Community health

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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.

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World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day: How a vigilant volunteer helped thwart an emerging cholera outbreak

The city of Tog Wajaale, perched on the Somaliland-Ethiopia border, serves as a crucial crossing point for people and goods, particularly those coming and going from the port of Berbera, located about 300 kilometers away on the Gulf of Aden.It is also a place where an outbreak of any infectious disease could travel quickly — and far — because of the high levels of commerce and people passing through.That’s one reason the swift action of a Red Crescent community health volunteer Nimao Abdi Bade was so critical during the first days of a cholera outbreak in January 2024.Spotting a family with severe symptoms, Nimao recognized the signs and reported their case via a platform managed by the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS), which then triggered a swift official response from health authorities and the rapid activation of resources from IFRC's Disaster Resonse Emergency Fund.It turned to be the first reported case ofacute watery diarrhoea (AWD) and cholera in Somaliland and it led to a combined and coordinated response that greatly reduced the impact of the outbreak.A vigilant volunteerNimao's vigilance didn't stop at the first case. Tracing the family's contacts, she uncovered more potential cases involving people who had recently crossed the border. This led to confirmation of several cholera cases and a Ministry of Health intervention.Trained by SRCS to identify and reportcases ofacute watery diarrhoea (AWD) and cholera and inspired by her success, she urged others to report illnesses promptly."AWD/Cholera was new to us," Nimao says. "But SRCS training equipped us to respond. I am so proud of myself and being a volunteer of SRCS."The outbreak prompted SRCS to deploy more volunteers for house-to-house visits and hygiene promotion.Nimao's commitment went beyond initial reporting. During her house-to-house visits, she identified five additional cross-border cases, promptly reporting them. These reports, verified by SRCS Community Health Officer Roda Mohamoud Mohamed, led to further investigations. The following day, six more suspected cases were reported and escalated to the Ministry of Health.Empowered by her success, Nimao has become a champion for timely reporting and community-based surveillance. Her diligence exemplifies the vital role volunteers play in strengthening public health responses.SRCS also responded by mobilizing volunteers in Wajaale, another town on the Ethiopian-Somaliland border, and the surrounding areas, as well as the nearby Marodijeh region. The focus shifted to house-to-house visits, hygiene promotion, and raising community awareness about AWD/Cholera risks and prevention.

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Tajikistan: From landslides to landmines, partnership helps keep people safe and healthy

Three kilometres from the Changal village school in Tajikistan lies a minefield.As the summer holidays approach, chemistry teacher Saida Meliboeva and other Tajikistan Red Crescent volunteers warn children to stay away from the danger zone in the border area between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.However, cattle are moving into the minefield and children and herding animals are in danger.No one knows exactly where the mines are, as they are not marked on the map. Frequent mudslides and floods move the mines to unpredictable locations.Information shared by the Tajikistan Red Crescent has helped keep children safe and it has been 15 years without any mine accidents.This is just one of the many critical activities supported by a three-yearpartnership between IFRC and the EU issupporting local communities in Tajikistan to effectively anticipate, respond, and recover from the impact of multiple shocks and hazards.Schoolchildren also learn how to act during an earthquake and other disasters and everyday accidents. In a preparedness exercise organised by the Tajikistan Red Crescent, students learned how to leave classrooms quickly and give first aid to the injured."Our teacher told us what to do in case of a mudslide or an earthquake, or what to do if someone breaks a bone or you need to give first aid," says Manija, a student from Panjakent in Tajikistan."If there is an earthquake, we find a place where there are no houses and sit there. We have to staybrave and calm and go out without rushing."Tajikistan Red Crescent volunteer Azambek Dusyorov still remembers what the mudslide approaching his home in Panjakent, looked like. Spotting the mass of earth falling from the mountains, Azambek told his friends and family of the danger and ran for safety up the hill. Fortunately, the house remained standing.Since then, Azambek and other Red Crescent volunteers have planted trees in the yard, the roots of which help keep the earth masses in place. A wide track has been cut into the hillside, allowing the mudslides to descend into the valley without destroying homes and crops.When clashes intensified along the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgystan, Red Crescent volunteerAbdurahmon Sultanbegan visiting homes in the region to make sure people know how to take care of themselves and their neighbors in case of an injury.One of the homes he visited was that ofMashkhura Hamroboeva, in Khistevarz jamoat at Khujand.Since then, meetings have continued, and discussions have revolved around everyday topics."We meet 2–3 times a month. We talk about everything from how to prevent frostbite in winter to how to avoid infectious diseases," says 17-year-old Abdurahmon.It didn’t take long for Abdurahmon's advice to come in handy. When Mashkhura's three-year-old son accidentally spilled a hot cup of tea on himself, Mashkhura remembered what Abdurahmon had told her.Traditionally, a burn had been treated with a cut potato, but this time Mashkhura dipped the child'shand in cool water.There are just some of the Tajikistan Red Crescent actions (supported by the Programmatic Partnership) that help people and communities prevent future catastrophies and take care of themselves during crises they weren’t able to prevent.TheProgrammatic Partnership between the IFRC network and the European Union, provides strategic, flexible, long-term and predictable funding, so that National Societies can act before an emergency occurs. It is being implemented in 24 countries around the world.

