| Press release
IFRC to support more than 2 million people affected by the conflict in Ukraine with its largest ever rollout of emergency cash assistance
Geneva, 14 April 2022 – As the needs of people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine continue to grow, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling up its response activities to meet immediate and urgent needs, both inside Ukraine and within the countries people have fled to seeking safety.
Secretary General of the IFRC, Jagan Chapagain, says:
“This will be IFRC’s most extensive emergency cash programme. Our number one priority is getting support to people who are most vulnerable. From our previous experience with cash assistance, we know it is a dignified approach to providing aid as quickly and efficiently as possible. While financial assistance is a major component of our response, we’re also scaling up across many other sectors including health. We have already reached 160,000 people with healthcare and first aid support, but the longer the conflict continues, the more extensive the health needs will become.”
In its largest emergency financial assistance programme to date, IFRC aims to reach more than 2 million people with support, targeting 360,000 people in Ukraine and neighbouring countries within the first three months. Longer-term financial assistance will address the needs of affected people as the crisis evolves.
IFRC Regional Director for Europe Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, says:
“With every day that passes, we know vulnerabilities increase. Access to medical supplies, food, water, utilities, and other vital goods and services deteriorates. We know there are so many uncertainties for people right now, but one thing that’s clear is the needs are immense, and they will be for a long time.”
IFRC is supporting more than 1 million people with over 1,800 metric tonnes of hygiene and kitchen items, blankets, food, mats and tarpaulins in Ukraine and surrounding countries.
The IFRC Secretariat with its member National Societies have launched a Federation-wide response plan for 1.2 billion Swiss francs, which aims to assist 3.6 million people over two years, with multi-purpose cash assistance, health & care and water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as shelter and housing support. Globally, more than 55 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have supported the response to date. The IFRC Secretariat is supporting this response plan by appealing for 550 million Swiss francs to scale up support to National Societies in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
In Ukraine: Caroline Haga, +358 50 5980500, [email protected]
In Poland: Jenelle Eli, +1 202 603-6803, [email protected]
In Romania: Angela Hill, +40 758 450 185, [email protected]
In Budapest: Nicole Robicheau, +36 30 167 2629, [email protected]
In Budapest: Kathy Mueller, +1 226 376-4013 [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 6924, [email protected]
Learn more about the IFRC's work in cash and voucher assistance here.
| Press release
Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector
Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector.
In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation.
The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said:
“I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.”
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.”
The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components.
Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU.
Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies.
The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross.
For more information
In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
| Press release
#PowerToBe campaign launches to help shift perceptions of refugees
Ankara/Berlin, 18 January 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a campaign to tackle negative perceptions of refugees at an increasingly critical time across Europe.
The #PowerToBe campaign follows four passionate Syrians living in Turkey – Hiba, a musician, Eslam, an illustrator, Ibrahim, a swimmer and Mohammed, a coffee lover – who are regaining control of their lives through the help of monthly cash assistance funded by the EU, ultimately giving them more power to be themselves.
The four protagonists each meet digitally with influential people from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports and coffee. The campaign shows how people from all walks of life can connect with one another at eye-level despite differences in language or backgrounds.
In the #PowerToBe campaign, fifteen-year-old drawer Eslam speaks to well-known German illustrator Steffen Kraft, Italian street artist and painter Alice Pasquini and Swedish street artist Johan Karlgren about her passion for illustration. “Drawing a lot helped me to show the world, even if only a little, what happened in Syria,” Eslam said.
Ibrahim, who became paralyzed during the conflict in Syria, connects with Polish professional high diver, Kris Kolanus about the freedom and boundlessness they both feel in the ocean. “Even though many things can hinder me, I am trying to do something. For next year, I’m preparing myself to swim the competition across the Bosporus.”
Mohammed, a father of two, talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee. “When we came to Turkey to an empty house, we had nothing at all. Some Turkish brothers helped us, gave us some furniture.” They tasted his coffee and told him it was “the best they’ve ever had”.
Hiba, who now attends a music school in Istanbul, connected with Portuguese singer-songwriter April Ivy, whom she wrote and sang a song with. “I like to give people hope because whatever struggles we go through, there are actually nice things happening as well,” Hiba says.
Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population with almost four million who are trying to rebuild their lives. About 3.7 million of those are Syrians who fled the conflict that has devastated their country.
Funded by the European Union, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The ESSN is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC in coordination with the Government of Turkey.
The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year where many are facing deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19. Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy.
This year we have seen vulnerable refugee communities slip further into hardships, but we also see their hope and strength. Through this campaign, we wanted to highlight the contributions and resilience they have despite all the challenges. When given the right support, refugees’ potential is endless.
IFRC Secretary General
Hiba, Eslam, Ibrahim and Mohammed were forced to leave everything behind, but have held on to their dreams and continued to pursue them with passion. The ESSN programme offers a critical lifeline to them and 1.5 million other vulnerable refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to see the tangible difference it makes by giving them the opportunity to make choices for their lives.
EU Commissioner for Crisis Management
Click here to download more information about the #PowerToBe campaign, including short backgrounds on each of the people receiving ESSN assistance and the influencers taking part.
You can also visit the #PowerToBe website and learn more about the ESSN on our website here.
To arrange interviews, please contact:
In Berlin: Samantha Hendricks (Social Social), +49 1577 495 8901, [email protected]
In Turkey: Nisa Çetin (Turkish Red Crescent), +90 554 830 31 14, [email protected]
In Turkey: Corrie Butler (IFRC), +90 539 857 51 98, [email protected]
In Turkey: Lisa Hastert (ECHO), +90 533 412 56 63. [email protected]
Cash and livelihoods: a winning combination for long-term sustainability and support to refugees
By Deniz Kacmaz, IFRC Turkey, Livelihood Officer
Turkey is hosting the largest refugee population in the world. More than 3.7 million Syrians have sought refuge as well as 330,000 under international protection and those seeking asylum, including Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, Somalis, among others. With the conflict in Syria now entering its twelfth year with few signs of change, means that we are not just looking at a humanitarian emergency anymore, but on long-term resilience.
Since the refugee influx began in Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) has been taking a leading role in the response. As of April 2020, Turkish Red Crescent through its KIZILAYKART platform and IFRC run the largest humanitarian cash programme in the world, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the EU.
This programme has helped more than 1.5 million cover some of their most basic needs, covering their groceries, rent and utilities, medicine and their children's school supplies.
But humanitarian emergency cash assistance can only go so far. There is also a need to focus on longer-term resilience. This is why we are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities.
From humanitarian cash to longer-term resilience
We are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities. This means being part of the labour market to meet their own needs and rebuild their life without depending on social assistance, including the ESSN.
We must focus on long-term solutions where refugees, supported by the ESSN, gain their power to stand on their feet and become self-reliant again.
I have been working at IFRC Turkey Delegation for almost two years helping identify gaps and find opportunities to empower people's socio-economic capacities. This approach helps ensure they are resilient in combating challenges in the future, including the devastating socio-economic impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and general obstacles around employment opportunities.
We have seen in many contexts when refugees are able to build their resilience and self-sufficiency, they can contribute even more meaningfully to the local economy. When they benefit, we all benefit, including host communities.
What are we doing to bring this long-term solution to the lives of refugees?
As of April 2021, we have launched referrals that link people receiving cash assistance through ESSN with a plethora of livelihood trainings and opportunities in Turkish Red Crescent community centres.
The 19 community centres across Turkey offer support to both refugee and host communities, including work permit support, vocational courses such as sewing; mask producing; various agricultural trainings; and Turkish language courses and skills trainings. These services are critical to breaking barriers in the local markets. The community centres connect skilled individuals to relevant job opportunities by coordinating with public institutions and other livelihood sector representatives.
The ESSN cash assistance provides support to refugees in the short term while giving them opportunities to learn new skills, which can lead to income generation in the long term.
How do we conduct referrals from the ESSN to livelihoods?
There are many sources where families are identified for referrals, some of the most common are:
Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) Service Centre
168 Kızılay Call Centre
Direct e-mail address to the TRC referral and outreach team
Identified potential individuals among ESSN protection cases
Field teams including monitoring and evaluation and referral and outreach teams who are regularly engaging with those benefitting from ESSN
In the first months of combining cash assistance with longer-term programmes, we have supported more than 1,000 refugees.
Some have been referred to employment supports including consultancy for employment and work permit support, while others are attending language courses, vocational trainings, and skills development courses through public institutions, NGOs, UN agencies and TRC’s community centres.
Though we have developed a robust livelihood referral system, collectively, we need to make stronger investments in social economic empowerment in the future.
