| Press release
“From satellites to sandbags”: Putting water at the heart of climate action.
Geneva, 22 September 2023 -As proved so tragically in Libya last week, while water holds the key to life, alltoo often it kills.
Whether – like in Derna - it’s too much water leading to floods, or too little water causing droughts, or polluted water resulting in health risks, addressing the dangers that water poses can save lives. As climate change intensifies these threats, there is an urgent need for action.
That is why a new collaboration matters so much.
With funding and support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands ‘Water at the Heart of Climate Action’ is an ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), The Netherlands Red Cross, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF).
This collaboration will combine local knowledge and global technology to help communities understand and act on the water-related risks they face - before they become disasters. The programme is focused on supporting the countries of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan,and Uganda, which make up the Nile River basin. These countries are not only among the Least Developed Countries in the world but are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. To ensure the implementation of this five-year partnership, the Government of the Netherlands has generously committed 52 million Swiss Francs (55 million euros).
The aim of the ‘Water at the Heart’ collaboration is to address climate-related risks that too often fall between the cracks of most country-level water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policies. It will focus on practical, locally-driven action to better anticipate disasters and prepare communities well in advance. It will also use the latest science and technology to monitor and forecast weather and water-related hazards. It furthermore invests in communications technologies to warn communities of what is coming and enable early action. As a result, this programme is a direct contribution to the implementation of the UN Secretary General’s ‘Early Warnings for All’ initiative.
Jagan Chapagain, the Secretary General of the IFRC said:
“Water is life. But too much or too little water can wreak havoc on people’s lives and homes. Almost three-quarters of all recent humanitarian disasters were water related. This initiative makes mitigation of the impact of such disasters an absolute priority. With thousands of IFRC network volunteers across South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda, the IFRC network is uniquely positioned to deliver innovative and trusted local action. Through our partners, those actions can be informed by technology including the best forecasting and observation. This really is a ‘sandbags to satellites’ all-encompassing initiative.”
Mami Mizutori, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the head of UNDRR said:
“To save lives, lift people out of poverty and ensure that development gains are sustainable and irreversible, we must stop hazards from becoming disasters. Water at the Heart of Climate Action is a demonstration of the commitment of the Netherlands to helping some of the most vulnerable countries build their resilience in the face of climate change.”
Maarten van Aalst, Director General of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) said:
“As a national Meteorological Institute, we see the rapid increase in weather extremes in our changing climate, and we realize that we need partnerships all across society to make sure our warnings lead to early actions. The Netherlands’ vulnerability as a low-lying delta is significantly reduced by the power of good data and predictions, and the ability to act on that information — from satellites to sandbags. Water at the heart will strengthen our peers in the Global South to deliver similar services, and KNMI is proud to be supporting those efforts with peer support.”
WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said:
“The majority of hazards are water-related, particularly floods and droughts. Climate change will further increase the frequency and severity of these events. End-to-end early warning systems are critical to save lives and minimize the impact of disasters. WMO is working with SOFF to close the basic weather and climate observation data gap and strengthen the foundational element of better data for better forecasts. Water at the Heart of Climate Action will make a tangible contribution to the Early Warnings for All initiative.”
Paul Bekkers, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, WTO and other international organizations in Geneva, said:
“Water should not be posing risks to vulnerable frontline communities! On the contrary, we can empower communities to transform water from a hazard into a valuable resource. By leveraging indigenous knowledge and investing in early warning systems. The Netherlands proudly supports this partnership that places the needs of local communities at the heart of water action!”
REPRESENTATIVES WILL BE TALKING ABOUT ‘WATER AT THE HEART’ AT THE UN PRESS BRIEFING IN GENEVA FROM 10.30AM ON FRIDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER. THE VIDEO OF THE BRIEFING WILL BE POSTED HERE SHORTLY AFTERWARDS.
FOR INTERVIEWS WITH THOSE INVOLVED, PLEASE CONTACT VIA THE DETAILS BELOW
IFRC - Andrew Thomas / [email protected] / +41763676587
CLIMATE CENTRE - Alex Wynter / [email protected] / +447717470855
WMO – Clare Nullis / [email protected] / +41797091397
SOFF - Pauline Trepczyk / [email protected] / +41796407857
UNDRR – Jeanette Elsworth / [email protected] / +41766911020
PERMAMENT REPRESENTATION OF THE NETHERLANDS - Joyce Langewen / [email protected] / +41794486110
NETHERLANDS RED CROSS - Bastiaan van Blokland / [email protected] / +31704455612
Three months after the Kakhovka Dam disaster, Ukraine Red Cross still stands by affected communities
When the Kakhovka Dam in southern Ukraine collapsed in June, a torrent of water poured over downstream towns and farmlands, reducing homes to rubble and leading to the tragic loss of many lives.
The flood swept up everything in its path, washing farm animals, unexploded mines, hazardous chemicals and dangerous bacteria—such as salmonella, E. coli, and cholera—down toward the Dnipro-Buh Delta on the Black Sea.
