Community engagement and accountability

Displaying 1 - 21 of 21
|
Article

Sierra Leone: Red Cross community health volunteers support diagnosis of mystery illness

“It takes a village to raise a child,” as the proverb goes.Though it’s an old saying, the idea of an entire community looking out for the health, safety, and well-being of their children is still relevant today. And nowhere is it perhaps more evident than in the small village of Laya Dee, Sierra Leone.Unknown illness sparks concernAbu Dumbuya is a shy, yet smiley, teenager who lives with his parents and siblings in Laya Dee. Like most kids his age, he loves playing with his friends, going to school, and spending time with his family.Life was normal for Abu until one day, at age 14, he started developing worrying health symptoms.“He started to complain of joint pain in his knees and hips, pain all over. His eyes went yellow, and he was finding it difficult to use his hands,” explains Abu’s father, Saido.Abu was sent home from school due to the pain. Unsure of what the problem was, his parents first tried to treat him with traditional medicine, using local tree leaves boiled in water. When this didn’t help, they went to the local pharmacy where Abu was prescribed vitamin supplements. But the pain persisted.“I was so scared because I was in a lot of pain. I missed school because of the pain and was missing playing with my friends and having family time,” says Abu.Seeking answers, Abu’s parents sought health advice from a private health centre. But rather than receiving support, the health centre offered no explanation of what was wrong and demanded lots of money.At their wits’ end, Abu’s parents worried that Abu’s condition would deteriorate. But help came in the form of their local Sierra Leone Red Cross Society volunteer, Rebecca.Red Cross and community leaders rally togetherRebecca spoke to the family and knew something was seriously wrong with Abu. Straight away, she alerted her supervisor, Sorbeh, who in turn called the Sierra Leone Red Cross branch manager for Kambia district, Dominic, for back-up.“Dominic came and could see that Abu was in a very poor condition,” explains Rebecca.Having had a bad experience with the private health centre, Abu’s family felt nervous about visiting a health centre again. So while Sorbeh fetched a local nurse on his motorbike to come and tend to Abu at home, Dominic called upon the local community chiefs for help encouraging the family to seek proper treatment.After patient and sensitive discussion, Abu’s parents agreed Sorbeh could take him to the Community Health Centre. There, Abu finally received a proper diagnosis of sickle cell disease (SCD) —a genetic disorder that affects a person’s red blood cells — and several days of treatment.Continued support for a healthy lifeNow 16-years-old, Abu has had a much happier life since his diagnosis. Local Red Cross volunteers continue to accompany Abu for his regular check-ups at the health centre. His health has improved and he hasn’t experienced any sickle cell ‘crises’—periodic episodes of severe pain—in the past two years.“I am happy because I am back playing with my friends like normal,” says Abu.Abu’s older brother, Lamin, who is protective over his little brother, feels he is doing a lot better:“We feel good and very grateful to the supervisor for intervening. We want to share advice with all people in our village to go to the Red Cross for help – the Community Health Volunteer is here for us. If anything bad happens again, we know what to do.”For Rebecca, a native of Laya Dee, the support she provided to Abu’s family is all in a day’s volunteering.Trained through the USAID-funded Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), she’s always there for her community—doing the rounds to check in on people and look out for signs of unusual health events.“I like it when I can give support to my community. People come to me. I’m the first person they reach out to and I love giving back to my community,” says Rebecca.To raise a child who is healthy and safe, it really does take a village. And all the better when that village has a Red Cross volunteer like Rebecca.--The support provided to Abu was made possible through the multi-country Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).  Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), CP3 supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats. If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more, sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Newsletter or follow the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society on X.

|
Article

Uganda Ebola outbreak 2022: The importance of safe and dignified burials

In countries around the world, burial rituals—whether cultural, traditional, or religious—are an important way of honouring the dead and helping people grieve. For many communities, special burial practices enable them to bid farewell to their loved ones in a respectful and meaningful way.Losing someone is never easy. But what if someone you love passes away, and you’re told that the burial traditions your community holds dear may put you all in danger?This is what happened to people in Mubende, Uganda, in September 2022 when the country declared its first outbreak of Ebola in more than a decade. The government barred communities from burying their loved ones due to the risks involved, declaring that burials should be managed by trained safe and dignified burial teams.Ebola is a cruel disease. Deadly when left untreated, and highly contagious, it’s transmitted from person to person through direct contact and bodily fluids. When someone is infected, their families and friends are unable to provide hands-on care. And when someone dies from Ebola, their body continues to be highly contagious for up to seven days, meaning that safe and dignified burial measures must be followed to prevent further infection.Kuteesa Samuel from Mubende knows this all too well. He lost his wife of 20 years, Monica, to Ebola during the 2022 outbreak. Monica was seven months pregnant at the time, meaning Samuel also lost his unborn child.In Samuel’s culture, it’s customary to wash and wrap the body of the deceased. And if a pregnant woman dies in the community, tradition dictates that the foetus is buried in a separate grave. But during Ebola, these practices would have posed a deadly threat to people’s health.Knowing this, the Uganda Red Cross Society were poised to step in.Local, known, trustedUganda Red Cross staff and volunteers are part of the fabric of society in Uganda. They come from the communities they serve, follow the same local customs, and have a deep understanding of people’s needs and sensitivities when disaster strikes.They therefore understood why Samuel’s community felt scared, confused, and reluctant to abandon their traditions.But following sensitive, patient, and repeated engagement from local Red Cross volunteers—who worked hand-in-hand with local health authorities and community leaders—Samuel’s community agreed to a compromise. Monica’s body was left intact and safely buried by trained Red Cross teams following strict health and safety protocols. While a banana flower was symbolically buried in a separate grave to mark the loss of Samuel’s unborn child. “After the health workers engaged and explained everything to us, we came to an understanding. […] If it wasn’t for Uganda Red Cross, we would not even know where the deceased would be buried. They helped us to bury the deceased to ensure we don’t get infected. So, we greatly appreciate the Red Cross,” explains Samuel.Preparedness saves livesSince the last Ebola outbreak in 2012, the Uganda Red Cross Society had worked hard to improve its preparedness for future health emergencies and strengthen its auxiliary role supporting the Ministry of Health during disease outbreaks.With support from the IFRC through the USAID-funded Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), as well as through an Ebola preparedness emergency appeal (2018-2021) and a Disaster Response Emergency Fund (IFRC-DREF) operation (2018-2020), they undertook lots of different preparedness activities across different parts of the country.Emergency preparedness involves planning for the worst, so one of those activities was developing a pool of qualified safe and dignified burials trainers and teams across the country. These teams were ready to be deployed immediately to support communities like Samuel’s when the 2022 Ebola outbreak began.“CP3 was so instrumental to this response. We were only able to respond on time because we had done preparations. We already had prepared teams, and this enabled us to swiftly respond,” explains Dr Joseph Kasumba, Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Officer with the Uganda Red Cross who led the response.Humanity in the darkest of momentsDuring the 2022 Ebola outbreak, Uganda Red Cross teams conducted a total of 512 safe and dignified burials. These efforts contributed to the outbreak being declared over in a record four months.What’s harder to quantify is the emotional support and meaningful care that Red Cross teams provided to communities in perhaps the worst moments of their lives. For that, here’s some powerful testimony from those affected by Ebola, or involved in the response:“When it comes to Ebola Virus Disease, communities always need someone they can trust, people they can identify with. And the fact that the Red Cross is always part of the community... we know what cultural practices are done. We know what the community wants us to do and they feel confident identifying with us, even in that time of grief and sorrow.” - Dr Joseph Kasumba“We really thank the health workers because they taught us how to protect ourselves. We are still grateful for what they did. It was a miracle for us.” - Janet, Mubende resident“Since Ebola started in Mubende, it is the Red Cross that has walked with us. Every community knows Red Cross here. We appreciate you for the work you’ve done. The people of Mubende appreciate you for offering your lives to stand in the gap and save lives.” - Rosemary Byabashaija – Resident District Commissioner in MubendeIf you found this story interesting and would like to learn more:Visit the Uganda Red Cross Society websiteClick here to learn more about the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3). Funded by USAID, CP3 supports communities, National Societies, and other partners in seven countries to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to disease threats.Sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Newsletter.