While we continue to work on improving our programming and referral mechanisms, as IFRC, we are also reaching out to agencies, civil society, donors, and authorities tolook at how we can:
increase investment in socio-economic empowerment in Turkey,
mitigate barriers to employment for refugees, and
create greater synergies between humanitarian and development interventions.
It is this collective effort that will deliver the longer-term gains necessary for both refugee and local communities in Turkey to thrive.
The ESSN is the largest humanitarian cash assistance program in the world, and it is funded by the European Union. The ESSN has been implemented nationwide in Turkey in coordination and collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent and International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC). We reach more than 1.5 million refugees in Turkey through the ESSN, and we give cash assistance to the most vulnerable populations to make sure they meet their basic needs and live a dignified life.
The Turkish Red Crescent with its 19 community centres throughout Turkey supports millions of refugees as well as host communities. The Centres provide several courses, vocational trainings, social cohesion activities, health, psychosocial support, and protection services, among others.
Southern Madagascar: Cash gives food insecure communities a glimpse of hope
In remote areas of southern Madagascar, vulnerable households go into debt buying food and basic needs due to drought and poverty, paying double the price for rice due to transportation costs.
The Malagasy Red Cross with the support of IFRC and partners, have been providing cash for food and basic needs to the vulnerable households in the Commune of Ambatoabo from July 2021.
The process of identification and registration of beneficiaries for this operation was made up of two complementary stages: a survey carried out by the Malagasy Red Cross volunteers and the validation of the results by the community itself through the committees. Among 2,249 families validated by the community, there was Longonay Berthora’s household.
At only 15 years, Berthora has been supporting himself and his brother for the past two years, in the absence of his mother who remarried and is now living in another village. While studying at the local public primary school, Berthora tries to make ends meet by doing different activities including rice growing, charcoal production, and quarrying for mica - a type of mineral which has a commercial value.
In October, he used part of the cash to pay for wages, as he employs people to cultivate rice on his field. The rice produced is for his consumption and for sale, locally. Berthora is working hard to achieve his goals, “My dream is to become a prison officer, and I wish that my little brother becomes a doctor” he spoke.
| Press release
€325 million boost to EU’s largest ever humanitarian programme, reaching 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey
Thursday, 2 December: Ankara, Turkey - More than 1.5 million refugees in Turkey will continue receiving critical support thanks to a €325 million boost from the EU’s largest humanitarian cash programme, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the Turkish Red Crescent Society in close coordination with the Government of Turkey.
In a press conference today in Ankara, Turkey, Janez Lenarčič, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management said:
“Thanks to new EU funds announced today, we will be able to continue the ESSN programme throughout 2022. This support is a critical lifeline for thousands of families, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. This cash assistance enables them to decide for themselves what they need most urgently, whilst contributing to the Turkish economy.”
Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, many of which are Syrians. The ESSN has been providing monthly financial assistance via the “Kizilaykart” debit card since 2016, helping families cover their most essential needs, such as food, rent, transport and medicine.
The additional funds from the European Commission will continue until early 2023. Refugee families currently receive 155 Turkish Lira (about €10) monthly per person with additional quarterly top-ups based on family size, enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover what they need while contributing to the local Turkish economy. The cash assistance, which is aligned with the existing Turkish safety net, currently supports around one-third of the vulnerable refugee population in the country.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General said:
“We are seeing the destructive secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for those most vulnerable, including refugees. We’ve heard from families who are making impossible decisions – between covering their bills, feeding their families, or keeping their children in school. Now more than ever, this cash assistance is critical – it is a lifeline for so many.”
New research from Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC has shown that debt levels among refugees in Turkey have more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began with just under half of those surveyed not having an acceptable food consumption, a 20 per cent increase in the last year. The cash assistance from the ESSN is providing an important buffer, with one in two people saying it has helped them manage their debt.
Dr. Kerem Kınık, President of Turkish Red Crescent said:
“Many vulnerable groups are facing one of their most difficult years, living in hard conditions. Many have come to Turkey for safety. Continued support to the ESSN will ensure families can keep a roof over their children's heads, feed their families and help them get through these difficult times.”
Photos from the visit
Additional b-roll on the ESSN programme
European Union: The European Union and its Member States are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by disasters and crises. Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO), the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the EU provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, reaching 150 million people in 192 National Societies, including Turkish Red Crescent, through the work of 13.7 million volunteers. The IFRC acts before, during and after disasters to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. The IFRC has been leading large-scale cash programmes for decades in response to a broad spectrum of disasters around the globe.
The Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) is the largest humanitarian organization in Turkey, helping vulnerable people in and out of disasters for years, both in the country and abroad. Since 2012, the TRC has been providing first-line response to the refugee influx, supporting millions of people in camps and urban settings. Through their leading cash team and the “Kizilaykart” debit card, the TRC supports millions of vulnerable refugees and Turkish communities to cover their basic needs.
The Turkish Red Crescent, IFRC and EU work in coordination with the Government of Turkey and its Ministry of Family and Social Services. The Government of Turkey is an important partner of the Emergency Social Safety Net programme, which is linked to the existing social system in Turkey. The country hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, and the Turkish Government plays a leading role, with regards to the response to the Syria crisis.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations: Lisa Hastert, +905334125663, [email protected]
IFRC: Corrie Butler, +90 539 8575198, [email protected]
Turkish Red Crescent: Nisa Çetin, +90 554 8303114, [email protected]
Hope restored: Red Cross helps thousands across Caribbean through COVID-19 livelihood recovery programme
Kingston, Jamaica, 24 November 2021: After 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the socioeconomic consequences of the virus have added to the devastating loss of lives and the severe impact on public health systems. In 2020, about 209 million people fell into poverty in the Americas region, a figure not seen since 2008. The income, savings and livelihoods of the most vulnerable families have declined, with many facing hunger, exclusion and unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines.
This is evidenced in “Drowning just below the surface: the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19,” a global study by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) that analyzes how women, migrants and inhabitants in precarious urban contexts have had the worst of it.
The Caribbean is one region that has suffered greatly from the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic started affecting the Caribbean in early 2020, many countries resorted to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions to help curb the spread of the disease, resulting in the livelihoods of many people across the Caribbean being critically impacted.
Jobs related to tourism were severely affected
In Jamaica, workers in the tourism industry - a major source of income for the country – were among those who felt the impact the most. Oneil Atland, a river raft captain at the Carbarita River in the parish of Westmoreland, is among several rafters who offer river rafting services – a popular tourist attraction which allows guests to relax on a bamboo raft along the river and enjoy the scenery while learning about the rich history and culture of the country. “Things were great before the coronavirus, we had even built an area for rafters and guests to relax. However, since the coronavirus, we have been experiencing a downfall,” said Atland. With the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on the island, tourist arrivals dropped drastically, which left Atland, and many others like him who provide tourist services, without their only means of income.
In the neighbouring parish of St. Elizabeth, shrimp vendors who sell packaged peppered shrimps in Middle Quarters - a frequently visited tourist location - were also affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. “I started doing shrimp vending to help my elderly mother, but then I realized it was an opportunity to earn additional income which I could save and use to send my children to university. Since COVID-19 however, business has been bad as the tourists who used to pass by our shops and purchase shrimps, were no longer visiting the island,” said shrimp vendor, Natasha Malcom Williams.
The Jamaica Red Cross (JRC), with support from IFRC, provided cash cards to 524 persons so far, helping to supplement their income and, in some cases, allowing them to purchase supplies needed to resume their business. Kevin Douglas, JRC Emergency Services Manager said “some rafters were able to purchase supplies to fix their rafts which became water-logged due to inactivity, and some of the vendors used the money received from the Red Cross to venture into other sources of income, such as selling fruits to community members.”
In St. Lucia, women were similarly affected
“COVID-19 disrupted the income of a lot of community members in Anse LaRaye, as many of them work in the hotel industry and became unemployed and could no longer care for their family members; some couldn’t even pay their rent,” said Diana Gabriel from the St. Lucia Red Cross. “It’s been very difficult. I’ve been out of a job since March 2020 and I have been searching for a job, but most companies aren’t hiring much anymore because not many tourists are visiting St. Lucia,” said Cassandra David, hotel worker and mother of three children. “Thanks to the Red Cross for helping me so I could provide for my kids,” she continued.
Supported by IFRC, the St. Lucia Red Cross provided cash cards, supermarket vouchers and food packages to over 3300 affected families and also issued mosquito nets and insect repellants to help prevent the spread of dengue, another health issue which St. Lucia has also been tackling.
