Programmatic Partnership to engage even more communities in coming year
A global partnership aimed at strengthening resilience and providing agency to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities will continue into its second year following a decision by Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) and the IFRC in early summer 2023.
Through the Programmatic Partnership, [ML1]European Union (EU) money will fund a range of innovative projects into 2024 that focus particularly on local action to prepare for and respond to humanitarian and health crises.
With climate change, pandemics and population movements all on the rise, these types of partnerships are crucial for enhancing locally-led anticipatory action and, where necessary, disaster response.
“The ride to localization involves having local communities in the driver’s seat from the moment of identifying needs aligned with priorities and strategies, to decision making and implementation,” said Marwan Jilani, director general of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society's (PRCS).
The partnership has reached over eight million people so far, helping communities reduce risks and react quickly to sudden-onset crises. With a EUR 70 million boost in year two, the partnership sits at over EUR 134 million and will be able to reach far more people than in the first year. All IFRC work is carried out with close cooperation with national Red Cross and Red Cresent societies, local communities and networks of volunteers.
“Humanitarian needs are growing and if we want to prepare communities to be more resilient, we need to join forces with our national societies and public institutions,” Nena Stoiljkovic, the IFRC’s Under-Secretary General for Global Relations, Humanitarian Diplomacy and Digitalization.“Only then we can be more effective and efficient. This programme is the best example we have on long-term and multi-country financing and is an inspiration for similar partnerships to come.”
The Partnership focuses of five key areas:
Disaster preparedness and response: Preparing communities, National Societies and disaster risk management institutions to anticipate effectively, respond and recover from the impact of evolving and multiple shocks and hazards.
Epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response: supporting communities to prevent, detect and respond to disease outbreaks.
Supporting people on the move: providing displaced people with their basic humanitarian needs.
Cash assistance: often the best way to help people is to give them a cash grant to invest locally, as they choose. Cash assistance gives those in need dignity and agency.
Risk communication, community engagement and accountability: the people we support through the Programmatic Partnership are partners in our work. We listen to them carefully and act upon their opinions and needs.
A total of 12 EU Red Cross National Societies are involved in implementing the Programmatic Partnership in 24 countries around the world. Here are some examples of Partnership activities:
After the fires in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp, the Bangladesh Red Crescent and IFRC provided immediate support to families who had lost their houses and provide them with mattresses, blankets and torch lights. They also built 500 shelters in Camp 11. This funding was pooled together with the IFRC-DREF resources to provide a comprehensive response to the fire. More than €300K from the Programmatic Partnership were allocated and 2,500 people were supported through this emergency intervention.
The Red Cross of Chad responded immediately to the Sudan crisis, providing basic support to those people fleeing the conflict and crossing the border into Eastern Chad. The flexibility of the programme’s funding instrument enabled this timely and critical support. More than €260K were allocated and 5,883 people were reached through this action.
After Ecuador was struck by several simultaneous disasters — floods, landslides, building collapses, hailstorms and an earthquake – the Ecuadorian Red Cross was able to assist the affected population by providing home, tool, kitchen, hygiene and cleaning kits, as well as mosquito nets, blankets and access to safe water. More than €250k were allocated and 13,020 people were reached in this intervention.
Volunteers across Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama have been trained to use the Nexus Environmental Assessment Tool (NEAT+), to better assess risks and post-disaster needs.
In Guatemala, volunteers have been trained on the use of drones for ‘photogrammetry’ – the modern way to get reliable information about physical objects and the environment through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images. The training has significantly improved the ability of volunteers to assess risk and prepare accordingly.
'There is an urgent need to integrate climate adaptation in emergency preparedness and response'
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to address the 2023 Belt and Road Ministerial Forum for International Cooperation in Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management.
I congratulate the Government of China for their leadership on this initiative, which has marked significant achievements and efforts on disaster risk reduction and emergency management over the past ten years.
The IFRC welcomes our partnerships, including with the Government of China, that supports our Disaster Response Emergency Fund for the most efficient response to disasters and crises.
Friends and colleagues, we have witnessed a year of unprecedented disasters around the world, which have been further compounded by climate change and geopolitical conflicts.
Global humanitarian needs are rising at an alarming rate.
These needs are vastly outstripping the resources available to address them.
The human costs of disasters and crises remains unacceptably high.
As the world’s largest global humanitarian network, with a unique global and local reach, the IFRC has been supporting the National Societies in impacted countries to respond to the needs of crisis-affected communities.
The Government of China and the Red Cross Society of China have also been providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to our IFRC network.
Still, more needs to be done.
Today, I have three important messages I would like to share with you.
Firstly, the climate crisis is the biggest multiplier in increasing disaster risks.
If humanity fails to act, hundreds of millions of people will put in a highly increased disaster risk because of the humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis.
There is an urgent need to integrate climate adaptation in emergency preparedness and response.
The IFRC is working with our member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the world to strengthen the coordination, preparedness and response to large-scale disasters and crises.
Secondly, investing in disaster risk reduction saves lives and livelihoods.
Over the last decade, some of the most recent—and often predictable—extreme weather events were the most deadly, costly, and devastating.
The IFRC network has been transforming our emergency response mechanisms to integrate early warning approaches that anticipate disasters so that people can act ahead of time to save lives and livelihoods.
This helps them recover and build resilience to the next disaster.
It is encouraging to see recent efforts in China to reinforce disaster prevention measures and scale up early warning and early action systems.
Finally, global solidarity and multi-sectoral collaboration is must to bring the disaster preparedness and emergency response to scale.
It will take joining forces to prepare for and effectively respond to the potential mega disasters.
No one organization can do this alone.
The Belt and Road Initiative on Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management offers us a platform and opportunity to work together and confront the challenges of today and in the future.
I am especially pleased to see that localization and investment in local actors is included in this years’ Joint Statement.
The IFRC welcomes collaboration with the Government of China and other countries along the Belt and Road Initiative to reduce the humanitarian needs.
I wish you all a successful Ministerial Forum, and I wish you many positive discussions and outcomes from this important event.
A greater push for multi-hazard, people-centred climate risk reduction across Africa
Over the past 20 years, the number of climate-related events and people affected in Africa has risen dramatically. Successive devastating crises, such as droughts in the Horn of Africa and deadly cyclones and floods in Mozambique and Libya, will likely continue as the frequency and impact of climate extremes continue to intensify. Africa´s population is also projected to double in the next 30 years, meaning more will be impacted in the coming years if nothing is done.
We cannot allow lives to be lost in predictable disasters. Early warning systems with early action are the most effective and dignified way to prevent an extreme weather event from causing a humanitarian crisis—especially for the most vulnerable and remote communities.