The Ukraine Red Cross Society’s (URCS) response to the dam disaster was swift. From the moment the dam collapsed, their volunteers began evacuating people from flooded areas and distributing essentials such as food, hygiene products and water purification equipment. Psychosocial support specialists were also on hand to help people cope during those difficult first days.
But recovering from a disaster like this doesn’t happen overnight. Three months on, URCS teams remain firmly by the side of communities to help them get their lives back on track.
“People's needs have changed but have not disappeared," says Serhiy Moroz, a URCS volunteer.
"In many populated areas, people are attempting to return to their previous lives in damaged housing and amidst disruptions in centralized water supply services. Often, water systems are simply non-existent, leaving people to suffer from a lack of clean water. This creates significant household challenges as well as risks to public health."
The IFRC recently deployed an Emergency Response Unit or 'ERU'—a team of specialized personnel and equipment from across the IFRC network—to Kropyvnytskyi city to support the Ukraine Red Crescent Society’s work restoring access to safe water.
Marco Skodak, the ERU team leader, details their efforts:
"We're launching Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) activities in response to the dam's destruction. URCS volunteers are undergoing training to provide assistance, and, working alongside our specialists, they are already on the ground conducting needs assessments and establishing crucial water purification systems and pipelines."
By training up the Ukraine Red Cross Society in this way, the IFRC network is ensuring that communities get the long-term assistance they need to recover, and that volunteers have an even greater ability to respond should a similar disaster ever occur in future.
Click here to learn about how the IFRC is supporting local humanitarian action, including the different types of ERUs we can deploy.
And click here to learn more about the IFRC’s work in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
His theatre in Yemen destroyed, Osama finds a new stage
For many years, Osama consideredthe theatre his second home,a place where he could embody different characters, share poetic words of wisdom and see the smiles and laughter on the faces of people in his community.
“Every time I appear on the stage and see the smiles of children, I feel satisfied,” says Osama, a gregarious talkative man whose passion for acting has provided some refuge from the scourge and heartaches of war.
But Osama’s ability to pursue this dream suffered a serious blow when his beloved theatrewas bombed and reduced to a pile of rubble.
“My dreams were shattered,” says Osama, standing on the ruins of what was once a spacious, airy theatre, capable of holding hundreds of people. “My dreams were here in this very place,” he says, looking out of a field of broken bricks and stone. “Here, we used to bring smiles to people’s faces … before the war began.”
Most of the theatre pieces his company produced were comedies and dramas that brought happiness and laughterwhile also sharing purposeful messages.
A new humanitarian role
After the theatre was bombed, with the accumulated pain and despair of war weighing on him, Osama started looking for a new role: something that would again bring him joy and help him to rebuild his sense of purpose. His journey led him to the doors of theYemeni Red Crescentin Al Hudaydah.
Now Osamauses his gift for comedy and drama to educate people through interactive theatre sketches. The performances also convey important messages about how to stay healthy and safe in a context where war has shattered many of the basic food, water, health and sanitation systems that keep communities safe and well.
“I remember the first time I participated in an awareness-raising activity with the Yemeni Red Crescent Society,” Osama says . “I was just giving children advice about washing hands, but in a funny way. I remember their laughter at my attempts to correct some of my mistakes.
“One time, I was doing a comedy show to teach, in a comical manner, the right ways to wash hands, but I forgot one of the important ways to rub your fingers. One of the kids got up and hit me over the head in a comedic style and said, ‘The artist forgot to tell us this step.’ He started explaining it like a member of a theatrical troupe. It was the first time I felt I was really helping ordinary people cope with the challenges of war.”
Inspired by the work of the Yemeni Red Crescent in Al Hudaydah, Osama has not only played a role in the Red Crescent’s outreach programmes, but also became an active volunteer in the provision of first aid, food distribution, emergency response, and even the transportation of wounded people and bodies. Alongside all this, the energetic father and husband works various jobs, such as tending trees around the city, to support his family.
Deeper into the role
Osama remembers one situation that pushed him even deeper into his role as a volunteer:a dengue outbreak in Al Hudaydahthat made an already desperate situation in the governorate even worse.
While 20 million Yemeni people lacked access to basic healthcare, half of the country’s health facilities were either partially or completely damaged by war, leading to dramatic increases of endemic diseases and epidemics.
“The dengue epidemic reached our home where I live with 16 members of my family, including four children. It was difficult to access healthcare and even to purchase medicines due to the economic situation. I took my eight-year-old brother Rakan to the Health Centre of the Yemeni Red Crescent Society, hoping he would be cared for at the centre. He was treated there until the staff were certain that he had recovered and was not in danger anymore.
“This kind of assistance was not provided because of my work as a volunteer in the Red Crescent — it is available to all members of the community.The centre provides medical care services to all, and the number of beneficiaries is more than 1,700 people.”
“The moment I arrived at the centre, holding my brother in my arms, was like a dream. I went there as a person in need and was received by a team that helps everyone. I realised after my brother’s recovery that working with the Red Crescent was also an opportunity to give something back, to return the favour, so to speak."
In the meantime, this gregarious, outgoing volunteer can also nurture the stage actor that is always inside him, never far from the surface.