Vicky Kenville, one of the recipients of the supermarket vouchers, said her entire family was affected by COVID-19 and in addition, her husband had met in a motor vehicle accident which made it even more difficult for her family. “I was so excited for the voucher from the Red Cross. When I went to the supermarket, every time I put an item in the trolley, I would smile and say if it wasn’t for the Red Cross, I wouldn’t be here shopping, because with none of us working due to COVID, it was very difficult to buy necessities,” said Kenville, who expressed gratitude for the Red Cross support which she said helped her overcome some of the difficulties her family faced due to loss of income.
In Grenada, the Red Cross provided over 200 families from all parishes across the island with supermarket vouchers. Cindy Lewis, COVID-19 Project Manager with the Grenada Red Cross said that “with the supermarket vouchers, beneficiaries are able to shop directly for what they need and this gives them a feeling of independence.”
Education sector also severely impacted
The tourism industry wasn’t the only sector impacted by COVID-19. With most schools closed due to restrictions, and teachers and students resorting to online schooling, school gate vendors across Jamaica also lost their income, when they could no longer ply their wares in front of the school compound. “Since COVID-19, I haven’t been able to sell anymore because schools are closed and it has been very rough, because even though I try to hustle otherwise, it’s still not enough,” said Nadine Wray, school vendor and mother of four children, who noted that her children were not able to do online schooling because of lack of devices and internet. “The cash from the Red Cross is very timely,” she added.
The IFRC network has reached over 200,000 people in eleven countries across the Dutch-and English-speaking Caribbean through provision of cash and vouchers, food and other in-kind assistance as well as skills development for livelihoods, among other interventions. The evidence confirms that these initiatives helped to contain the rise in poverty.
Nasir Khan, IFRC Operations Coordinator for the Dutch and English-speaking Caribbean said:
“We understand the severe hardships faced by many across the Caribbean due to COVID-19, and moreover some of these families were already dealing with overlapping emergencies. Through the livelihood recovery programme, we are able to help those who lost their income because of COVID-19, so they can have some level of hope and dignity and be empowered to keep moving forward despite the circumstances. We are very grateful to all our donors who have contributed to the COVID-19 Emergency Appeal, enabling us to reach those most vulnerable. However, the task is not over yet. The pandemic is still impacting millions of people across the globe, so it is important that we continue our combined efforts to make a real difference in their lives.”
For more information, please contact:
In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva, +876 818 8575, [email protected]
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, +506 8416 1771, [email protected]
In Colombia: David Quijano, +57 3105592559, [email protected]
Cash and voucher assistance
Giving cash to people affected by disasters is an effective, efficient and transparent way of providing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable. It ensures people have the freedom, dignity and independence to decide on their own recovery.
“I can buy diapers for my disabled son thanks to the Azerbaijan Red Crescent’s cash support”
By Hanifi Kınacı
“My dear son Fuad is my day and night, my life. He wakes up at 4 in the morning, and says: ‘Mom, take me on your lap’. I rest a little bit and prepare breakfast, as my daughters have to follow online lessons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Şiriyeva Rəxşəndə is one of the nearly 1,000 people who have received financial assistance from the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society through a project to help vulnerable families heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic meet their basic needs.
It has been a historic milestone, the first time the organization has provided humanitarian aid through cash and vouchers. This has been possible thanks to the emergency appeal the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched to support those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Very strong, full of compassion and energy, Rəxşəndə welcomed us into their home. It was almost impossible not to be captivated after entering the house, as all the walls were covered in colourful paintings. Amid lockdowns and confinements, one felt in a different land in each of those images.
When asked who the author was, she pointed proudly to the gentleman sitting quietly in the corner:“My husband.” “These pieces of art and his imagination are our source of income,”she added.
Rəxşəndə underlined that she is“a happy, hopeful mother of three children regardless of the hardships that life brings.”She has two daughters who are currently studying and a son, Fuad, who is disabled. He needs adult diapers, and she had to go into debt to be able to buy them at the market.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse. Like millions of people around the world, Rəxşəndə, her husband and one of their daughters got infected by the virus. They recovered quickly, but were confronted with more problems.
“Our social relations were naturally affected: no visitors, no passers-by. And I have hernia, gained weight and couldn’t carry Fuad anymore, so he could only take my arm. Restrictions and curfew were another challenge, especially for shopping,”she said.
Her main concern were adult diapers, vital for her son and a great ease for her. The constantly increasing price of these essential items worried her. Furthermore, she and her husband had take a loan to get a computer so that one of their daughters could attend her virtual classes.
In normal times, they could earn a living and make ends meet even if Fuad’s special needs were demanding. With the COVID-19 pandemic, they faced additional difficulties and new expenses.“As we only had Fuad’s disability pension and my husband’s, we were not able to pay off the bank credit,”she explained.
The cash assistance provided by the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society came right in time: Rəxşəndə was able to close all her debts in the market and buy diapers, purchase other necessities and even take care of the installments of the loan they had requested and which they used to get her daughter’s computer.
While we were talking, her husband got up and took his canvas. Mother and son hugged each other.
Despite all the challenges of life, of time, they are firmly together and blissful.
Rəxşəndə’s story underlines the importance of cash and voucher assistance in the humanitarian sphere, as this aid modality offers a dignified way for people to prioritize their needs and spend money accordingly.
“When Fuad has diapers and his favourite oat-flakes, I am the happiest person in this world and I don’t need anything else,”highlighted Rəxşəndə.
Photo credit: Hüseyin Salimov, volunteer of the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society
“I am not one voice. I am the voice of refugees”: Here’s what one inspiring young Syrian wants you to know
“Hi, my name is Reyan.I have many plans for my life and my future, for the world.I want to live a life full of happiness.I want to help every child…”Reyan is a painter, writer and poet. Although she uses different mediums, the story in each poem, text and painting talks about one thing: her home country Syria.The 18-year-old young woman has been through a lot; a war, loss of her loved ones, and destitution. The pain, distress and hardship can be easily seen in her drawings and words on a frequent basis. However, her determination, strength and hope are also there.The young and promising artist wants to accomplish a lot in the face of the darkness that fills her art sketchbooks and notebooks.As the Syrian war approaches the 10-year mark, here is a letter in her own words, what she wants you to know:“I am hearing a voice calling me from afar: “Girl, get up, the darkness is getting stronger and fills the country. Get up. Come on, do not give in. The darkness is getting worse. Injustice has begun. The war has eaten us with an unknown mouth. Rise up and raise your voice for the right to peace. Do not be afraid. We are with you. We all want peace; we all want our rights.”I am not one voice; I am all your voices. I am us and you are me. Let us end the darkness and let the light begin again to unleash it.I am a simple girl; I aspire simple things. Despite darkness, injustice, poverty and oppression, despite everything, I just want you to help me reach my voice.I want injustice, bullying, poverty to stop. I want peace for us. I want to defend all our rights to end the black war. An inner voice expresses my story, pain and patience. I could have told you about my story, but my story is a story of a story: homeland.”Like Reyan, many people have had to find refuge from the Syrian war and taken shelter in neighbouring countries. Funded by the EU Humanitarian Aid, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash assistance is helping 1.8 million refugees in Turkey to have much-needed stability by covering their most essential needs so that they can fulfil their dreams.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
From borrowing money to independence: Refugee family becomes debt-free with cash assistance
Ömer Eddağavi and his family have been living on unstable income since arriving in Turkey six years ago after fleeing conflict in Syria.Relying on seasonal work on farms, forced Eddağavi to borrow money from relatives and friends when there was no job to feed his family.“It is so hard to be dependent on debts when you are responsible for a crowded family. Because you don’t know if you will be able to borrow money next time,” said Eddağavi.However, since the day they started to receive the monthly cash assistance offered by the IFRC and the Turkish Red Crescent, with funding from the European Union, Eddağavi and his family broke the vicious cycle of debt to stay afloat.“Thanks to god, we can live without being in debt and pay our bills,” said Eddağavi.More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Funded by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent are providing monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey under the ESSN programme. This is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and the largest programme ever implemented by the IFRC.ESSN is providing cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. Every month, they receive 120 Turkish Lira (18 euros), enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.*This story was originally published on Turkish Red Crescent’s kizilaykart.org website and adapted by the IFRC.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
4 months since the Beirut explosion: Lebanese Red Cross Secretary-General explains the situation now
On the 4th of August, a massive explosion occurred in the port area of Beirut, capital of Lebanon, injuring more than 6500 people and affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands. Four months later, a lot has been done but the work is far from finished.