Two weeks ago, the Africa Climate Summit 2023 (ACS23) and the Africa Climate Week 2023 were convened in Nairobi. Leaders from governments, businesses, international organizations, and civil society gathered to explore ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while adapting to the mounting fallout from the climate crisis.
Shortly after, the IFRC hosted the 10th Pan African Conference (PAC) bringing together Red Cross and Red Crescent leadership from 54 countries to discuss renewing investment in the continent.
The ACS23 had only just concluded when the continent was struck by two major disasters: a massive earthquake in Morocco and Storm Daniel in Libya, both claiming thousands of lives and wiping out years of development.
Rapid analysis of Storm Daniel has shown climate change made the catastrophe ‘far more likely’. And while earthquakes are not climate-related, the impact of the Morocco earthquake will linger for years, making affected communities more vulnerable to climate-related risks and hazards.
The IFRC network quickly mobilized resources and emergency teams in both countries to support affected people and get urgently needed humanitarian assistance to hard-to-reach areas. But both disasters point to the need to invest in multi-hazard and people-centered risk reduction, adaptation and resilience in communities before disasters strike—a resounding call at the ACS23 and PAC.
Africa has a strong network of 54 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the majority of which have signed our Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations which aims to galvanize a collective humanitarian response to the climate and environmental crisis. However, we need to do more to leverage our combined strengths, expertise, and resources to address the complex and diverse humanitarian challenges the continent is facing.
While there are success stories to celebrate, fundamentals of National Society Development (NSD), along with risk management, localization, digital transformation, and improved membership coordination remain central to the ambition of African National Societies to deliver the most effective humanitarian, public health, and development services to their communities.
These challenges and achievements were reviewed at the 10th PAC, with reflections and lessons turned into a reference framework for new actions and targets for African National Societies over the next four years.
At the ACS23, an initiative politically endorsed at COP was launched for the continent: the Early Warnings for All Africa Action Plan. The IFRC, with its long and in-depth experience in disaster management, will lead the preparedness and response pillar of the plan and support the dissemination and communication pillar. The latter involves leveraging digital technology, such as mobile networks, apps, and social media platforms, to reach a wider audience and ensure the delivery of warnings in a timely manner.
A huge step in the right direction, the ACS23 also provided space for:
African leaders to boldly speak on their climate ambitions, calling for urgent action and showcasing the proactive approach taken by African countries to address the impacts of the changing climate on the most vulnerable.This was clearly summarized in the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change.
Youth and children to reflect on their power as young people to drive meaningful climate action and change in their society.
Discussion on ways to boost investments in interventions around women’s empowerment, green growth, and climate action.
A call by African leaders for accountability to countries responsible for the highest emissions to honour their commitments to operationalize the loss and damage fund, including the pressure for a shift in the global financing architecture.
As we gear up to COP 28 in Dubai, it will be crucial for the African continent to have a joint and common position on key issues related to the climate crisis, especially on prioritizing the most vulnerable communities, unlocking more and flexible financing for adaptation, and calling for further, urgent action around loss and damage commitments made at COP 27.
We need to continue dialogue with the most at-risk and vulnerable communities to address the gaps in the Nairobi declaration as we work to mobilize local resources for innovative and tangible solutions to the climate crisis.
| Press release
Libya floods: Climate change made catastrophe ‘far more likely’
Geneva/New York19September 2023- What happened in Derna should be a ‘wake up call forthe world’ on the increasing risk of catastrophic floods in a world changed by climate change, saysJagan Chapagain,Secretary Generalof the International Federation of Red Crossand Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).Chapagain was talking in the light of a reportsaying climate change made the disaster in Libya significantly more likely.
Rapid analysis by theWorld Weather Attribution group– a group of scientists supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - analyzed climate data and computermodel simulations to compare the climate asit is today, after about 1.2°C of global warming, with the climate of the past. Thescientistsfound that human caused climate change has made heavy rainfall in north-eastern Libya up to50 times more likely to occur than it would have been in a world not experiencing human-caused climate change.They also found there was up to 50% more intense rain than there would have beenin a comparable rainstormin a pre-climate change world.
The scientists are clear that, even in a 1.2°C ‘warmed’ world,therainfall that fell on Libya was extreme. It was an event that would only be expected to occuronce every 300-600 years.Even so, that frequency is much higherthan would be the case in a world that had not warmed.
Rainfall alone did not make the Derna disaster inevitable. Enhancedpreparedness, less construction in flood-prone regions and better infrastructure managementof dams wouldhavereducedthe overall impact of Storm Daniel.Nonetheless, climate change was a significant factorin causing and exacerbatingtheextremeweather event.
Julie Arrighi, Interim Director at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre which hadresearchers working on the World Weather Attribution report said:
“This devastating disaster shows how climate change-fuelledextreme weather events are combining with human factors to create even bigger impacts, as more people, assets and infrastructure are exposed and vulnerable to flood risks. However, there are practical solutions that can help us prevent these disasters from becoming routine such as strengthened emergency management, improved impact-based forecasts and warning systems, and infrastructure that is designed for the future climate.”
Jagan Chapagain, SecretaryGeneralof the International Federation of Red Crossand Red Crescent Societies said:
“The disaster in Derna is yet another example of what climate change is already doing to our weather. Obviouslymultiple factors in Libya turned Storm Daniel into a human catastrophe; it wasn’tclimate change alone. But climate change did make the storm much more extreme and much more intense and that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives.That should be a wake upcallfortheworld to fulfill the commitment on reducing emissions, to ensure climate adaptation funding and tackle the issues of lossanddamage.“
To request an interview, please contact: [email protected]
Andrew Thomas: +41763676587
Mrinalini Santhanam: +41 76 381 50 06
Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67
| Press release
IFRC, Republic of Korea National Red Cross and Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sign a landmark agreement to strengthen humanitarian efforts
Geneva/Beijing/Seoul, 18 September 2023 - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Republic of Korea National Red Cross (KNRC), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea (MOFA), have officially signed a partnership agreement. This agreement focuses on providing help and support to countries affected by climate-related disasters and humanitarian emergencies.
Started in 2012, the IFRC, KNRC, and ROK MOFA have maintained a strong partnership focused on building skills of national societies to prepare and respond to disasters. This foundational agreement serves as a cornerstone for the newly expanded cooperation.
Key areas of work outlined in the agreement include helping local communities better handle disasters and emergencies. This includes early warning systems, anticipatory actions and expanded disaster response activities. Support for IFRC’s emergency appeals and for international collaboration are also part of this agreement.
This partnership addresses a wide range of global challenges, such as climate change, health emergencies and food insecurity. It outlines a comprehensive plan for work in areas like adapting to climate change, responding to crises and disasters, improving health and well-being, securing food and livelihoods, sharing knowledge and humanitarian work.