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World Immunization Week: Delivering vaccines and trustworthy information to communities around the world

A mother of four and restaurant owner from Dabola, in central Guinea, Diaraye says she felt scared about vaccines. She didn’t think she had enough information and she’d heard rumours about harmful side effects.Several health workers came to visit her to try and convince her to vaccinate her newborn, Madiou, but she still felt uneasy.That was until she met Bérété, a Guinea Red Cross supervisor with theCommunity Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).A mother herself, Bérété connected with Diaraye and patiently explained how vaccinating her own children has kept them safe from diseases. She responded sensitively to Diaraye’s concerns.Newly informed and confident, Diaraye agreed for Bérété to take baby Madiou for his first immunizations. Since then, Diaraye has become a champion for vaccination within her community.“My advice to mothers is to agree to their children getting vaccinated," says Diaraye. "Since the Red Cross came to help me vaccinate my baby, I’ve seen that it’s good for children. And I tell all mothers to go and get their children vaccinated at the health centre.”A global story, playing out locally, house-by-houseDiaraya’s story is far from unique. People around the world often don’t have access to life-saving vaccines, do not have all the facts about how they work, or don’t know who they can trust to give them accurate and unbiased information.This is why trusted community organizations, like Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, are playing a critical role in reaching out at the local level, providing trustworthy information while enabling access to vaccines in places that are underserved by health services. In many cases, they are in the midst of ongoing emergencies.This year, World Immunization Week revolves around the theme of Humanly Possible, also the name of a global campaign to celebrate and build on the achievements made in protecting people from preventable diseases during the last 75 years.For its part, the IFRC is redoubling efforts to bring awareness and vaccines to people in vulnerable situations — conflict, outbreaks, forced migration, natural disaster — or who lack access to immunization services for whatever reason.The approach varies to meet the specific situation of each county. They also span the globe, from National Societies in Guinea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, andKyrgyzstan,and many others. Here are a few more examples of the ways Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are taking on a wide range of very different immunization challenges.Philippine Red Cross takes on another measles outbreakThe Philippine Red Cross Society (PRCS) has been supporting the government of ThePhilippinesin responding to a measles outbreak by vaccinating more than 15,000 children ages 6 months to below 10 years old with measles vaccine.As of April 14, 2024, the Philippine Red Cross has vaccinated more than 15,500 children, mobilizing a total of 131 volunteers (35 vaccinators and 96 support volunteers) in 85 communities in four provinces.The PRCS’ measles outbreak response is being donein collaboration with the ICRC, which also has a long-time presence in theBangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, an area where people are impacted by internal conflict. Because of low immunization rates in the area, It's also one of the main places in the country where the measles outbreak is happening.The PRCShas been part of other polio and measles outbreak responses and plans to expand this current operation by deploying vaccination teams from other chapters, with the help ofresources from the IFRC and the United States Center for Disease Control.Using innovation to improve access to immunization in ThailandThe Thai Red Cross Society (TRCS), meanwhile, has been using technology in innovative ways tobring immunization services to people who would not otherwise have access to immunization services.In Thailand, many displaced people and undocumented residents are living without proper forms of identification required to access vaccination services. To address the health gap, TRCS partnered with the Department of Disease Control of the Ministry of Public Health and Thailand’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Center to develop the Thai Red Cross Biometric Authentication System.This system uses a biometric authentication system, using face and iris recognition technology — while still ensuring data privacy — to accurately identify and register vaccine recipients.This allows people without official documentation to still receive vaccines and it enables a way to keep a record of the vaccinations received.Using this technology, TRCS reached 20,000 adolescent girls (specifically ethnic minorities, migrants, and refugees) living in temporary shelters across the country with 40,000 doses of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. This helped to significantly decrease their chances of getting HPV, a major, but vaccine-preventable cause of cervical cancer.If this can be expanded, more displaced persons and undocumented residents can be assured to have access to their next essential vaccine, such as a booster shot.Local presence, ready to prevent and respondOver the long term, immunization campaigns are only fully effective if they are of high quality and result in high rates of coverage. The challenge now is to improve and strengthen routine immunisation to better prevents future outbreaks, while also ensuring there is capacity in place to respond quickly and engage communities — if and when outbreaks occur.This is why the work of National Societies is so critical. As national organizations with widespread local presence, they are ideally suited to work with local and national health authorities and communities to build trust while delivering consistent access to immunization. The video below shows how the Pakistan Red Crescent brings immunization through local clinics.Back in Guinea, Red Cross volunteer Bérété continues to visit Diaraye to make sure her son Madiou is doing well, as part of her work engaging members of her community on how to protect themselves and their families.“We keep supporting her, because every time I send her child to hospital to be vaccinated, I never forget to follow up,”explains Bérété. “Every morning I come to see her to check on the child. Because you can’t just vaccinate a child and leave without following up. If she can see that you are there for her at all times, she will have the courage” to keep up with necessary immunizations in the future.

