| 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]
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.
| 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]
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.
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.
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.
Being prepared: Responding to two powerful hurricanes in the midst of a pandemic
By Olivia Acosta
The past hurricane season in the Atlantic has been one of the worst for Honduras since Hurricane Mitch, which caused more than 5,000 deaths in 1998.
Hurricanes Eta and Iota, category 4 and 5 respectively, made landfall last November and entered through the Department of Paraíso, the area where Carlos Colindres, National Risk Manager of the Honduran Red Cross, usually lives. "When I confirmed that the situation could become very serious, I began to worry about my family. We were already designing contingency plans for the population, when I remembered that I had to talk to my father to warn him. I explained to him there were going to be days of heavy rain and strong winds and it was necessary to be prepared, to have provisions and to keep warm... he answered me that he had already lived similar situations throughout his life, but now he felt calmer because according to him, they were handled in a more efficient way. That's what it's all about, I told him, be prepared for giving the best response, and try to minimize the impact and save lives”.
Responding during a pandemi
Colindres, manager since 2014, says the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the response of the institutions to the disaster caused by the two hurricanes, due to mobility problems and limited product procurement, among others.
"The Honduran Red Cross has a lot of experience in facing endemic epidemiological situations in the area, such as dengue or zika, and we are prepared to act in adverse meteorological situations such as hurricanes or floods, but not with a pandemic of such magnitude at the same time... a country is never prepared for a situation like this."
There were challenges to being able to provide quality care in a timely manner, according to Colindres. Many things failed, such as early warning systems, because there is no adequate technology available in the country to make an accurate projection and forecast. "Despite everything, our response was adequate, we arrived at the right time. The volunteers of the Honduran Red Cross, together with the national security forces under the Humanitarian Response Units UHR, were evacuating people and transferring the population to shelters and other safe places from the beginning. The Red Cross saved the lives of more than 4,900 people through water and air rescues. They also provided psychosocial support, first aid, and house cleaning... but the second hurricane, Iota, made everything worse, leaving 1.2 million people exposed to the disaster," he recalls.
Being able to respond in the most effective way to a catastrophe like this it takes many years of hard work and training beforehand. It is essential to be prepared at all levels, from institutional to local level. The key is to have adequate training and resources, as well as ongoing volunteer training.
"Having a clear national response plan, which is part of strengthening our operational capacity, has helped us to plan our response. In addition, volunteers have been trained to deal with emergencies, including epidemics. Many National Societies, with the support of the IFRC, are implementing an approach we call PER (Preparedness for Effective Response) that allows us to improve our disaster response mechanism. This approach is the result of experience and best practices learned from many years responding to emergencies around the world".
The passage of hurricanes Eta and Iota triggered a humanitarian crisis aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more than 100 dead in Honduras, millions displaced, as well as the destruction of homes, bridges, roads, crops and economic losses in the millions, which will take years to recover.
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.