| Press release
IFRC urges governments and humanitarian partners to protect lives ahead of an active hurricane season in the Americas
Panama/Geneva, 31 May 2022 —The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up preparedness actions ahead of another above-average active Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean. The IFRC urges governments and humanitarian stakeholders to protect lives by investing in early warning systems, forecast-based solutions, and coordinated disaster response plans.
From 1 June to 30 November 2022, North America, Central America, and the Caribbean expect between 14 to 21 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six hurricanes of category three or higher. The IFRC and its network are working to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with the effects of heavy rains, landslides, and floods that these weather events may cause during the next six months.
Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, said:
“The region may face up to six major hurricanes, but it takes just one single storm to destroy communities that are already grappling with poverty, inequality, and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, hundreds of local Red Cross teams in more than 20 countries are sharing early warning messages and coordinating preparedness measures with local governments and community leaders.
In parallel, the IFRC is combining weather forecasts with risk analysis to take early actions ahead of hurricanes rather than simply responding to events. This approach allows us to anticipate disasters, decrease their impact as much as possible, and prevent suffering and the loss of lives and livelihoods.”
The IFRC is paying special attention to the needs of women, children, migrants, and returnees, who are suffering from overlapping crises in Central America. This region is still recovering from the pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota, which left 1.5 million people displaced in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala alone.
In Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti, vulnerable communities exposed to hurricanes and storms are also at highest risk of food insecurity due to the current global food shortage crisis.
In this challenging scenario, the IFRC is advocating for regulatory frameworks that favor the agile delivery of humanitarian aid to areas affected by disasters. It has also prepositioned humanitarian goods in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and across the Caribbean to provide immediate response to the humanitarian needs for up to 60,000 people in both the Pacific and Atlantic coastal zones.
According to the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, the 2022 hurricane season in the Atlantic, and the Caribbean Sea is predicted to be more active than normal due to the influence of the La Niña climate pattern. This phenomenon is active for the third consecutive year and causes sea temperatures in this basin to be above average. This condition allows for more active development of hurricanes, as seen in 2020 and 2021.
For more information, please contact:
Susana Arroyo Barrantes - Comms Manager Americas,[email protected]
María Victoria Langman - Senior Comms Officer Americas,[email protected]
Trevesa Da Silva - Comms Officer English & Dutch Caribbean, [email protected]
Tropical cyclones are rapidly-rotating storm systems that rotate (counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere) around a low pressure centre. They are generally slow moving but severe, with winds of between 120-320 kilometres an hour. They have different names depending on where they happen:cyclonesin Southeast Asian waters and the Indian Ocean, typhoonsin East Asian and Pacific waters and hurricanesin the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean sea. Most cyclone-related deaths are from flooding, but also from electrocution, collapsed structures and blowing debris.
Central America: Hurricane Eta
Hurricane Eta (Category 4) hit Central America in November 2020 causing heavy rains, flooding and landslides that displaced thousands of people and left dozens of people dead or missing across the region. Just two weeks later, Hurricane Iota worsened the situationin areas already affected by Eta and significantly expanded the impact to other regions in Nicaragua and other Central American countries. Combined, these two hurricanes have affected more than 7.5 million people and many are still in the process of recovering their livelihoods which were almost entirely devastated.
Mozambique: 2021-2022 floods and cyclones
Tropical Cyclone Eloise hit Mozambique on 23 January 2021, bringing devastating winds and extreme rainfall in Beira and surrounding districts. The cyclone caused severe flooding which claimed ten lives and caused massive damage. This Emergency Appeal has now been revised toinclude the impact of Tropical Storm Ana which made landfall on 24 January 2022 anddestroyed thousands of homes as well as dozens of schools and hospitals. An estimated 125,000 people have been affected, with many people already highly vulnerable from Eloise and other disasters in recent years.
The Bahamas: Hurricane Dorian
Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas in September 2019 and caused widespread devastation to the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahamas. According to national and regional authorities, it is estimated that approximately 76,000 people – the vast majority of residents on the two islands – have been affected by Hurricane Dorian which made landfall as a Category 5, and then hovered over the island nation for the better part of two days.
| Press release
IFRC braces for hurricane season in midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Panama/Geneva, 31 May 2020 —The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is currently mobilizing and ramping up the efforts of hundreds of Red Cross teams across the Americas to prepare for another hurricane season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts predict 13 to 20 named storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean only, six to 10 of those developing into hurricanes, and three to five possibly becoming major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. These storms could bring further devastation to a region that is still heavily affected by last year’s storms and hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the next six months, deadly rains, landslides and floods could further affect communities already grappling with the pandemic, where vaccines are not yet widely available, and where livelihoods have been destroyed.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said:
“In Central America and Colombia, thousands of families are still recovering from damage caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which affected more than 7.5 million people just six months ago. Recovery has been hindered by the pandemic, which has wiped people’s economic resources, strained health systems and caused challenges to the response.
“The pandemic adds another layer of complexity. We are now, once again, facing an extremely challenging scenario, with overlapping crises increasing the vulnerabilities of women, children, migrants and other groups. We are supporting regional efforts to prepare for this hurricane season, including strengthening an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that no one is left behind.”
To mitigate the logistical challenges caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the IFRC has prepositioned humanitarian goods in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and across the Caribbean to provide immediate response to the humanitarian needs of up to 60,00 people. In parallel, Red Cross teams share early warning messages and urge people to have food, water and other basic necessities at hand, as during the pandemic it might take longer for help to arrive.
The IFRC is paying particular attention to the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, where several countries have been affected by La Soufrière’s volcanic eruption and where COVID-19 cases and deaths are currently reaching a record high and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic is particularly severe.
Roger Alonso, IFRC Head of Disasters, Crises and Climate Unit, said:
“These weather events arecyclical andbecoming more frequent and intense.In many cases, we can predict them,so weurgegovernment and donors across the regionto invest inearly warning systems,disaster preparednessefforts and climate change adaptation initiatives that engage vulnerablecommunities and put them at the heart of thehumanitarianresponse. The Red Cross experience shows that being better prepared before a disaster hits can save lives”.