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World Malaria Day: Volunteer goes the last mile to save baby boy’s life in Sierra Leone

Baindu Momoh is a mother from Gbaigibu in Kailahun district, eastern Sierra Leone. Her village is so small and remote it doesn’t show up on most maps—but that doesn’t stop the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society from looking out for the health of her community.In October 2023, Baindu came rushing to her local Red Cross volunteer, Joseph. Something was deeply wrong. Her baby boy, Senesie, had a fever, was sweating and vomiting, and had a puffy face and eyes. Baindu feared for his life.Thankfully, Joseph is part of the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) and is trained in how to detect, report, and respond to disease threats—meaning he knew exactly what to do.“I have established strong relationships with both the health facility and the community. When the child’s mother reached out to me in distress, I immediately recognized the urgency of the situation,” explains Joseph.In the absence of timely local ambulance services, Joseph rushed Baindu and her baby on his motorbike to the nearest Community Health Post in Woroma, where Senesie was diagnosed with severe malaria and anaemia. Baindu was told that, to survive, Senesie needed an urgent blood transfusion—only available at the Kailahun Government Hospital, some 30 miles away.Without hesitation, Joseph offered to help, explaining:“As a trained volunteer with a humanitarian organization, my community is my responsibility.”But in this part of the world, getting to the hospital is easier said than done.On his motorbike, with Baindu and Senesie on the back, Joseph embarked on the long, bumpy road to Kailahun—carefully navigating the treacherous terrain and crossing rivers along the way. Thankfully, they arrived safely and Senesie was quickly treated by hospital staff. “Since I could help, I couldn’t let him die. So I made the decision to pay for the treatment because the parents couldn’t afford the cost,” explains Joseph.Thanks to Joseph’s quick action and support, Senesie made a full recovery from malaria. After a week in hospital, Baindu and Senesie returned to their home in Gbaigibu. Joseph continues to check in on them to make sure they’re doing well.“Joseph risked his life to save my son’s. Upon reaching the Kailahun Government Hospital, he paid for a blood transfusion that the medical practitioners had recommended. To me, Joseph is a true lifesaver who helped us in our time of need,” says Baindu.Baindu isn’t the only person in Gbaigibu to be supported by Joseph. He regularly engages people in his community on how to prevent, detect, and respond to diseases—such as malaria, measles, and yellow fever—so they can stay healthy and safe.Fomba Lamin, head of the Woroma Community Health Post, feels Joseph plays an invaluable role in encouraging village members to seek health support.“We thank the CP3 programme, it is improving our referral rate. Community members we refer in the past did not go to Kailahun for obvious reasons: the means of transportation. But with people such as Joseph, who encourage our people to seek health care in Kailahun, we see the reduction of death in our community,” says Fomba.Although malaria is preventable and treatable, the death toll from the disease remains high for children under 5 and pregnant women, particularly in remote and hard-to-reach communities. Key challenges to controlling malaria include a lack of reliable access to health services and prevention supplies, a decrease in global funding for malaria, and a widespread and increasing rise in insecticide resistance in malaria-endemic countries. Recent innovations, such as the approval from WHO of new insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to address insecticide resistance and two new malaria vaccines for children, are positive steps to tackling the disease. Through programmes like CP3, the IFRC is supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide to plan and deliver high-quality malaria prevention activities, such as:Supporting ministries of health and their partners to plan and implement distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets through mass campaigns or continuous distribution channels. Administering preventive treatment to children as part of seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaigns.Promoting individual preventive practices through social and behaviour change activities to encourage people to sleep under a bed net every night of the year, seek prompt and early healthcare in case of fever or malaria-related symptoms, and attend antenatal care for malaria prevention.This story from Sierra Leone is a great example of how National Societies are supporting communities to prevent and seek treatment for malaria, encouraging them to implement practices that will protect them from the disease, and improving their access to health care—even in remote and isolated communities.The IFRC also houses and chairs the Alliance for Malaria Prevention, a global partnership that supports ministries of health and their financial and implementing partners with the planning and implementation of ITN distribution, primarily through mass campaigns. ITNs remain the most effective tool to protect at-risk communities from malaria. --Joseph, the volunteer mentioned in this article, is part of the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3). Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme supports communities, National Societies, and other partners in seven countries to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to disease threats. If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more:Visit the malaria page on IFRC.orgVisit the Alliance for Malaria Prevention websiteSign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness NewsletterFollow the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society on X, Facebook and LinkedIn

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World Immunization Week: Afghan Red Crescent mobile health teams bring life-saving immunization and care to people in remote areas