Secretary-General of the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC), Georges Kettaneh, what are the needs of the affected people four months after the explosions?
[caption id="attachment_70771" align="alignright" width="200"] The Lebanese Red Cross Secretary-General Georges Kettaneh[/caption]
People need three things: cash, health services and reconstruction of their houses.
We are supporting with the minor repairs and providing cash assistance to the families assessed to be in the most vulnerable situation. We continue the lead in the ambulance services and blood transfusions. We are active in primary health care services, providing mental health support, restoring family links and dead body management. We are also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways.
How was the situation when the explosion happened on the 4th of August?
We had, and still have, an emergency contingency plan to manage unset emergencies. But the Beirut Port explosion was something we had not prepared for or even imagined in our wildest risk assessment exercises. We acknowledge that the humanitarian needs were too big for us to manage completely.
In 2 minutes, the blast caused devastation beyond imagination. People lost their lives, homes, loved ones. When we went to the streets to assess the needs, we found bodies of people laying on the ground.
We started our needs assessment as soon as possible to have the data that helped us to set priorities. Many people left their houses that were destroyed so we could not reach them. Now, they are coming back to us asking to be included. We had to evacuate people affected by COVID-19 and other patients from the destroyed hospitals to the ones that remained functional, either in Beirut or outside the capital.
How is the mental health of the Lebanese Red Cross staff and volunteers?
We Lebanese often like to project a positive image about ourselves pretending that we are doing fine. But in reality, we have been shaken to the bones. Our volunteers and staff need psychological support as all Lebanese people do.
Personally, I went through many challenging situations throughout my 20-year career as a humanitarian. During the war in Lebanon, I evacuated 21 bodies in 1986 in an explosion in Northern Beirut. I was kidnapped many times. I was under fire from snipers several times. All of this affected me for sure. But the Beirut explosion has been by far the most difficult thing to witness.
When the blast took place, people called me on my mobile screaming that they were injured pleading me to evacuate them. We mobilized all the ambulances and volunteers we could, even the retired ones. Some of the ambulances were not able to reach people because the roads were blocked by the rubble. Paramedics were hearing injured screaming under the rubble of their houses but they were not able to reach them.
As a humanitarian, this is your scariest nightmare.This affected me a lot. Some of my acquaintances and friends died. We all need mental health support in this situation, and the Lebanese Red Cross is doing as much as possible to provide it to everyone willing to receive it.
What have you learned from the explosion and the response operation?
The explosions were a force majeure. We were not prepared for such a thing. We didn’t envisage an explosion in the port. We were fully stretched by the COVID-19 as well as in providing first-aid, COVID-19 awareness and responding otherwise to the demonstrations in various parts of the country. No matter how overwhelmed we might be, we should always be prepared for the worse.
Another learning we got when we started to distribute relief item boxes. At first, we had 400 boxes but only 100 people showed up at the collection points. The community members that were affected by the blast, did not come to the street to receive the relief items they urgently needed. Culturally, coming to the public for the aid was hard for them.
We realized we need to adjust our approach to fit the sensitivities of the community. We decided to distribute the relief items from door-to-door even if it meant more work for us. Then, people were very happy to receive the aid as their dignity was intact.
Does the Lebanese Red Cross have enough resources to help the people in need?
We have gotten enough donations to provide cash assistance for 10,000 families. We are providing 300 US dollars per month to the most vulnerable affected families to cover their basic needs. You can read more about the cash assistance on the Lebanese Red Cross website.
The demand would go beyond the 10,000 families but we don’t have resources for more.
We are thankful for all the donations and support we have received from IFRC, ICRC and Partnering National Societies as well as other partners. We have worked together as one in the response to the explosion. From the Lebanese diaspora and companies, we have received more than 20 million USD as they regarded us as a neutral and trusted organization.
What comes to the economic crisis in Lebanon, we don’t have enough for responding to that in long term. For example, we need to provide livelihood support and shelter for the people, including the Syrian refugees.
In this situation, being transparent and accountable is crucial. Therefore, we have hired an international audit company to monitor our performance and to be as transparent as possible.
3,741 Individuals treated & transported by ambulance
14,499 individuals received primary health support
13,895 blood units distributed to hospitals
22,001 households with 110,005 individuals received food parcels & hygiene kits
49,127 door-to-door household assessments completed
6,019 individuals affected by COVID-19 transported
16,437 individuals received psycho-social support
9,744 vulnerable families received cash assistance
The Lebanese Red Cross launched an appeal for 19 million USD to continue providing emergency medical services and relief operations during the first three months.
IFRC, in support of LRC plan, has appealed for 20 million Swiss francs (21.8 million US dollars) to scale up health, shelter and livelihood support over the coming 24 months. Read more on the Lebanon Red Cross website.
In Beirut: Rana Sidani Cassou, +961 71802779, [email protected]
COVID-19: an opportunity to challenge our traditional way of working with communities
By Sevde Nur SöylemezCOVID-19 has challenged our approach as humanitarians – how can we still support the most vulnerable while still keeping people safe from this pandemic?For Turkey, we’ve learned to challenge our traditional way of supporting communities and have adapted – even reinvented some of the ways we do things.I have worked for the Turkish Red Crescent for more than 2 years now, supporting the world’s largest humanitarian cash programme, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) with the IFRC and funding from the European Union. This programme supports 1.8 million refugees living in Turkey with monthly cash assistance to help them buy the things they need most.One of the most critical parts of our job is engaging with the communities we help, to hear people’s perceptions, so we can respond better to their needs. One of the best ways to do this is through focus group discussions - a crucial research tool that provides richer experiences and ideas from people who are generally coming from similar backgrounds.No matter the condition, never stop the communicationWithout the same opportunity to have these face-to-face interactions, we came up with a different innovative approach - remote focus group discussions, which had never been done in the programme before.Its key findings are fundamental to better understand the current struggles and situations refugees are facing during the pandemic all while keeping them safe from the spread of COVID-19.Findings: The devastating impacts of COVID-19I heard many heart-breaking stories of refugees, trying to make ends meet. In most households, the sole breadwinner lost their jobs due to the pandemic. COVID-19’s effect has also had severe mental health impacts – families are more isolated as visits between neighbours, friends and relatives are limited. In addition, the children have some challenges in accessing the online curriculum. Among the things people shared, these quotes stuck out for me:“I used to have a grocery store, but I had to close it.”“It affected us and our jobs. I couldn’t work for three months”“I don’t have neighbours but I have many relatives here. My daughter was in the hospital for 12 days. No one could come because they were afraid.”Nevertheless, when they talk about the situation, we could see the hope and expectation of a better future. Many told us how the ESSN cash assistance has been a lifeline and that it would have been even harder without it.How did we conduct the remote focus group discussions?The Turkish Red Crescent has a call centre, an important source of information for people we help. We utilized this to call families to confirm their participation in the discussion.We go to the household and meet the participant, ensure written consent and hand them a mobile phone that they use to connect online to a digital focus group discussion, hosted by the Turkish Red Crescent. Field staff were on standby to help if any problem occurs with the connection or device while they were in the session.During the discussion, if there are any issues we identify it and take or refer the case immediately to our other relevant teams.(Photo: Turkish Red Crescent)Less participants, more expressionAcross Turkey, we conducted 26 focus group discussions, between four to six participants attending each. Groups were also broken down between men and women. We found we could reach and include the elderly and people with disabilities without inconvenience. This gave us a greater opportunity to hear and understand their opinions and made the bond between us even stronger.Whenever we arrive in communities, we are welcomed. Although we have physical distance between us – at least 1,5 meters – our faces hidden behind masks, we can still feel the warm smiles.The pandemic may have changed the way we approach our work, but the connection between us and participants has never stopped, there is always a way.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
“It means continuity of life during the winter”: Cash programme supporting basic needs for refugee families
When the Syrian war started to risk their lives in 2014, Abdülhalik Şemmo fled Al-Hasakah with his family and arrived in Turkey’s south-eastern province of Mardin, then moved to Ankara’s Beypazarı district, hoping to have more job opportunities. However, due to the seasonal employment’s being widespread in the district, Şemmo struggled to have a permanent income.“In winter time, there are almost no jobs here,” said Abdülhalik, who is providing for his eight-member family.Thanks to a monthly cash assistance programme Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) provided by the IFRC and the Turkish Red Crescent, his family is able to meet their survival needs when the job opportunities are scarce.“It means the continuity of life to us in winter. We can pay our rent, utility bills and other needs,” said Abdülhalik. “It means hope for our children’s future.”More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Funded by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent are providing monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey under the ESSN programme. This is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and the largest programme ever implemented by the IFRC.ESSN is providing cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. Every month, they receive 120 Turkish Lira (18 euros), enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.*This story was originally published on Turkish Red Crescent’s kizilaykart.org website and adapted by the IFRC.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