“Even if I cannot appear on stage, I can at least do this for the Yemeni Red Crescent Society as a volunteer and play around for the kids,” Osama says with a smile. “That makes me happy and proud.”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
Greener, safer, easier: Solar-powered water pumps bring life to Ghana
“When I drink the water, it tastes good, nothing happens to me.”
These are the words of Joyce Oforiwah, a 47-year-old mother of three from Obretema in Eastern region, Ghana as she gives an enthusiastic double thumbs up. Her village recently became the proud host of a brand new, solar-powered water pump installed by the Ghana Red Cross to provide clean, affordable drinking water to her local community.
While access to safe water in Ghana has greatly improved over the past few decades, millions of people—especially in rural areas—still have to travel unacceptably long distances to collect it.
So, for the past few years, the Ghana Red Cross – in partnership with the IFRC, Nestle and the OPEC Fund – has been working to provide innovative and sustainable water and sanitation services in rural communities to improve people’s lives and protect their health.
Greener, safer, easier
Joyce is excited that she’s no longer forced to venture far from home for water or risk her family’s health by resorting to unsafe water sources nearby.
This new pump, one of 19 installed in the past year, also makes her life easier in other ways.
The pump she previously used was locked at different times of the day and required an attendant to operate it, making it inconvenient for her and her fellow villagers. But this new pump uses a self-service token system, removing the need for an attendant and making water available 24/7.
With a little as 10 pesewas (less than 1 US cent) Joyce and other members of her community can charge up their token with their local water vendor and collect 20 litres of water. Using a token, rather than coin-operated, system prevents the pump, as well as the people collecting water, from becoming a target for thieves, as no money is stored inside or needed to operate it.
Powered by solar, the water point is also an eco-friendly alternative to regular pumps and has lower operating and repair costs. And it’s lit up throughout the night, making it safer and easier to use.
Local Ghana Red Cross volunteer, Regina Nyamevor, is the vendor overseeing the Obretema water point and says the community is delighted with the water project.
“Everyone around here now gets their water from this water point, and they can now operate it on their own,” she says.
As well as managing the sale of credit and topping up people’s tokens, Regina also plays an important role providing information to households on the benefits of safe drinking water so that families can avoid health problems and diseases.
“I enjoy working as a vendor and am very excited that am part of a great project which ensures that communities are empowered to collect as much water as they want and at any time of the day, this is a great change in our community,” she adds.
Creating local business
Amina Rasak, a fellow villager, has even started her own drinking water business using the water she collects from the new water point. She packages her water in conveniently sized sachets to sell on to students and others in the community.
Amina says the water has been a huge relief for them. They have a water point close to them which saves them time and is safe to drink without the need to purify it any further.
“We thank the Ghana Red Cross Society and all those who invested in the water project as well as those managing it, we appreciate what they have done. Please keep this water project working because it has made our lives better,” she tells me.
Our Ghana Sustainable WASH (Gha-WASH) project, in partnership with the Ghana Red Cross, Nestle and the OPEC fund, has been running since 2015. Gha-WASH aims to make sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services available to tens of thousands of people across the country and reduce WASH-related diseases.
Click here to learn more about our work in water, sanitation and hygiene.
| Press release
Red Cross ramps up efforts as water-borne diseases threaten south of Ukraine
Kiev / Ukraine, 27 June 2023 – Water-borne diseases are a growing threat for people affected by flooding from the Nova Kakhovka Dam collapse earlier this month. This threat poses a significant challenge in an already complex and volatile situation. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) network with the Ukrainian Red Cross Society continue to scale up to help tackle the new risk.
Since day one, the Ukrainian Red Cross mobilised in the Kherson region to help affected communities. Despite being under fire, teams continued to help people evacuate safely and provide first aid along with other relief items.
Oleksandr Babenko, Head of the Ukraine Red Cross Health department says:
“From the early hours of the emergency situation, the Ukraine Red Cross is responding to the humanitarian challenges to assist the affected population. We are closely cooperating with local authorities to provide timely and effective support. We pay particular attention to informing people about preventing the spread of infectious diseases, especially through drinking water, in the territories of the Kherson, Zaporizhia, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, and Mykolaiv regions.”
The Ukraine Red Cross with the IFRC network are helping communities access a reliable clean water supply and adequate hygiene and sanitation. Red Cross teams continue to provide affected communities with relief items as well as mental health and psychosocial support.
“Ensuring access to clean water is now a critical priority in a region that is already facing so many challenges. Time is of the essence to get ahead of the spread of diseases so we all have to work together,” says Jaime Wah, IFRC Health Coordinator. “No one can do this alone. On top of financial and technical support provided to Ukraine Red Cross already, we are ramping up resources so we can offer access to clean water and provide for the needs moving forward in recovery.”
For more information or to request an interview, please contact: [email protected]
Rural Guatemalan women at the heart of community health
Gladis Gómez wears a purple Huipil, a traditional outfit worn by people from the mountainous, western part of Guatemala. The colour represents mourning, as she sadly lost a distant relative a few days earlier.
Despite this, a smile lights up her face—a smile that so many people in her community recognise.