Xavier Castellanos, the IFRC Under Secretary General said:
"The Republic of Korea is the first country to transition from an aid recipient to a donor country, and its rapid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has captured the world's attention. Through this agreement with the MOFA, we look forward to implementing the factors and strategies that led to this achievement in countries affected by disasters.”
Park Jin, Minister of MOFA said:
"Our government and the Korean Red Cross have been actively working together to support temporary settlements for displaced people in Turkey. We look forward to working with the IFRC, which has a global humanitarian aid network and capabilities, to provide more efficient and country-specific support."
As Chul-Soo Kim, President of the Korean Red Cross said:
"In the context of evolving disasters and conflicts caused by climate change, we expect that the revision of the MOU will expand the cooperation and coordination with the MOFA and the IFRC. The Korean Red Cross will strive to fulfil its humanitarian responsibilities in conflict and disaster situations around the world."
As the global community faces increasing humanitarian needs, this collaboration aims to make a substantial impact. The IFRC, the KNRC, and the ROK MOFA anticipate that their combined efforts will result in more effective responses, increased resilience to disasters and better support for vulnerable communities worldwide.
The signing of this partnership was one of the key highlights of the IFRC Under Secretary General, Xavier Castellanos' recent visit to the Republic of Korea. In addition, he also took part in the World Knowledge Forum and held extensive dialogues with the KNRC, governmental representatives and other important collaborators.
For photos from the signing ceremony: link
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: [email protected]
In Beijing: Kexuan TONG, +86 13147812269
In Kuala Lumpur: Afrhill Rances, +60 192713641
In Geneva: Mrinalini Santhanam, +41 763815006
El Salvador: Red Cross supports communities before, during and after disasters
Rosa Cándida is a farmer from Las Maravillas village on the outskirts of Ahuachapán, western El Salvador. She and her husband, two daughters and two young granddaughters live off the land—growing maize, beans and sorghum in the lush countryside close to their home.
In stark contrast to the idyllic setting, in recent years, Rosa has seen tropical storms, landslides, heavy rains and earthquakes devastate her country.
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, but it faces big disaster and climate-related risks. In 2022, Rosa was one of more than 1.7 million people who needed some form of humanitarian assistance or protection in the country due to disasters.
An earthquake in January of this year damaged her home, creating big cracks in its mudbrick walls and forcing her family to sleep outside while they found the money needed to repair it.
Half a day’s farming only generates just enough income for Rosa to feed her family for the day, meaning disasters like the earthquake have a drastic impact on her family’s finances and wellbeing.
Thankfully, help arrived in the form of the Salvadoran Red Cross. Their teams quickly conducted an earthquake damage assessment and provided cash assistance to more than 600 families in the region—including Rosa’s.
“Support from the Red Cross reached us and helped us buy food, medicines and other household items," she says.
Red Cross teams completed two cash transfers, making sure the money got to the people who needed it most:
"We prioritized households which were the most heavily affected by the earthquake and which included older people, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five," explains Fatima Evora from the Salvadoran Red Cross.
Cash assistance is one of many ways in which the Salvadoran Red Cross is helping local communities across the country to prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters. Their volunteers have also been setting up early warning systems to prepare communities for droughts and floods, as well as helping people to adopt climate-smart livelihoods.
And as part of the Programmatic Partnership between the IFRC, National Societies, and the European Union, the Salvadoran Red Cross organized community workshops earlier this year so people could learn about their disaster risks and know how to prepare.
“We learned that there are green, yellow, orange and red alerts, and that each one indicates a different level of risk. We can be prepared and warn people via megaphones to evacuate and seek help,” says Juana Santa Maria, who attended a workshop in San Luis Herradura.
“The most valuable thing has been to know that, as a community, we are able to seek help from the mayor's office, community development associations and civil protection personnel. Today we have more information to prepare for and respond to disasters,” she adds.
In 2022, we reached 3,000 people in El Salvador through the Programmatic Partnership with the European Union.
Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world—including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas—the Programmatic Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies.
With the coordination of the Spanish Red Cross, Italian Red Cross and Norwegian Red Cross and support from the IFRC, the Salvadoran Red Cross is:
Building community knowledge
Providing assistance to people on the move
Preventing and responding to health outbreaks
Ensuring community perceptions and concerns are taken into account and used to improve their humanitarian assistance
Polish Red Cross runs Poland’s largest ever international rescue exercise to prepare for disasters
“One minute is a lot of time.In a rescue, one minute can be decisive,” says Agata Grajek from the Polish Red Cross Medical Rescue Group based in Wrocław.
She’s one of 300 rescuers from seven Red Cross Societies in Europe who gathered last month in Malczyce, a small village in south-western Poland, to take part in the largest Red Cross rescue exercise ever held in the country.
The exercise took place in an abandoned factory to simulate an urban disaster requiring an urgent and complex search and rescue response.
Running for 30 hours non-stop, in both day and nighttime conditions, the gruelling exercise tested Red Cross volunteers and rescue dogs to their limits. Real people, rather than mannequins, posed as citizens injured in a collapsed building to make rescue efforts as realistic as possible.
“We mainly practised the skills of searching the area, coordinating search and rescue operations, and evacuating victims from upper floors,” said Marcin Kowalski, head of the Polish Red Cross rescue team.
The exercise was the 7th national gathering of the 19 specialized Polish Red Cross rescue groups based across the country. For the first time, they also welcomed fellow rescue teams from Lithuania, Germany, Croatia, Hungary, Spain and Finland to practise working effectively together during a response.
“If a humanitarian, construction or natural disaster occurs somewhere, we are always ready to help,” says Pasi Raatikainen, a Finnish Red Cross rescuer who took part in the exercise. Like almost all Red Cross rescuers, Pasi is a volunteer. He leads a four-person rescue team in Helsinki and takes part in exercises – all in his spare time.
“In Finland, there aren’t many training sessions dedicated to urban rescues with the use of rope techniques, so the exercise scenarios in Poland were very instructive,” he says.
It wasn’t just search and rescue teams who got put to the test, though. 60 recent volunteer recruits from the Polish Red Cross’ Humanitarian Aid Groups initiative also took part in the exercise to practise setting up shelters, distributing aid and providing psychosocial support to people affected.
“It warms my heart to see hundreds of people so committed to the idea of the Red Cross.” said Polish Red Cross Director-General, Katarzyna Mikołajczyk.
Based on the experience and learnings from the exercise, the seven Red Cross Societies who took part have now developed a cooperation framework so that they can work together more effectively on search and rescue in future whenever disasters strike across Europe.
No rescuer or volunteer ever hopes for disaster, or hopes they’ll need to put their training into action.