Muhammad Taher, a 40-year-old farmer and his family of eight children, is among the many families who have received life-saving immunization and medical care from Afghan Red Crescent Society mobile health teams.Getting any sort of healthcare in Muhammad Taher’s district, Nahr Seraj of Helmand province, has been a tremendous challenge for decades. Nahr Seraj is four-hour drive from the nearest city, Lashkar Gah, southwestern Afghanistan.For more than two decades now, public health care services in Afghanistan have relied on international financing while the last mile is delivered by various local humanitarian actors.As the IFRC marks World Immunization Week 2024, which this year has a theme of Humanly Possible, the Afghan Red Crescent’s efforts to bring healthcare and immunization to remote rural areas is a impressive example of what can be achieved through consistent, dedicated local presence.Following the historic events that took place in August 2021, a major strain was put on the public health system as donors reorganized their financing models. The transition stretched the system significantly, but a total collapse was prevented through solutions which have enabled continuation of primary and secondary health services.The Afghan Red Crescent Society is one of the local actors engaged in the delivery of primary and secondary health services in the country.The National Society’s network of more than 200 health facilities includes 97 mobile health teams, 46 fixed basic health clinics, 28 sub health clinics, one comprehensive health clinic, and a district hospital. There are also more than 40 health camps supporting routine immunization efforts in various provinces.Life-saving pre-natal care, medication and vaccinationThe ongoing economic hardship means that Taher, and countless others, are unable to pay medical bills or even reach the health facilities located in Afghan cities."My pregnant wife and three of my little girls fell ill recently and needed urgent healthcare but I couldn't afford to take them to the city hospital,” said Taher.“I approached my relatives and neighbours to lend me some money for [the trip], but none were able to help because they too were undergoing tremendous economic hardship.“Finally, one of my relatives mentioned that an Afghan Red Crescent Society mobile health team was operating in our village and suggested that I take my sick family members there.“Without wasting any time, I rushed back home and took my wife and children to where the teams were located. Thankfully my wife was able to get her prenatal checkup done by a midwife, my sick daughters were examined by a doctor and received free medication, and my other children got vaccinated,” he explained in relief.Vital support from partnersAfghan Red Crescent Society health facilities are supported by several partners, including the IFRC. For instance, in 2022 the IFRC provided funding for 47 mobile health teams which delivered primary healthcare and immunization services at least 500,000 people, among them women and children, in rural and remote areas of Afghanistan such as Taher’s district.The 47 mobile health teams have so far operated in many remote provinces including Nangarhar, Kunar, Nooristan, Kandahar, Helmand, Urozgan, Parwan, Sar-e Pol, Bamyan, Paktika, Wardak, Nimrooz, Herat, Badghis, and Jawzjan in the past years.Taher is certain that his family is now much safer after their visit to the Afghan Red Crescent mobile health unit.“My wife and my children are precious to me, and I can't imagine my life without them,” he said. “When they get sick, I get so worried since I have previously lost a close family member because we were unable to reach a doctor in time.“I can't express how grateful I am to the Afghan Red Crescent Society for sending a mobile health team to our village. They are providing life-saving help to people like us in remote rural areas where access to healthcare facilities is so constrained or totally non-existent."In 2023, the IFRC supported the Afghan Red Cresent in administering more than 390,000 doses of vaccines to children under 59 months of age.This included vaccinating more than 5,000 children in their second year of life (12 to 23 months of age) with measles vaccines as part of catch-up efforts, and giving some 46,000 oral polio vaccine doses to children aged between 24 to 59 months as part of intensive efforts to halt wild poliovirus transmission.IFRC’s support to the Afghan Red Crescent is part of its commitment, expressed in the IFRC Health and Care Framework 2023, to support National Societies in reaching “more than six million zero dose children globally and to reinforce both polio eradication efforts and routine immunization strengthening in multiple countries”.National Societies and the IFRC work together to expand routine immunizations to children through integrated service delivery and community engagement approaches. Trusted local healthcare volunteers work within at-risk communities to ensure children receive life-saving vaccinations for preventable diseases such as polio, measles and cholera.Words by Mir Abdul Tawab Razavy | Editing by Rachel Punitha

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Gaza: A family of volunteers, helping others while they themselves cope with the hard realities of conflict

“I wake up early at seven in the morning to attend to the family's needs, then head to the nearby market, which is one kilometer away. I search for something to feed my hungry children.”This is how a typical day starts for Youssef Khoder, a Palestine Red Crescent volunteer from northern Gaza. Youssef comes from a family of volunteers. His mother is an obstetrics nurse, his brother Mahmoud and Ibrahim are also both nurses.“We have been working at the PRCS medical point in Jabalia since its establishment,” he says. “We were displaced and had to move to a shelter center, but now the situation has changed, and we have returned to our homes.”After getting food at the market, Youssef and his wife start a fire to prepare food for their young children. The eldest daughter, Ayloul, is 6 years old. Mohammed is 4, and Ghaith is 2. Then Youssef is off to meet his brothers at the medical point in Jabalia.“We walk 2 kilometers back and forth every day to reach the medical point where we volunteer,” he says. “We carry out our work because it is our humanitarian duty, continuing to serve our people in northern Gaza.”A vital point for community health amid conflictThe medical point consists of a large tent, inside which there are about a dozen rolling hospital gurneys or beds. The medical post in Jabalia, in the Northern Gaza Strip, has remained operational and provided medical and health services to thousands of affected people even when key hospitals went out of service; it continues to provide services despite the shortage of medicine.While his brothers attend to patients, Youssef takes photos as part of his responsibilities documenting the work of his Palestine Red Crescent colleagues. This is important role in documenting the humanitarian needs as well as the reporting to the world what the Red Crescent is doing to try and address those needs.This is not as easy as it may seem. With power outages and damaged communications infrastructure, the simple act of sending the photographs to headquarters is not so simple."After the afternoon prayer, I walk one kilometer to a high-altitude location so I can catch a signal and gain internet access. I spend half an hour sending files to the administration before returning to the medical point. We spend an hour with colleagues before heading back, sometimes stopping by the market to get some food for suhoor and for the next day. However, food is scarce and the prices are very high."During Ramadan, all this was done while fasting from sun up to sun down. After work, they would return home before breaking their fast (iftar). "My family and I sit together. I break my fast with them, pray the Maghrib prayer, have tea, and then return to the medical point on foot. I work for a few hours before coming home late.Concerning food scarcity, it’s like we have been fasting for 6 months, so it’s not just during Ramadan.We continue to work with even greater determination than before, and we pray that we remain able to serve the people, and that Gaza’s dark days will soon pass.”

