Technological and biological emergencies, sometimes called 'CBRN' (short for chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear hazards), can have devastating and long lasting impacts on people's lives and livelihoods. The IFRC supports National Societies worldwide to effectively prepare for and respond to technological emergencies using a multi-hazard approach.
Jakarta, 25 May 2022 -The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have committed to promoting and developing their engagement in disaster management with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ASEAN and the IFRC on the Strengthening of Community Resilience in Southeast Asia.
The MOU outlines the scope and areas of cooperation between the IFRC and ASEAN to strengthen community resilience at regional, national, and local levels in the ASEAN region, including in areas such as disaster management, disaster risk reduction, disaster law, health in emergencies, disaster relief and emergency response, gender, youth, and climate change. This agreement also marks a significant milestone in ASEAN’s longstanding cooperation with the IFRC which has supported the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) in the implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) and its work programmes.
The MOU was signed by the ASEAN Secretary-General H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi and the IFRC Secretary General, Mr. Jagan Chapagain, at the sidelines of the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) in Bali, Indonesia, in the presence of the representatives of the ACDM and the representatives of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
At the Signing Ceremony, the two leaders expressed appreciation over the progress of cooperation between ASEAN and the IFRC. Recognizing ASEAN and IFRC’s mutually beneficial roles in strengthening climate adaptation and disaster resilience in vulnerable communities in Southeast Asia, both ASEAN and the IFRC look forward to the implementation of the MOU through collaborative projects in the AADMER Work Programme 2021-2025.
In his remarks, Dato Lim emphasized that “in the face of increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters due to climate change, in one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions, coupled with an increasingly complex humanitarian landscape, we must build strategic partnerships to enhance our resilience as one ASEAN community.”
In Mr. Chapagain’s speech reiterated that “through this partnership our common goal is to put communities in Southeast Asia at the centre by building individual and community capacities that help reduce humanitarian needs and avert loss and damage caused by the climate crisis."
ASEAN countries are located in one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, ranging from earthquakes, floods, landslides and typhoons. The wide geographic stretch of incidences and increasing frequency and intensity of disasters due to climate change require ASEAN to enhance the region’s readiness and emergency response capacity.
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When Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies help people affected by disasters or crises, they start by conducting emergency needs assessments. These assessments help them understand the extent and impact of the damage a disaster or crisis has caused, as well as the ability of the affected population to meet its immediate survival needs.
Disasters are serious disruptions to the functioning of a community that exceed its capacity to cope using its own resources.Disasters can be caused by natural, man-made and technological hazards, as well as various factors that influence the exposure and vulnerability of a community.
The IFRC is committed to supporting humanitarian action that is as local as possible, as international as necessary.Our 191 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are the lead actors in preparing for, responding to and helping communities recover from emergencies. In times of increased need, our global disaster response system effectively supports and coordinates their lifesaving work.
Every year, disasters and crises have devastating impacts on people, communities and entire societies around the world.The IFRC and our 191 National Societies respond to, and workto prevent or lessen the impacts of, all types of crises and disasters. We do so for all people, with a focus on supporting the most vulnerable.Our priorities are to save lives, reduce suffering and uphold human dignity.
By Robert Kaufman, Head of Philippines Country Office, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Imagine getting hit by six typhoons during a deadly pandemic. For millions of people in the Philippines, this is their reality as 2020 comes crashing to a close. Predictions of the increasing severity and frequency of emergencies have come true.
It’s heart-breaking, exhausting, and scary. But most of all it’s frustrating as much of this human and economic toll can be prevented.
We have known about the brutal effects of climate change for a long time, yet we haven’t been doing enough to fix it. Debates about the effects of climate change or whether partners should support more preparedness are failing people. If your roof blows off three times in one month and this extreme weather happens with relentless certainty, there’s nothing to debate. It is time to prepare more for what’s coming.
We know that the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, topping the charts with the most disasters of all countries the past two years. It’s number two for the past decade just behind China.