Gladis is the President of a local health committee in her small village of Xecaracoj. The committee brings together a dozen rural women who have been trained in key health issues by the Guatemalan Red Cross so they can help promote healthy practices in their community.
Together, the women go door to door around their village, sharing knowledge on how people can prevent common diseases and deaths, especially among children.
This work is vital. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world, and more than half the population live below the poverty line. The COVID-19 pandemic also took a heavy toll on the country – with 20,000 people dying from the disease within 3 years.
‘’We have spread the new knowledge given to us by the Guatemalan Red Cross to inform men, boys and girls about things as simple as hand washing, cleaning our homes and our streets, and the importance of breastfeeding and nutrition.”
“We now know that healthy habits make the difference between having a strong and healthy community or continuing to take our babies to the hospital,'' says Gladis.
Juan Poyón, Epidemic and Pandemic Control Technician for the Guatemalan Red Cross, says he’s learned a lot from the health committees, like the one run by Gladis, and has used the women’s local knowledge to guide and improve their support.
“We identified key issues, for example, that their priorities were the prevention of COVID-19 or malnutrition. Today, with the committees already trained, we identified that the women wanted to reach more people, in fact, they prioritised radio, information kiosks or messages via WhatsApp as the best channels to share their knowledge more widely,” explains Juan.
To share these valuable community insights even further, the Guatemalan Red Cross connected the women-led health committees with the country's Ministry of Health—which has proved to be an eye opener for the national authorities. They’re now working together to improve community health across the country.
Ana Gómez, Epidemiologist at the Guatemalan Ministry of Health, explained:
“We have worked with the Guatemalan Red Cross to identify people’s needs, respecting the diversity of the population. We learned about, and welcomed, women's points of view to strengthen community health, and along the way we confirmed that their role is key.”
“Women are the main users of health services. They also play a fundamental role in the education of the next generation who will be in charge of the country. Involving women ensures positive behavioural change in families and communities, and therefore contributes to improving Guatemala's health,” says Ana.
Spending time with Gladis, it’s clear to see that she takes a lot of pride in her work, and that she and her fellow health committee members are happy their voices are being heard.
As she sits and weaves herself a new corte – a traditional Mayan skirt – she points to the yellow stripes that represent hope.
“Tomorrow I will wear a yellow Huipil to represent the colour of life, the rays of the sun, and corn,” says Gladis.
“The women of this community are special, very special, because today we have the knowledge to protect life.”
The promotion of these local health committees in Guatemala is part of the epidemic and pandemic preparedness pillar of our Programmatic Partnership with the European Union.
So far, 1250 families in the rural area of Quetzaltenango, western Guatemala, have received valuable and trusted health advice provided by the local health committees.
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.
The IFRC will continue to strengthen the capacities of communities in Guatemala to prevent pandemics and epidemics; and to encourage more women to take leadership positions so they can have a profound, positive impact on the future of their communities.
| Press release
Six months on: Pakistan’s receding floodwaters reveal the need for prolonged support
Islamabad/Sindh, 28 February 2023 – The need for longer-term economic support for people who lost their homes, livelihoods, and livestock across Pakistan due to the catastrophic floods six months ago becomes pressing amid global and local economic turndown, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns.
In order to address the flood’s impact, the IFRC and Pakistan Red Crescent Society have launched cash and voucher assistance to meet the urgent needs of the people most at-risk, delivering more than CHF 420,000 to 5,600 families so far. This cash assistance will enable families to meet their immediate needs, such as food, livelihood, and other essential needs.
“We understand that needs are still immense in the aftermath of the severe floods, and they will remain like this for a while as the damage is massive. We are supporting communities with cash, but it’s important to acknowledge that this aid is a short-term bridge for urgent needs. Escalating inflation and a stagnant economy don’t allow the cash to stretch as far as people need,” Peter (Piwi) Ophoff, head of the IFRC delegation in Pakistan, said. “Longer term cash support to people impacted by these devastating floods will stimulate local markets, which can help economic recovery,” Ophoff added.
From June to August last year, extreme monsoon rainfall submerged one-third of Pakistan, affecting 33 million people across the country. The monsoon floods ravaged a staggering 2.2 million houses leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Families were forced to take refuge on roadsides in makeshift shelters when the country’s main Indus River burst its banks across thousands of square kilometres. The IFRC's emergency appeal has reached almost 1.3 million people with relief items, shelter, health, water, sanitation, hygiene kits, and multipurpose cash assistance over the past six months.
Pakistan Red Crescent Society has the capacity and knowledge to assist disaster-affected populations through cash and voucher assistance, a dignified, reliable and efficient ways using a swift disbursement mechanism.
Pakistan Red Crescent Society chairman, Sardar Shahid Ahmed Laghari remarked:
"There are still millions of people on the ground who are looking for help, and we need support from national as well as international communities to help as many lives as possible so that they can meet their urgent needs and resume their livelihoods in a way that maintains dignity, freedom, choice and respect," Laghari said.
