Water and sanitation

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27/05/2022 | Article

Menstrual Hygiene Day: #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination

Around the world, millions of women and girls* face stigma, exclusion and discrimination simply because of one perfectly natural bodily function: their periods. Negative attitudes and misinformation about periods limit women and girls’ potential. Too often they miss out on education and employment—either due to a lack of hygiene facilities and products to easily go about their daily lives while menstruating, or because they are weighed down by fear of shame and embarrassment from their communities. Women and girls’ safety is also at risk. Without proper hygiene facilities, women can be forced to go into the open to deal with their period needs—leaving them exposed to physical danger and psychological harm. And in extreme cases, period stigma has tragically claimed women and girls’ lives. At the IFRC, #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination and to improving the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) knowledge, skills and programming of our National Societies. We’re working to raise MHM standards across our network—both as part of our long-term water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes, but also during emergency response. Because periods don’t stop in an emergency! We focus on three main areas: Providing pads and menstrual health items as part of our relief assistance Community engagement to demystify periods, educate women and girls on how to manage them safely, and challenge negative attitudes—especially among men and boys. This also involves advocating for more and better MHM activities with governments. Setting up WASH facilities designed with the additional needs of menstruating women and girls in mind. Many of our National Societies are already doing fantastic work in this area. Let’s look at some of them! Lebanon With support from Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund, the Lebanese Red Cross has partnered with the IFRC, British Red Cross and consulting firm ARUP to develop inclusive and MHM-friendly latrines and bathing/laundering facilities. They focused on women living in informal tented settlements near the Syrian border. Speaking to women in the settlements, Lebanese Red Cross teams learned that women mainly use disposable pads during their periods, or a cloth in an emergency, which they burn after a single use. Women explained if they had a safe, accessible and private space to use that was separated from men’s facilities and had discrete disposal methods, they would put their used pads in the bin. Based on this feedback, the Lebanese Red Cross piloted technical designs for emergency WASH facilities that took these women’s needs into account. They developed a manual that can be adapted and used by other National Societies and partners—which includes recommendations of how to best engage with women and girls about their period needs in a sensitive and effective way. Click here to read more about the project. Pakistan Although menstruation is considered natural and a sign of maturity for women in Pakistan, it’s also seen as dirty, shameful and something to be dealt with in silence. Men are generally responsible for deciding on the menstrual health facilities and services offered to women and girls, but rarely involve or consult them on their needs. The Swiss Red Cross worked with Aga Khan University in Pakistan to set up special MHM corners within hospitals—safe spaces in which women and girls could receive information and counselling about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health. They ran pad-making sessions with men and women to raise awareness of good hygiene practices. And they identified influential ‘MHM champions’ who are now spreading this knowledge and tackling period stigma within their communities. Malawi For many girls in Malawi, managing their periods continues to be a challenge due to a lack of access to information, sanitary products, and adequate WASH facilities—particularly in schools. The Malawi Red Cross Society, with support from the Swiss Red Cross, conducted mixed-method research with more than 500 school students to understand girls’ and boys’ knowledge, attitudes and practices around periods. They discovered that: More than half of the girls they spoke to had never heard about menstruation before it started Girls with increased knowledge used better MHM practices and skipped school less Interestingly, boys’ increased knowledge about MHM was associated with higher levels of teasing, and with more absenteeism of girls during their periods The Malawi Red Cross Society has since used this research to inform their work in MHM so it better meets girls’ needs. They’ve constructed female-friendly toilets in schools, produced reusable menstrual hygiene products, delivered training to teachers and parents’ groups and advocated for more menstrual health activities at the community and district level. Argentina During the COVID-19 pandemic, transgender people in Argentina were found to be having difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene items. In close coordination with two local specialist organizations which support and advocate for transgender people, the Argentine Red Cross distributed hygiene kits which included sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups. Transgender men provided recommendations and selected appropriate menstrual items for the kits. Distribution of the kits was accompanied with virtual workshops on sexual health and correct use of menstrual cups. The Argentine Red Cross also set up a health advisory line to offer psychosocial support to anyone who needed it. Learning resources and more information about MHM: Discover even more case studies from our National Societies’ MHM activities in this collection Explore our wealth of practical guidance, tools and advocacy resources on menstrual hygiene on our dedicated WASH site here Visit the dedicated WASH page on the IFRC website Visit the global Menstrual Hygiene Day campaign page for more information about this year’s theme Contact our Senior Officer for WASH in Public Health, Alexandra Machado, for any MHM-related questions: [email protected] -- *We recognize that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman, and that not all women menstruate.

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07/05/2021 | Basic page

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Access to safe water and sanitation is a human right. But right now, 780 million people around the world do not have access to safe water and 2.5 billion people cannot access the sanitation services they need. Discover how the IFRC is at the forefront of responding to global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs.