A more effective response is possible
By Olivia Acosta
Last November powerful Hurricane Eta, the second strongest hurricane for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, caused last November in Panama landslides, flooding and strong winds, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. The Panamanian Red Cross deployed an emergency operation to respond in different isolated communities in the western part of the country, through search and rescue activities; distribution of food, blankets and shelter; access to hygiene and drinking water; psychosocial support and reestablishment of family contacts, among others.
According to Nadia de la Cadena, PER (Preparedness for Effective Response) focal point of the Panamanian Red Cross, one of the main obstacles they faced was the distribution of aid, in a disaster context aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which hindered the response due to mobility problems and limited product procurement. The Panamanian Red Cross teams realized that it was necessary to strengthen local logistical capacity in order to provide a better response to the affected communities. "Providing an effective response in this emergency, in which we also had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, was very complex. We found that, if we didn't have sufficient capacity to distribute, a coordination alliance could be established with other actors to be able to do so".
And they were able to realize this, because for the first time they implemented the Preparedness Approach for Effective Response, through the Readiness Check, which allowed them to evaluate and improve their response mechanism of the components that had already been identified in previous assessments last year. The interesting thing about this experience, according to Nadia, is that by detecting weaknesses they were able to adjust and improve their response during the emergency itself, to help more people."We conducted a preparedness check and deleted that we had weaknesses in logistics, communication, and coordination with authorities and other actors on the ground. Immediate solutions were sought and the response was undoubtedly more effective, appropriate to the real needs of those affected."
One of the keys to the response was the coordination with different actors in the field. The Panamanian Red Cross, after assessing needs and adjusting the response (communication, participation in the national operations center, improvement of equipment, etc.), received national and international support to provide additional aid for the affected communities. "We met with authorities, mayors and governors, which made things much easier because they provided us storage space and guards. And they did this because they were very aware of the work we were doing to support the population in the affected communities."
Krystell Santamaria, IFRC Senior Preparedness Officer for Covid-19 and Panamanian Red Cross volunteer, was supporting the identification and improvement of the response. "The improvement in the response in this emergency has been evident, the affected people have also perceived it. A lady from one of the most affected communities, in Corotú Civil area, confirmed to us that during these floods far fewer people had fallen ill than in other similar situations. She was very clear that it was due to the distribution of drinking water, chlorination and cleaning of wells that we carried out”. She said. “The people in the communities we have supported were very grateful and thanked the volunteers by sharing their oranges and bananas with them”.
In addition, according to Nadia, the presence of volunteering at the local level is an added value, because it has been possible to support indigenous communities by volunteers who spoked their same language. "I want to emphasize the total support of the president of the Panamanian Red Cross and the Governing Board to all processes and to the hundreds of volunteers who made this response possible. Volunteers certainly deserve great recognition."
The improved emergency response also contributed to increased visibility of the activities of the Panamanian Red Cross, which meant more media impact and greater support from national and foreign donors. An example of this was the donations from the French government for the purchase of vehicles and from other local companies for the transportation and delivery of aid, drinking water and non-perishable foodstuffs, among others.
In 2019 the Panamanian Red Cross started working on the implementation of the PER approach through facilitators' workshops and awareness conferences. "This approach is the result of experience and best practices learned over many years responding to emergencies around the world. It is clear that investing in disaster preparedness in National Societies saves more lives and economic and social recovery is much faster."
In the case of the Panamanian Red Cross, through this approach they have identified the need, among others, to develop a procurement manual to secure supplies during an emergency, and a safe space is being set up to store aid and response equipment.
The Panamanian Red Cross is currently reinforcing fundraising to review and strengthen its response plan and capacity, and the development of the National Society's strategic plan, which will include all areas of improvement identified during the emergency, such as the establishment of processes and the search for new collaborators.
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).
Being prepared: Responding to two powerful hurricanes in the midst of a pandemic
By Olivia Acosta
The past hurricane season in the Atlantic has been one of the worst for Honduras since Hurricane Mitch, which caused more than 5,000 deaths in 1998.
Hurricanes Eta and Iota, category 4 and 5 respectively, made landfall last November and entered through the Department of Paraíso, the area where Carlos Colindres, National Risk Manager of the Honduran Red Cross, usually lives. "When I confirmed that the situation could become very serious, I began to worry about my family. We were already designing contingency plans for the population, when I remembered that I had to talk to my father to warn him. I explained to him there were going to be days of heavy rain and strong winds and it was necessary to be prepared, to have provisions and to keep warm... he answered me that he had already lived similar situations throughout his life, but now he felt calmer because according to him, they were handled in a more efficient way. That's what it's all about, I told him, be prepared for giving the best response, and try to minimize the impact and save lives”.
Responding during a pandemi
Colindres, manager since 2014, says the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the response of the institutions to the disaster caused by the two hurricanes, due to mobility problems and limited product procurement, among others.
"The Honduran Red Cross has a lot of experience in facing endemic epidemiological situations in the area, such as dengue or zika, and we are prepared to act in adverse meteorological situations such as hurricanes or floods, but not with a pandemic of such magnitude at the same time... a country is never prepared for a situation like this."
There were challenges to being able to provide quality care in a timely manner, according to Colindres. Many things failed, such as early warning systems, because there is no adequate technology available in the country to make an accurate projection and forecast. "Despite everything, our response was adequate, we arrived at the right time. The volunteers of the Honduran Red Cross, together with the national security forces under the Humanitarian Response Units UHR, were evacuating people and transferring the population to shelters and other safe places from the beginning. The Red Cross saved the lives of more than 4,900 people through water and air rescues. They also provided psychosocial support, first aid, and house cleaning... but the second hurricane, Iota, made everything worse, leaving 1.2 million people exposed to the disaster," he recalls.
Being able to respond in the most effective way to a catastrophe like this it takes many years of hard work and training beforehand. It is essential to be prepared at all levels, from institutional to local level. The key is to have adequate training and resources, as well as ongoing volunteer training.
"Having a clear national response plan, which is part of strengthening our operational capacity, has helped us to plan our response. In addition, volunteers have been trained to deal with emergencies, including epidemics. Many National Societies, with the support of the IFRC, are implementing an approach we call PER (Preparedness for Effective Response) that allows us to improve our disaster response mechanism. This approach is the result of experience and best practices learned from many years responding to emergencies around the world".