Cash assistance in Turkey helps refugee families invest in language skills for a chance at a better life
Before the everlasting war in Syria, Sabit El Hacco used to grow wheat on his own farm. However, when he fled conflict in 2016 and arrived in Turkey, the conditions drastically changed for him and his family. El Hacco continued to work as a farmer but this time seasonally on other family’s lands, oftentimes struggling to make ends meet.“We used to cultivate our own fields back at home, growing wheat. Here, when there is an opportunity, we continue to work as farmers. However, there are no jobs in winter,” said El Hacco.Living with his family of 12 in a shanty house located in Ankara’s Beypazarı district, famous for its agriculture, El Hacco tries to do what he knows best to be able to provide for his 10 children. However, without speaking the local language, securing a stable income stands as a challenge.“Without speaking the language, the job opportunities are very limited. For this reason, I applied to the district governorship’s Turkish language course,” said El Hacco.El Hacco began receiving monthly cash assistance from Turkish Red Crescent through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme in coordination with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and funded by the EU. It allowed Sabit to focus on learning the local language and re-establishing his life in Turkey without worrying about his family’s day-to-day needs.“We wouldn’t be able to afford shelter to be under or even take care of our children without Kızılaykart,” said El Hacco.“ESSN means being free of debts, having a shelter, having a life to us,” he adds.More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme Funded by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent are providing monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey under the ESSN programme. This is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and the largest programme ever implemented by the IFRC.ESSN is providing cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. Every month, they receive 120 Turkish Lira (18 euros), enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.*This story was originally published on Turkish Red Crescent’s kizilaykart.org website and adapted by the IFRC.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
Engaging 1.7 million refugees in the face of COVID-19: Lessons from Turkey
By Lotte RuppertCOVID-19 does not discriminate, but the pandemic has disproportionately impacted certain vulnerable communities. Migrants and refugees face particularly large risks, due to language barriers, limited access to public services and a larger reliance on informal labour. Each has diverse perceptions, fears and opinions that we, as a humanitarian community, must address if we want to see this pandemic end.For Turkey, a country that hosts the largest refugee population in the world (over 4 million from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran), this presents a unique challenge. How do you engage people with diverse languages, cultures and communication preferences, all while adhering to strict movement restrictions to curb the pandemic?Despite the impressive efforts from governmental and humanitarian actors, our impact assessment from April 2020 showed that almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of refugee households did not feel like they were receiving enough reliable information about COVID-19.In response, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC have ramped up their efforts to listen and engage with refugees in Turkey during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are three lessons we learned about how to engage with communities at a large scale through the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), the largest cash programme globally.Lesson 1: Use a wide variety of communication channels(Photos: Turkish Red Crescent)Everyone communicates differently. In ESSN, we rely on a range of different channels to allow people to speak with us in a way that they prefer and trust, including Facebook, regular SMSs and our toll-free Call Centre, where all operators have been trained to respond to COVID-19 related concerns and to provide hygiene advice or updates related to ESSN.But these remote communication channels are not enough.Refugees in Turkey have expressed their preference to share more sensitive concerns and complaints during private face-to-face conversations. Our nine Service Centres, spread across Turkey, have remained fully operational in order to provide information and support to people during the COVID-19 outbreak, with robust measures to ensure the safety of both its staff and visitors. This approach has been crucial to building trust.Lesson 2: Do not ignore rumours“I have an ESSN card but I saw on Facebook that my monthly cash assistance will soon be ended. What is the reason for that?” asked a refugee recently via our call centre.This “fear rumour” reflects the anxieties of refugees living in Turkey that ESSN may end.Another refugee family shared: “We are currently receiving ESSN cash assistance, but we have seen on YouTube that Turkish Red Crescent will now also give us rent assistance due to the impact of COVID-19”.This is a clear “wish rumour”, reflecting the hope of refugees for more support during these difficult times.The spread of such misinformation and rumours has always been a challenge for ESSN. But we learned that during the COVID-19 pandemic – a time of increased insecurity and stress – it is even more important for us to monitor the appearance and spread of misinformation.The best defence is to prevent rumours before they start. We share regular information updates, getting accurate, trusted information into people’s hands before rumours have a chance to emerge. When rumours and misinformation do surface, we quickly counter false stories with verified information and ensure the news stories or posts are removed online. We encourage the people we work for to participate too by sharing verified, trustworthy information within their community.Lesson 3: Responding to incoming questions, feedback and complaints alone is not enough. Reach out proactively to the most vulnerable households(Photos: Turkish Red Crescent)While actively reaching out to every one of the millions of refugees living in Turkey is practically impossible, Turkish Red Crescent has made thousands of outbound calls, contacting the most vulnerable households. This includes families required not to leave their homes for some weeks due to a mandatory curfew, including anyone over 65 as well as people with disabilities. This proactive approach enabled people to share all their questions and concerns with us, including sensitive issues or requests for additional support.Depending on the specific needs and concerns raised, Turkish Red Crescent has referred some of these people to other services, such as the national COVID-19 emergency hotline, the social assistance services provided by the Turkish Government, and specialized services from other humanitarian actors, including protection actors.ConclusionIn Turkey, now more than ever, we must continue to build more meaningful relationships with communities and act on people’s concerns and suggestions. COVID-19 has challenged the way we as a humanitarian sector work, but it has also allowed us to find more innovative solutions to listen to refugees and respond to their needs.More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Home to more than 4 million refugees, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. Most of them are Syrians, fleeing a conflict that has been ongoing for nine years. With funding from the European Union, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are able to provide monthly cash assistance to the most vulnerable families through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN). Over 1.7 million refugees benefit from this assistance, enabling them to cover some of their basic needs, including food, rent and utilities, every month.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
Migrants in the middle of a pandemic
By Melissa MonzonLuisLuis was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Two years ago, he decided to leave his country, seeking for a better quality of life. He started his trip by bus, because he didn’t have all the documents to travel by plane. “When I arrived in Cucuta, I found the Red Cross, they gave me a kit with help for the road, because the trip was very long; I was traveling to Medellin”. Once in Medellin, he worked there for eight months, and then started his way to Lima, Peru. The road was not what he expected, once in Ecuador he encountered a series of protests and when he couldn´t continue with his trip, he had to stay two days in the station waiting to be able to take the bus to continue his journey. “When I arrived in Guayaquil, I once again found a Red Cross tent, they help us all, they gave us a food kit, things for personal care and medicine”, says Luis. Then he continued his route until he arrived in Lima.Once in Lima, a friend offered him a job selling food. “I worked hard every day, we had several problems, but we persisted, working in an exhausting schedule”. However, due to the pandemic, he could no longer continue working. “As I worked on the streets, with COVID-19 we couldn´t work anymore. It hit us pretty hard, because that was our only income”.Luis has a bicycle, and now that Peru is opening up some economic activities, he is already looking for a job, offering his home delivery service. “As I am a migrant, I don´t have a subsidy from the government. For this reason, every day, I go to the markets, looking constantly for a job, I hope to find it soon”, says Luis.YudiA year and seven months ago Yudi came from Venezuela to Peru with her family, seeking a better quality of life. In order to be able to make the trip, they sold everything they had. Peru was their destination since the beginning, as they heard that they were handing out the temporary residence permit, with which they could work and earn a living legally and honestly, as she tells us.