But in a world of increasing and increasingly complex disasters, it’s more important than ever that we take time to practise and prepare – so we can be there for people, whatever the disaster, and as soon as they need us.
Find out more about how the IFRC prepares for disasters on our disaster preparedness page.
Together we can #BeatTheHeat
Did you know that heat waves are becoming more frequent, longer, hotter, and deadlier due to climate change?
Every year, they put millions of people at risk of heat-related illnesses and claim the lives of thousands of others.
But the threats heat waves pose are preventable. And the steps that we can take to protect ourselves, our friends and our families from extreme heat are simple and affordable.
Here’s what you need to know about heat waves, what you can do to #BeatTheHeat, and some inspiration from Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
What is a heat wave?
A heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures and often high humidity. Exact definitions of a heat wave can vary between countries depending on what temperatures and conditions are normal for the local climate.
Heat waves can cause people to suffer from shock, become dehydrated, and develop serious heat illnesses. Heat waves also put people with chronic cardiovascular and respiratory diseases at a high risk.
People living in cities and towns tend to be the hardest hit by heat waves because urban areas are generally hotter than the surrounding countryside.
What should I do to prepare for a heat wave?
We can reliably forecast heat waves in most places, so you usually have time to prepare. Make sure you keep an eye on your local weather forecast and remember the following:
Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty
Avoid being out in the sun. Find shade or a cool indoor space where possible. Tip: you can use shades or reflective materials on your windows to help keep the heat out of your home.
Wear loose, lightweight and light coloured clothing
Check on your family, friends and neighbours – particularly if they are elderly or unwell – to make sure they’re okay
Eat enough food, ideally smaller and more frequent meals
Look out for symptoms of heat-induced sickness - breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, weakness, dizziness or cramps – and seek medical help if needed
Watch this short video to learn more or visit our dedicated heat waves page for even more advice.
Inspiration from National Societies on how to #BeatTheHeat
Last June, in Satmatha, Bangladesh, volunteers from the Bangladesh Red Crescent set up a stage in the heart of the city where they gave creative public performances inspired by heat for Heat Action Day 2022.
From poetry to comedy, dance to drama, volunteers performed their hearts out – all in local dialects – to catch people’s attention and teach them all about heat risks.
Their performances caused so much of a stir that they made it into national news in print and digital – spreading the word on how to #BeatTheHeat even further! You can watch some clips of their performances here.
In the town of Kandi, in West Bengal, India, Indian Red Cross Society volunteers took to the streets last year when temperatures soared.
During a severe heat wave that struck the region, they set up purified drinking water points at their branch office, at bus stops, and outside hospitals so that members of the public could rehydrate during the difficult conditions.
Making themselves known with big, colourful parasols and giant barrels of water, they brought shade, refreshment and smiles to their local community.
In Spain, the Spanish Red Cross has a long history of supporting communities across the country to stay safe during the summer heat. Their volunteers conduct a lot of outreach – through social media, phone calls and street mobilization – to share tips on how people can stay cool.
They also check in on older people and people with chronic illnesses who are at particular risk when temperatures rise. And in some regions, volunteers venture out into their communities on really hot days to hand out water, paper fans and caps.
Extreme heat doesn’t just put people's health at risk, it can take a big toll on people’s livelihoods, too. In Uruguay this year, prolonged periods of extreme heat and a lack of rain have led to droughts, which are causing huge damage to farming and agriculture.
To help communities cope, Uruguayan Red Cross volunteers have been sharing information on how people can protect themselves and their livestock during heat waves. With support from the IFRC’sDisaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF), they’ve also been providing water and sunscreen and are offering cash assistance to families who are most affected. Find out more here.
Helpful resources to learn more about heat
City heat wave guide for Red Cross and Red Crescent branches
Extreme heat: Preparing for the heatwaves of the future – a joint report from the IFRC, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA)
Heat Toolkit – a collection of posters, social media assets and videos about heat waves produced by the Global Disaster Preparedness Centre
Nevado del Ruiz volcano: Preparing for an eruption
On 30 March, the Colombian Geological Service increased the alert level of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in central Colombia from yellow to orange, signifying a probable eruption in a matter of days or weeks.
While it is not possible to know exactly when or how a volcano will erupt, it is possible to monitor a volcano’s activity and take early action to minimize its potential impact on communities living nearby—which is exactly what IFRC network teams are doing right now.
Nevado del Ruiz is an explosive volcano. Its eruptions involve the fracturing of rock and rapid expulsion of gases and fluids—called ‘pyroclastic flows’—at high speeds and temperatures.
But there’s also one quite unique additional risk: as one of the highest volcanoes in the region, standing at 5000+ metres tall, it is covered snow and has a thick ice cap.
The concern is that this ice cap melts, as it did during the 1985 eruption when avalanches of water, ice, rocks, and clay ran down the volcano's sides, erasing the nearby town of Armero and killing more than 25,000 people.
To prepare for this risk, the Colombian Red Cross has activated its general plan of action.
This plan defines the preparedness actions they need to take in response to different levels of volcanic activity, including if the alert level changes from orange to red—indicating that the volcano is in the process of erupting or is going to erupt any time.
With anticipatory funding from the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF), Colombian Red Cross teams have been working hard to get their volunteers and communities ready for the worst-case scenario.
They’ve been re-training volunteers in first aid, evacuation, and emergency coordination, and restocking essential emergency response items such as first aid kits, identification items for first responders, and emergency signal equipment.
They’ve also been sharing as much information as possible within local communities around Nevado del Ruiz: warning at-risk families to evacuate; talking to them about how and where to evacuate safely; and handing out radios and batteries to people in hard-to-reach areas so they can stay informed.
But some families are reluctant to leave and are dismissing evacuation advice from local authorities and the Colombian Red Cross. On the surface, this can be difficult to understand—why wouldn’t you want to move away from a volcano that’s potentially about to erupt?
There’s no simple answer. For the many farmers who rely on the rich volcanic soils surrounding Nevado del Ruiz, they may not want to leave their properties or animals and abandon the livelihood upon which they rely. Other people simply cannot, or choose not to, believe something as horrific as the 1985 eruption could ever happen again.
Right now, Colombian Red Cross, IFRC and partners are gathering in the region to step up preparedness efforts. This includes an increased focus on community engagement to understand people’s thoughts and fears and convince them to evacuate.
They are also preparing for, and trying to reduce the risk of, mass displacement should the volcano erupt. Through the DREF operation, they are taking early actions such reinforcing critical infrastructure, providing people with cash assistance, and pre-positioning food and safe drinking water.
We will share more about these vital efforts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, click here to read more about the anticipatory action funding we have provided through the DREF.
What are volcanic eruptions?