IFRC’s multipurpose cash transfer program aims to help the affected people to rebuild their lives. But the skyrocketing inflation rates only add to the already volatile situation. To survive through this, continued support is required for the emergency appeal launched in September, as it is still underfunded even after six months.
The devastating floods that heavily damaged residential properties, infrastructure, and other assets, led over a million livestock to perish and left large swathes of agricultural land uncultivable, resulting in the exponential loss of income and livelihoods for millions of people. The damage created due to floods exacerbated by climate change pushed already economically disadvantaged communities further towards poverty, making the available aid fall short of meeting the increasing needs of people amid an economic recession.
Responding to the acute needs of people affected by the 2022 floods within the first six months, the IFRC emergency operation is now shifting its focus to meeting the longer-term recovery needs of affected communities. To achieve this, the main priorities include reinforcing access to safe water and sanitation facilities, rehabilitating basic health units, and launching livelihoods and multipurpose cash assistance programs.
Cash assistance is one critical approach that helps responders better put the needs and capacities of affected people at the heart of humanitarian action. It enables communities to decide how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.
For more information, please contact:
Irem Karakaya, +92 308 555 0065
Sher Zaman, +92 304 103 0469
In Kuala Lumpur: Afhrill Rances, +60 19 271 3641
In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, +1 202 603 6803
Cholera is back but the world is looking away
This article was originally published on the BMJ website here.
Once thought to be close to eradication, cholera is back—dehydrating and killing people within hours and ravaging communities across six continents. Despite the alarming numbers of cases and deaths over the past year, decision makers are averting their eyes, leaving people to die from a preventable and treatable disease.
The healthcare community should sound the alarm for immediate actions. A strong and global emergency response is urgently needed, but it is only a first step. More than ever the world must invest in water and sanitation systems and prepare communities before outbreaks occur.
Over the past 200 years, there have been seven cholera pandemics, and today’s surge is the largest in a decade. In 2022, 30 countries reported cholera outbreaks, including places that had been free of the disease for decades. In Haiti, where millions of people have been displaced by violence, cholera has killed hundreds of people in just a few months.Lebanon is experiencing its first outbreak since 1993, with more than 6000 recorded cases.After devastating floods, Nigeria had a major cholera outbreak.In Malawi, the worst outbreak in decades has left 620 people dead since March.Schools are now closed in an attempt to stop the surge of infections.
The risk of cholera transmission multiplies when people live in poor or overcrowded conditions and lack access to safe water, proper sanitation, and hygiene facilities. A diarrhoeal disease caused by theVibrio choleraebacteria, cholera is commonly spread through contaminated food or water. Left untreated, it can cause severe dehydration and be deadly within hours.
Almost half of the world's population—approximately 3.6 billion people—live without safely managed sanitation in their home, leaving them vulnerable to cholera outbreaks. The World Health Organization reports that at least two billion people consume water from sources contaminated with faeces.
The root causes behind the spate of recent cholera outbreaks are, however, complex and multifaceted. Overlapping humanitarian crises around the world, such as migration, conflicts, poverty, and social injustice are forcing people to live in unsanitary conditions, and this is fuelling the spread of this infectious disease. In the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic, the number of people living in extreme poverty increased for the first time in a generation. And now, rising inflation and the repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine could worsen an already dire situation.
Climate change plays a part in contributing to the spread of cholera. More frequent and intense extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and floods, have resulted in major disruption to water treatment processes and damaged sanitary infrastructure in many parts of the world. The combination of higher temperatures and extreme precipitation leads to a higher incidence of waterborne infections like cholera.
Factors such as food insecurity also exacerbate the vulnerability of communities to the spread of cholera. Malnourishment weakens the immune system, increasing a person’s risk of severe symptoms and death. As global events drive up food prices, the number of malnourished people has also risen. An estimated 140 million people in Africa face severe food insecurity.
Cholera can be treated through a simple method called oral rehydration treatment, but many people cannot access this lifesaving tool—an estimated 56% of children with diarrhoea are not able to receive this treatment. Cholera can also be prevented through the oral cholera vaccine, but supply cannot meet current needs. By the end of 2022, 11 countries experiencing cholera outbreaks had requested 61 million doses of the vaccine—far more than the 36 million doses that were expected to be produced. The shortage of vaccines has recently forced the International Coordinating Group, of which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is a part, to switch from a two dose to a single dose strategy so that coverage can be expanded.
In places such as Malawi and Haiti, the mortality rate from cholera tripled in 2022. Nobody should die from a preventable and treatable disease. This level of suffering is morally unacceptable.
The IFRC has launched a time sensitive emergency response in 20 countries, where trained Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers track transmission routes while also ensuring that sanitation facilities are working and that safe water supplies are available. At the community level, teams treat people by administering oral rehydration treatment and referring those most severely affected to hospital. In Malawi, where the number of infections is increasing daily, the Red Cross has established 14 oral rehydration points across the country and is reaching more than 753 000 people with health and hygiene campaigns.
Volunteers also play a major part in cholera vaccination campaigns. The Lebanese Red Cross, for example, has contributed considerably to the rollout of the national cholera vaccination campaign. Through door-to-door visits of households, institutions, and organisations, the Lebanese Red Cross vaccinated more than 260 000 people in only 39 days across 151 municipalities.