|
Article

Guinea Red Cross supports communities in the fight against rabies

Little Ousmane was at home in Faranah, central Guinea, when he noticed a stray dog outside. Curious and wanting to play, he approached the creature. But before he had time to react, the dog leapt up aggressively and bit him on the chest and hand.His grandfather alerted the local Guinea Red Cross volunteers, who arrived quickly to tend to Ousmane, wash out his wounds, and track down the dog for investigation. Thankfully, they were able to arrange for Ousmane to get the necessary health treatment. Lab testing later confirmed the dog had rabies, meaning that without the quick action from volunteers, Ousmane likely wouldn’t have survived.An incident like this is a parent’s worst nightmare and a common worry among communities in Guinea. But through theCommunity Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), funded by USAID, the Guinea Red Cross is running different activities to reduce rabies risks and make sure deadly dog bites are a thing of the past.Raising community awarenessPreventing the spread of diseases like rabies relies on communities having accurate and trusted information on how they can stay safe.Guinea Red Cross volunteers, known and trusted by their communities, regularly go door-to-door, organize community meetings, and take part in local radio shows—educating people on rabies risks, how it’s spread, and how they can protect themselves.Through this engagement, communities learn the importance of reporting stray animals displaying unusual or aggressive behaviours and of looking out for signs of rabies within their own pets.Supporting vaccination campaignsVaccinating dogs is the most effective preventive measure for reducing the risk of rabies.But for a rabies vaccination drive to be successful, people in the community need to see the value of vaccinating their pets and—crucially—turn up in their droves on the day.That’s where the Guinea Red Cross comes in. While the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock provides the vaccines and veterinary staff to administer them, it’s Guinea Red Cross volunteers who drum up demand within communities and accompany people to their appointments.“Thanks to the vaccination campaign, which we heard about from Red Cross volunteers, our dogs are no longer a threat—they are healthy companions. It’s an act of responsibility for the security of everyone. Vaccinating dogs protects our community,”explains Mamadi Fofana, a traditional healer and hunter from Faranah who was convinced to vaccinate his dogs against rabies.Keeping tabs on the canine populationRabies vaccines don’t last forever, with animals requiring booster shots every 1-3 years to keep them rabies-free. So the Guinea Red Cross has set up a dog database to keep tabs on the canine population in Faranah.Volunteers track when and how many vaccine doses have been administered, and record owner details so they can reach out when it’s time for a booster.If a bite incident occurs, the database helps them to track down the owner to investigate and conduct further engagement around the importance of taking responsibility for their animals.The data is also used by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock so they know how many doses of vaccines are needed when planning dog vaccination drives.Bite response and community-based surveillanceWhen someone in Faranah is scratched or bitten by a potentially rabid animal, Guinea Red Cross volunteers are usually the first to hear about it and arrive on scene.Trained in epidemic control, they can provide crucial first aid. For suspected rabies, this involves vigorously washing out the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes and wrapping it in a clean bandage while awaiting emergency health care.Through a digital community-based surveillance system, calledNyss, volunteers quickly report bite incidents to their supervisors, who can then escalate the alert to local human, animal, and environmental health authorities for rapid investigation and treatment.Time is of the essence when someone is bitten. As the eyes and ears within local communities, Guinea Red Cross volunteers play a vital role in detecting and alerting suspected rabies cases early to maximize people’s chances of survival.The fight against rabies in Guinea is a marathon not a sprint. But with patient and continued engagement with local communities and strong collaboration with authorities in rapidly reporting and responding to bites, the Guinea Red Cross is supporting people in Faranah to stay safe and healthy from this deadly disease.---The activities featured in this article are part of the multi-countryCommunity Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by theU.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), CP3 supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more,sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Newsletter.