How the Anticipatory Pillar of the DREF works
Follow IFRC Americas @IFRC_es and the Colombian Red Cross @cruzrojacol on Twitter
| Press release
Cyclone Mocha: Access and time of the essence to help affected families in Bangladesh and Myanmar
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 16 May 2023 - The strongest cyclone in the Bay of Bengal in the last 10 years has affected families already internally displaced in Myanmar and living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Cyclone Mocha crossed the coast between Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu township, near Rakhine’s capital of Sittwe, Myanmar on 14 May with winds estimated as strong as 250 kph, bringing heavy rains, storm surge, flash floods and landslides. In Myanmar, the cyclone has caused significant damages: houses destroyed, electricity lines down, and power and water services disrupted. Resulting storm surges have also knocked out bridges and inundated homes.
To date, based on early reports,around 355 households in Yangon, Magway and Ayeyarwaddy Region are reported affected,while initial reports from Chin State also highlight damages,and more than 130,000 people were evacuated to temporary shelters.Widespread devastation has been reported in Rakhine State, impacting public and private infrastructure, destroying homes and livelihoods.
While reports from the field continue to come in, and rapid assessments are carried out, needs are expected to be high and affected people will require immediate relief items, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene needs, emergency healthcare and psychosocial support. Families who have been separated will need to be reconnected.The potential for communicable disease outbreaks is high, while landmines and other explosive remnants of war pose further risks as flooding and landslides can carry the devices to locations previously deemed safe.
More than 800 Red Cross volunteers and staff have respondedaround the country and emergency response teams have also been deployed. Pre-positioned relief stock items are beingsent to the Myanmar Red Cross hub inRakhine to cover 2,000 households. IFRCand its members aresupporting the Myanmar Red Cross Society in scaling up disasterresponsemeasures to support affected communities along Cyclone Mocha’s path, as well as those affected by storm surges all along the country's extensive coastline.
Nadia Khoury, IFRC Head of Delegation in Myanmar said:
“The potential scale of the devastation is overwhelming, covering a huge area of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people will have been left in a highly vulnerable situation, just as the monsoon season is due to start.We are working withthe Myanmar Red Cross,our partners in-country and the International Committee of Red Cross regarding areas that need access and resource mobilisation for a coordinated response, providing strategic, operational, financial, technical, and other support. With its presence in every affected township through its branches and volunteers, the Myanmar Red Cross will be providing multi-sectoral assistance to seek to best meet the needs of affected populations."
Access in Rakhine and the Northwest remains heavily restricted, while the level of damage inruraland other hard-to-reach areas, especially camps for internally displaced people, is still unknown due to the interruption of phone and internet lines.
In Bangladesh, while the cyclone caused massive destruction on Saint Martin Island and the adjacent coastal area of Cox’s Bazar, it was less impactful than anticipated. While assessments are ongoing, it has been reported so far that nearly 3,000 households are affected and 10,000 households partially damaged.
More than 8,000 Red Crescent volunteers were deployed to support the affected community in Bangladesh before Cyclone Mocha made landfall and 76,000 Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers were prepared in coastal areas for any complex situation. Volunteers are currently on the ground in affected areas, rescuing people, providing emergency relief items, medical support, safe drinking water and other support.
Sanjeev Kafley, IFRC Head of Delegation in Bangladesh, said:
“The IFRC and its wide network have been supporting Bangladesh Red Crescent in its rescue and relief activities, working closely with the national society to ensure that the people affected by Cyclone Mocha receive the necessary assistance. Our teams are on the ground in affected Cox’s Bazar camps and other coastal areas and assessing the evolving situation.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal focusing on relief provisions and early recovery assistance in Myanmar's hardest-hit areas of 7,500 most vulnerable households (37,500 people) particularly in Rakhine, Chin, Magway, Ayeryawaddy, and Sagaing.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
In Kuala Lumpur:
Afrhill Rances, +60192713641
Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 6924
Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367
| Press release
Cyclone Judy wreaks havoc across Vanuatu, Red Cross ready to respond
Port Vila/Suva, 2 March 2023 – Cyclone Judy has left a massive trail of destruction in its path across Vanuatu as over 160,000 people are estimated to be affected. A category 4 cyclone with destructive winds of up to 150 km per hour and gusting to 200 km per hour, has also caused severe damage to infrastructure, buildings, connectivity, and crops.
Port Vila and Tanna felt the brunt of the cyclone with power outage and water cuts in some of the worst affected communities.
Vanuatu Red Cross is working with authorities to ascertain how many households require immediate assistance as well as provide first aid to individuals.
Vanuatu Red Cross Secretary General, Dickinson Tevi said:
“We are trying our best to reach the worst affected communities. The disaster was massive and as a result, some roads leading to communities have been damaged while some roads have been blocked by fallen trees and debris.”
“That’s how much of an impact this cyclone had. Our Red Cross volunteers are on the ground and working with authorities to reach these communities as we are yet to find out the full extent of damages in these places.”
Immediate pre-positioned relief items such as tarpaulins for shelter are ready to be distributed to 2500 affected households. In addition, hygiene kits for washing and cleaning, solar lanterns, mosquito nets and cooking items are also ready for distribution.
Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said:
“We must act swiftly as people are in urgent need of short-term relief especially with basic needs such as temporary shelter and access to clean and safe drinking water.
"A disaster of this scale is too big for one country to deal with. It will need a coordinated regional effort to first provide immediate relief, and then help communities rebuild their lives and livelihoods in the longer term."
Hours after cyclone Judy caused havoc, another tropical low pressure system has entered Vanuatu's area of responsibility as of today and is predicted to follow the same path as TC Judy. The potential for this tropical low to develop into a tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours and move towards Vanuatu is high.
The increased frequency and intensity of these cyclones is a reality our Red Cross Societies and the communities they work with are facing due to the impacts of climate change and shifting weather patterns.
Vanuatu was last affected by a cyclone of this scale in 2015 when category 5 Cyclone Pam caused widespread damage across Port Vila, affecting at least 166,000 people.
For more information, contact:
In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected]
| Press release
Heatwaves account for some of the deadliest disasters and are intensifying, warn the IFRC and the UN humanitarian relief agency ahead of COP27
Geneva, 10 October – Record high temperatures this year—which are fueling catastrophes in Somalia, Pakistan and around the world—foreshadow a future with deadlier, more frequent and more intense heat-related humanitarian emergencies, a new report warns.
Released a month ahead of the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27), Extreme Heat: Preparing for the heatwaves of the futuresays that, with climate change making heatwaves ever more dangerous, aggressive steps must be taken now to avert potentially recurrent heat disasters.
“As the climate crisis goes unchecked, extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and floods, are hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest,” says Martin Griffiths, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “Nowhere is the impact more brutally felt than in countries already reeling from hunger, conflict and poverty.”