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Podcast

Dr. Fatma Meriç Yilmaz: ‘Regardless of culture, country, creed, language or religion,’ ensuring everyone has a seat at the table

As the first female president of the Turkish Red Crescent, Dr. Fatma Meriç Yilmaz talks about her National Society’s role in supporting one of the world’s largest refugee populations and in running the world’s most ambitious humanitarian cash assistance programmes. She also discusses the continuing impacts from the earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria in Feb 2023. As a champion of women in humanitarian leadership in Türkiye and globally, shetalks about the significant gains made in recent years and what still needs to be done to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

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Basic page

World Health Day 2024

Everyone, everywhere should have access to good health care and the basic ingredients to a healthy life. The theme of World Health Day in 2024 is 'My Health, My Right', and we could not agree more. Access to health care is a basic human right. My health, my right also means a healthy environment, safe food and water, and strong community readiness for emergencies and epidemics. Sadly, access to those basic ingredients are under threat, due to conflict, climate events, natural calamity and extreme poverty. We invite you to join our ongoing efforts to help people around the world access this most basic of human rights.

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For these two humanitarians in Madagascar, investing in women means breaking gender barriers and stigmas

At just 23 years old, Valisoa Liesse Razafisalama is already making a significant impact as a third-year communication student at the Madagascar’s National Tele-Education Center and a dedicated volunteer with the Malagasy Red Cross.Through her involvement in the National Disaster Response Team (NDRT), Valisoa has gained valuable experience raising awareness and providing training following recent tropical storms.However, it has been her initiative to challenge societal norms surrounding menstruation that truly showcased her dedication to breaking down barriers.“As members of the Red Cross movement, active in the humanitarian sector, we advocate for greater recognition of the role of women,” says Valisoa, who is among the roughly 42 percent of Malagasy Red Cross NDRT staff who are women.“We encourage the equitable inclusion of women in community decision-making, breaking with the trend of prioritizing men. We persist in our efforts because as women volunteers, we make significant contributions to the well-being of the communities where we operate.” Not just a women’s issueValisoa observed a prevailing trend where men in her community showed disinterest in discussions about menstruation, viewing it solely as a women's issue. Determined to change this perspective, she organised awareness sessions for both men and women, emphasising the natural and normal aspects of menstruation.By fostering a shared understanding within the community, Valisoa contributed to eliminating the stigmas associated with menstruation and promoting gender equality.In many post disaster situations, fear of talking about menstruation or other health issues can mean that women simply do not get full attention and care they need to stay healthy.Challenging cultural stereotypes With a background in biodiversity and the environment, and extensive experience in humanitarian work, 33-year-old Lova Arsène Linà Ravelohasindrazana exemplifies resilience and determination in challenging gender stereotypes.Working as a project manager for the Malagasy Red Cross, Lova oversees interventions in the Anosy region, were cultural barriers often hinder women's participation in leadership roles.Despite facing resistance, Lova actively promotes women's empowerment, ensuring their involvement in decision-making and community initiatives.Seven percent of decision makers on the National Society’s management team are women and Lova is among them."During interventions, whether it's in the communities or among the people I supervise, the culture still makes it difficult for them to accept women that lead,” she says. “As a project manager, there are times when I can feel it most.“But I also try to understand how these communities in which I work function. How I can make them more aware of what I and others can bring, how to better approach things and what are the approaches to avoid offending people's sensitivities in relation to their culture.” Lova's dedication to advocating for women's rights extends beyond her professional life. She also educates women about their rights and encourages their active participation in various initiatives, contributing to a more equitable society.

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Article

Cholera: Outbreak silences a once vibrant town in southwestern Zimbabwe

Where children would normally be playing, it is now quiet on the streets of Mapanza, a small village in the southwest of Zimbabwe. The communal gatherings for meals have ceased, laughter is absent, and everyday clothing has been replaced by rain boots and protective suits.The village is grappling with a relentless cholera outbreak, starkly highlighting the severity of the disease.On a recent day of heavy rains, puddles surround the three large tents in the middle of the village. Medical personnel with masks and gloves move in and out of the tents. IV drips are carried into the tent where the most critical patients lie.In the other two tents, health workers attend to patients whose conditions have stabilized. Occasionally, a curious child peeks out from the tent. She appears to be about five years old.As we walk further into the village, we encounter Alec. "It likely started at a church service where many people gathered," says Alec, friendly and energetic man who lives in the village and who personally experienced how quickly cholera can strike without mercy. "Shortly after that, people started getting sick."Sources of contaminationIn addition, the community shares one water source, which got contaminated. Since cholera easily spreads through water, nearly half of the village was estimated to have fallen ill. There are no healthcare facilities in the area, exacerbating the situation to a critical level within hours.People were lying on the ground with nowhere to go, Alec recalls. "People started experiencing severe diarrhea and vomiting profusely,” he said. “Almost half of the compound population was down, and a local couple tried to ferry as many people as possible to the hospital in Chiredzi, but it was overwhelming. The worst affected were children and women; people also died." Alec also had to fight for his life. After he fell ill, his wife waited anxiously for news about her husband. She couldn't be with him and didn't know his condition. It was a nerve-wracking period.An immediate responseToday, when visitors come to the village, it's hard to grasp that this nightmare happened just a few weeks ago. While the events still loom large over the community, and things are still far from normal, fewer people are falling ill and very few are dying, thanks to those who mobilized to help.Volunteers from the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) immediately supported the Ministry of Health and Child Care, bringing tents, medical supplies, and "oral rehydration solutions" so that people could be safely treated and no longer had to lie on the ground. Together with the Ministry of Health, they were able to control the outbreak.Even now, volunteers are everywhere in the village. Many of them, such as Alec's wife, are community members who volunteered after experiencing what cholera did to their loved ones. She now participates in door-to-door campaigns, informing people about how to protect themselves so that an outbreak of this magnitude does not happen again.Since the beginning of the outbreak, ZRCS volunteers and staff have been taking action to combat the spread of cholera and provide care for patients. The Red Cross has also been supporting the Ministry of Health in setting up a cholera treatment centre to allow individuals with symptoms of cholera access to appropriate care.Volunteers have also been visiting communities to inform people on how to protect themselves and their loved ones, as well as what to do if they become ill.To jumpstart the initial response, the IFRC's Disaster Response Emergency Fund (IFRC-DREF) allocated CHF 500,000 and soon after, the IFRC launched an emergency appeal seeking CHF 3 million in order to to reach more than 550,000 people with life-saving assistance and help to contain the outbreak.