|
Article

World Radio Day: How radio helps keep communities healthy and safe

Though we’re living in an increasingly digital world, radio remains an important source of information, entertainment, and connection in countries across the globe.This is especially true among rural communities, for whom radio is often the most trusted—or sometimes only—source of news and information for miles around.Imagine you’re living in one of these communities, far from the nearest health centre. You notice people are falling sick and you don’t know why. Seeking answers, you tune into your local radio station.The presenter is talking about the ‘mystery illness’ in a panicked way, saying how gruesome the symptoms are, how many people have died, and how you should avoid infected people at all costs. He’s heard the illness could be some kind of curse, and that apparently drinking salty water can protect you.Hearing this report, and with no other sources to turn to, you’d probably feel scared and unsure of what to do.But imagine you tuned in and heard a totally different show. The presenter calmly offers practical information about the disease—its name, symptoms, how it spreads, and measures you can take to protect yourself. He interviews a local doctor you know and trust who responds to common questions and concerns.You’d feel reassured and have the information you need to keep you and your family safe.In several countries, the IFRC and our National Societies are partnering with local media to do exactly this: provide life-saving information before, during, and after health outbreaks.As part of the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), we’ve been working with the charity BBC Media Action to train journalists and Red Cross Societies from seven countries in Lifeline Programming: special media programming that provides accurate, practical, and timely information in a health or humanitarian crisis.National Societies regularly partner with media outlets to broadcast helpful information that keeps communities healthy and safe from a wide range of diseases. Let’s look at some examples.KenyaIn Bomet and Tharaka Nithi counties, Kenya Red Cross teams up with local radio stations and county health services, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with useful health messages on how to prevent diseases such as anthrax, rabies and cholera.Information is shared in simple language. And listeners can call in to ask questions or suggest health topics for discussion.“At first, media was known for reporting two things, maybe: politics, and bad things that have happened in society. But the Red Cross helped us […] use the media in educating the people about disease,” explains Sylvester Rono, a journalist with Kass FM trained in Lifeline programming.“I am now proud to say that this has really helped our communities. Our people are now appreciating why we should vaccinate our pets, why we should go to the hospital when we have a bite, why we should report any [health] incident, and when you see any sign of diseases, be it rabies, be it anthrax, be it cholera […] the importance of reporting it earlier,” he adds.CameroonIn late 2021, a cholera outbreak threatened the lives of communities in the North region of Cameroon—a rural part of the country where communities are widely dispersed.As part of its response, the Cameroon Red Cross teamed up with local radio stations—launching a series of community radio programmes to share information on how people could protect themselves, what symptoms to look out for, and where to access help if they fell sick.Themes for the programmes were selected in partnership with community leaders. And after the shows broadcast, Red Cross volunteers headed out into their communities to reinforce the messages shared on air through door-to-door visits.“The radio programme is very good, because it has given me practical information. I had a cholera case in my family, but based on the measures I heard on the radio, I was able to save my sister’s child who was sick,” explained Talaga Joseph, a listener who called into FM Bénoué—one of the participating radio stations.Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)In DRC, harmful rumours and misinformation about COVID-19 and other diseases have spread across the country in recent years. For example, some people believed the COVID-19 vaccine was a source of income for the government and had no benefit to society, while others believed the measles vaccine was less effective than traditional remedies involving cassava leaves.To address these rumours, DRC Red Cross volunteers went door-to-door to collect community feedback and record common myths and misconceptions. After analysing the feedback, DRC Red Cross staff took to the airwaves—launching interactive radio shows to directly address and debunk health misinformation and provide trusted advice.For example, in Kongo Central province, the DRC Red Cross partners with Radio Bangu to produce a show called ‘Red Cross School’. Listeners call in to check information on different diseases, ask questions, and discover what support they can access from the Red Cross.“The collaboration with the Red Cross is very good and has enabled listeners to learn more about its activities and how they can prevent different illnesses and epidemics. The Red Cross broadcasts are so popular they have increased our overall number of listeners in the area we cover,” says Rigobert Malalako, Station Manager at Radio Bangu.--The activities with local radio featured in this article are just a few examples of media partnerships developed through the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), CP3 supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more, sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Newsletter.You can also access the following resources:BBC Media Action’s Guide for the media on communicating in public health emergencies (available in multiple languages)BBC Media Action’s Lifeline programming websiteIFRC Epidemic Control Toolkit

|
Podcast

Xavier Castellanos: How a near-death experience on a motorcycle steered him to a life helping others

Xavier Castellanos was 13 years old when he joined a Red Cross club at his high school in Ecuador. But it wasn’t until he got into a serious motorcycle accident that his life took a serious turn toward helping others in serious trouble. The teenage Castellanos almost died in that crash, in part because no one nearby knew how to help. “I didn’t want to see anyone else go through that,” he recalls. And so his lifelong humanitarian journey began.

|
Article

Nevado del Ruiz volcano: Preparing for an eruption

On 30 March, the Colombian Geological Service increased the alert level of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in central Colombia from yellow to orange, signifying a probable eruption in a matter of days or weeks. While it is not possible to know exactly when or how a volcano will erupt, it is possible to monitor a volcano’s activity and take early action to minimize its potential impact on communities living nearby—which is exactly what IFRC network teams are doing right now. Nevado del Ruiz is an explosive volcano. Its eruptions involve the fracturing of rock and rapid expulsion of gases and fluids—called ‘pyroclastic flows’—at high speeds and temperatures. But there’s also one quite unique additional risk: as one of the highest volcanoes in the region, standing at 5000+ metres tall, it is covered snow and has a thick ice cap. The concern is that this ice cap melts, as it did during the 1985 eruption when avalanches of water, ice, rocks, and clay ran down the volcano's sides, erasing the nearby town of Armero and killing more than 25,000 people. To prepare for this risk, the Colombian Red Cross has activated its general plan of action. This plan defines the preparedness actions they need to take in response to different levels of volcanic activity, including if the alert level changes from orange to red—indicating that the volcano is in the process of erupting or is going to erupt any time. With anticipatory funding from the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF), Colombian Red Cross teams have been working hard to get their volunteers and communities ready for the worst-case scenario. They’ve been re-training volunteers in first aid, evacuation, and emergency coordination, and restocking essential emergency response items such as first aid kits, identification items for first responders, and emergency signal equipment. They’ve also been sharing as much information as possible within local communities around Nevado del Ruiz: warning at-risk families to evacuate; talking to them about how and where to evacuate safely; and handing out radios and batteries to people in hard-to-reach areas so they can stay informed. But some families are reluctant to leave and are dismissing evacuation advice from local authorities and the Colombian Red Cross. On the surface, this can be difficult to understand—why wouldn’t you want to move away from a volcano that’s potentially about to erupt? There’s no simple answer. For the many farmers who rely on the rich volcanic soils surrounding Nevado del Ruiz, they may not want to leave their properties or animals and abandon the livelihood upon which they rely. Other people simply cannot, or choose not to, believe something as horrific as the 1985 eruption could ever happen again. Right now, Colombian Red Cross, IFRC and partners are gathering in the region to step up preparedness efforts. This includes an increased focus on community engagement to understand people’s thoughts and fears and convince them to evacuate. They are also preparing for, and trying to reduce the risk of, mass displacement should the volcano erupt. Through the DREF operation, they are taking early actions such reinforcing critical infrastructure, providing people with cash assistance, and pre-positioning food and safe drinking water. We will share more about these vital efforts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, click here to read more about the anticipatory action funding we have provided through the DREF. Further information: What are volcanic eruptions? How the Anticipatory Pillar of the DREF works Disaster preparedness Follow IFRC Americas @IFRC_es and the Colombian Red Cross @cruzrojacol on Twitter

|
Basic page

Building Trust programme

Building Trust during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Humanitarian Settings is our global programme supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to build trust in public health responses and in the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