The report—the first to be published jointly by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)—offers concrete steps that humanitarians and decision makers can take to mitigate extreme heat’s worst effects. 2022 has already seen communities across North Africa, Australia, Europe, South Asia and the Middle East suffocate under record-high temperatures. Most recently the Western United States and China have buckled under severe heat.
The report, notes that, in the coming decades, heatwaves are predicted to meet and exceed human physiological and social limits in regions such as the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and South and South-West Asia. Extreme heatwaves in these regions, where humanitarian needs are already high, would result in large-scale suffering and loss of life, population movements and further entrenched inequality, the report warns.
“The climate crisis is intensifying humanitarian emergencies all around the world. To avert its most devastating impacts, we must invest equally on adaptation and mitigation, particularly in the countries most at risk,” says Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC.
“At COP27, we will urge world leaders to ensure that this investment reaches local communities that are on the frontline of the climate crisis. If communities are prepared to anticipate climate risks and equipped to take action, we will prevent extreme weather events from becoming humanitarian disasters.”
Heatwaves prey on inequality, with the greatest impacts on isolated and marginalized people. The report stresses that the urgent priority must be large and sustained investments that mitigate climate change and support long-term adaptation for the most vulnerable people.
The report also finds that, although the impacts of extreme heat are global, some people are hit harder than others. Vulnerable communities, such as agricultural workers, are being pushed to the front lines while the elderly, children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women are at higher risk of illness and death.
The world’s lowest-income countries are already experiencing disproportionate increases in extreme heat. These countries are the least to blame for climate change, but they will see a significant increase in the number of at-risk people in the coming decades.
Building on a growing body of knowledge and good practice around early warning, anticipatory action and response systems to heatwaves, the report suggests the following five key steps to help the most vulnerable people:
Provide early information on heatwaves to help people and authorities take timely action.
Support preparedness and expand anticipatory action, especially by local actors, who are often the first responders in emergencies.
Find new and more sustainable ways of financing local action.
Adapt humanitarian response to accelerating extreme heat. Humanitarian organizations are already testing approaches such as more thermally appropriate emergency housing, ‘green roofs’, cooling centres and adjustments to school timetables, but this will require significant investments in research and learning.
Strengthen engagement across the humanitarian, development and climate spheres.
Addressing the impact of extreme heat in the long-term and helping communities, towns, cities and countries adapt to extreme heat risk will require sustained development planning.
The full report is available here.
Note to editors:
Videos and photos are available at this link and this linkfor use by the media.
For more information, please contact:
IFRC (Geneva): Jenelle Eli, +1-202-603-6803, [email protected]
OCHA (New York): Jaspreet Kindra, +1-929-273-8109, [email protected]
| 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]
| Press release
Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector
Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector.
In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation.
The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said:
“I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.”
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.”
The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components.
Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU.
Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies.
The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross.
For more information
In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
| Press release
Madagascar: Red Cross teams rush to avert a tragedy as Tropical Cyclone Emnati approaches
Antananarivo/Nairobi/Geneva, 21 February 2022—Teams from the Malagasy Red Cross Society (MRCS) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)in the eastern part of Madagascar are working around the clock to minimize the humanitarian impact of the fast-approaching Tropical Cyclone Emnati.
Andoniaina Ratsimamanga, the Secretary General of Malagasy Red Cross said:
“There is a risk of a double tragedy, as some communities are expected to be hit by a second cyclone in less than a month. Tropical Cyclone Emnati is likely to have a devastating effect on communities on the eastern coastline of Madagascar that are still reeling from the impact of Cyclone Batsirai. Many have lost their homes, crops and livestock. We are truly worried and call upon partners to increase their support and avert a humanitarian tragedy.”
The arrival of Emnati will only worsen an already dire humanitarian situation. The impact ofCyclone Batsirai, which made landfall on the east coast of Madagascar on 5 February 2022, continues to be felt in the regions of Atsinanana, Fitovinany, Vatovavy and Atsimo-Atsinanana. In Vatovavy region, the most affected districts are Nosy-Varika and Mananjary. In Fitovinany region, the most affected districts are Manakara, Vohipeno and Ikongo, with 140,000 people in need of assistance.
Tomorrow, with projected windspeeds of 220 km per hour, tropical Cyclone Emnati is expected to strike the same regions that were already hit by Batsirai: Atsinanana, Vatovavy and Fitovinany. Ahead of its landfall, the IFRC and Malagasy Red Cross Society teams, as well as partners in the region, are providing early warning support and preparing emergency relief items to help communities living in the cyclone’s path to stay safe. The Malagasy Red Cross Society is part of the national emergency response mechanism, which is led by the Malagasy Government, through the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC). To support the Malagasy Red Cross to help affected communities, the IFRCis stepping up its response efforts and is seeking additional funds.
Alina Atemnkeng, who is currently in Mananjary leading IFRC’s response following Cyclone Batsirai, as well as the preparedness efforts ahead of Emnati’s landfall, said:
“Malagasy Red Cross Society’s teams, IFRC teams and partners are on high alert and are deployed in communities, warning them of the approaching storm. Red Cross volunteers are sharing early warning messages with communities, preparing evacuation sites and helping communities to move to safer locations.”
Atemnkeng added:“As we respond, we need to think short-term and long-term at the same time: more cyclones will come, and we need to ensure that communities are adequately protected from the inevitable, subsequent storms. Given the overall challenges caused by climate change, we reiterate our call to governments, regional intergovernmental bodies and our partners to strengthen their investments in disaster risk reduction, with a particular focus on preparedness actions.”
Madagascar is one of the ten most vulnerable countries to disasters worldwide and faces compounding hazards. While the eastern parts are battling cyclones, the southern parts are experiencing severe drought leaving at least 1.3 million people in need of food assistance.Globally, we are seeing that climate change is aggravating the risk of complex emergencies, which are increasingly challenging for the humanitarian community to respond to.
For more information, or to request an interview, please contact:
Mialy Caren Ramanantoanina, +261 329 842 144,[email protected](in Mananjary)
Ny Antsa Mirado Rakotondratsimba, +261 34 54 458 76,[email protected]
In Nairobi:Euloge Ishimwe,+254 735 437 906,[email protected]
In Geneva:Caroline Haga, +358 50 598 0500,[email protected]
Contingency planning means preparing an organization to be ready to respond effectively in the event of an emergency. It is an important part of the IFRC'swork supporting National Society preparedness. Time spent in contingency planning equals time saved when a disaster strikes.
| Press release
Tonga: Volcanic eruption and tsunami cuts off country from the world
Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 16 January 2022 - The small Pacific Island country of Tonga has been cut off from the rest of the world after an enormous volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami hit the country on Saturday.
