder. Our goal is to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable people in Syria, working hand-in-hand with our partners.”
IFRC President Rocca urged the media to ensure that the boy and his family are given time and space to recover from their ordeal
“I appreciate that there is a lot of interest in this story. But now that he is safe, let’s leave this boy and his family alone to heal.”
Italian Red Cross will continue to support the family, including with psychosocial support.
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
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Budapest/Geneva, 24 October 2019–A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding at a makeshift migrant camp on the outskirts of Bihac in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is warning today.
The Vucjak camp – which has been termed “The Jungle” by people living there – has no running water, no electricity, no usable toilets, and mouldy, leaking, overcrowded tents.
Currently, there are about 700 migrants living in the camp. Last week there were 2,500 people there in some days. The camp only has 80 tents, no medical assistance, and just five volunteers from Bosnia and Herzegovina Red Cross Society to help the whole camp population.
Adnan Kurtagic, one of the Red Cross volunteers working at Vucjak, says the situation is heartbreaking and devastating.
“They come to me to talk. They cry and cry. They say, ‘I miss my home, my mother has died, the police did this’. I hear a lot of stories. I don’t know how I don’t break – for two months now I have only been able to sleep two or three hours a night and even then, I dream about them.”
He says the team from the Red Cross Bihac City is responsible for a wide range of tasks. They clean the camp, feed hundreds of people a day, and provide basic first aid and psychosocial support.
The health situation at Vucjak is particularly concerning, says the Red Cross’ Kurtagic. There are people in the camp with untreated broken limbs and 70 per cent of the population has scabies.
“The sanitation and hygiene situation is alarming. I don’t know how they can sleep. People should not be living here and it should be closed, but first these people need somewhere to go. We can hardly manage but I don’t want to leave these people all alone. If Red Cross leaves, there will be no food, no water, no clothes, no help - it will be awful.”
IFRC’s operations manager for Bosnia and Herzegovina Indira Kulenovic agrees that Vucjak camp should be urgently closed and the people moved to a safe, secure place that meets at least the basic humanitarian standards.
“These poor people are sleeping in the mud, six to one blanket, in temperatures falling to below zero at night. At least half of them require medical assistance, and the many do not even have shoes. The conditions are inhumane, and their suffering is overwhelming,” says Kulenovic.
“There is no dignity for these people. Most of them are covered in scabies bites, have fevers and diarrhoea, and winter is approaching. There will be a metre of snow at Vucjak camp in a few weeks,” Kulenovic says.
Since the beginning of 2019, 23,000 migrants have arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Existing migrant reception centres are full and thousands are sleeping on the streets or squatting in empty houses.
The Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina has seven mobile teams who have so far assisted 41,000 people but Kulenovic says more are needed. The teams provide people at Vucjak and those on the roadside with food, water, clothes, blankets, psychosocial support and first aid. They also distribute information on active landmine fields to warn migrants of the dangers.
IFRC and the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina are appealing to their partners for 3.3 million Swiss francs to provide food, hygiene items, first aid and other assistance to 7,600 of the most vulnerable migrants along with cash grants for 1,500 host families during 2019. The appeal is about one third funded.
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Panama/Geneva, 20 February 2019 – More than 320,000 Swiss francs have been released from an International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) emergency fund to help the Haiti Red Cross Society respond to violent civil unrest in the country.
Large protests have been held across the country since the start of 2019, and a state of economic emergency was declared on 5 February.
IFRC has made 321,861 Swiss francs available from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Haiti Red Cross’ humanitarian operation, which will help 5,500 of the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis.
Walter Cotte, Director of IFRC’s Regional Office for the Americas, said: “Our priority is to ensure that the Haiti Red Cross is able to help as many people as possible with food, water and basic medical services during this emergency.
“The Haiti Red Cross is neutral and impartial, and its volunteers and staff are from the communities affected by the unrest. They are best placed to know where and how to help people in need, and have been actively responding since the outset.”
Haiti’s unrest began in October 2018 but has worsened in recent weeks, with a series of protests against the high cost of living and ongoing economic uncertainty. The country has struggled to recover from a series of devastating disasters and crises, including 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, an earthquake in October 2018, and cholera outbreaks. A major earthquake in January 2010 killed more than 200,000 people and devastated the capital Port-au-Prince.
Caracas/Geneva, 8 February 2019 – The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has strongly defended principled humanitarian action, calling on stakeholders in Venezuela and around the world to respect the neutral, impartial and independent nature of the Red Cross’ humanitarian work in the country.
Speaking at a press conference in the Venezuela capital Caracas, IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“The focus of the Red Cross in Venezuela – as it is around the world – is on responding to the needs of the people, without regard for their social status or political views”, said Mr Rocca.