|
Article

Lights, camera, action! How cinema is saving lives in Cameroon

Combining both learning and entertainment, mobile cinema has, over the years, become a prominent way of engaging remote communities around the world on a wide range of important topics—everything from how to stay healthy, to how to prepare for disasters. Each mobile cinema kit contains a projection screen and tripod, laptop, microphones and speakers and a generator so they can still run even in the face of power cuts. Since receiving the kits, the Cameroon Red Cross has been using mobile cinema to share life-saving messages about COVID-19, cholera, and any others relevant topics, which will help people to prepare and stay safe. All in an exciting and effective way, and within a community’s own environment. "Mobile cinema allows us to provide the right information that communities need in the fight against epidemics and disasters of all forms. This fun and useful tool is undoubtedly allowing us to improve our humanitarian response across the country,” Cécile Akamé President of the Cameroon Red Cross Mobile cinema screenings aren’t just about sitting back and watching. They’re also a great way to engage communities through question-and-answer sessions and to gather people’s valuable feedback. Each screening is facilitated by Cameroonian Red Cross volunteers—many of whom were recently trained in communication, community engagement and feedback collection. Listening to people’s questions, concerns, thoughts and fears helps volunteers to understand communities’ needs better, and tailor their work accordingly. Marlyse, a 15-year-old student in the southern city of Kribi who attended a recent screening, said: “This is the first time I have taken part in this type of activity and I have learned a lot. We watched a video on COVID-19 and this reinforced our knowledge on preventive measures. Also the talk with the people from the Red Cross helped us to know more about the vaccine.” Marlyse Mobile Cinema attendee in Kribi You can watch the video Marlyse refers to below (in French): At the IFRC, we know that epidemics begin and end in communities. And that with the right information and support, everyone can play an important role in detecting diseases, responding effectively, and preparing for future health risks. Take Mr Biyong, for example, a community leader in Kribi who is excited about the Cameroonian Red Cross project and the potential of mobile cinema: "We are currently experiencing a cholera epidemic in our community and in the whole region. I think this tool is very timely! Through the broadcasting of the video on cholera, the modes of transmission and how to prevent this disease, my community members were able to see with their own eyes what we try to explain to them every day. This is really a tool that will help stop the spread of the disease.” Mr Biyong Kribi Community Leader Together, the IFRC and Cameroonian Red Cross hope to expand mobile cinema screenings across the country in the coming months, listening to and learning from the people we support as we go. “In addition to things like food, water and shelter, we know that information is, in itself, aid. The IFRC is working hard to help National Societies like the Cameroonian Red Cross take ownership of the opportunities and benefits of this exciting mobile cinema approach to making communities more resilient,” ​​​​​​ Thierry Balloy IFRC Head of Country Cluster Delegation for Central Africa -- This work in Cameroon is part of the IFRC’s multi-country Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), funded by USAID. Click here to learn more about the project and our work in this area. And if you enjoyed this story, you may also be interested in our new case studies showing how Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have helped prepare communities for, and protect them from, COVID-19.

|
Press release

Americas: Restoring trust of vulnerable communities key to fair and inclusive recovery after two years of pandemic, says IFRC

Panama, March 23, 2022 – Migrants, host communities and indigenous populations’ trust in local authorities and decision-makers on COVID-19 related issues has dropped to a third, compared to the beginning of the pandemic. This is one of the key findings of "COVID-19 in the Americas: listening to the most vulnerable", a study carried out by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, which analysed the perceptions of COVID-19 in the most vulnerable communities. The report finds that humanitarians are the second most trusted group after scientists. It also shows that high or moderate trust in government leaders is associated with greater trust in vaccines’ safety and efficacy. Diana Medina, Manager of Community Engagement and Accountability for the IFRC in the Americas, said: ''Listening to communities, using data to design interventions adjusted to the changing contexts of the pandemic and locally led response approaches are key to strengthening confidence around vaccines and to protect people against COVID-19. If people don’t trust vaccines or can’t have access to it, vaccination rates will remain low, and this pandemic will not end. We trust that the report’s findings and recommendations will serve as a basis for redefining the strategies on the ground and the advocacy processes necessary to ensure that immunization campaigns reach the last mile'' The study also finds that despite their willingness to get vaccinated, migrants and indigenous communities face great difficulties in accessing the vaccine, such as long distances, long waiting lines or registration issues. In fact, indigenous populations expressed having received less information than the rest of the population consulted and a higher level of reluctance to adopt all the protection measures for COVID-19. Maria Franca Tallarico, IFRC Regional Manager for Health and Care for the Americas, said: ''Even though there are significant advances in controlling the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic is not over yet. Many people remain unvaccinated or with incomplete vaccination schemes. Understanding what these groups think about the virus and vaccination is essential to maintain dialogue, approach communities in a contextualized way to facilitate the implementation of healthy behaviours and habits, favour a fair and inclusive recovery and increase vaccination rates, thus reducing the risk of proliferation of new variants.'' Most interviewees said they found COVID-19 health messages useful and effective. However, it is key to consider the differences that exist within the same communities. Decision-makers and local authorities need to strengthen the dialogue with vulnerable communities to implement differentiated, contextualized and needs-based COVID-19 response strategies for specific groups such as indigenous communities, migrants and refugees. To improve the effectiveness of the information about the virus and vaccines, the IFRC encourages the use of adapted and understandable messages in native languages, using the most trusted actors as spokespersons with communities. It also suggests articulating activities with health staff and humanitarian organizations as key actors to strengthen trust and promote greater adoption of protection and vaccination measures against COVID-19. Continuing advocacy efforts to guarantee universal and prompt access to vaccines will also remain vital to overcoming the pandemic, as well as promoting the implementation of socioeconomic recovery measures that meet the needs of the most vulnerable households and groups. This study was conducted between June and October 2021 and is based on a survey of 7,743 individuals in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. In those countries, the local Red Cross teams, which play a key role based on long-lasting relationships with communities, explored the perceptions of especially vulnerable populations, regarding four aspects: access and impact of information on COVID-19, knowledge and perception about vaccination, confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, and the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic. Notes and additional information: Two years after the first case of COVID-19, the Americas region registers 2.7 million associated deaths, 1.7 billion doses of vaccines administered, and setbacks of nearly 30 years in the levels of extreme poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as an increase in gender inequality and child labour. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Red Cross has contributed to equitable access to vaccines and implemented COVID-19 response programs in the Americas by: risk communication through adapted and contextualized approaches to communities, as well as community mobilization and hygiene promotion activities for 52 million people; specifically, 10 million have received information about the COVID-19 vaccine the implementation of sanitation and hygiene activities involving 13 million people supporting the immunization of 3.4 million individuals providing food or other assistance to 86 million and assisting 358 thousand people with mental health services and psychosocial support. For more information or to schedule interviews with specialists on the COVID-19 situation in the Americas region, please contact theAmericas regional office in Panama: David Quijano, +57 310 559 2559, [email protected] Susana Arroyo, [email protected]