In countries where cholera is endemic, we are implementing sustainable long term water systems, sanitation, and hygiene programmes. For instance, in the countries where we are operating, we built and rehabilitated 1300 water systems, more than 7000 sanitation facilities in households, schools, and health centres, and close to 6000 handwashing stations, improving the lives of more than three million people around the world.
Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers are on the frontlines of this public health emergency, but we are not able to do this alone. The resurgence of cholera around the world despite decades of eradication efforts suggest that cholera control, prevention, and response mechanisms must be rapidly amplified.
To prevent outbreaks, reduce transmission, and save lives, we need political commitment and greater financial resources. We must ensure access to safe water supplies and invest in proper sanitation infrastructure in the communities most at risk. We need to increase the production and distribution of oral cholera vaccines. Public health systems and cholera treatment centres must be better funded. Lastly, we need to build trust in communities. People are less likely to follow preventive measures if they do not trust their community leaders and health systems.
But to really put an end to cholera, we cannot forget the humanitarian crises at root level. Governments, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector must finally mobilise and increase investments in infrastructure and health and social systems so that they can withstand the fallout from disasters, conflicts, and climate change.
One of the most important lessons we learnt from the covid-19 pandemic is that no one is safe until everyone is safe. It is in everyone’s best interests to work together and ensure that no one is left behind.
Visit our water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) page for more information about cholera.
And follow Petra on Twitter for more updates on the IFRC's work in health and care: @petra_khoury
| Press release
IFRC partners with the Muslim World League to support humanitarian objectives
Geneva, 6 December 2022 – The IFRC is honoured to announce its partnership with the Muslim World League (MWL) to support humanitarian objectives.
The agreement between the IFRC and MWL creates a broad mandate for the humanitarian work and objectives of both organizations. It establishes important objectives to assist those impacted by the international armed conflict in Ukraine. These objectives include, but are not limited to:
Providing financial assistance for displaced people to support their basic needs
Providing shelter to those who left their homes and those whose homes were damaged or destroyed
Providing water, sanitation, hygiene, and health assistance
Strengthening National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ response capacities
The agreement between the IFRC and MWL also seeks to support migrants and displaced people from disasters and crises in other regions. This humanitarian support includes:
Food and non-food items
Water, sanitation, and hygiene
Health, including mental health support
Restoring families broken apart
Prevention of sexual and gender-based violence
The promotion of social cohesion between people on the move and host communities
Supporting migrants and host communities to enhance livelihoods, community-based resilience, and economic and social reintegration
The agreement also sets the goal of cooperation around innovative financing structures and activities, including Shariah compliant fundraising tools.
"We are confident that the new partnership with the Muslim World League will be significant, in order to reach those impacted by disasters and crises around the world.Our joint commitment to humanity and humanitarian action will be strengthened by this collaboration,"said IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain.
“Cooperation among international organizations such as the Muslim World League and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is crucial to achieving our humanitarian goals,”said MWL Secretary General, His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa.
“The Muslim World League is honoured to work alongside the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to bring humanitarian aid to those impacted by the international armed conflict in Ukraine and to support migrants and displaced people,” he continued.
Pakistan floods: Six months on, humanitarian needs remain dire
It’s been almost six months since flash floods battered parts of Pakistan, and hundreds of thousands of people are still reeling from the floods’ effects.
Homes, livelihoods, and farmlands were destroyed and many parts of the country remain underwater. An estimated 33 million people have been affected, of which 20 million are still living in dire conditions. And now that the country has entered winter, many affected communities face a daunting new challenge of how to survive without housing, food, clean water, and fuel sources for warmth.
The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS), with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has been providing lifesaving relief to flood-affected families, especially those in far-flung areas, reaching nearly 600,000 people so far.
The PRCS swung into action when the floods struck, delivering cooked food and food parcels to address hunger, which killed some due to starvation. Their volunteers also quickly distributed essential items such as collapsible jerry cans for storing clean water, kitchen sets and hygiene kits.
Shelter continues to be a top priority in our response. Many people were forced to leave their flooded homes and retreat to the nearest evacuation centre. Some resorted to sleeping on the roadside – unprotected and with barely any resources to build a roof over their heads. PRCS, with the support of IFRC and our partners, has been distributing tents, shelter tool kits, tarpaulins, blankets and mosquito nets in different affected regions to cater to people’s immediate shelter needs.
In the areas where floods are receding, health and hygiene concerns including cholera, dengue, and malaria, pose severe threats to people's well-being. Many areas also have been reporting cases of scabies, especially in children as they play in the floodwaters.
Before the floods, poor sanitation and bad hygiene were already a concern in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh provinces. The floods and waterlogging have only worsened the overall health situation. In response, the IFRC has helped the PRCS to strengthen its health and hygiene services. For instance, volunteers are now running mobile health units in the most affected areas to provide urgent medical attention, especially for women and children.