The passage of hurricanes Eta and Iota triggered a humanitarian crisis aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more than 100 dead in Honduras, millions displaced, as well as the destruction of homes, bridges, roads, crops and economic losses in the millions, which will take years to recover.
| Press release
Devastation feared as Eloise approaches Mozambique
Maputo/Nairobi/Geneva, 22 January 2021 — With Tropical Storm Eloise expected to make landfall in Central Mozambique early tomorrow (23 January), the Red Cross is warning of the potential for major damage and displacement.
Tropical Storm Eloise is predicted to make landfall in Sofala Province, about 20km north of the city of Beira that bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai in March 2019. The Red Cross has activated teams of volunteers to support evacuation and preparation efforts.
Gorkhmaz Huseynov, IFRC’s head of country office in Mozambique, said:
“We are worried about the safety of over 1 million people in high-risk areas. Mozambique Red Cross teams are on high alert and have already prepositioned emergency relief items in the landfall area. They are already providing water, sanitation, hygiene and health services to families in temporary accommodation centres.”
Tropical Storm Eloise is predicted to turn into a category one cyclone with winds between 110km per hour and 185km per hour.
Heavy rains will be felt on the coast of Zambezia, Sofala and Inhambane provinces from this evening (22 of January).
The cyclone is forecast to cross central Mozambique with considerable strength and potential for widespread floods. It is expected to decrease in intensity as it crosses southern Zimbabwe and South Africa.
IFRC’s Huseynov said:
“Ahead of the landfall, Mozambique Red Cross staff and volunteers—in collaboration with partners—have shared early warning messages to communities in the path of the cyclone in order to minimise the impact of the cyclone. As a result, many families moved to safer areas, where they are receiving support from our teams.”
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 is expected to strike areas that have been devastated by previous cyclones, including Cyclone Idai.
| Press release
Extensive destruction reported as Cyclone Yasa slams into Fiji
Suva/Kuala Lumpur, 18 December 2020 – Cyclone Yasa has slammed into Fiji, with initial reports showing extensive destruction across the island nation with tens of thousands of people affected. Packing wind gusts of up to 345 kilometres per hour, the Category 5 storm is one of the strongest to ever hit any country in the Pacific. Fiji Red Cross Society Director-General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau said: “We are very concerned for the safety of thousands of people who have experienced the brunt of this monster storm. Initial reports from volunteers are revealing destruction in Bua, a province on the island of Vanua Levu. The coastal areas of many islands have been impacted by storm surges and flooding at the height of the storm. “Our teams report that houses and community buildings have been destroyed and crops flattened. There are widespread power outages in affected areas. “Trained Red Cross volunteers who live in these same communities are responding to provide first aid and relief and updating the National Office Emergency Centre on needs.” Fiji Red Cross teams were mobilised as the storm formed, supporting evacuation efforts, securing buildings, and ensuring pre-positioned relief supplies were ready for distribution. Red Cross volunteers are currently deployed to provide first aid and relief such as tarpaulins for shelter, hygiene kits, safe water, backed by pre-positioned emergency supplies. Fiji Red Cross teams are working with the National Disaster Management Office and other agencies to work towards meeting immediate needs as quickly and effectively as possible. To support these relief efforts, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released initial early emergency relief funds of 86,000 Swiss Francs ($97,000 USD), to provide urgent assistance including first aid, tarpaulins and shelter materials, safe water, household items and hygiene kits for 17,700 people over the next month. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Kathryn Clarkson, said: "It's devastating to see another big cyclone affect Fiji so soon after Cyclone Harold and so close to Christmas. With communities that are already facing challenges because of COVID-19 this will only add to the hardships. We have a full team of people supporting the Fiji Red Cross Society operations and will be looking to increase our financial support once we get the full picture of the damages.”
| Press release
Pacific nations brace for first major cyclones of the season
Suva, 16 December 2020 – Two tropical cyclones have formed in the Pacific, signaling the beginning of what is forecast to be a busy season for emergency responders across the region.
Tropical Cyclone Yasa has been building strength between Fiji and Vanuatu and is tracking towards Fiji as a severe category 5 storm. Communities in Tonga have also been on high alert for Tropical Cyclone Zazu, which passed over the country bringing strong winds and heavy rain.
The sudden simultaneous storms reinforce predictions that tropical cyclones will be more frequent and there is more risk of floods this season due to the changing climate and La Niña weather conditions.
Red Cross societies across the Pacific prepare for the cyclone season all year, pre-positioning relief supplies, training volunteers and staff in everything from first aid to relief goods, and ensuring that communities know what to do when cyclones strike. This year these efforts have incorporated COVID-19 prevention.
Vanuatu Red Cross Society Secretary General Jacqueline de Gaillande said:
"We already have experience managing multiple disasters, following Tropical Cyclone Harold earlier this year, while dealing with the risks the COVID-19 pandemic posed to our communities. Our emergency response teams have all been trained on COVID-19 procedures and are ready to respond as needed.”
The Fiji Red Cross Society Director-General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau reiterates the importance of getting ready early.
“Disasters can strike at any time and we know that knowledge and preparation are critical for communities as they prepare for disasters. Our volunteers are, and will be, at the core of helping their communities to be ready and provide relief during this cyclone season.”
The 12 Pacific countries have an extensive network of more than 5,000 trained Red Cross volunteers working everywhere from the urban capitals to remote outer islands.
When Tropical Cyclone Harold hit Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands in April this year, more than 1,000 Red Cross volunteers were mobilized to support evacuation efforts and provide relief.
Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Cluster Coordination and Support Team in Suva, Kathryn Clarkson, said:
"Some of the same communities have been hit by five big cyclones in as many years and Red Cross will be there to provide assistance, as they prepare for another cyclone. Working in partnership with governments, Red Cross societies across the Pacific will provide vital support and information to help communities affected by cyclones maintain access to basic social services, and reduce the economic, social and psychological impact."
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
| Press release
Humanitarian response to hurricanes Eta and Iota one of the most challenging faced by Central America in decades
Panama/Geneva, 14 December 2020– One month after hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America and Colombia, affecting more than 7.5 million people, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that millions are still in need of immediate humanitarian support in what has become one of the most challenging disasters faced by the region in recent history.