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25/01/2022 | Press release

Tonga: Aid ramped up after eruption and tsunami

Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 26 January 2022 – Local relief teams are urgently providing supplies to communities across Tonga, hit hard by a volcanic eruption and tsunami that destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands without safe drinking water. Relief items are being unloaded after the airport was cleared of ash, making it safe for planes to land. Tonga Red Cross staff and volunteers have been assisting people from the moment the tsunami alert was triggered, and are ramping up the delivery of drinking water, temporary shelters and other critical relief supplies across the country’s many islands. Sione Taumoefolau, Secretary General of Tonga Red Cross, said: “This disaster has shaken the people of Tonga like nothing we have seen in our lifetime. The tsunami has wiped out homes and villages, but we are already rebuilding amid the ashes. “After being cut off from the world, we are very grateful for the relief supplies being delivered to our shores. Our Red Cross teams are using boat and trucks to take these vital items that last mile to communities in need of shelter, water and other basic necessities. “There is an urgent need for people to have access to safe water sources in the days and weeks to come. Ash has settled in water tanks- requiring time to settle and careful treatment before use. It has also smothered much of the country, including houses and crops. “It is critical to clean this ash away, so it doesn’t run into water supplies when the next rain comes. “Shelter is a top priority for families whose homes have been completely wiped out because of the tsunami. People have lost everything. We need to provide immediate support – then turn our attention to the longer term. It will be a tough time, but we will recover.” To support the relief efforts of our locally led response, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal of 2.5 million Swiss Francs to provide urgent assistance including safe water, tarpaulins, shelter materials including tool kits to rebuild, household items such as kitchen cooking sets and hygiene kits. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “While the damage to some of the islands is truly devastating, it is heartening to see Red Cross and governments from around the world providing assistance to the hard-hit people of Tonga, enabling much-needed services and relief items. “A well-coordinated humanitarian response that brings together governments and international organisations to support local agencies like Tonga Red Cross is crucial in the Pacific. These partnerships are critical for effective delivery of immediate relief and longer-term support.” 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]

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19/01/2022 | Press release

Red Cross in Tonga confirms urgent need for safe drinking water

Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 19 January 2022 – Red Cross is rushing safe drinking water to people across Tonga as water supplies have been disrupted by layers of volcanic ash and salt water that were dumped on the Pacific island nation following last weekend’s eruption and tsunami. Red Cross teams on the ground have confirmed widespread stagnant pools of salt water that were dumped by the tsunami and communities are covered with a thick layer of volcanic ash, polluting the clean drinking water sources of tens of thousands of people. Katie Greenwood, the Pacific Head of Delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “After being cut off from the world, we have successfully contacted Tonga Red Cross for the first time, who report that all their staff and volunteers are safe and working hard, providing relief, including shelter and drinking water. “Tonga Red Cross confirms emergency team members have been sent alongside authorities to islands including Mango, Fonoifua and Namuka Islands, where homes have been completely wiped out. “Red Cross teams are urgently delivering drinking water and relief kits for people who have lost everything. It is heartbreaking and devastating for these remote island communities. “Securing access to safe drinking water is a critical immediate priority as we work with our partners and the Australian and New Zealand governments to get relief supplies such as mobile water treatment facilities into Tonga. “Water supplies across Tonga have been severely impacted by ashfall and saltwater from the tsunami. It’s vital to restore access to safe drinking water as there is a mounting risk of diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea.” Tonga Red Cross emergency teams are providing people with clean water, tarpaulins, shelter tool kits, kitchen sets and other essential relief. IFRC has mobilised its regional network and partnerships with governments to send relief supplies by sea in the coming days and as part of airlifts once Tonga’s ash-covered international airport is open. “Fortunately, Tonga Red Cross has pre-positioned relief supplies to support 1,200 families in exactly this kind of disaster. Essential items such as tarpaulins, shelter tool kits, blankets, kitchen sets, and hygiene kits are all proving vital for people who have lost everything. “It is critical to replenish the relief supplies in the coming days as items are being distributed to hard-hit communities across the islands and threats remain from the volcano and cyclones. “These relief efforts require a coordinated approach, combining the efforts of our Tonga Red Cross colleagues on the ground, Red Cross Red Crescent and humanitarian partners, and the heavy lifting capacity of the Australian and New Zealand Governments.” 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]

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16/01/2022 | 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]