|
Press release

IFRC urges countries in the Caribbean to build vaccine confidence in communities

Jamaica, 17 March 2022 - The low rate of vaccination against COVID-19 in the Caribbean must be addressed through building confidence among the population as well as responding to the inequity of vaccine access, says the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Building this confidence is a key factor in promoting universal vaccination and therefore fostering socio-economic recovery in the Caribbean, where only 40 per cent of the population counts with a complete scheme of vaccination, in comparison with 68 per cent in South America and 60 per cent in Central America. In the Americas region more than 1.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. Diana Medina, IFRC Engagement and Accountability regional manager said: ‘’Countries in the Caribbean are not just facing difficulties in their capacity to ensure that the vaccine makes it from the airport tarmac into the arms of the most vulnerable. People are avoiding getting vaccinated due to lack of confidence in the vaccine, difficulties accessing information and mistrust in certain sources. To ensure that everyone gets vaccinated it is key to strengthen community-centred dialogue, identify trust issues and address people’s doubts, concerns, and fears.’’ A combination of different factors affects the progress of the vaccination efforts: the geographic spread of the islands and poor condition of roads make it difficult to access hard-to-reach communities, leaving them unprotected and uninformed. The burden on health institutions is significant, with the undertaking of large-scale risk and awareness campaigns a challenge. In some communities there is also a lack of trust in information providers and vaccine efficiency. A new report by the IFRC on perceptions around COVID-19, carried out in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, reveals that some vulnerable populations such as migrants, indigenous communities, and host communities face constraints in accessing vaccination services, lack trust in their local authorities or decision makers, and are reluctant to get inoculated due to fear of side effects and concerns over safety. Abdul Nasir Khan, IFRC Operations Coordinator for the Dutch and English-speaking Caribbean, added: ‘’Thanks to the Red Cross’ historical relationship with communities in the field, we have identified that people rely mostly on information from health care providers, humanitarian workers, and local leaders, however, they remain sceptical of information from official sources. It requires an imperative joint effort from all parties to deliver trusted and adapted information to communities through accessible and comprehensive risk communication, in parallel with active vaccination activities.’’ Since the onset of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, the Red Cross has supported almost 4,000 people in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and provided communications addressing vaccine hesitancy to more than 650,000 people in the Caribbean. The personnel are assisting health authorities vaccinating people and implementing sensitization activities of risk communications adapted to communities' perceptions and contexts, through local awareness on house-to-house visits, walkabouts, public transportation and by setting information booths in public spaces. The Red Cross has also communicated key information to large cross-sections of the population through electronic billboards, television, radio, and digital videos. In 2022, local Red Cross teams will continue to work as auxiliaries to the authorities, promoting equitable access to vaccines and socio-economic recovery to the most vulnerable, implementing activities to build vaccine confidence and placing communities at the centre of its actions through locally led humanitarian support. Notes and additional Information: The Perception Survey Report on COVID-19 in the Americas will be presented at a digital event on Wednesday 23th March 2022, 10 a.m. EST/ 4 p.m. CET. To join the conversation, please register byclicking here. To Download the complete report, click here For more information or to schedule interviews with specialists on the COVID-19 situation in the Caribbean and the Americas region, please contact: Office for the Caribbean Region: Trevesa DaSilva, +1 876 818 8575, [email protected] Americas regional Office in Panama:David Quijano, +57 310 559 2559, [email protected] / Susana Arroyo, [email protected]

|
Press release

Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector

Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector. In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation. The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability. European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said: “I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.” IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said: “Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.” The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components. Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU. Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies. Key facts 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

|
Basic page

Community Engagement and Accountability

Community engagement and accountability (CEA) is a way of working that recognizes and values community members as equal partners. It makes sure their opinions are heard and used to design and guide our work.

|
Article

COVID-19: an opportunity to challenge our traditional way of working with communities

By Sevde Nur Söylemez COVID-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 communication Without 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-19 I 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. Fewer participants, more expression Across 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.

|
Press release

Asia Survey: 1 in 2 blame foreigners and rule-breakers for COVID-19

Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 17 September 2020 – A major new survey in four Asian countries reveals nearly one in two people blame specific groups for spreading COVID-19. The survey shows that people are blaming particular groups for spreading the coronavirus including foreigners, people attending religious ceremonies and people who are not following rules such as wearing masks or maintaining physical distance. The snapshot of people’s attitudes in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Pakistan also reveals nearly four out of five people distrust social media, despite it being one of the leading sources of information about the virus. The survey of 4,993 people was initiated by the Asia Pacific Risk Communication and Community Engagement Working Group to find out what people know about the virus and how it spreads, in order to enable stronger community-based response. Dr Viviane Fluck, Community Engagement and Accountability Coordinator,International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Asia Pacific,said:“It is alarming that our findings show that almost half of people surveyed believe specific groups are at fault for the spread of COVID-19.” “We are very concerned that vulnerable groups such as migrants and those who cannot afford protective equipment such as masks may be discriminated against due to stigma and fear rising from these views. “Many countries in Asia are experiencing triple crises of COVID-19, natural hazard related disasters and socio-economic upheavals. It’s critical that we step upengagement with communities to address harmful misinformation that hinders efforts to contain this pandemic,”Dr Fluck said. Key data fromthe COVID-19 Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region Report: Nearly one in two (49%) think a specific group is responsible for the spread of COVID-19 More than two out of three (69%) Malaysians blame others such as people not wearing masks and those attending religious gatherings. Over half of Indonesians (55%) and close to one third of people in Myanmar (32%) and Pakistan (30%) apportion blame to groups such as foreigners and rule-breakers. Almost four in five people (79%) in Malaysia think the disease is not dangerous while four out of five people (80%) in Indonesia think it is very dangerous. Close to nine out of 10 people (87%) across the four countries believe that wearing a mask and handwashing (91%) are ways to protect yourself and family. Traditional healers remain a source of information is some countries, with nearly one in six (16%) people at least sometimes turning to them for information. When asked about information channels, most respondents placed a great deal of trust in television (62%), followed by radio (44%) and newspapers (40%). Only 1 in 5 (22%) people placed a great deal of trust in social media. The full report, titled COVID-19 Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region, can bedownloaded here. The Asia Pacific Risk Communication and Community Engagement Working Group is an inter-agency coordination platform that provides technical advice to COVID-19 preparedness and response across the region. The survey was conducted by local National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as Kantar in Myanmar in partnership with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and with the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The COVID-19 Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region Report data: In total, 4,993 respondents participated in Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Malaysia. A mixed-method approach for data collection was used, collecting data through phone calls, social media, and some limited face-to-face interactions, where appropriate protective measures were taken.Interviews were conducted from29 May to 20 July 2020 with a two-week collection time frame in each country Sampling:A random sampling approach was used with the assumptions of a higher number of participants with less margin of error. Convenience sampling was the only possible option due to movement restrictions. These findings cannot be considered to be statistically representative of the perceptions of the population but provide an indication that should be triangulated with further research.