The IFRC and National Red Cross Societies are currently addressing the most urgent needs of over 100,000 people through seven simultaneous humanitarian operations in Colombia, Belize, Costa Rica, Panamá, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. The situation is especially severe in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, where more than 6 million people have been affected by heavy rains, floods, and landslides. In-depth damage and needs assessments are ongoing but results from all rapid assessments conducted so far paint a bleak humanitarian picture in both the short and medium term.
Felipe del Cid, Head of the IFRC’s Disaster Response Unit in the Americas, said: “Millions of people still need immediate humanitarian support: shelter, health care, psychosocial support, access to food, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. We are talking about a huge disaster, exacerbating an already ruinous combination of COVID-19, poverty and inequality in the region.These overlapping crises are making our operation one of the most complex we have ever mounted. The support of the international community is urgent to protect lives and livelihoods”.
On 8 November, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for 20 million Swiss Francs to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua for at least 18 months. Currently only 58% funded, the appeal focuses on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, addressing health needs, including COVID-19 prevention measures, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address the mid-term consequences, such as the hurricanes’ impact on livelihoods and displacement.
“Eta and Iota have wiped out livestock, destroyedtools,harvests and farming areas, and impacted popular tourist spotsacross a region that was already facing an economic crisis related to COVID-19 and where the incomes of thousands of families had already been severely depleted. People are at risk of resorting to coping strategiessuch as selling their animals and properties,eating less food, andabandoning their homes to look for new ways of generating income”, added del Cid.
History has shown that hurricanes can cause displacement influxes as the loss of housing and livelihoods fuel unemployment and lead to increased movement of people to urban centres. Eta and Iota also represent a challenge for returned populations. InGuatemala and Honduras,some of the areas hit hardest have also welcomed large groups of returned people whose journeys have not ended in the way they expected. Figures on unemployment, poverty, and vulnerability were already high due to COVID-19 and will very likely deteriorate due to Eta and Iota.
Audiovisual materials including high quality B-roll and images available to download and use here.
| Press release
Red Cross launches massive, multi-country operation as horror of Hurricane Eta emerges
Panama/Geneva, 10 November 2020 – The national, regional, and global resources of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are being mobilized as the full, destructive picture of Eta begins to emerge across Central America.
According to Red Cross assessments, more than 2.5 million people from Panama to Belize have been affected in some way, although the impacts are most severe in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Felipe del Cid, IFRC's Operations Manager for the Americas, said:
"Eta has been a devastating disaster. In Honduras alone, 1.7 million people have been affected. Many of them are women, children and members of indigenous communities that have lost everything and have no access to water and food. In several communities, families are drinking contaminated water and are in urgent need of support."
A plane and two trucks carrying a combined 98 tons of humanitarian aid are departing from the IFRC’s Humanitarian Logistics Hub in Panama to Nicaragua and Honduras. Aid items include mosquito nets, kitchen kits, hygiene kits, tarpaulins, jerrycans, cleaning kits, tool kits and COVID protection equipment.
The IFRC has launched a 20 million Swiss franc Emergency Appeal to support and dramatically expand local Red Cross efforts in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
This operation aims to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people for at least 18 months. It will focus on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, addressing health care needs, including COVID-19 prevention needs, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address issues related to gender and inclusion, as well as displacement. Historically, disasters in the region have led to increased movement of people towards urban centres.
IFRC is also deploying a series of Emergency Response Units from its global network as part of the multi-country operation.
"The region is facing a triple crisis: Eta, COVID-19 and the one caused by the pre-existing conditions of vulnerability that have been affecting Central American countries. We are talking about millions of people affected in seven countries. The need for humanitarian aid is dramatic," Felipe del Cid added.
National Red Cross Societies across Central America were active before Eta made landfall. They coordinated with authorities to prepare for Eta’s impact and assisted in the evacuation of communities lying in its path. Since the storm made landfall, they have been involved in search and rescue efforts, offered support to people in shelters, provided prehospital care to the injured, and offered psychosocial support and COVID-19 prevention information to survivors.
In addition to mounting this operation, IFRC is also closely monitoring potential new storm systems that could develop and threaten Eta-affected communities in the coming days.
IFRC concerned about impact of Hurricane Eta on coronavirus transmission
The Red Cross, working in every country in the region, is supporting thousands of people affected by the heavy rains and floods caused by Hurricane Eta.
Eta tore across parts of Central America after in made landfall in Nicaragua on 3 November as a category 4 Hurricane. Though it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved towards Honduras and Guatemala, constant rains and powerful winds have caused flooding and devastation across the region, including dozens of deadly landslides. Belize, Cost Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua have all been significantly affected.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes with flooding and landslides causing severe damage across the region. It is thought the storm has claimed the lives of more than 200 people, though the true figure could be much higher as many people remain missing.
[caption id="attachment_70233" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Honduran Red Cross search and rescue volunteers have been deployed to areas affected by landslides. (Credit Honduran Red Cross)[/caption]
As families struggle to come to terms with what has happened, concerns are mounting about the impact this disaster will have on coronavirus transmissions.
COVID-19 prevention measures, such as regular hand washing and social distancing, will almost certainly be made more difficult in evacuation shelters, in overcrowded family homes or other safe places people have moved to.
“There are thousands of homeless people, in temporary refuges or shelters facing many vulnerabilities. Right now, preventing the spread of COVID-19 is essential despite the enormous challenges of the emergency. It is not unlikely that we will witness a significant increase in cases in the coming weeks, due to the difficulty of applying public health measures in such a complex context,” Dr María Tallarico, IFRC Health Coordinator in the Americas, warns.
[caption id="attachment_70209" align="aligncenter" width="947"] Evacuation efforts continued over the weekend as heavy rains continued to wreak havoc. (Credit: Honduran Red Cross)[/caption]
Thousands of Red Cross volunteers across the region are assisting families affected by floods, supporting evacuations and search and rescue, providing first aid and psychosocial support, as well as transporting people safely to hospital. These same volunteers have been supporting communities to stay safe during the pandemic.
“Red Cross National Societies face the difficult task of responding to these deadly rains and floods as well as COVID-19. Volunteers are being provided with the necessary personal protection equipment and will continue to support communities with prevention and protection measures. It is important now that these measures are not only maintained but increased in order to reduce possible transmissions”, Dr Maria continues.