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09/03/2021 | Article

Masouma: Volunteering because she cares

By Georgia Trismpioti, IFRC Masouma, a young Afghani woman living at the Kara Tepe refugee camp in Greece for the last six months, is a shining example of an empowered woman. A mother of two, Masouma dedicates much of her free time to volunteering for the Red Cross. Her role as a hygiene promoter is to help her community stay aware of the biggest public health risks, to use safe hygiene practices and make the best use of the water and sanitation facilities. “I feel it is my responsibility to care for my community. I would say that no matter who you are, you have the power to impact the lives around you through volunteering,” Masouma said. She helps the community understand more about the diseases that come from poor hygiene and sanitation, as well as good hygiene practices, the best use of personal hygiene items. She visits people in their tents, and is involved in advisory, mediation and referral services. “I have learned that service is using the gifts you already possess to improve others’ current circumstances.As a young woman, it is so empowering to me to be involved with humanitarian efforts because it is the most influential and powerful thing you can do,” she said. Red Cross works to improve water and sanitation infrastructure and hygiene awareness at the camp. Training of hygiene promotion community volunteers remains a priority to encourage community ownership. “I feel proud of the work within my community and our common efforts to make Kara Tepe a better place to live. By improving hygiene, educating about hygiene, and promoting good handwashing, we have seen a significant reduction of diarrhoeal cases among children,” she says. Volunteering can also support successful integration between the different communities in the camp by fostering exchange, increased contact, and building mutual awareness. “Volunteering helped me to gain new skills but the most important is that I have made new friends from different cultural backgrounds that allows me to build an understanding that no religion or culture is better than the other but that each has its unique features!”

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26/09/2019 | Press release

New “game-changing” financing mechanism to end cholera launched at UN General Assembly

New York, 26 September 2019 – The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today unveiled a major new initiative to combat cholera and other diarrheal diseases in 29 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).Announced at the UNGA Financing for Development Dialogues by H.E. The Honorable Minister of Economy, Malaysia, Mohamed Azmin, the One WASH Fund will attempt to cut cholera deaths by 90 per cent and improve the lives of 5 million people in 29 cholera affected OIC member countries.The One WASH Fund is a scalable outcome fund model that uses an innovative financing mechanism designed to attract new philanthropic and private investor capital by combining Islamic social finance contributions with traditional humanitarian donor financing. This Fund structure will then be pre-funded through the issuance of an Islamic bond (Sukuk) enabling it to operate at multi-million-dollar scale.With the establishment of the fund, IsDB and IFRC are collaborating with key private sector and government partners including philanthropic capital contributors. Implementation of the programme is expected to start in July 2020.IsDB President, Dr Bandar Hajjar, said:“We believe this alternative development financing approach can demonstrate the transformative value of Islamic Social Finance blended with other sources of finance while unlocking private capital and ensuring markets support overall development in countries. We count on the leadership and partnership of the OIC Member Countries as water, sanitation and health are strategic areas in line with Islamic principles intended for sustained impact.”IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy, said: “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require new approaches to programming. It will also require us to look beyond traditional humanitarian and development financing approaches. Every 10 seconds someone is infected with cholera."This is a tragedy, not least because cholera is a disease that can be easily prevented. Lack of funding has always been a major issue, but this new initiative will help overcome that and ensure that we can finally end cholera. It is, in many ways, a complete game changer."One WASH will directly and measurably contribute to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), SDG5 (Gender Equality), SDG6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG13 (Climate Action) and SDG17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

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22/03/2019 | Article

World Water Day: Leaving no one behind in Cox’s Bazar

By Gennike Mayers, IFRC“We have good water like medicine. It tastes good and does not cause disease but if we have this water and not enough toilets how can we stop disease?” said Halama Khaton, 40, who fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine in August 2017. “When we came at first, the water was not good. There was one borehole and the water had too much iron. You could see the iron colour and it tasted bad but we had no choice. People were sick but we didn’t know if it was because of the water or something else.”[caption id="attachment_52173" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Bangladesh, Cox's Bazar, 2019. Camp resident Halama Khaton shares their concerns about water with the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society community focal point for water, sanitation and hygiene, Mosi Ullah.[/caption]The Bangladesh Red Crescent is providing clean water and sanitation for people from Rakhine, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Perched on top of a hill at the camp are at least two 5,000 litre tanks that supply water to seven tap stands. Community volunteers maintain the pump and carry out chlorine treatment and testing to keep the water safe. Mosi Ullah, a camp volunteer from Rakhine who works with the IFRC water and sanitation team, said: “During the rainy season, the solar panels were not working because it was cloudy. We had to install a generator to pump the water from the borehole to the tank up on the hill.” Access to clean water is not the only challenge in Cox’s Bazar – helping people to reduce hygiene risks in tough conditions is also crucial. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers go door-to-door, sharing tips and doing practical demonstrations with camp residents.[caption id="attachment_52175" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Bangladesh, Cox's Bazar, 2019. IFRC teams up with NGO Artolution to sensitize camp residents about good hygiene practices through art.[/caption]Since August 2017, the Red Cross Red Crescent has reached more than 93,000 people through hygiene promotion. Over 40 million litres of safe water have been distributed to more than 170,000 people living in Cox’s Bazar camp and close to 500 toilets and 200 washing facilities have been built. Nearly 70,000 jerrycans have been provided so residents can safely store water for use at home. However, the needs are immense. More must be done to meet minimum humanitarian standards to ensure that no one is left behind.

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