|
Article

Awareness campaigns and busting rumors about COVID-19 in Yemen

Randa El Ozeir: A group of people on the street flinched showing signs of apprehension and repulsion. They are Yemenis living in a remote area where volunteers, from the Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) in their protective masks, put informative posters as part of a comprehensive awareness campaign about COVID-19. The group of people was scared to contract the “disease” from these masked individuals. Little by little, the group of people bombarded the volunteers with questions, and their eyes brightened with an “aha moment!” when they learned the answers. Once again, it becomes clear how local actors and volunteers play an invaluable role in communities they know like the back of their hands. They speak the language, are familiar with the traditions, and recognize the prevailing mindset. Zamzam Saleh Saed Jaeem, the Deputy Communications manager in YRC’s Dhamar Branch, said, “There were rumors that made some people flinch when they saw us wearing masks, as if we were sick and contagious! But we stood our ground and persevered in identifying for them the wrong practices and correcting their misinformation, so they ended up helping us to put up the posters!”. In Yemen, a country affected by war for over five years, the YRCS has been one of the few humanitarian organizations to freely continue executing its activities and missions all over the country doing what they most excel at: humanitarian support for communities affected by conflict and natural disasters, medical services especially for women and children, nutrition aids, prevention campaigns to tackle the risks of diseases as cholera and malaria, and lately, societal awareness through field campaigns around the country’s 22 governorates to stave off the dangers of COVID-19. These campaigns are implemented by the Heads of Communications in the YRC’s Branches, accompanied by the ambulance drivers and 44 volunteers, through posters and by playing recorded messages with preventive measures. Nisrine Ahmed, the YRC’s Media Officer, said, “Before setting out to implement an activity, a coordination with all authorities in the country has to be done to commence a field awareness campaign directly with the people as to bridge the gap in all rugged locations. The geographical nature, ranging from mountains to deserts, coasts, and frontiers, has been aggravated by the poor phone and internet coverage and the unreliable electricity and made these places unattainable. Ultimately, the coordination to carry out the activity becomes centralized with the local authority at the governorate level”. In an innovative way revealing a deep understanding of the local environment, the YRCS worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross to produce audio flashes containing simplified awareness messages people can incorporate into their daily lives to smoothly change their behaviours. Some of these messages promote “using hand sanitizers”, “protecting your own food during COVID-19”, “how to keep yourself and your family safe”, “how to protect yourself and others”, “what to do when you start having symptoms”, and “when to wear a mask”. Nisrine Ahmed explained how the messages are being delivered via portable loudspeakers on ambulances that roam the districts and neighbourhoods of secluded areas within each governorate. “We are distributing in 10 communities the flyers and posters consisting of crucial info about COVID-19, its transmission, and the ways to prevent it”. The YRC focuses on 440 areas across Yemen but does not go door-to-door. The awareness messages are broadcasted on loudspeakers and disseminated by posters. Only when faced with specific inquires, the Heads of Communications in the YRC’s Branches explain the content about COVID-19 face-to-face. “Those volunteers train yearly on communication skills, community activities, and media on the ground to perform their communication duties within the Branches, but also they have been trained by health staff on COVID prevention and on frequently asked questions. They are competent enough to spread awareness, achieve media documentation, and do live interviews. We carry these awareness campaigns in coordination with the Danish Red Cross (DRC), the German Red Cross (GRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRD), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)”. “While they need the bare necessities for a normal life, it’s hard to ask people to stay home and stick to the recommended safety measures to prevent COVID-19”, said Jaeem adding, “people don’t have money to buy a mask or gloves to use when they go outside. We encountered a tuned-out society when we first started. We were met with obstacles to persuade the population and change their ideas about the virus. We raised the level of awareness among people and helped them. And we consider this to be an accomplishment in and of itself”. “As usual, we see the YRCS present and giving the most important info that helped us to correct some of the misconceptions about COVID-19. Our situation is dire, and we need protective equipment that we cannot buy. We don’t have water, and when we have it, it can barely suffice for drinking, so how should we can be careful to wash our hands regularly?”, asked Ahmed, a resident of a remote area, and called on everyone to provide the required aids along with spreading awareness about the virus. General Background: The Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) is an independent voluntary relief organization. It was founded half a century ago, in 1968, for humanitarian purposes. YRCS works as an aid organization in the domains of humanitarian services across the country, and practices its activities according to the Yemeni Constitution, Geneva Conventions, and the basic principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement that YRCS performs its activities as part of them.

|
Article

UN and partners launch guidelines to address the needs of most vulnerable groups during COVID-19

CAIRO, 15 June 2020- Vulnerable groups, particularly women, displaced people, migrants, older persons and people with disabilities, may experience the most harmful impacts of COVID-19. This is due to many factors including discrimination and stigma, their exclusion from effective surveillance and early-warning systems as well as their limited access to primary healthcare services. Their particular needs must be addressed in our response to the pandemic. No one is safe from the virus unless all of us are safe from it. The new guidelines“COVID-19: How Can Risk Communication and Community Engagement Include Marginalized and Vulnerable People in the Eastern Mediterranean Region”have been issued by the Eastern Mediterranean RCCE Working Group, an inter-agency coordination platform established to provide technical support to COVID-19 preparedness and response in the region. The practical guidelines explain the vulnerability of marginalized groups to the pandemic and how national and local efforts can address them so that no one is left behind. Since its outbreak in the Eastern Mediterranean region, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on its public health and economies. But its repercussions have not been felt evenly across societies. Marginalized and vulnerable groups, particularly those living conflict-affected countries, are among the hardest hit by the health and socio-economic impact of the pandemic. Risk communication and community engagement is an essential tool for governments and development partners to ensure that people are aware of the dangers posed by COVID-19 to themselves and their families, and are accounted for in national and local efforts to stop the spread of the virus. In order for RCCE efforts to be effective, they need to be gender-responsive and include all segments of societies, particularly the most of vulnerable and marginalized social groups. The RCCE Working Group consists of a wide range of organizations including UN Women, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, the International Organization for Migration, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and EMPHNET. Thedocumentis a contextualized version of the original guidelines developed by RCCE partners in the Asia and Pacific region. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT : UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States Diego De La Rosa, Regional Communications Specialist E-mail:[email protected] Mobile: +66995037177 WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean Inas Hamam, Communications Officer E-mail:[email protected] Mobile: +201000157385 UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office Juliette S. TOUMA, Regional Chief of Communications Office: +962-6-550-9624 Mobile: +962-79-867-4628 | +1-917-20-90-817 IFRC Regional Office for Middle East and North Africa Rana Cassou, Head of Communications Email :[email protected] Mobile : +96171802779 IOM Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa Farah Abdul Sater, Regional Media and Public Information Officer E-mail:[email protected] Mobile : +201060351567 UNFPA Arab States Regional Office Samir Aldarabi, Regional Communication Advisor Phone: +201068484879 Email:[email protected] GHD and EMPHNET: Working together for better health Asma Qannas, Technical Officer, Outreach & Emergency / Public Health Programs Mob: +962 79 879 0458 Tel.: +962 6 551 9962 | Fax: +962 6 551 9963

|
Article

“We not only heal with medication, but also with listening to them”