All communication lines in the country have been disrupted with no timeframe given on restoration. Responding to one of the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades, Red Cross is mobilising its regional network to provide relief.
Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said:
“From what little updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense- especially for outer lying Islands. We are trying hard to establish contact with our colleagues at Tonga Red Cross and establish the scale and specific nature of the support they need.
“Trained Tonga Red Cross teams will be on the ground supporting evacuations in coordination with public authorities, providing first aid if needed, and distributing prepositioned relief supplies.
“Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits.”
There are fears that communities may not have access to safe and clean drinking water as a result of saltwater inundation caused by the tsunami waves and ashfall from the volcanic eruption. Shelter is also a concern, particularly for those communities near the coast line.
“Local Red Cross teams are well placed to respond quickly to emergencies like this. We are determined to provide the extra resources and support they may need in the face of such a devastating disaster.
“With communication channels disrupted one of the priorities for Tonga Red Cross will be to work with our Movement partner, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to restore family links which will help people from all over the world try and find out if their family and friends in Tonga are safe and well.”
Update: On 21 January 2022 the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for the Tonga volcano and tsunami. Find out more here.
For more information, contact:
In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected]
Asia Pacific Office: Joe Cropp, +61 491 743 089, [email protected]
Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]
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.
Preparing for disasters saves countless lives, speeds up people’s recovery and saves money. The IFRC supports National Societies to continually improve their local preparedness and response capacity—ultimately preventing and reducing the impacts of disasters on communities.
What is a disaster?
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.
Cameroon: Preparedness to respond effectively to multiple hazards
By Olivia Acosta
Prevention, preparedness, early action, and response to disasters and crises are at the core of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). According to Mr. Jean Urbain Zoa, Secretary-General of the Cameroon Red Cross (CRC), one of the main challenges of the National Society is to be prepared for any emergency: “Better preparedness will help anticipate crises and disasters and build capacity to provide an integrated response. Preparedness can save lives, mitigate the severity of a crisis and engage the population and empower them to manage future disasters”.
Local actors are best placed to reduce disaster risk and to take early action when disasters strike. The commitment of the CRC volunteers, who support their own communities during emergencies, is essential – but the organization doesn’t forget that they, too, might need help. “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected some staff and volunteers of our organization, but we are trying to give the best response to the increasing needs in the most affected communities”, said the Secretary-General.
Indeed,nothing is the same since the pandemic arrived in Cameroon last year.Um Antoine, CRC first aid trainer,explains that“People in the communities are very afraid of Covid-19. They don’t want to be in touch with their neighbors to avoid contagion… the most disadvantaged people feel very lonely,some of themwithout any support or assistance”.
Several NGOs and organizations that used to bring relief to the area have left. Still, Red Cross volunteers continue to respond to the outbreak, carrying out activities such as house and school disinfection and encouraging the population to practice handwashing and other protective measures. Volunteers also organize programs through community radio to ensure that information on reducing the spread of the pandemic reaches a large part of the population, and specialists are available to address questions from listeners. CRC also works to stop the spread of misinformation, which can be spread through rumors circulating in the community. In addition, community feedback is collected and analyzed to meet information needs evolving over time.
Cameroon Red Cross is not just responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. CRC has been simultaneously responding to cholera outbreaks over the past year in the country. Through experience, the National Society knows the importance of detecting an epidemic before it spreads to save lives, protect livelihoods, and sustain long-term development. Well-trained and motivated CRC volunteers like Um Antoine visit members of their own communities, providing sensitization on the signs and symptoms of acute watery diarrhea, the seasonality of cholera outbreaks, and the need to report severe cases to volunteers or health centers as soon as possible.“We use available communication channels like megaphones, posters, social networks, and the radio to disseminate protection measures against cholera and raise awareness about transmission through contaminated food or water. We also work with the population to adopt hygiene measures to eradicate cholera from their communities”.
To reinforce its response in the fight against Covid-19, cholera, and other emergencies, CRC must continuously strengthen the capacity of its volunteers and staff at headquarters and in branches. Over the past years, CRC’s leadership, management, and operational teams have discussed the importance of being prepared. According to Mr. Renauld Bodiong, Director of Cooperation of the Cameroon Red Cross: “The effectiveness of the response depends on the initial preparation of the National Society. Therefore, it is important, and even essential, for a National Society to engage in the Preparedness for Effective Response (PER Approach) that is an institutional approach to NS Preparedness to assess systematically, measure, and analyze its strengths and gaps response system to take action. Always trying to work from an effective, proactive and innovative perspective”.
Upon request from the CRC, theInternational Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),the Swedish and the French Red Cross joined forces to organize, as part of the PER Approach process, an assessment of CRC’s capacitytoprepare for andrespond to various types of hazards, and support the CRC with the identification of its existing strengths and opportunities for further development.
The COVID-19 context posed a serious problem for the process to start, especially with the travel restrictions put in place as part of COVID-19 preventive measures everywhere.
As facilitators could not travel to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, due to travel restrictions related to Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2021, they provided technical support remotely from Canada, Greece, Russia, and Switzerland. Cameroon Red Cross branches don’t have internet access, and organizing interactive sessions remotely represented quite a challenge for all involved. Brand-new teleconferencing equipment was purchased and set up in Yaoundé, where 36 CRC participants were able to gather in a large meeting room, adhering to physical distancing recommendations. In addition, eight participants also got connected remotely from far regions of the country with the support of IFRC field offices.
Over the course of 5 days, the National Society checked its capacity to prepare for and respond to various types of emergencies, conducted an in-depth analysis of strengths and gaps, and built consensus around key priorities which require urgent attention. These priorities will form the basis of a work plan and feed into the National Society's strategic and operational planning and fundraising processes.
According to Bodiong, “It was very interesting to work online for the first time and be able to listen to everyone's input. For example, we identified that warehouses built in high-risk areas with pre-positioned equipment, well-trained volunteers, and adapted procedures would allow the CRC to respond effectively as quickly as possible to assist the victims of floods in many regularly affected departments of the far north region and prevent cholera outbreaks”.
The Cameroon Red Cross is now using evidence and recommendations from the PER Approach to guide the continuous strengthening of its disaster management systems to be better prepared to respond to emergencies that may occur in the future.
Being prepared: Responding to two powerful hurricanes in the midst of a pandemic
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 pandemic
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.
Why disaster preparedness cannot wait
Geneva/Washington DC – The world has been planning for the future in the mistaken belief that it will resemble the past. But as COVID-19 coincides with cyclones in South Asia and the Pacific and vast locust swarms in East Africa, the need to prepare for a world of unexpected shocks has become clearer than ever. Epidemics, floods, storms, droughts, and wildfires are all expected to become more frequent and severe, affecting hundreds of millions of people each year.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global wake-up call. And as leaders of international organizations, we understand both the grave threat and the potential opportunity for change that it represents.