“The mobile health units have been extremely beneficial for me and this community,” says Jamila, a mother of four from Sindh province who’s expecting her fifth child.
Both adults and children in the village where Jamila lives, Dayee Ji Wandh, have been receiving medical assistance and medication for their issues. It’s been easy for Jamila and other pregnant women to reach out and get advice for common health issues, such as fever and diarrhea.
Hear more from Jamila in this video:
“Through the mobile health units, people have been bringing their sick children for treatment whenever necessary,” said Sabira Solangi, a Pakistan Red Crescent volunteer from the same area.
Contaminated water is another big issue, especially in Sindh where the quality of water in the entire region is exceptionally poor. The few handpumps that existed to offer clean water were severely damaged during the floods. The IFRC’s water, sanitation, and hygiene team have been working around the clock to provide clean drinking water. They also carried out extensive assessments to map out the right places to install new handpumps and dig boreholes. The IFRC also supported the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to install mobile water treatment plants and latrines in different districts to aid those in need of clean water.
“We really appreciate what the Red Crescent has set up here, especially with the drinking water. It’s a basic need for all, and it was such a great relief when the treatment plants were installed,” says Maula Bakhsh Khakrani, a 20-year-old man from Jacobabad in Sindh province.
Speaking about the ongoing situation in the country, Pakistan Red Crescent Society Chairman, Shahid Ahmed Laghari, said: “massive needs require massive support. Pakistan Red Crescent Society requests all potential donors to support early recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction efforts for the flood-affected population.”
Click here to learn more about the IFRC’s Emergency Appeal for the floods in Pakistan.
And click here to donate to our ongoing response.
| Press release
Water-borne diseases and food insecurity threaten Pakistan as Red Cross ramps up efforts
Islamabad / Kuala Lumpur, 7 October 2022 – As widespread flash floods in Pakistan continue to trigger waves of displacement, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Pakistan Red Crescent are scaling up their humanitarian assistance.
In a revised emergency appeal, the IFRC is asking for CHF 55 million to assist three times more people than initially targeted. The increased ask was prompted by the worsening situation, where a surge of flood-borne diseases and food inaccessibility is on the rise. In the areas where floods are receding, health and hygiene concerns, such as cholera, dengue and malaria, pose severe threats to people’s wellbeing.
Pakistan has experienced an unusual amount of rainfall, three times higher than the last three decades, which affected 33 million people, killing 1,700 others and displacing nearly 8 million from their homes. Hundreds of staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly since the onset of this disaster to assist those in need.
A new study from the World Weather Attribution—a group of international scientists including those from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre—found climate change likely intensified the rainfall that left huge swathes of Pakistan underwater and turned lives upside down.
More than two months into the floods, the IFRC and Pakistan Red Crescent have reached around 270,000 people in the most affected areas—delivering critical life-saving assistance including tents, food, clean water and medical support. The revised appeal will strengthen the ongoing response, with a focus on food, water, medical care, and shelter assistance—all delivered by volunteers who are from the very communities they serve.
The Chairman of Pakistan Red Crescent, Sardar Shahid Ahmed Laghari, who has been visiting affected areas with emergency response teams over the past weeks says:
“The needs remain massive and keep on growing, and they are different for men, women, boys and girls. Our staff and volunteers are listening to and working with these different groups to raise awareness and deliver our interventions. It’s critical that families’ needs are met or these tragic floods will impact them in the long-term—just as people are suffering from the ongoing inflation and economic crisis."
Through the strength of its staff and volunteers, the Pakistan Red Crescent has managed to access hard-to-reach communities in dire need of assistance.
The IFRC, and its partners such as German Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross and Turkish Red Crescent, have been collaborating with the government and humanitarian groups to cater to the most vulnerable people, with a special focus on displaced families, women, and children.
Peter Ophoff, IFRC’s Head of Delegation in Pakistan, remarks:
“This revised appeal will enable us to help the most vulnerable get back on their feet, especially those who live in the hard-to-reach areas. Before the lingering effects of this disaster turns into a catastrophe, the IFRC is acting now to scale up preventative public health interventions, including improving access to sanitation and increasing hygiene awareness around the emerging health crisis. Parallel interventions will also be made on shelter, livelihoods and cash assistance.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Kuala Lumpur:
Afrhill Rances, +60 19 271 3641
Sher Zaman, +92 51 9250404-6,
Jenelle Eli, +1 202-603-6803,
AV materials for use by the media are available here:
| Press release
Yemen: As global food insecurity crisis escalates, hope shrinks for millions already suffering from extreme hunger
Beirut / Sanaa / Aden, 8 July 2022 – As we face an unprecedented global hunger crisis, concerns for the 16.2 million people who have long been food insecure in Yemen are at an all-time high. While the crisis in Yemen is one of the most dire, brought on by protracted conflict, droughts, and floods intensified by the climate crisis, COVID-19, and other diseases, it has failed to attract adequate support from donors for years. Now it risks slipping further into oblivion.