We know the number of climate-related disasters has risen almost 35% since the 1990s. The stuff of Hollywood movies has become a reality for tens of millions of people around the world, as they face bigger, more violent storms and more disease outbreaks.
For decades we anticipated another pandemic. Hollywood blockbusters told horror stories of contagious diseases. Since 2008, we’ve seen fantasy become reality with several pandemics, the H1N1 flu virus, SARS and now COVID-19. Yet somehow, the world has been taken by surprise.
Let’s make no mistake, we have made inroads. Governments, humanitarian agencies and countless communities deserve credit for helping to save lives. Just seven years ago, the most destructive typhoon to hit the Philippines on record, Haiyan, killed close to 7,000 people. When Typhoon Goni hit in 2020, a storm as strong as Haiyan, less than 70 lives were lost. Still, I’m frustrated.
Early on in management, I learned that when you spend significant time and money on something, it is a priority. Most of the time and money in the aid sector is still spent on response, as if we don’t know what’s coming; neither the humanitarian community, the policymakers, nor the big donors.
Why are we not using our extraordinary capacity to anticipate crises to prioritize our time and money? What price do we need to place on the lives of people who have died or had their livelihoods ripped apart by disease and disaster before we change our priorities?
Today, we largely know the types of risks we are going to face, where they are going to hit and even in many cases, when. Many of the answers are clear as day.Typhoons strike the Philippines every November and December. Floods always follow drought in East Africa.
We know the risks and we know what to do about it. The latest study on the value of preparedness confirms what we already knew. Every dollar invested in reducing risks from climate-related disasters saves us $6 when we are fixing up the mess, according to the United States Institute of Building Sciences and the United Nations.
Super Typhoon Goni packed the most powerful winds of any storm in the world last year. Together with typhoon Vamco and other major storms, they came at a huge cost, seriously affecting the lives of more than 8.1 million people. More than 425,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.
Among the millions whose livelihoods were disrupted, at least 200,000 farmers and fishermen lost their only source of income. The cost of agricultural damages totalled more than ₱12.3 billion (US260m) according to the Philippines Department of Agriculture.
Together, the storms were considered the secondmost expensive typhoons on record, costing more than $US 1 billion.
Money normally reserved for responding after disasters strike needs to be made available earlier and for longer-term solutions.
We need to stop soil erosion, plant trees and improve drainage. We need to avoid crop wastage with better grain storage and irrigation. We need to build safer houses with stronger and more permanent foundations. We need to protect land rights and strengthen economic development and social protection programs so that people are not dependent on aid when disaster strikes.
There needs to be a public accounting of how well resource allocation aligns with scientific prediction and the lessons we have learned.
We must put our money where our mouth is. Failing is a dereliction of our responsibility to those most at risk and to ourselves.
This past year, millions have faced often insurmountable hardships and heartache. We have a duty to protect the hope and dignity of those we pledge to support by ensuring everyone has a fair chance of a decent life.
There just can’t be any more excuses.
The President of the Iranian Red Crescent Society Karim Hemmati announced yesterday the opening of a financial channel for receiving international humanitarian contributions.
In an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency, Hemmati said: “According to negotiations and correspondence conducted by the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as the follow-up of our colleagues in the Iranian Red Crescent, the United States Department of the Treasury will not oppose the opening of a financial channel for the transfer of humanitarian aids to the Iranian Red Crescent, provided that the Americans are not one of the parties to the aid provided by individuals and legal entities.”
“According to the agreement, in the past few days, part of the aids, which was reserved for the Iranian Red Crescent and could not be transferred for several years, has been transferred to the country,” added Hemmati.
The transferred contributions will be used in purchasing medicine, food parcels and other relief items that the Iran Red Crescent might need for its humanitarian response.