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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

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Article

A deadly start to 2024: Cholera in Zimbabwe spreads rapidly after holiday season

Almost a year ago, the first patient with cholera in Zimbabwe was reported in the town of Chegutu, located about 100 kilometres southwest of the capital Harare. Throughout 2023, the numbers have only increased, as the disease spread to all the country’s ten provinces. During the recent holiday period, there was an additional steep increase as people travelled and gathered to celebrate with their extended families, giving the disease new opportunities to spread. “Our worst fears and predictions for the post-holiday season are confirmed with this upward trend of people contracting cholera," says John Roche, head of IFRC's Country Cluster Delegation for Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.“This is especially worrisome for people with vulnerable health, who are the most affected and urgently need assistance.” "With schools starting again and people going back to work, we must act quickly to reduce the numbers now. We have no time to lose; we need to break the cycle as every life in jeopardy is one too many.” No time to lose For this reason, speed is of the essence. Cholera spreads rapidly and easily. Simply drinking or eating something infected with the cholera bacteria can result in infection. This can lead to severe diarrhea and vomiting, sometimes so intense that people lose litres of water per day. The dehydration that followed can lead to death if measures are not put in place to rehydrate quickly. In the capital city, many people live in close quarters and hygiene measures are poor, increasing the risk of becoming ill. With thousands of suspected cholera cases in the capital, Harare has declared a state of emergency. Additionally, sewage and water infrastructure in many places in the country are in dilapidated condition requiring major rehabilitation. Sewage blockages are common, contributing to the rapid spread of the disease. Moreover, people struggle to access clean water for cooking and drinking. Red Cross ready to help Since the beginning of the outbreak, volunteers, and aid workers from the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) have been taking action to combat the spread of cholera and provide care for patients. Volunteers have been visiting communities to inform people on how to protect themselves and their loved ones, as well as what to do if they become ill. ZRCS has also been supporting the Ministry of Health in setting up Cholera treatment to allow individuals with symptoms of cholera access to appropriate care. A total of nine Oral Rehydration Points (ORPs) have been set up throughout the country (in Harare, Mutare district, Masvingo district and Mashonaland). These locations were chosen based on the presence of trained volunteers conducting door-to-door cholera awareness sensitization. A community feedback mechanism has been setup and there are currently community feedback meetings and suggestion boxes at numerous health facilities. So far, community outreach volunteers have connected and shared information with over 171,000 people. To ensure that Red Cross teams can act promptly, the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (IFRC-DREF) allocated roughly 500,000 in June 2023 to support immediate response efforts. Unfortunately, cholera spreads rapidly, and ZRCS needs more funds to ensure that the number of infected individuals reaches zero. For this reason, the IFRC and its members are urging people to support its emergency appeal seeking CHF 3 million to support the ZRCS reach 550,455 people with life-saving assistance and help to contain the outbreak. “This support is vitally needed to combat cholera and help ensure that no more lives are lost to this disease,” says IFRC’s Roche.

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Article

Hunger crisis: ‘Now I can take care of my own family’