IFRC Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, made a field visit to Sanaa, Aden, Amran, and Lahj this week, where he witnessed first-hand the immense unmet needs for nutritional supplements and medicine, and the many cases of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
“I’m extremely heartbroken at the devastating level of hunger and severe malnutrition of babies, children, and women in Yemen,” he said. “As I looked in the eyes of those suffering mothers and children, I was at a loss for words This is plain wrong and unnecessary suffering for innocent civilians.”
There are already massive gaps in funding the humanitarian response for the 20.7 million people in need of assistance in Yemen, including clean water and healthcare as well as food and nutrition. Now, as the conflict in Ukraine pushes up the prices of food, fertilizer and fuel, the situation is likely to worsen. Meanwhile, the rapidly increasing needs of people around the world will also spread humanitarian resources even thinner.
Currently, the IFRC delegation in Yemen provides financial, material, and technical support to the Yemen Red Crescent (YRCS) in Disaster Preparedness and Management, Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Health, and National Society Development.
Dr. Elsharkawi met with YRCS leadership and volunteers as well as Yemeni officials around Sanaa, Aden, and Lahj to discuss the humanitarian response gaps as well as the programmes supported by the IFRC.
He saluted the extraordinary efforts of the thousands of dedicated staff and volunteers of the Yemen Red Crescent:
“These men and women are working tirelessly on the front lines to support the people in need and to preserve their dignity despite the complex situation. But our moral responsibility demands more urgent action to save lives now. The international community and donors must immediately scale up support to address the widespread hunger and malnutrition.”
Key figures on Yemen for editors: (Based on the 2022 HNO analysis)
23.4 million people are estimated to need humanitarian assistance in 2022,12.9 million of whom were estimated to be in acute need.
19 million people are food insecure.
17.8 million people lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation services
An estimated 21.9 million people lack access to basic healthcare.
An estimated 4.3 million people have fled their homes since the start of the conflict, including approximately 3.3 million people who remain displaced, and 1 million returnees.
To schedule an interview or for further information:
In Beirut, IFRC-MENA: Mey Al Sayegh, +961 03229352, [email protected]
In Yemen -YRCS: Nesreen Ahmed, +967 775322644, [email protected]
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
| 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]
| 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:
Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688,
Asia Pacific Office:
Joe Cropp, +61 491 743 089,
Asia Pacific Office:
Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451,
| 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]
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)
Access to safe water and sanitation is a human right. But right now, hundreds of millions of people around the world do not have access to safe water and billions 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.
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!”
| 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).
Cameroon: Fleeing violence and searching for stability
By Mirabelle Kima, IFRC
It is in the neighbourhood of Sararé Lougueo—in the Far North capital city of Maroua in Cameroon—that Hadja Bintou, together with her husband and their seven children found refuge. For the 35-year-old woman, what she thought would be a temporary situation became permanent as her village Amchide in the Far North and other villages near the Cameroon border with Nigeria have been targets of recurrent suicide bombing attacks for close to five years now.
“My return to my home village has only been a dream which has never come true. I have become a permanent internally displaced person in my country, living from hand to mouth with the little savings we had and depending on others. Finding myself in this condition and getting to survive with my children has been a heavy load for me to carry especially as I left my house leaving every belonging behind. After three years of struggle with my husband, he died and left me all alone to face the hard realities of life,” sais Bintou.
The Far North region has, for the past years, witnessed massive displacements of close to 246,000 people, most of whom are women and children in dire need of assistance. Most of these poeple settled in the Diamaré, Mayo sava and Mayo Tsanaga divisions of Cameroon.
“At the beginning of the crisis, spontaneous solidarity was expressed by host communities who shared their food and provided shelter and clothing to vulnerable internally displaced people (IDPs). But after few months of constant assistance by the host communities, the burden became too heavy for them to bear given their limited means and other life challenges which they also face,” explains Ali Adoum, Red Cross local President in Maroua.
Bintou’s family, just like for many others, has been struggling to rent a house, feed, pay school fees for children and provide medical care for them.
“I was able to raise capital from the sale of my valuable jewelleries in order to start a business to support my family. However, no matter how hard I have had to work, I still have not been able to cope up with my responsibilities. Sending my daughters to school has always been a matter of honour to me as I was not lucky to enjoy that privilege. I hope that if my daughters are educated, they will stand a better chance to succeed in life,” adds Bintou.
Today, because of the precarious condition in which Bintou finds herself, she has had no choice but to send three of her children to a neighbouring village where they assist her sister in her business, in the hope that she would, someday, be able to have all of her family back together to live in a more dignified way. “All I am crying for is to have an income generating activity to relieve me from the chaotic condition in which I presently am and to enable me to care for my children with dignity.”
In response to the most urgent needs of IDPs in the Far North region, the Cameroon Red Cross has been involved, for the past two years, in water sanitation and hygiene promotion activities. The actions which have been implemented by 148 volunteers and senior staff include providing communities with awareness-raising messages on good hygiene practices, improving their knowledge on environmental hygiene, handwashing and food hygiene. These activities were all carried out with a view to reducing the risk of exposure to waterborne diseases, and particularly the cholera endemic in that part of the country.
World Water Day: Leaving no one behind in Cox’s Bazar
“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.”
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.
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.