Dhaka/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 30 June 2020: Urgent early action is being taken to protect lives in Bangladesh as floods threaten 4.1 million people in large areas across the country that are already grappling with COVID-19.The Global Flood Awareness System (GLOFAS) has issued a flood forecast with a more than 50 per cent probability of a severe 1-in-10-year flood submerging some areas of Bangladesh for at least three days.A 5-day forecast by Bangladesh’s Flood Forecast and Warning Centre (FFWC) has also confirmed the severity of the floods. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is implementing early actions with forecast-based funds from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to protect the lives, property and livelihoods of more than 16,500 people most at risk in three districts: Kurigram, Gaibandha and Jamalpur.Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Feroz Salah Uddin said: “The flood water is rising alarmingly and many areas are already inundated. Our volunteers and staff are on the ground to assist the most vulnerable communities before the water reaches the danger level.“This funding will help us accelerate our early actions when time is running out.”The forecast has triggered the release of more than 230,000 Swiss francs (240,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.This funding will help support Bangladesh Red Crescent in evacuating people in the most at risk communities to safe shelters with their valuable assets and livestock; providing unconditional cash grants to those affected; and giving first aid treatment to those who need it. Precautionary measures are also being taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by pre-positioning facemasks and hand sanitisers for distribution.IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said: “As a potentially severe flood continues to threaten millions of people in Bangladesh, we are taking a variety of preparedness measures to save lives and reduce loss. Together with Bangladesh Red Crescent we are reaching out to the communities in need to help them evacuate and to provide them with cash grants that give people in the path of floodwaters the ability to address their most urgent needs.“The compounding effects of COVID-19 and the floods could be devastating and this funding is crucial to reducing the impact as much as possible.”This is the second time in six weeks that IFRC has released forecast-based funds to support early and life-saving action in Bangladesh, after releasing more than 134,000 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) ahead of Cyclone Amphan in May.Early actions and forecast thresholds are pre-defined and agreed in BDRCS’ Early Action Protocol for Floods that has been developed with support of German Red Cross and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
By Nora Peter, IFRC
This time last year Paola Vicini was keeping vigil at the base of the collapsed Ponte Morandi in Genoa, anxiously waiting for any news of her missing son, Mirko. For five long days, she did not budge from the site, sleeping in a campervan provided by the Italian Red Cross, and being supported by its volunteers.
“Mirko was working at a company close to the bridge. As soon as I heard about the disaster, I rushed to the red zone. Even though I knew it was impossible for him to survive under that debris, I did not give up hope,” she remembers.
During those days of uncertainty and anguish, Paola was supported by Federica, an Italian Red Cross volunteer, and the two of them formed a strong bond. Federica was holding Paola’s hand when Mirko’s body was retrieved from under the ruins.
“I don’t remember much from those days, but I can still recall Federica’s smile. She was my fortress.”
On 14 August 2018, a 200-metre section of the four-lane bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed. Vehicles plunged 90 metres onto railway tracks, and buildings below, killing 43 people and injuring 29. 600 people have been displaced.
Together with the military and state authorities, Italian Red Cross search and rescue teams searched for survivors for 26 hours. Two Red Cross nurses helped identify bodies at the Genoa morgue, while 15 other volunteers provided psychosocial support to the families of the victims. Altogether 500 Italian Red Cross volunteers took part in the operation that lasted for 35 days.
Antonio Cecala was another who was helped by the Red Cross volunteers.
“My brother and his family had left for a holiday. When I heard the news about the accident, I tried to call him, but he wouldn’t answer his phone. I got anxious and started making calls to the police and the local hospitals, but nobody had any information. So, I decided to go to Genoa to find out what happened to them,” remembers Antonio.
Amid the chaos, he found support and comfort among the Red Cross volunteers who helped him in the search for his missing relatives. Days later his brother’s car was found under the ruins.
Antonio was so moved by the work of the volunteers that he decided to become one of them. “Since the Red Cross gave me so much, I wanted to give something back to those in need,” he explains.
A video tribute to the rescuers and volunteers, “Ponte Morandi: a year on” can be viewed here.