“Medicine has been my passion since I was in high school” says Damarys Solano on the phone, while she's preparing to go out. Today she'll be giving medical attention at a shelter in Tumbes, where many migrants are following the mandatory isolation given in Peru due to the emergency of COVID-19. Damarys was born in Tumbes, a city in the north of Peru, next to the frontier with Ecuador, and since she was very young she realized that there were many people with limitations to access to health services, and she wanted to do something about it, that is why she decided to study medicine. She completed her university studies in Cuba, and while at university she took part of the Student Health Brigade, to help people that didn't have easy access to the health system. And that passion continues with her today. Dr. Solano works at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) since September 2018, at the Red Cross Care Center at the Binational Border Assistance Center (CEBAF), in the border with Ecuador, placed in response to the increase in the number of migrants entering the country. “The needs of migrants were increasing constantly, I had to think daily about what methods to use to not only alleviate their pain with medication, but also the emotional aspect, because sometimes just listening to them would take away their pain. For them, doing their journey by foot was very difficult, but they have been brave”, remark Dr. Solano, for whom helping anyone in need, regardless their nationality, race, religion, social condition or political beliefs, is one of the principles of her work, a principle she shares with IFRC and is one of the reasons why she decided to work here. She remembers in a bittersweet way the different people she has seen through CEBAF, such as elderly patients who had made their journey on foot hoping to meet their family in Peru, or mothers who were traveling alone and that have gave birth shortly before, in one of the transit countries. “The Red Cross principle of humanity is something that you live and apply in the day-to-day work, with your patients. That makes a big difference.”, adds Damarys. The migratory context changed over time, although migrants continued to enter trough CEBAF, the number of people who stayed in Tumbes city increased. The Care Center at CEBAF wasn't enough to meet the health needs of the vulnerable population, and this is how the Community Health Campaigns began to be implemented. Damarys remembers with great satisfaction the active participation of the population, both migrant and local, at the health campaigns which brought medical attention to more than 650 patients. Today, in the context of COVID-19, many of the migrants who were waiting for a response at CEBAF have been transferred to shelters. That doesn't mean that Damarys rests; she, along with the rest of the team, continue to work, visiting the shelters, providing health care and treatment, ensuring that the patients are well, and monitoring their situation. “I feel that all this experience has reinforced my feelings for medicine, since sometimes you think that you sit at a desk prescribing recipes to those in pain, and is not only that; is to relieve with the art of healing those who need us. To value life and to give them hope that not all is lost”, concludes Damarys.

|
Article

The importance of good communication in times of COVID-19

Information saves lives; and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, where there has been an excess of information and false rumors, the Bolivian Red Cross has been developing different actions against disinformation, and to reach out with clear messages to the population. In times of isolation, social media become a great way to stay close to people, and to bring them relevant and reliable information. The Bolivian Red Cross has developed a digital strategy that includes messages presented in an educational way, and videos where volunteers provide advice on different topics such as new ways to greet, how to use masks, how to wash hands, among others. This strategy also includes a series of sessions broadcast on Facebook Live, which have been very well received, since they are not only a way to provide information, but also to listen to the population, and to be able to attend and answer their questions. The first transmission was Myth and Truths about COVID-19, which has reached more than 8,500 users, and which received a series of queries from the public such as “How to disinfect food?” “What care should be taken with a person with disabilities and the elderly?” “Can masks be reused?” and more; all these questions were answered on the broadcast. Since that first transmission, topics such as stress management or relaxation techniques for isolation times, domestic violence, and what comes after COVID-19, have been touched upon. “We consider that the use of social media helps us not only to be able to give information, but also to know what people are thinking, what are their main concerns and doubts around COVID, and this allow us to be able to adjust the messages, so that they can address those information gaps. In addition, it has been a way to involve volunteers who are complying mandatory isolation, and who can help from their homes. In this way, although physically distance, the Red Cross remains close.”, says Mariela Miranda, Head of Communications for the Bolivian Red Cross. But it is known that not everyone has access to the internet, for this reason, messages have also been broadcast through radio spots in Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and Guarani, in different parts of Bolivia. Also, volunteers have been spreading prevention measures in markets, such as hand washing and social distancing, using megaphones. “I want to thank the Bolivian Red Cross for all their work, for all their love and the effort they make, informing and educating us with all the information they provide, whether it is to protect, prevent, or follow a protocol regarding day-to-day health.”, says Ale Marin, one of the most active users in BRC social media. The Bolivian Red Cross is committed and will continue to provide information to all those who require it, in order to clarify doubts and questions of those who need it.

|
Article

PRCS volunteer: "Commitment, understanding and awareness are needed to defeat COVID-19"

Photos and words by Palestine Red Crescent Society Salma Mahmoud Al Barqawi (50) has been volunteering with PRCS in Anabta for the past 17 years, and this fills her with pride. The years she has spent volunteering have shaped her personality, made her an active member of society and increased her awareness and commitment to her town, friends and family. Salma first heard about the new coronavirus on local radio, and then attended an awareness-raising workshop held by PRCS on COVID—19 in Anabta. “After the workshop, I communicated the basic health messages conveyed to us to other community members to help them protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus. I did this in a simple and reassuring manner without stoking fear or panic in the community”, she says. Speaking about her personal experience with the new Coronavirus, Salma explains that her husband works inside Israel. He had spent an entire month away from home, but with the rapid spread of the virus and the many calls for workers to return to their villages, he decided to come home along with eight other workers from the town. When they reached the nearest checkpoint to Anabta, Salma called PRCS and asked for the phone number of the Preventive Medicine Unit, which she then immediately contacted. ”My husband and his colleagues then reported to the COVID—19 testing center. None of them tested positive, but they all self-quarantined for 14 days. When this happened, I realized the importance of the health messages and preventive measures I learned through the PRCS workshop”, she says. Salma also called the wives of her husband’s colleagues and explained to them that no one should hug, kiss or touch their husbands and that they needed to be isolated. “We all agreed to keep in touch and to contact PRCS should we have questions.” In Salma Mahmoud Al Barqawi’s house, her husband had to use a separate bedroom and bathroom. Salma washed all his clothes separately and served him his meals in disposable plates. ”None of us came within 2 meters from him. I also called PRCS and they sent volunteers to disinfect my house. It was very difficult for my husband to stay away from his grandchildren whom he missed a lot. But he knew that he had to protect them by respecting social distancing measures”, she explains. Salma believes that defeating COVID—19 requires a strong will, commitment, understanding and awareness. “Above all, do not panic and keep a cool head because panicking will overwhelm you and prevent you from working effectively to prevent the spread of the virus.My final advice to everyone: stay at home – for your sake but also for the sake of your loved ones and your homeland”, Salma concludes.