[caption id="attachment_70229" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Volunteers from the Guatemalan Red Cross are supporting children affected by the storm with psychosocial support in evacuation shelters across the country. Across the region, volunteers are already distributing hygiene kits across to help people to stay safe. (Credit: Guatemalan Red Cross)[/caption]
Red Cross National Societies, with the support of the IFRC in the region, are already distributing hygiene kits to displaced people, these include masks and hand sanitizer. Volunteers are also talking to families about how to stay safe during this time.
The IFRC is recommending that all response must consider the need for heightened prevention measures against the virus, as well as other communicable diseases, such as Zika, that commonly increase during and after floods.
“We urge people to ensure that they continue to follow health advice, wear masks and wash or disinfect their hands as regularly as possible, use safe water to avoid diarrhea and other infections due to contaminated water, protect girls and boys and monitor the emergence of respiratory or skin diseases. Our Red Cross staff and volunteers are on the ground helping and supporting these tasks,” Dr Maria says.
[caption id="attachment_70225" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Volunteers from the Nicaraguan Red Cross clear a road obstructed by debris and trees dragged by the flood currents. (Credit: Nicaraguan Red Cross)[/caption]
The Red Cross is also urging people to continue to consider personal protection measures such as wearing masks and washing their hands as often as possible. Assessments are underway to evaluate the damage caused by the storm. The immediate concerns are ensuring people have access to clean water, food and safe shelter.
[caption id="attachment_70221" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] The Costa Rican Red Cross is supporting evacuations in areas affected by the storm. (Credit: Costa Rican Red Cross)[/caption]
It may be days or even week before the true extent of the damage is known, but constant rains even after the storm has passed, means that strong currents and landslides continue to destroy homes, farmland and sadly, to take lives.
[caption id="attachment_70217" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] A Guatemalan Red Cross volunteer speaks with a person affected by the floods. Many families face economic uncertainty caused by coronavirus restrictions. These floods bring a further bow to those already struggling to cope. (Credit: Guatemalan Red Cross)[/caption]
This devastation comes at a time when many communities in the region are already deeply affected by the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The long-term effects of this disaster threatens to push communities already struggling to cope, over the edge.
“The long-term effects of this climate disaster will push communities already struggling to cope with the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, over the edge. The IFRC has launched and appeal and will continue to work alongside the National Societies responding, to ensure that no one is left behind.”
The IFRC has launched a regional emergency appeal to cover three countries, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The IFRC is seeking 20m CHF to support 75,000 people cross these three countries for the next 18 months. It also continues to support other countries affected, including Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama, working closely with the National Societies responding. The IFRC in the region continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
| Press release
Central America: Hurricane Eta “one of the biggest threats since Hurricane Mitch”
Panama/Geneva, 6 November 2020 — The Red Cross is supporting thousands of people affected by the heavy rains and floods caused by now-Tropical Storm Eta. The devastating storm has claimed more than 50 lives, forced the evacuation of thousands of people, and caused significant damage to infrastructure and homes throughout Central America.
The situation is especially critical in Honduras where authorities have issued a red alert for the entire country, as well as in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Felipe del Cid is the Head of Operations in the Americas for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He said:
“In Honduras, already about 400,000 people have been directly affected by the storm, but that number could even double in the coming hours. Our teams on the ground are seeing widespread damage: communities are flooded, homes are destroyed, and people have been forced to leave their homes.
“Red Cross teams will continue surveying damage, completing needs assessments, and providing comfort and emergency support to those in need. This is probably one of the biggest threats the country has faced since the passage of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.”
The Red Cross is working in close coordination with national and local authorities in all affected countries. Red Cross volunteers and staff are supporting evacuation efforts, rescuing people trapped by the floods and monitoring rivers as water levels rise. They are also providing emergency first aid and psychosocial support.
The IFRC has already released about 440,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to bolster efforts in Nicaragua. Additional allocations for other affected countries are in the pipeline.
The IFRC’s logistics unit at the Humanitarian Hub in Panama is preparing to dispatch emergency supplies such as tarps, blankets, and other items to areas of greatest need. IFRC also anticipates launching emergency appeals for Honduras and Nicaragua.
| Press release
Red Cross bracing for Hurricane Eta’s winds, flooding, and storm surge
Panama/Geneva,3November 2020 —Red Cross volunteers and staff in Nicaragua and Honduras have been preparing to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance ahead of Hurricane Eta’s imminent landfall.
The Honduran and Nicaraguan Red Cross have placed trained volunteers on high alert and have pre-positioned emergency supplies, including fuel, tarpaulins and other relief items. In both countries, the Red Cross has been urging people to have food, water, and other necessities available, and to consider personal protection measures, such as masks and hand sanitizer, for emergency go bags.
Oscar Gutiérrez Somarriba, President of the Nicaraguan Red Cross’ National Council said:
“We are monitoring the hurricane as it moves towards the coast Nicaragua and working with our teams in the areas on the storm’s predicted path to determine the best course of action in response to the conditions and to continue to support vulnerable communities.”
Carlos Montes, Programme Director of the Honduran Red Cross said:
“The Red Cross is working with communities to ensure they are ready to face hurricane conditions during this COVID-19 pandemic by sharing information about how to be ready for a disaster, along with the latest information about the storm.”
Hurricane Eta is the 28thnamed storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, tying the record for the most named storms, previously set in 2005. In addition to supporting communities threatened or affected by disasters like Eta, IFRC advocates for measures designed to mitigate the humanitarian impact of these catastrophic events. Effective preparedness and early action saves lives and livelihoods.
Hurricane Dorian anniversary: Thousands supported during a global pandemic and in the midst of hurricane
One year after Hurricane Dorian devastated communities in the Bahamas, the Red Cross has assisted thousands of families with emergency relief, financial assistance and support for long-term recovery.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on 1 September 2019 as a destructive category 5 storm. It caused extensive flooding and damage across the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama.
Rundell Fowler is a resident of Grand Bahama. Her roof was ripped off during the hurricane. Through the Red Cross Home Repair program, she received financial assistance, which allowed her to pay for repairs and strengthen her home in case of future storms.