“My daughter has epilepsy, this also made us take the decision to migrate. We needed to go to a place, to a country where they could offer her medical care and get the medicines that she so badly needs.”Before Yudi traveled, her brother and nephews had already arrived. After they proved that they felt Good here, Yudi traveled with her sister, her two sons and her two dogs, who are also part of the family.Once in Lima, Yudi worked as a tutor for online courses until November 2019. Due to the pandemic, her sister and son were also unemployed; her nephews, who had a food business, had to close it. “The situation is quite uncertain, we don´t know what will happen”, says Yudi.Jesus Jesus came from Venezuela to Peru four years ago. His trip was by bus, because he didn´t had enough money to travel by plane. He first arrived in Ecuador, where he stayed for two months, and then arrived in Peru in 2016. “When I arrived, everything seemed nice to me, although I didn´t knew many things, I felt out of place, I was only twenty years old. I lived in one room and shared a bathroom with sixteen people. I worked as a waiter in a restaurant; until today I am very grateful to those people because I didn’t have the documents at that time, and they always treated me well”, says Jesus, who already knows the city today, has Peruvian friends and colleagues, and tell us that thanks to them he has been able to learn more about the country’s culture.Eventually he moved to an apartment and went from waiter to manager of a restaurant. “I met very nice, spectacular people, they gave me a lot of support, I learned a lot of things, because when I left Venezuela, I was a student, I didn’t have work experience.”Due to the pandemic, Jesus no longer has a job because the restaurant where he used to work decided to close. “I lost my job; it was alarming because I lived alone. I was worried, but happily I had contact with some friends who decided to move in with me.”Jesus tells us that another great concern of not earning an income is not being able to send money back to his mom and dad who live in Venezuela. He, like so many other migrants, is a source of income for all those families who stayed in their countries.“I try to see the positive things in everything. When the quarantine begun, I tried to organize myself a little more, I sold some stuff, and I tried different things to distract myself, I tried to do exercise a lot, pray a lot, watch the news and communicate with my family in Venezuela.”Pedro* Pedro left from Venezuela to Colombia a year and a half ago searching for work, while his wife Maria, traveled to Peru. After two months, they met each other in the latter country. Once in Peru, Pedro worked in a restaurant. “It was very difficult because I have never worked in a kitchen before, but I did my best, my wife was pregnant at the time. I always tried to do my best, until I was stabled at my job. I worked hard, obtaining each of the things that I have today in my home, and helping my family in Venezuela, where I have two children. Fighting every day for the welfare of my family”, says Pedro.In the context of the pandemic, Pedro lost his job. In one of his wife’s pregnancy test, they test him for HIV, the result tested positive. “I have been very pleased with the treatment they have given me; I have received excellent attention and information. I am very grateful with the hospital, with its staff, with the help here in Peru, they have helped us a lot. They have given me pills, information, everything I needed”.Despite his degree of vulnerability, Pedro has gone out to work on the streets, as he is the livelihood of his family both in Peru and in Venezuela. “I have gone out but taking all the preventive measures, with my mask and my hand sanitizer. I need to go out to work, especially for the baby who needs food”.“I am very grateful to be in Peru, and I continue with great desire to continue working and fighting for my family, and for those we love the most, to help my children in Venezuela, and we will be here until God allows it, and then to be able to return to our country someday and to enjoy our people”, concludes Pedro.-------------Luis, Yudi, Jesus y Pedro are some of the people who are part of the Cash and Voucher Assistance program implemented in Peru by the Red Cross with the support of the European Union. This program is aimed at families in a vulnerable condition, who have been left without financial support due to the pandemic. As part of the program, families receive a card with an economic amount to cover their basic needs.In the testimonies collected, the families have shared with us that the card has allowed them to cover expenses mainly for rent, food and health.*This name was changed to protect the person who kindly gave us his testimony.
IFRC provides largest single-cash transfer to respond to the socio-economic needs amid COVID-19
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact around the world, including a major economic gap that many families are struggling to overcome. For refugees, COVID-19 is only exacerbating already existing vulnerabilities, losing the little income they earn and forcing them to cut down on food, medicine and other basic needs.A survey conducted by Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) and IFRC among 500 refugees showed that 70 per cent lost their livelihoods since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Turkey. This, combined with almost 80 per cent reported an increase in expenses, had left them with the frequently referred option of borrowing money to meet their basic needs.In order to address the COVID-19 socio-economic impact, more than 1.7 million refugees living in Turkey are receiving additional cash assistance through European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the TRC. This marks the largest single cash transfer in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s history, totalling EUR 46.4 million. Each family will receive an additional 1,000 Turkish Lira, approximately EUR 128. This is not an added grant, rather reallocated funds from the existing ESSN budget, funded by the EU.This is part of the Federation-wide emergency appeal for 1,9 billion Swiss francs to help the world’s most vulnerable communities halt the spread of COVID-19 and recover from its effects.“Because of the coronavirus, our expenses have increased for water, electricity and cleaning products,” said Hanan, a Syrian refugee who fled the war to come to Turkey in 2014. “The Kizilaykart helps me with house expenses, such as food, cleaning materials and other expenses.”“We are mentally exhausted… This period has exhausted us,” added one refugee receiving support from the ESSN.The additional cash assistance has taken place over June and July, followed by a regular quarterly cash top-up in August, enabling vulnerable refugee families to overcome the constraints imposed by COVID-19 during this difficult transition period.“Many people are in survival mode - living hand to mouth during COVID-19. This cash assistance has been a lifeline, allowing them to provide for themselves and their families,” said Jonathan Brass, IFRC’s operations manager for the ESSN in Turkey.“Cash, particular in times like COVID-19, provides immediate and flexible aid for families to prioritize their needs. It gives them a sense of security, certainty and confidence that their children will not go hungry.”Cash assistance stands as one of the most efficient ways to support vulnerable communities due to its quick, safe and reliable delivery. Because the cash is being sent to refugees via the digital banking system, it also limits the risk of infection to those we serve. Additionally, cash increases investments in local markets, supports host communities which may also negatively affected by COVID-19 and give freedom and flexibility to families to meet their own individual needs.Learn more about ESSN here.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
World Friendship Day: Turkish and refugee children share letters and drawings with the ones they love
COVID-19 may be preventing us from connecting with the ones we love the way we want to, but it has allowed us to appreciate and treasure each other that much more. This World Friendship Day, we asked Turkish, Syrian and Yemenis children in 5 different cities to connect with their best friend by sending them a drawing or letter.Here is what they said.Omar's letter:"My lovely friend,Hello, how are you? I haven’t seen you for two months. How is your family? Which places did you go to? What did you do during the holidays? I am reading Qur’an and attending some courses. I watch TV and played with my sibling during the holidays. I missed you so much. You have been my best friend. I learned Turkish from you. You always helped me with classes at school. You are a very good person. Thank you for being my friend.Your friend,ÖmerArda's letter:"My dear friend,I’m so happy that I met such a person like you. You are a very good friend and you will be my friend forever. I wouldn’t know the real meaning of friendship without you. I love you most for this. I am proud of you so much that I don’t even need another friend. Because you have been my best friend. Always remember that I love you so much because I won’t forget you.Your dear friend."Zeyneb's letter:"Dear sister,Even if we weren’t born in the same territories, we don’t speak the same language, even if our skin colours are not the same...We smile together under the same sky and the same sun with our eyes full of love.With the most strong chord that bound us to each other, love and friendship.I love you my friend, my sisterWith love,Zeyneb"Enas' letter:"Friends are a gift from God.There are two kinds of friends. A good friend and a bad friend. The poorest person is the one who doesn’t have any friends.Roses die, irons can be broken but friendships never die and get broken. Finding the right friend with morals is important for my future.My friend, I hope my words get to you. You were my best friend to me but if there were no separation, I wouldn’t stop my friendship with you. You were the only friend who is noble and with whom I don’t want to separate. Some people say best friends are those who stay apart so that they can keep their friendship.I love you, my dear friend.Enas"Text on the drawing reads: A person who has no friend is a poor person (top left). The real friendships are like stars, they are only visible when there is darkness (top right). Roses, tulips and all the other flowers die eventually. Iron and steel get broken but stay strong. Friendships never die or get broken (bottom left). Friendship doesn't have to be about being close to each other, the important thing is hearts being close to each other (bottom right). Children across Turkey - some wearing a Syrian flag and others a Turkish flag, live happily together in while a migratory bird brings them balloons. (Drawing: Şuğra) Adnen's letter:"My dear friend Şuğra,I love you so much. I am giving you a present at this time. We spend a great time together.You are a sibling to me."The text on the drawing reads: "My friend, I love you, my dearest friend." (Drawing: Adnen) Letters written by Ahmed (L) and Efe (R) about the story of their friendship. (Photos: Ahmed, Efe ) Ahmed's letter:"To my dear friend,I love you very much. I’m having so much fun when I’m playing and talking with you. As our ancestors say, 'tell me about your friend and let me tell you who you are'. When I first met you, I hit your head with a ball. We used to fight but always make peace in the end. We always sat together since our first year at school. Our teacher would sometimes be angry at us, but we never got angry with each other. We were in the same classroom for 4 years, my dear friend Efe. I am so happy that we are friends.Ahmed"Efe's letter:"Hello Ahmet,Today, I am writing a letter to the person with whom I became friends after starting to live in a different city and neighbourhood. I mean, to you ?.Do you remember? Our friendship started after the football you were playing with hit my head ? Later we always ran after that football together with you. We also took our new friends with us. In our first year at school, we always sat together and shared our food. I even came to your house one night and we jumped on the bed until we get tired ?.We were getting along with each other so well. Maybe we understood each other better as we both came to a new city and atmosphere. I taught you