In the Lubombo region of Eswatini, near the town of Big Bend, 39-year-old Bongani Masuku looks over at his field of maize. He just harvested a section last week. “But there is still work to do,” Bongani says and starts working the land. Lubombo is one of the hottest areas in Eswatini. As Bongani weeds his field, the temperature has already risen to over 34 degrees. “I remove the weeds so that my maize will grow properly,” he says. “If I let the weeds take over, the seedlings would grow to be very thin and not offer good harvest.” Earlier in the season, Bongani attended an agricultural training, after which he received a cash grant of around 70 euros. He invested the money in maize seeds that are more resilient to drought, as climate change has made rains more irregular and increased drought. Around 70 per cent of Eswatini’s population are directly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. This is why the changing weather conditions are extremely concerning. “The recent heatwaves have really made farming more difficult. The maize should not receive too much sunlight when it is blooming. Rain is important at that stage. The last time the maize was in bloom there was no rain at all, so my harvest was smaller than I expected.” The maize field has a great significance to Bongani. “This allows me to feed my family, but also to sell some of the crops and get money,” he adds. “This money helps me put my children to school. I have five children with my darling wife. Now I can buy them schoolbooks and other school supplies, like pens. If I make enough money, I can also buy them shoes to wear to school.” Prolonged food insecurity Like elsewhere in Southern Africa, people in Eswatini are suffering from a severe and prolonged food security crisis that began in 2015. The drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon, further strengthened by climate change and the irregular rains and floods ever since, have damaged harvests year after year. Bongani is one of the 25,500 people included in the three-year project funded by the European Union to improve food security by means of cash assistance. In addition to the Finnish Red Cross, the project includes the Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society and Belgian Red Cross Flanders. For recipients of the cash grants such as Winile Masuku, the cash assistance has meant the ability to buy food such as rice, maize flour and cooking oil at a time when regular food sources are far less plentiful and more expensive. “Before receiving cash assistance, we were dependent on our neighbours,” Winile explains as she sits in front of her home – its walls made of intricately woven branches and stonework. “Now I can take care of my own family.” Gardening for change While not everyone is a farmer, many people in Eswatini grow a portion of their daily sustenance in local community gardens. This is one reason this climate-resilience project also aims to revive the tradition of community gardens. Part of that effort includes trainings from the Ministry of Agriculture on how to most effectively tend community gardens in the face of more extreme climate conditions. After each training, participants get a cash grant of around 35 euros to buy plant seeds, for example. The participants are encouraged to use crop varieties that require less water. “The garden offers stability to my family, as I employ myself with this and take care of my family,” says Sibongile, one of the participants. “The harvest from the garden allows me to feed my family, and I can also sell some crops to get money for my children’s education.” Health in the countryside It’s also important to ensure that people stay healthy as drought and heat can create conditions that exacerbate the spread of diseases and symptoms such as dehydration. For this reason, the EU-funded project also supports the community in epidemic and pandemic preparedness. The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society runs three clinics in the country, and the project supports their capacity to respond to different epidemics, such as diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis and HIV. “Each morning we offer health advice, meaning that we tell patients what epidemics are currently ongoing,” explains Phumlile Gina, a nurse at the clinic in Hosea Inkhundla in the Shiselweni region. “Right now we are informing them of vaccinations, especially against the coronavirus and tuberculosis. We also highlight proper hygiene: we explain how important it is to wash your hands and also remind people to wash their water containers every now and then.” “Some of our patients here in the countryside are very poor,” she adds. “They can come to the clinic for some completely other reason, for a flu for example. But we may then notice that the growth of the patient’s child is clearly stunted and there is reason to suspect malnourishment.” “We are able to take care of such situations as well and monitor the condition of the patients. It feels great when a patient comes back to the clinic after six months and says that their child is doing great and playing like other children.” The Programmatic Partnership between the IFRC network and the European Union, provides strategic, flexible, long-term and predictable funding, so that National Societies can act before an emergency occurs. It is being implemented worldwide including 13 countries in Africa.

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Article

Uganda: School Health Club helps students and communities stay safe from diseases

“The School Health Club has taught us how to look after our health. I also bring the knowledge I learn from the club to my home, and my parents take those messages to the wider community.”These are the words of Kikanshemeza, a pupil at Mwisi Primary school in south-west Uganda and proud member of her School Health Club.Set up by the Uganda Red Cross, the School Health Club helps primary and secondary school pupils understand how to protect themselves from various disease threats, stay healthy, and share their newfound knowledge with their fellow pupils, families, and wider communities.It’s one of the many different activities under the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) – a multi-country programme run by the IFRC and seven Red Cross National Societies to help communities, first responders, and other partners prepare for, detect, prevent, and respond to health risks.Since joining her School Health Club, Kikanshemeza has built a tippy tap—a simple, low-cost handwashing facility that can help reduce up to 50% of avoidable infections—in her home, supported her family to use it regularly and properly, and shared life-saving information about different diseases.“She told us not to eat the meat of animals that have died and to make sure they are buried properly, and also that bats are a potential cause of Ebola and monkeys can transmit it too,” explains Kikanshemeza’s mother, Annet.Knowledge is powerKikanshemeza is one of 30 School Health Club members at Mwisi Primary school. The club meets up once a week in special sessions led by Akampurira, a facilitator from the Uganda Red Cross, who teaches them all about different diseases—including how to recognize signs and symptoms, which people might be most at risk, and actions the students can take to stop diseases from spreading.Club members are then responsible for maintaining school handwashing facilities, making sure all students follow proper hygiene practices, and sharing what they’ve learned with their follow students—often through large, theatrical performances in the school hall.Students act out informative and lively scenes: everything from a patient seeking help from a doctor after noticing signs of malaria, to a person being bitten by a dog in the street and rushing to get vaccinated.Tackling serious health issues in this more fun and light-hearted way helps break down complex topics, keeps fellow students engaged, and helps them retain the knowledge in case they need it in future.Why involve school children in epidemic preparedness?The IFRC and our member National Societies have long focused on helping people prepare for, respond to, and recover from epidemics.We know from experience that effective epidemic preparedness must involve communities themselves, first responders, and partners from across all parts of society – such as schools.“School health clubs have been a game changer in health risk communication, as engaged learners have been excellent peer educators in school, and also change agents at the household level,” explains Henry Musembi, CP3 Programme Delegate for Uganda and Kenya.“The clubs are a great platform for training the next generation of epidemic emergency responders and champions in target communities,” he adds.Seeing positive changeKushaba, another School Health Club member whose brother had previously suffered from malaria, says he’s learned a lot from the club and has noticed positive change in his community:“We learned how we can control malaria by slashing compounds, draining all stagnant water to destroy habitat for mosquitoes, and how you can use a treated mosquito net.”“Before the introduction of the School Health Club, we didn’t have tippy taps, we didn’t know how to use toilets, even how we can clean our school. Pupils, they were suffering from diseases like malaria, cholera, but now because of the School Health Club, they are fine,” he adds.--The School Health Club in Mwisi is one of several set up in Uganda and other countries through the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme runs in seven countries and 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:Visit our Epidemic and pandemic preparedness webpageSign up to the IFRC’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness newsletter