When a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society receives a forecast of an imminent extreme weather event, one of their most urgent tasks is to decide what action to take in anticipation of a possible disaster.
In the case of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, this decision-making process has become clearer and more straightforward, thanks to its improved use of scientific information, as was shown in recent weeks before the arrival of Cyclone Fani.
Since 2015, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been using a Forecast-based Financing (FbF) approach with support from the German Red Cross. As a result, when Cyclone Fani approached, decision-makers could rely on an established system which provided them with robust forecast information and served as a basis to decide, when and where to act and with what resources.
The Bangladesh National Society, with support from the German Red Cross and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, had developed an Early Action Protocol for cyclones. This plan clearly defines forecast thresholds and details which early actions are needed, and where, to protect the population.
In the days before Cyclone Fani made landfall, the Bangladesh Red Crescent set up an Activation Committee in line with its established procedures for activating the Early Action Protocol. Its role was to continuously review the meteorological data and decide if according to the forecast information the trigger for activation was met. The Activation Committee is chaired by the Deputy Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent and also includes experts from the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, the Climate Centre, German Red Cross, and IFRC. Activation of the Bangladesh EAP is being funded by the IFRC’s financial mechanism to support early action, the Forecast based Action by the DREF, which was created in May 2018.
Based on the forecast information, the local branches in the coastal districts activated their control rooms, mobilized their resources, volunteers and officials for early warning and preparation of evacuation shelters. Eight members of the National Disaster Response Team were deployed in four districts (Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat and Barguna) to support the activities being conducted. In two districts, local branches with German Red Cross support also undertook a rapid stock-taking of local markets to ascertain if they were able to supply the food and relief items that would be required in case of an activation.
In addition, a database of the cyclone shelters, markets and accessibility was used by all stakeholders in preparation for Cyclone Fani. The database had been developed by the FbF project and proved to be very useful in preparing districts in the cyclone’s path for evacuation, and in obtaining real-time information from the shelters through the contacts listed.
The Activation Committee met several times before deciding not to activate the Early Action Protocol, as the forecasts did not meet the trigger that had been defined in the EAP and all the data and analysis suggested that the forecasted impact could be managed with resources from the local branch. Had the Committee decided for activation, the EAP Implementation Committee was there to coordinate and implement the EAP and districts were ready.
Thanks to the work on FbF, there was a clear framework for decision-making and the systematic monitoring of forecasts allowed the preparations to focus on those districts that were later affected by rains, using resources efficiently.
All these actions as well as the structures for coordination demonstrate the importance of forecast-based financing in supporting readiness activities and bringing all affected parties together to take anticipatory action.
Red Cross volunteers in the Indian state of Odisha are ramping up efforts to warn 20 million people of the imminent and potentially deadly arrival of Cyclone Fani.
Fani is predicted to make landfall on India’s east coast on 3 May. It is expected to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds which could lead to loss of life and injuries, as well as damaging houses, infrastructure and crops. An estimated 1,500 Indian Red Cross volunteers are working within communities to warn people at risk.
The Indian Red Cross is packing emergency kits (with instant rice, tea, sugar, biscuits, candles, matches and water) ready to distribute to people who will seek refuge in the state’s cyclone shelters. Clothing, hygiene kits, buckets, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting are also being prepared. In the event of a disaster, Red Cross will prioritize support for displaced families, older people, women-headed families, breast-feeding mothers and people living with a disability.
In Bangladesh, an estimated 12.8 million people are at risk given Fani’s current predicted path which takes it across four inland districts on its journey east. Volunteers of the joint Bangladesh Red Crescent/Bangladesh government cyclone preparedness programme are alerting communities about the potential impact of the storm and the possible need to evacuate using megaphones and loudspeakers as well as social media.
In Cox’s Bazar – where an estimated 700,000 people who have fled violence in Rakhine are living in camps – Red Crescent volunteers are going household-to-household to warn people of the risk potentially posed by Fani.