“This commitment to humanitarian principles – to neutrality, impartiality and independence – means that Red Cross volunteers are trusted and able to reach communities and people in need. Our work is not political. Don’t politicize us,” said Mr Rocca.
The situation in Venezuela is evolving constantly. According to the UN, more than 3 million people have left the country since mid-2017 – an historic phenomenon that has triggered humanitarian relief efforts across the region, while also creating knock-on effects in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan Red Cross has more than 2,600 active volunteers across the country and operates eight hospitals and 38 outpatient clinics. In 2018 alone, these facilities provided services to more than 1 million Venezuelans.
“I want to also recognize the tremendous dedication and courage of Red Cross volunteers,” said Mr Rocca. “We salute you, we stand with you, and we are ready to scale up and expand our support so that you have the resources to reach all those who need your help.”
Baghdad, 18 April 2018 – Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa gather today in Baghdad to discuss the region’s escalating humanitarian crises.
More than 140 attendees, including representatives from 16 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, will attend the conference to explore a range of issues, including the shrinking of neutral and impartial humanitarian space, and the rising vulnerabilities of millions of migrants.
“The Iraqi Red Crescent Society is pleased to welcome our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners to plan our collective strategy for the next decade,” said Dr Yassin, the President of the Iraqi Red Crescent.
“Only together, standing by our humanitarian principles, and advocating for protected humanitarian space, can we alleviate the suffering of millions of vulnerable people in our region.”
The Middle East and North Africa region is home to the world’s most pronounced humanitarian crises. The conflict in Syria, now in its seventh year, has left 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. In Iraq itself, 15 years of conflict and economic stagnation have left more than 8.5 million people relying on humanitarian relief. In Yemen, more than 80 per cent of the population is in need of aid today – 3.4 million people more than one year ago – after conflict devastated the health system and other essential infrastructure. Only 45 per cent of Yemen’s health facilities are currently functioning. In Libya, 9 per cent of the country’s estimated one million migrants are minors, and 40 per cent of these are unaccompanied. These crises are happening in parallel to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine.
The region’s conflicts are defined by growing disregard for humanitarian laws and norms. Civilians are increasingly bearing the brunt of the fighting, and aid agencies are finding it more and more difficult to access communities in need. As a further consequence, an estimated 35 million people have been displaced from their homes across the Middle East and North Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Mr Francesco Rocca, the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “Across the region and around the world, these people – who have fled their homes because of war or violence – struggle to access the services and support they need to survive. Even worse, they are increasingly falling victim to policies and laws that prioritize border control over humanity and dignity.
“All people migrating, regardless of their status, must have access to humanitarian protection and assistance. Human rights are migrant rights.”
During the conference, the Iraqi Red Crescent will nominate renowned artist Naseer Shamma as a Good Will Ambassador, in recognition of this efforts to help Iraqis affected by the conflict.
At the end of the two-day conference, participants will aim to adopt the Baghdad Declaration, which will address a range of humanitarian issues and underline the importance of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in bringing hope and support to vulnerable communities.
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
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Damascus, 20 December 2017 – Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteers and staff are the lifeline to millions, covering the last and the most difficult mile to reach the most vulnerable. Providing these volunteers with safe, secure, and regular access to communities in need across Syria is a humanitarian imperative, said Mr. Francesco Rocca, newly elected President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), at the end of his official visit to Syria.
The IFRC President visited Syria to meet with SARC volunteers and staff and to hold high-level discussions with government officials on the need for a significant scaling up of humanitarian relief and access of Red Crescent volunteers and staff to besieged and hard-to-reach areas, including Eastern Ghouta where conflict has severely limited civilian access to food and lifesaving health services.
“I am humbled by the bravery and spirit of SARC staff and volunteers. They have shown unparalleled courage and resilience as they bring humanitarian services and relief to millions of people who have endured immeasurable suffering and loss in the course of this seven-year conflict”, said Mr Rocca.
Mr Rocca was welcomed to Damascus by the SARC President, Mr Khaled Hboubati and visited shelters run by staff and volunteers near the capital.
In a series of high-level meetings with senior government officials, Mr Rocca also discussed ways to provide further support to the Red Crescent as demands for its services continue to grow, particularly when the country begins the process of recovery from conflict.
“The situation is critical,” said Mr Rocca. “There are more than 13 million people in Syria who still have urgent humanitarian needs. Each day, thousands of SARC volunteers provide emergency food and health care to communities who have lost everything and help people rebuild their lives with psychosocial support and sustainable livelihood programmes. Their neutrality and impartiality not only save lives, but will be critical as some communities begin the huge and difficult task of rebuilding”, he said.
SARC is the largest provider of humanitarian services in Syria with more than 7,800 active volunteers who work in close partnership with other humanitarian partners present in Syria to distribute relief to more than 5 million people each month.