“It was a great help and we’re in hurricane season again, so I am very grateful,” she said
After Hurricane Dorian, Joel Hepburn said, his home was so destroyed that he wasn’t sure he would be able to stay on Abaco Island, a place he had lived his whole life. But with financial support from the Red Cross he has been able to buy the materials he needs to fix up his house and stay.
Volunteers and staff with the Bahamas Red Cross have supported communities since before the storm. They worked in shelters, delivered emergency aid including more than $11 million USD in emergency financial assistance to more than 3,000 families, supported recovery rental assistance and housing repair programs, and help families prepare for the current hurricane season, which has already pushed 14 storms through the Caribbean.
“As we continue to help people in the Bahamas recover and rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we are doing so while keeping the next hurricane in mind. If communities build back stronger and more resilient it can reduce the impact of extreme weather events,” said Baylar Talibov, Hurricane Dorian Operations Manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent.
This important work continues while operating within the tremendously complex situation created by COVID-19, that limited the movement of volunteers and in-person access to communities on affected islands. The COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted vulnerable families recovering from Hurricane Dorian. Throughout this difficult time, the Red Cross continues to support people in their recovery process while helping those impacted by COVID-19. Bahamas Red Cross and partners continue to support ongoing recovery interventions including rental assistance, home repair assistance, small business grants, psychosocial support, and community engagement.
“We know the road to recovery is long, and the Red Cross is here for the journey. We were in communities to support vulnerable people before, and we are there now and into the future. It is very important to recognize the dedication of Red Cross staff and volunteers in the Bahamas as they continue to support others in these difficult times,” said Ariel Kestens, IFRC Head of Country Cluster for the English- and Dutch-Speaking Caribbean.
| Press release
Hurricane Dorian anniversary: Thousands supported during a global pandemic and in the midst of hurricane season
Panama/Geneva, 1 September 2020 — One year after Hurricane Dorian devastated communities in the Bahamas, the Red Cross has assisted thousands of families with emergency relief, financial assistance and support for long-term recovery. This important work continues while operating within the tremendously complex situation created by COVID-19, that limited the movement of volunteers and in-person access to communities on affected islands.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on 1 September 2019 as a destructive category 5 storm. It caused extensive flooding and damage across the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama. Volunteers and staff with the Bahamas Red Cross have supported communities since before the storm. They worked in shelters, delivered aid including more than $ US 11 million in emergency financial assistance to more than 3,000 families, supported recovery rental assistance and housing repair programmes, and helping families prepare for the current hurricane season, which has already pushed 14 storms through the Caribbean.
Rundell Fowler is a resident of Grand Bahama. Her roof was ripped off during the hurricane. Through the Red Cross Home Repair programme, she received financial assistance, which allowed her to pay for repairs and strengthen her home in case of future storms. She said: “It was a great help and we’re in hurricane season again, so I am very grateful.”
The Red Cross is working with communities to ensure they are ready to address tropical storms and hurricane conditions during COVID-19. Bahamas Red Cross is working with the National Emergency Management Agency supporting plans for preparedness and response, including the opening of shelters. The Bahamas Red Cross shares information about how-to be ready for disasters and how to be prepared during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted vulnerable families recovering from Hurricane Dorian. Throughout this difficult time, the Red Cross continues to support people in their recovery process while helping those impacted by COVID-19. Bahamas Red Cross and partners continue to support ongoing recovery interventions including rental assistance, home repair assistance, small business grants, psychosocial support, and community engagement.
Ariel Kestens International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Head of Country Cluster for the English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean, said:
“We know the road to recovery is long, and the Red Cross is here for the journey. We were in communities to support vulnerable people before and we are there now and into the future. It is very important to recognize the dedication of Red Cross staff and volunteers in the Bahamas as they continue to support others in these difficult times.”
| Press release
Red Cross in Bahamas preparing for Hurricane Isaias, while balancing COVID-19 response and Hurricane Dorian recovery
Panama/Port of Spain, 31 July 2020 — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is working alongside the Bahamas Red Cross to prepare for Hurricane Isaias.
A hurricane warning is in effect in the Bahamas with storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall expected on the south eastern islands today and continuing through the weekend.
Effective preparedness and early action in disaster saves lives and livelihoods. The Red Cross is working with communities to ensure they are ready to address possible hurricane conditions during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bahamas Red Cross is working closely with the National Emergency Management Agency supporting plans for preparedness and response, including the opening of shelters. The Bahamas Red Cross is sharing information about how-to be ready for disaster, and the latest information about the storm. Red Cross volunteers have been trained in using personal protection equipment and are ready to mobilize in response to Hurricane Isaias.
“The team in the Bahamas is managing three difficult emergencies simultaneously: they are preparing for Hurricane Isaias, addressing and supporting people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and continuing to help in recovery from Hurricane Dorian,” said Ariel Kestens IFRC Head of Country Cluster for the English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean.
“The Red Cross is continuing our work, as well as monitoring the situation to determine our ongoing course of action and how to continue to best meet the needs of vulnerable communities during these difficult times.”
To mitigate the impacts of a hurricane and associated flooding, the Red Cross has pre-positioned humanitarian relief supplies in key areas throughout the region. Across the Caribbean, Red Cross volunteers are sharing early warning and preparedness messages, and they are urging people to have food, water, and other necessities available, and to consider personal protection measures, such as masks and hand sanitizer for emergency go bags.
Latin America and the Caribbean are disaster-prone regions. The IFRC advocates for climate change adaptation measures to mitigate the humanitarian impact of these disasters.
| Press release
Cyclone Amphan: Thousands in need of humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh
Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka, 02 Jun 2020 – Almost two weeks after cyclone Amphan barreled through Bangladesh, Red Crescent teams have already reached more than 30,000 people, but thousands more are in need of further humanitarian assistance.
Cyclone Amphan made landfall in the coasts of West Bengal, India on 20 May 2020, and then entered Bangladesh with wind speeds of up to 150 kmph, heavy rain and tidal surges that caused huge devastation in 26 districts across the country.
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said: “Thousands of people now need humanitarian support as they are living in temporary shelters with limited access to food, safe water and toilets after the cyclone has passed. Their livelihoods are also greatly affected and many of them do not know how to get back on their feet.”