In particular, COVID-19 and recent climate disasters have shown that we must step up investment in preparedness now, instead of waiting for the next crisis to hit. The choice is clear: delay and pay, or plan and prosper.
We know that investing in disaster preparedness is worth it – both in terms of human lives saved and economic returns. Research by the Global Commission on Adaptation, for example, shows that benefit-to-cost ratios for climate-adaptation investments range from 2:1 to 10:1.
To be sure, preparing for major shocks involves substantial outlays. Building resilience to climate impacts could cost $140-300 billion annually by 2030, while meeting World Health Organization minimum standards for pandemic preparedness will require up to $3.4 billion per year.
But these sums are small compared to the costs of not being prepared. Natural disasters already cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year; with a 2˚C increase in temperature, according to one estimate, damages from climate change could reach $69 trillion by 2100.
The human cost is high, too. An analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) last year found that doing nothing could increase the number of people who need international humanitarian aid because of floods, storms, droughts and wildfires every year – currently 108 million – 50% by 2030. The total could nearly double, to 200 million people, by 2050.
Moreover, the coming year represents a critical window for investing in resilience, because governments will spend trillions of dollars to restart economies after the pandemic. The danger is that financial resources, and with it the political appetite for change, will then shrink. That is why now is the time for the rich world to help poorer countries reboot their economies and boost their resilience to future threats, including climate change.
One of the most important things governments can do today is invest in better collection and analysis of data on the disaster risks their countries face. Simply having 24 hours’ notice of a storm’s arrival or foreknowledge of an impending heat wave can cut the resulting losses by 30%, while spending $800 million on early-warning systems in developing countries would save $3-16 billion per year.
For example, although Cyclone Amphan recently wreaked havoc on India and Bangladesh and killed dozens of people, early-warning systems saved countless more lives. Accurate forecasts, along with decades of planning and preparedness, enabled the two countries to evacuate more than three million people and keep the death toll far lower than it would have been in the past.
Governments and international organizations are now working to make early-warning technology more accessible and effective through a new risk-informed early-action partnership. This initiative aims to make one billion people safer from disasters by 2025, partly by scaling up so-called forecast-based financing, which uses weather projections to give vulnerable communities the resources they need to prepare. Innovative financing schemes like these, which are supported by the German and British governments, among others, can save lives and reduce the damage when storms and heat waves hit.
But none of these solutions will be effective if funding and threat information don’t reach the local level. Communities and local organizations are often the first responders in any crisis, and it is vital that they be empowered to act.
Before Cyclone Amphan made landfall, for example, the IFRC sent funds to the Bangladesh Red Crescent chapter, which helped 20,000 vulnerable people receive dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation to cyclone shelters. At the same time, the chapter helped implement COVID-19 safety measures, such as disinfecting shelters, making additional space available to allow for social distancing, and providing personal protective equipment.
Local communities are also often in the best position to identify effective solutions. After Typhoon Ondoy struck the Philippines in 2009, for example, people living in informal settlements worked with city officials to design resilient housing that could withstand future flooding.
As countries emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic over the coming year, world leaders will face a watershed moment. By ramping up investments in disaster preparedness, they can shape their legacies and set humanity on a safer course for the next decade and beyond.
By Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General and a member of the Global Commission on Adaptation, and Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute and a member of the Global Commission on Adaptation.
View the opinion piece in Project Syndicate
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2020
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 160 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier owing to the Easter holidays.
The selection process
The Empress Shôken Fund received 36 applications in 2020, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 400,160 Swiss francs to 14 projects in Argentina, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Lithuania, Montenegro, Namibia, Palestine, Panama, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.
The projects to be supported in 2020 cover a number of themes, including first aid, youth engagement and disaster preparedness. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere. The Fund encourages new and innovative approaches that are geared towards learning, so that the broader Movement can benefit from project findings.
The 2020 grants
TheArgentine Red Crosshas launched a generational change in its leadership by promoting volunteers’ access to decision-making bodies. It will use the grant to design and build virtual courses, creating new spaces for dialogue and debate.
For years, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been a major partner of the State in the field of first aid, helping it to respond effectively in a crisis. The National Society will use the grant to reinforce its leadership position by introducing an online first-aid training platform that will facilitate theoretical learning and increase the number of trained first-aiders.
The Hellenic Red Cross seeks to empower local communities in vulnerable or isolated areas. The grant will go towards establishing branch and community disaster teams that will build communities’ resilience through activities and training around disaster risk reduction.
In Iraq, late detection of breast cancer is common and makes the disease much deadlier. To save women’s lives, theIraqi Red Crescent Societywill use the grant to train female volunteers who will raise awareness of early detection methods for breast cancer.
The Lithuanian Red Cross will put the grant towards an innovative digital platform for evaluating the impact of its first-aid courses, issuing and tracking certifications, and connecting with first-aiders after they complete their training.
Young people account for more than 80% of the volunteers of the Red Cross of Montenegro. The National Society will use the grant to improve its activities and services with the aim of strengthening youth participation and raising awareness of volunteer opportunities.
As Namibia’s population grows, first-aid skills and services are more in demand than ever before. The grant will enable the Namibia Red Cross to run intensive first-aid training and certification courses in ten schools.
To better serve the communities it works with, thePalestine Red Crescent Society seeks to build its staff members’ and volunteers’ capacities. It will use the grant to establish a computer lab as a continuing-education unit for all of its staff and volunteers.
In Panama, gang violence has shot up in recent years, and pollution continues to grow owing to a lack of public awareness. The Red Cross Society of Panama will use the grant to develop a series of activities aimed at promoting a culture of peace and environmental responsibility.
Blood transfusion services are an essential component of Sierra Leone’s health-care system. The grant will enable the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to increase access to safe blood products, especially for pregnant woman and infants.
In Timor-Leste, 70% of the population is under 30 years old, but accessing information about reproductive health can be difficult, particularly in rural areas. The Timor Leste Red Cross will use the grant for a public-awareness and education campaign for young people on reproductive health.
The Tonga Red Cross Society will use the grant to improve students' access to health care and physical activity by using safer vehicles for transportation.
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society is exploring novel approaches to teaching disaster preparedness and increasing public awareness on the subject. The grant will enable the National Society to use virtual-reality technology to teach the public about the reality and impact of disasters.
In Uganda, 70% of blood donors are students, so the country faces blood shortages outside term time. The Uganda Red Cross Society will use the grant to develop its online recruitment of adult blood donors so as to counteract any seasonal shortfalls during the holidays.