|
Press release

IFRC calls for “reset” of Ebola response as cases surpass 2,000

Geneva/Nairobi, 4 June 2019 – Aid organisations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) need to “reset” their response to the current Ebola outbreak and place more emphasis on understanding and addressing persistent community fears, mistrust and concerns. Nicole Fassina, Ebola Virus Disease Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “The Ebola response effort has undoubtedly saved lives and helped prevent the spread of this disease beyond North Kivu and Ituri. We’ve now reached more than 2,000 Ebola cases and the numbers being reported have risen dramatically. We need to reset the response, and place communities at the centre of all of our efforts.” More than 1,300 people have died in what is now the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Worryingly, the number of Ebola cases has increased significantly in recent weeks to between 15-20 new cases per day. This escalation is at least in part due to the precarious security situation in the affected area. Ebola responders do not only face resistance from communities but are also exposed to threats and attacks by armed groups. IFRC is concerned that partners limit their use of security or military support as much as possible. Increasing armed protection for Ebola responders may aggravate the tensions that already exist between communities and responders. With the announcement last week by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of a scale up of the Ebola response, now is the time to critically look at how we change our approach with communities. “We welcome the commitment of partners to scale up the response to this outbreak. But we need to ensure we do this in the right way. As a humanitarian community, we need to invest more in locally-led response approaches. This outbreak will only end when communities are engaged and leading the response efforts themselves.”

|
Article

Early detection, early action: preventing DRC’s Ebola outbreak from spreading into nearby Uganda

Communities living along the porous borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remain at high risk of the spread of Ebola. Thousands cross each day to sell and buy goods, tend to their farm and visit family and friends. With the epicentre of DRC’s largest Ebola outbreak only 100 kilometers away from the Ugandan border, it is crucial to contain and stop the virus from spreading. Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been scaling up its response to help prepare communities and to prevent the spread of the virus. Volunteers are in high-risk areas, sensitizing communities about Ebola – providing information about the virus, what they can do to protect themselves, and screening the thousands of individuals who cross the border each day. Community engagement through music, drama, and mobile cinemas have also been employed to reach thousands of people. “We would like to see communities that can easily detect diseases, potential epidemics and communities that can respond in case epidemics occur,” said Dr. Kasumba Joseph, Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program Officer with the Uganda Red Cross. “Most importantly we want communities that can actually prevent these epidemics. We are doing this through our volunteers.” Karungi Shamillahis a Uganda Red Cross volunteer trained to educate families about Ebola and other health issues in her community.Photo: IFRC/Corrie Butler Halting the virus before its spread through a real-time mobile system Through Uganda Red Cross’ extensive network of community-based volunteers, a powerful surveillance system has been set up, in coordination with other actors and the Ministry of Health. This system helps stop the virus’ spread, detecting outbreaks before they happen. Uganda Red Cross has trained community-based volunteers to recognize the signs of potential Ebola illness and to alert the authorities for follow up and care of people with such signs. With the help of the ‘Kobo Collect’ Mobile App, these cases are logged and are instantly shared with local health authorities for rapid action. If a case is detected the person can receive prompt treatment and the disease can be contained. This enables the reporting of any epidemic alerts in real time with low costs and resources. “These communities being near the border are quite vulnerable. We have a lot of movement across the border, especially on market days, the risk of an Ebola outbreak is imminent,” says Kasumba, based in Bundibugyo. “We have now trained 50 community-based volunteers who are using this technology as a surveillance tool to help prevent the threat of Ebola in Uganda.” Only weeks after the training, volunteers have already started working in their communities where they hold sessions with community members and sensitize them about Ebola. Others, like Mugenyi Adam, have already sent out alerts to their supervisor. “I have so far sent two alerts to my supervisor. I am proud that the community trusts me already and in case of any suspicions, I am the first one they call. This is what makes me proud – the response is so, so fast.” He recalls one alert he submitted after conducting door to door community sensitization: “A lady called me and told me her grand-daughter was sick, showing some of the symptoms of Ebola. I called my supervisor and informed him about it. I was amazed to see a response in just 25 minutes. They checked on the girl, took her to hospital and fortunately she tested negative for Ebola. I kept checking on the family to ensure that they were doing the right hygiene practices. I am so proud, I believe I saved her life.” In Bundibugyo district, volunteers are conducting, what is called “passive” community-based surveillance. This means volunteers report alerts as they encounter them in the community while they conduct community health awareness activities. During large scale outbreaks, surveillance moves into an “active” phase where volunteers proactively reach out door-to-door ensuring alerts are quickly identified for a faster, more effective response. Community-based surveillance, on its own, is not enough: coordination is key Well before the community-based surveillance system was launched through the IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3), significant coordination was done with stakeholders, including government ministries, health care workers, sectors for animal health, agriculture and environment, development partners, civil society, and the communities themselves. “We have been trained in this approach by the Red Cross and we have worked closely with them to tackle community epidemics in this region. Given that Ebola is the major threat at the moment, all efforts have been focused on prevention and preparedness because of our proximity to neighboring Congo where Ebola has already killed many people,” said Dr. Samson Ndyanabaisi, the District Veterinary Officer in Bundibugyo district. “The future of this project is very bright and the government always welcomes such support and collaborations.” Communities remain at the heart of preparedness With epidemics and pandemics continuing to take place around the world, it is increasingly important to ensure communities are prepared to respond in order to stop outbreaks early. Ebola is only one of the many health risks that IFRC’s CP3 is helping combat. The vision is that Uganda will use this as a model and continue to expand it to other epidemic and pandemic risks that are faced in the community, such as cholera or measles. “As the Red Cross, we’re very strong at mobilizing to support communities when something happens. We’re one of the first who are there to take action. But we can do better than this,” explains Abbey Byrne, Community Based Surveillance Delegate with the IFRC. “We’re also there before the epidemic. We can halt the spread instead of reacting once these diseases have already reached epidemic proportions.” There is no one who understands a community more than its own. When challenges arise, they are the ones best suited to come up with the solutions. During epidemics, these community members are the first to respond and can, ultimately, save lives. More about the CP3 programme Launched in 2017 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) scales up efforts towards global health security. The program strengthens the ability of communities, National Societies and other partners in 8 target countries to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats and play a significant role in preparing for future risks.