More than 350,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, alongside more than 176,000 hectares of farmland including standing crops, vegetable and fruit, thousands of trees have been uprooted and fish farms worth approximately 37 million US dollars have been damaged. Tidal surges caused the collapse of embankments, inundations of salt water causing a scarcity of safe drinking water and putting the lives of thousands at risk of waterborne diseases.
More than 70,000 Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers, including 55,000 Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers, have been on the ground since before the cyclone hit, supporting evacuation efforts and distributing relief items.
Now that the extent of the urgent humanitarian needs is becoming clearer, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) have launched an emergency appeal of 5 million Swiss francs (5.1 million US dollars) to provide emergency assistance to 50,000 people in Bangladesh severely affected by the cyclone.
IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said: “Our early actions have saved many lives before the cyclone and now we are speeding up our response efforts so that these people can have access to basic needs and stay healthy.
“With this emergency appeal our aim is not only to provide emergency relief but also to improve the physical, social, environmental and economic conditions to create a more resilient community in an effective and efficient way.”
The funding will support Bangladesh Red Crescent in providing food, safe drinking water, shelter and hygiene items, and cash grants, as well as renovating damaged health clinics to benefit some of the most vulnerable people, including thos living in temporary or makeshift shelters.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also making the emergency situation more complex as people who have been displaced by the cyclone have limited access to handwashing and other hygiene facilities, increasing the risk of spreading the virus further.
Mr Ulla said: “The challenge is to help the affected population with emergency relief while we also take necessary steps to halt the spread of COVID-19.”
As part of their response activities, Bangladesh Red Crescent teams will be taking preventive measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19 including distributing hygiene information and advice, wearing personal protective equipment, and providing appropriate hygiene materials such as masks and hand sanitiser to people in shelters.
The IFRC cyclone Amphan emergency appeal will support Bangladesh Red Crescent response for the next 12 months.
Red Cross urges governments and people to be prepared ahead of hurricane season as COVID 19 could delay assistance
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing for the 2020 Hurricane Season in the Atlantic and Pacific regions, as the second storm of the season crosses the northern Caribbean.
Walter Cotte, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, said the prediction of the 2020 hurricane season as an above-normal year, with 13 to 19 named storms, in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, is cause for concern.
“Although we are focused on addressing COVID-19 we must also think ahead to preparing for the hurricane season. One of the main challenges is going to be logistical, as public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have caused closures of borders and restrictions on movements.”
Red Cross organizations from across Latin America and the Caribbean are sharing messages of preparedness, urging people to have food, water, and other necessities on hand as it may take longer for help to arrive. Red Cross also encourages governments to support humanitarian efforts.
“Using humanitarian diplomacy, we are working with governments, advocating for flexibility in the regulatory framework to allow access and movement of humanitarian goods to ensure access in case of disaster in the region,” Cotte said.
“Also, to try and mitigate the impacts of a hurricane and associated flooding and landslides we are have pre-positioned about 200 tonnes of emergency supplies in key areas throughout the region.”
During a meeting of Red Cross National Societies this week, planning for the hurricane season is under way. Strategies are changing to reflect the reality of COVID-19, for example in Trinidad and Tobago, where they are conducting online refresher trainings with community emergency response team volunteers and shelter managers. Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers are being mobilized across the region to share early warning messages, help communities prepare and support after disaster where needed. Early action and effective preparedness can save lives and livelihoods.
Latin America and the Caribbean are regions of the world most prone to disasters. The IFRC advocates climate change adaptation measures to mitigate the humanitarian impact of these disasters, especially in urban populations.
| Press release
Bay of Bengal: Red Cross Red Crescent on the ground bracing for super cyclone Amphan
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva 20 May 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing for a major humanitarian response as super cyclone Amphan heads across the Bay of Bengal towards Bangladesh, India and Myanmar.
Heavy rainfall, high winds and storm surges threaten Bangladesh’s and India’s coastlines. In Bangladesh, 14.2 million people live in the cyclone’s path, two thirds of whom are women and children. India’s Odisha State is making plans to evacuate 1.1 million people along its coastlines. While Myanmar is not in the cyclone’s direct path, heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges are also expected to affect northern parts of the country, including Rakhine state.
Early action and effective preparedness can save lives and livelihoods and IFRC is releasing funding to support Bangladesh Red Crescent, India Red Cross and Myanmar Red Cross to scale up preparedness measures to support affected communities in the direct path of cyclone Amphan.
IFRC is releasing almost760,000 Swiss francsfor early action to aid needs assessment and support vulnerable families with evacuation, emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment and material assistance.
This includesmore than 134,000 Swiss francs (139,000 US dollars) fromIFRC's Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fundwhich will support20,000 vulnerable people in Bangladesh with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19.
“We are concerned that Cyclone Amphan will put vulnerablecommunities at a dual risk during the COVID19 pandemic,”said Jess Letch, Manager of Emergency Operationsat IFRC’s Regional Office for Asia Pacific.
“The COVID-19 crisishas the potential tohamper humanitarian response efforts. Our biggest challenge is going to be ensuring that the millions of people at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods get the relief and shelter they need, while doing all we can to keep them safe from the new coronavirus.”
In Bangladesh, authorities have prepared 12,000 shelters, three times as many as in previous years to help ensure physical distancing and other COVID-19 hygiene measures. In India, coronavirus quarantine centres are already being shifted further inland to accommodate the cyclone evacuees.
Thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilised across India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to share early warning messages, help communities prepare and support evacuations where needed.
IFRC releases forecast-based funds against impact of super cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh
As super cyclone Amphan heads towards the West Bengal-Bangladesh areas, Bangladesh Red Crescent has triggered the release of forecast-based funds from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to reduce the storm’s impact on vulnerable communities living in the nine coastal districts of Bangladesh.
According to the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) in Bangladesh, more than 14.2 million people are in the path of the cyclone, of which 7.2 million are women and 1.4 million are children. This has put these communities at a dual risk amid the existing COVID-19 pandemic.
This forecast has triggered the pre-agreed release of 134,317 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
The funding will help support more than 20,000 vulnerable people with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19 through the disinfection of cyclone shelters and provision of personal protective equipment sets.
IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said:
“In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working tirelessly alongside local authorities, sharing early warning information and pre-positioning relief supplies, as well as having teams to support evacuations as super cyclone Amphan approaches Bangladesh.
“With the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, we are enabling communities to take all sorts of preparedness measures to reduce the loss of life and livelihood in the coastal districts including the camps in Cox’s Bazar, where around one million displaced people reside in temporary shelters. Forecast-based actions mean the communities no longer wait for a cyclone to hit, rather anticipate it and act early.”
“We have seen many mega cyclones in the past that have brought massive devastation in this region. This funding allows Bangladesh Red Crescent to take actions to reduce the impact of such an event.”
Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people take early actions ahead of cyclones rather than only having access to support after they have been hit.
The goal of Forecast-based Financing is to anticipate cyclones, decrease their impact as much as possible, and reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is reached. As part of this mechanism, an Early Action Protocol for cyclones outlines which anticipatory measures the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society will implement to reduce the cyclone’s impact. This work is developed by National Societies with the technical support from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said:
“We are scaling up our preparedness measures and early actions to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are in the direct path of cyclone Amphan. The current COVID-19 crisis is slowing our efforts down, but our volunteers are not stepping back from reaching out to the most vulnerable communities.”
Over the past 10 years cyclones have affected more than a million people in Bangladesh, causing death and injury, destroying homes and undermining livelihoods.
The Early Action Protocol for cyclones in Bangladesh has been revised considering the current COVID-19 epidemic. While the priority remains to move people to safe shelters if an evacuation order is issued, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are taking action to help prevent further outbreaks, including sharing hygiene information and items, identifying alternative evacuation spaces to enable physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting cyclone shelters.
This is only the second time IFRC’s early action funding mechanism has been used after over 210,000 Swiss francs were released to Mongolia Red Cross in January 2020 based on the forecast of an extreme winter season. The funding provided cash grants to vulnerable herder families to help protect their livestock and livelihoods.
German Red Cross is providing technical expertise and funding support to the Forecast-based Financing project and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Head of German Red Cross’ Bangladesh Office Gaurav Ray said:
“The impending cyclone, Amphan, is putting the lives of the most poor and vulnerable families at risk. By taking forecast-based early actions well ahead of the cyclone, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is setting a precedent, especially in the face of this dual crisis. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme will play a critical role in alleviating the distress faced by communities at risk.”
Read the Bangladesh Cyclone AmphanEarly Action Protocol for Cyclones and the early action protocol activation announcement for Cyclone Amphan.
The Forecast-based Action by the DREF was established with support from the German Red Cross and the German Government Federal Foreign Office.
Pacific National Societies respond to Cyclone Harold in the time of COVID-19
Following the recent battering of several Pacific nations by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold, vulnerable communities are still recovering in an increasing complex disaster environment. The storm hit the Solomon Islands on 3 April, before passing through Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, causing significant damage to buildings and communities, destruction of crops, roads and contaminated water supplies. Some areas, such as Luganville, Vanuatu’s second largest city, reported almost 90% destruction.
In the days following the Cyclone, more than 1,000 Red Cross volunteers mobilised across Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands to offer physical and emotional support, including delivering essential items.
Daniell Cowley, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) COVID-19 Pacific Operations Manager, says: “the challenge in several areas is compounded by the risk of Coronavirus [COVID-19] and the potential impacts on already vulnerable, and often geographically isolated, communities.”
“The aim is to help Pacific communities and individuals best prepare, and ultimate reduce their risk of infection,” Mr Cowley says. “We are focused on all Pacific Islanders, but in particular the most at risk and vulnerable groups, including the elderly, people with existing medical conditions or disabilities and other vulnerable groups. There are many challenges, and we are also very aware of the broader social and economic impacts of COVID-19 outbreak.”
Pacific Red Cross Societies have been working underneath their Ministry of Health COVID19 incident management structures since March. Their role includes Red Cross volunteers visiting communities across the islands, offering advice and handouts about reducing the risk of infection, promoting correct handwashing practices and giving advice on physical distancing.
IFRC is also working closely in partnership with other lead agencies supporting Pacific ministries of health, including WHO, UNICEF and Pacific regional organisations.
“Getting simple and accurate information to communities is crucial to prevent rumour mills, and ultimately provide the information that might help save lives,” Mr Cowley says. “We already have Red Cross active networks and trained responders through the National Societies in many islands, who can mobilise quickly to support communities to take early actions prior to the onset of a disaster and to take life-saving actions after an event, like TC Harold.”
The distances between islands can mean it can take longer to reach all the communities that need provisions and support. Travel between islands is restricted and any sea freight takes longer to reach the Islands and is required to be fumigated and disinfected and often quarantined for many days.
Red Cross staff and volunteers are having to overcome new challenges to access to the people that need them most. For example, where once, five people in one car with kits would have sufficed. Now, because of social distancing, multiple cars are required with fewer people per car, and each car needs to be disinfected before use.
“Our strong community volunteer network across Vanuatu is well trained to provide COVID-19 information,” Suzanna Gislapno,Logistics Officer for the Vanuatu Red Cross, says.
“We have integrated community awareness on prevention options into the distribution of hygiene and household kits in response to TC Harold to the most affected communities.
“Because of COVID-19, the Vanuatu Red Cross has had to apply a new approach, as restrictions have meant fewer support staff being able to get to the Islands. Therefore, we have used the capacity and ground resources we have on the Islands – in a sense applying true localisation, while using technical remote support from other Islands, New Zealand and Australia.”
Some aid items are taking longer to arrive because of COVID19 restrictions.
“It’s been uplifting to see how communities are finding their own solutions,” Ms Gislapno says. “Although there has also been positive feedback from people about the good work that Vanuatu Red Cross is doing in the community, as we were the first organisation on the ground to offer support and assistance to the affected population by mobilising the community through our volunteer networks.”
“Knowing the local context is vital in the fight against COVID19,” Mr Cowley adds. “We are here to support the national authority by reaching communities and preventing the spread of COVID-19, for as long as it is needed.”
IFRC’s COVID-19 appeal in the Pacific is being supported by the Japanese Government, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, United States Agency for International Development, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Red Cross and New Zealand Red Cross.