folk dances and you taught me the soldier game. We still play when we are together. To whomever I told about the game, they liked it.In the game, everyone would hold their own hand. The one starting the game would sing the song ‘’Soldiers eat tomatoes, whom they want to shoot’’ Whoever is there when the song ends would choose someone and touch another one. The game used to go on until everyone is dismissed. Close friends could give life to each other. We always gave life to each other and tried to stay in the game.The fourth grade has ended. We will start at secondary school. You will go to imam hatip secondary school and I will go to another one.Maybe our schools are separated now, but we keep giving life to each other and staying in the game. Because we are getting along with each other so well. I’m happy that we met. You are a great friend. I didn’t know that a football hitting my head would let me meet my best friend. I hope we will play more football games in which we run after the same football with you. Take care of yourself. If you can’t, my all lives are yours, you know it! Goodbye…Your best friend, Efe "Two children, holding Syrian and Turkish flags, join hands while larger Turkish (left) and Syrian (right) flags are seen in this drawing. (Drawing: Emine) Emine's letter:"Hi,I hope you are fine. While writing this letter, I want to tell you that I miss you so much. You are not a foreigner but siblings to us. One doesn’t need to share the same blood tie to be siblings. Love is a feeling that doesn’t require a kindred ship or being born from the same mother and father. Friendship is so important. Please take care.Goodbye." Letter written by Mohammed in Turkish in an address to Emine is shown in this photo. (Photos: Mohammed) Mohammed's letter:"Hi Emine,First of all, I want you to know how happy I become while reading your letter. I also miss you so much. You are also our brothers and sisters. We love you so much. We are so happy to be with you. Please also take care,Cheers" Two stick girls are standing next to a building, label as "school" in Turkish in this drawing, accompanied by a heart-shaped eyes emoji on the right side. (Drawing: Rüyanaz) Rüyanaz's letter:"My dear friend Lima,I love you so much. Schools were closed. I missed you and my teacher very much. We used to play games and spend good time together. I hope coronavirus goes away and w ego back to our school. I love you my dear friend Lima. Take care of yourself. Kisses, hope to see you soon.Goodbye." Two girls holding flowers standing next to an apple tree while the sun is shining, birds fly by and a turtle wanders around flowers. (Drawing: Lima) Lima's letter:"Rüyanaz,I love you so much. You are my best friend at school.I loved you when I first saw you. I missed you, my school, my teacher and my friends so much.I hope coronavirus goes away and we go back to our school." Two girls are hugging each other in this drawing marked with the painter's name; Meysem at the bottom. (Drawing: Meysem) Meysem's letter:"I am writing a letter to Hatice with my all feelings.To my most beautiful, sweetest and honest friend.You are my relative and sister in humanity.I write all these words by being faithful to the beautiful says we spent together and our love.My friend Hatice, I want to tell you that you are so important to me.My papers are beautiful when they are filled with your name. We are friends forever."Two girls, sitting close to each other on a tree branch, watch birds fly by. (Drawing: Elif) Elif's letter:"Dear Syrian friend,First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Elif Nur. I really love reading books and spending time with my friends. We may face some changes in our lives but this is the rule of life. We had experienced malice called COVID-19 and that led us to be separated from each other. However, I think friendship is about feeling that love in our hearts even if there is a distance between us. Please don’t forget this! Good and peaceful days will come one day for sure. I am hoping to see you in this beautiful and peaceful times.Your loving friend,Elif"Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are helping to normalize the lives of many refugees and host communities, including children, in Turkey. These children benefit from the Turkish Red Crescent Community Centres, funded by European Union Trust Fund MADAD, and some receive support from the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
| Press release
World Refugee Day: New research demonstrates dramatic impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable refugees
Geneva, 19 June 2020 – New research released ahead of World Refugee Day demonstrates the considerable socio-economic impact that COVID-19 has had on already vulnerable refugees.The Red Cross and Red Crescent research focused on refugees living in Turkey – the country that is home to the largest refugee population in the world. It revealed major impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.For example, approximately 70 per cent of refugees surveyed reported having lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic. In addition, nearly 80 per cent reported significant increases in their daily expenses. These and other factors have created a major economic gap that many refugee families are struggling to overcome. More than half of refugee families have been forced to find other means of covering their expenses, including borrowing money.Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:“COVID-19 is exacerbating the suffering of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Many refugees were already living below the poverty line and struggling to make ends meet. Now they have lost the little income they earn, forcing them to cut down on basic resources including food and medicine.”These findings resonate with the experiences and observations of Red Cross and Red Crescent teams around the world. In places as diverse as Cox’s Bazar, South America and Central America, vulnerable migrants are being uniquely and severely affected by the pandemic and its consequences.Rocca said:“These socio-economic impacts will worsen over time, not only increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition but also potentially creating serious protection risks, such as gender-based violence and child labour as the pressure on families builds and builds.”Around the world, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are supporting vulnerable communities, including refugees, affected by COVID-19. In Turkey, through the European Union-funded Emergency Social Safety Net programme, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are providing monthly cash assistance to more than 1.7 million refugees to cover their basic needs. Red Crescent’s community centres are also scaling up livelihood, vocational and language training among other services to help refugees and host communities gain valuable skills for employment, through the EU-funded MADAD programme.“Globally, we have seen social safety nets help vulnerable communities offset the economic downturn prompted by COVID-19. Yet, refugees often fall between the cracks,” says Rocca.“Our message is that social protection systems must be made more flexible, relevant, and inclusive. The humanitarian sector should resist the temptation to replace or duplicate national governments’ social protection systems and instead complement and coordinate so that no one is left behind.”
Opinion: COVID-19 — it’s time to take cash to the next level
By Caroline HoltJobs are being lost. The restrictions on movement that are keeping people safe from the coronavirus are often damaging or destroying their livelihoods and their ability to feed and care for their families. Around the world, the most vulnerable people are facing a stark and possibly deadly choice: Do they risk contracting COVID-19, or risk not feeding their families?As humanitarians, how can we help prevent families from having to make this impossible choice?In Turkey, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, and the Turkish Red Crescent surveyed some 500 Syrian refugees being supported by our programs. We found that 69% have lost their jobs, their expenses have skyrocketed, and their biggest concern is how they will feed themselves and their families. More than half of these households are borrowing money to cover their most basic needs — including food.Right now, vulnerable communities across the world need extra support quickly, safely, and reliably. Due to the scale of this crisis, there is a very diverse range of groups and individuals being badly affected, and their needs are equally diverse. We must be able to provide flexible support that can adapt to these different needs.Delivering cash to the people in most need and in close coordination with national social protection systems is the most appropriate way to respond to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 around the world.We all know and talk about the benefits of cash, especially now in these difficult times. Yet the latest estimates suggest that less than 20% of humanitarian relief is currently delivered through cash programming.The immense impact of COVID-19 is a wake-up call for us to change this. There is no better time to tap into the power of cash as a critical link between economies and households, and it can become a lifeline for millions of people globally.The current pandemic has shown us that without health, there is no economy. It also shows us that without access to financial support, it is harder for people to reduce health risks or recover their health once lost."Giving cash gives people the choice of prioritizing their own needs and contributing to their communities." Giving cash to people facing crisis helps address a wide range of needs — from rent, food, and education to hygiene items that help prevent diseases from spreading or encourage access to health care. It allows them to prepare, prioritize, and take care of their families, based on their own preferences and decisions. By alleviating the stresses on families struggling to meet their basic needs, we can help them avoid negative coping mechanisms that could put them at further risk of COVID-19.Cash programming allows us to respond rapidly and at scale while still protecting the people we serve, our staff, and our volunteers in communities around the world. Through the European Union-funded Emergency Social Safety Net program, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are providing monthly cash assistance to more than 1.7 million refugees. Transferring funds through this existing infrastructure can allow us to rapidly respond and adapt to current needs and provide additional assistance when needed at a massive scale.In the Africa region, IFRC is supporting at least 20 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to deliver cash through popular mechanisms such as mobile money to provide immediate support to families. The cash will help people invest in and strengthen local economies — a key to their road to recovery — as well as jump-start livelihoods when the restriction on movement allows.For cash programming to work effectively and be accountable to the people our sector serves, we must be embedded at the community level. More than ever before, the challenges faced by international organizations in deploying on the ground during the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the need for an ever-increasing localized approach. Because of their everyday work, volunteers know — with or without immediate physical access to communities — which people are most vulnerable, most at risk of falling through the gaps of existing social safety nets.Despite the current sense of urgency, the humanitarian sector should resist the temptation to replace or duplicate national governments’ social protection systems but rather collectively invest in existing systems and help to reinforce them. We must advocate to make social protection systems more flexible, relevant, and inclusive.Ever since the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, the importance of localization and of scaling up the use of cash, the need for change, and the necessity of innovation have been at the top of the humanitarian sector’s agenda.Nothing about the way humanitarians are working and operating during this pandemic is business as usual. We are having to reinvent the way we respond in this crisis and set aside the traditional modes and methods of support.More than ever, we need to work with affected populations and acknowledge that they are best placed to lead their own path toward a new normal. Giving cash gives people the choice of prioritizing their own needs and contributing to their communities.With all these advantages available through cash programming, it is time for humanitarians to take cash to the next level.*This opinion piece was originally published on Devex.com on June 12, 2020.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
5 ways that cash assistance has transformed humanitarian response to refugees in Turkey
Many people affected by humanitarian crises think their priority needs are not being met by humanitarian aid.Cash assistance is one critical approach that is helping responders better put the needs and capacities of affected people at the heart of humanitarian action. For the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, it has become an integral part of our work.Most recently, with funding from the European Union, the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are implementing a unique cash-assistance programme in Turkey. It enables more than 1.7 million most vulnerable refugees to meet their basic needs and rebuild their lives. The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme provides a blueprint for how cash assistance can be better used in the future.1 - It is people-centred(Photo: Turkish Red Crescent)According to a Ground Truth Solutions survey, almost half of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh sold in-kind assistance offered to them so that they could use the money to purchase goods and services they need.Cash puts an end to aid being limited to the goods and services that humanitarian organizations deliver and gives people the freedom to spend the cash on what they need most.Providing affected populations with cash means more than addressing their true needs, it also means dignity. Having an option to buy the things they need in a shop rather than waiting in a queue for goods also gives the aid recipients a sense of normality that has been lacking from their lives due to conflict.“The cash assistance is granting us freedom of choice and returning a degree of dignity to our lives.” - A refugee receiving cash support from ESSN (WFP report from 2018).Cash assistance also offers them the most important opportunity, having control over their own recovery. Refugees who take ESSN cash assistance are less likely to consult to negative coping strategies like reducing the quality and quantity of the food consumption, getting into debt and taking their children out of school.2 - It’s more cost-effective and can ultimately, reach more people(Photo: Turkish Red Crescent)Delivering cash assistance often costs less than delivering in-kind assistance thus reaching more people in need. How much money is required to manage an operation? How much money is required to transport and store aid in a warehouse?By taking advantage of digital payment systems (like debit cards and SMS) cash-based assistance can greatly reduce costs spent on logistics, transportation and human resources.Compared to the previous humanitarian basic needs assistance provided, the ESSN resulted in significant reductions in administrative costs, leading to at least 90 per cent of all ESSN funding going into the hands of those in need and reaching as many as 1.7 million people.3 - It empowers local economies and communities (Photo: WFP)Supporting people in need with cash also means supporting the host population. As the migration deeply affects those seeking safety, it also creates a completely new situation for the hosting community.Use of cash-based assistance can help people in need to support local markets. This can greatly reduce possible tensions, increase support for humanitarian aid from locals and spark the first steps of integration.Although there is room for development, the ESSN has the potential to influence social cohesion between refugees and host communities, according to a WFP study. About half of the refugees who attended focus group discussions said that they had established good relations with their Turkish neighbours.4 - It is easy to deliver(Photo: Turkish Red Crescent)Conflicts, natural disasters or health emergencies - each bring with them difficult conditions to work in, including challenges in access. If markets are not too weak or supply is sufficient, cash enables assistance to vulnerable people in extraordinary times.Operating under the current conditions of COVID-19 poses many challenges, particularly with restricted or forbidden movement of goods and resources. Sending cash to refugees digitally limits the risk of infection to those we serve as well as host communities and our frontline workers.5 - It enables a more effective, efficient, and transparent humanitarian sector(Photo: Turkish Red Crescent)Cash assistance ensures humanitarian organizations are more accountable to both donors and affected people. It increases the transparency of operations by showing how much aid actually reaches the target population. It also addresses people’s true needs as it gives them the ability to decide what they require.In April, Turkish Red Crescent’s ESSN hotline answered 1.2 million calls, sent more than 1.3 million SMSs and reached out to more than 85,000 refugees thorough its multilingual Facebook page. ESSN monitoring data indicates that the awareness amongst refugees of the ESSN and its application procedures is very high and only a small proportion of refugees lack information on the ESSN at any point in time.The use of easily verifiable demographic criteria satisfies the donors need for transparency and accountability, while also ensuring that refugees themselves have full information on why they are (not) included in the ESSN program.---As ESSN’s unique approach and scale shows cash is people-centric, makes the most out of limited budgets, increases the speed and flexibility of the humanitarian response, improves local economies, reaches the most vulnerable even in insecure environments and enables us all to be more accountable to the people we serve.Cash doesn’t replace all humanitarian services. However, under the right circumstances, cash offers a massive opportunity for us to put communities’ at the centre of our response.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
Greece: "A real life Chuck Norris"
By Georgia Trismpioti, IFRCAs a child, Rahim dreamed of being a martial arts fighter like his idol Chuck Norris. Although he never got to practice martial arts, Rahim did grow up to be a fighter, who inspires those around him every day.Rahim was born in Pakistan but his family moved to Afghanistan when he was young. He managed to learn the new language easily and eventually graduated from high school. He was passionate about languages so after completing his secondary education he started working as an English teacher.But he had to flee Afghanistan and his family literally overnight after being forced to join a group of armed fighters against his will.He paid a smuggler 2,000 dollars to get him to Turkey. “The trip was difficult and risky but life in Afghanistan was risky as well. Things were already scary,” he explains. “If you stayed your life was in danger; if you left your life was in danger. Nothing is easy. It is painful to have to leave your country and more painful to leave your family,” he adds.The perilous journey through Iran, and from there to Turkey on foot through the mountains, took one month. Finding himself in Ankara with little money and no place to stay he managed to find a job in a napkin factory. For almost one year he worked from 8 am until midnight in the factory and slept in the same place in horrible conditions.“I was dying there. Because of the desperate and terrible conditions, I started feeling mentally sick. The sound of the machine was driving me crazy,” says Rahim.He changed jobs several times, afraid the Turkish authorities would deport him back to Afghanistan. Then Rahim became seriously ill, unable to buy medicine without legal documents. He was saved by a friend who arranged for him to be treated at a private clinic.Rahim overcame his health problems and became more determined than ever to create a better future for himself. In 2015 he crossed to Greece by boat and was rescued by the Greek coastguard after the boat’s motor broke down. A miserable year in Moria camp on the island of Lesbos followed.“I was living under the most appalling conditions for more than a year. I was spending all day queueing for food, doing nothing else. I was struggling to survive and keep my mental health. But I had to fight another battle, the battle of staying active,” says Rahim.He started working as a volunteer and teaching English to the residents in the camp. He volunteered with various NGOs and managed to regain his confidence and his spirit.Rahim’s life changed unexpectedly when he was transferred to Diavata Camp, 10km from Thessaloniki. While looking for a job, he found out the Red Cross in Thessaloniki was looking for a Farsi and English speaker to work in its cash assistance programme. He applied and in December 2017 started working for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) as a cash officer.“Our kind-hearted, brave and loving Rahim fills the Red Cross Multifunctional Centre with goodness, optimism and hope. He is our hero, our real life Chuck Norris, who inspires us and gives us the strength to face dire situations in our lives,” says Sherien Kharouba, project manager in the centre.Rahim’s more experienced colleagues have taken him under their wing and admire his eagerness to learn and excel. He says he has had no difficulty acclimatising to the new working environment and culture which differs vastly from the one he fled.“I am fortunate to have found a new life in Greece and have been given the opportunity to work within the Red Cross Movement and assist vulnerable people in need. My next goal is to continue my education in Greece. I regret that I have no documents attesting the completion of my high school studies, but I will try to find a way to resolve this,” says Rahim, his eyes shining with excitement.He now has his own apartment which he shares with a friend and has been granted asylum in Greece.The IFRC Multifunctional Centre enhances the integration of migrants and refugees in the local community through para-legal support, language and computer courses, and case management. Since it opened its doors in December 2017 it has helped more than 25,000 people.