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Article

Nigeria: A community response that is saving lives

By Ene Abba/IFRC When Red Cross volunteers came to her neighborhood, distributing flyers and sensitizing residents about diphtheria Aisha Adam Ibrahim did not take them seriously at first. "I was dismissive at first when the Red Cross volunteers brought the information on diphtheria to our doorstep,” she says. “But that knowledge saved my life." When Aisha fell ill, those information sharing sessions played a crucial role, says Ibrahim, who lives with her extended family in Ungogo community in Kano state. Recognizing the symptoms early, she sought medical help promptly, potentially saving her life. Since December 2022, diphtheria has been spreading across Nigeria, posing a community-wide challenge. Communal living, close-knit neighbourhoods, and shared spaces play a big role both in how this outbreak is spreading and its mitigation. Kano state, with its large diverse population and unique architectural landscape, faces distinctive challenges in combating the spread of this epidemic. As the epicentre of this crisis, Kano is where 80 per cent of all reported cases in Nigeria originate. With a large population compounded by the close-knit nature of the houses, diphtheria finds an easy transmission from person to person. Aisha lives in such a close-knit neighbourhood, and as a primary school teacher interacts constantly with children in her community. Aisha encountered heartbreaking stories at the hospital where she was admitted for treatment. One such grieving parent is Surraya Musa, who lost her only two children to diphtheria within a week. Surraya now dedicates herself to educating neighbours and communities about the severity of the outbreak, imploring parents to heed the advice of Red Cross Volunteers regarding vaccination and hygiene practices. "I tell my neighbours to listen to what the Red Cross volunteers say,” she says. “I lost all my children, I don't want any parent to experience what I did." New Red Cross volunteers Amina Abdullahi and Maryam Ibrahim are also advocates in their communities. Having gone through training, they actively participate in Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), active case searches, and contact tracing. Amina and Maryam express their fulfilment in supporting their community during this challenging time. "Being part of the Red Cross allows me to make a difference. I feel responsible for protecting my community," says Amina. Maryam adds: "It's a tough time for everyone, but seeing the impact we can make on people's lives makes it all worthwhile." Red Cross Intervention The severity of the outbreak prompted the Nigeria Red Cross Society (NRCS) to step in and collaborate with the government in March 2023. With a DREF allocation of CHF 430,654 from the IFRC, NRCS launched a multifaceted response. Over 4.9 million people have been reached through public health prevention, RCCE activities, and 760 volunteers trained in diphtheria prevention. Meanwhile, more than 920,000 people have been mobilized for vaccination through 120 trained teams, and 1,915 suspected cases have been referred to health facilities through NRCS volunteers, as of early December 2023. As the outbreak gained momentum, IFRC has scaled up its diphtheria emergency appeal to 5.4 million CHF. This support is what allows people such as Salisu Garba to continue the life-saving work. As health coordinator for NRCS in Kano, he walks through the communities and interacts with the locals in a manner that exudes familiarity with the street corners and the names of neighbourhood vendors. He highlights the critical role of close relationships with community leaders. This trust and access enable the Red Cross to take effective actions, ensuring that diphtheria will be stopped as quickly as possible. "Our connection with communities allows us to reach more people effectively,” he says. “Together, we are working tirelessly to ensure that every person in Kano is informed, vaccinated, and protected from diphtheria."

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Article

From bombing to blackouts: Palestine Red Crescent teams navigate life-and-death challenges to save lives

Ever since armed violence erupted in Israel and the Gaza Strip on October 7, the work of emergency service crews has continued non-stop, often in the most harrowing of circumstances.Every day, Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulance crews head out into the streets of Gaza, saving lives while risking their own, as even ambulances and hospitals have come under attack.Since the beginning, PRCS teams have been tirelessly responding, providing first aid and psychosocial support, transporting the dead and distributing essential aid as the fighting continues.Sadly, four PRCS volunteers lost their lives while on duty, making their colleagues’ work even more difficult as they try to cope with the loss.“To be completely honest, I am afraid, much like everyone else,” Haitham Deir, a PRCS paramedic working at the Rafah branch. “I left my children at home with no access to food, water or electricity. When I’m on duty, I call them periodically to check on them, and this constant worrying is overwhelming, adding to the fact that we face gunfire and constant bombing, and some of us get injured or die.“All of these challenges take a toll on our psychological well-being. Nevertheless, we persist. It’s a moral obligation, and I will continue to work until the very end.”‘Our eyes and ears’Apart from the incessant bombing and gunfire, PRCS crews have been struggling with intermittent communications blackouts, which means there’s often no way for people to call in for an ambulance when there is an attack.This has heavily obstructed their response. However, the PRCS ambulance teams have found creative ways to ensure paramedics can find people when there is an urgent need.“We strategically placed our ambulances, and we had to use our eyes and ears to watch out for bombings,” says Mohammed Abu Musabih, director of operations and emergencies for the PRCS in the Gaza strip. “Teams were then dispatched to areas that were bombed, because that’s where people will most likely need assistance.”“We also placed ambulances near hospitals, and we relied on arriving ambulances carrying injured people to give us information about the location they came from,” he continued. “The ambulance crews then headed off to the location.” Unfortunately, in most cases, even the most creative attempts have been ineffective as PRCS teams find it extremely difficult to reach people in need due to infrastructure damage, roadblocks and military sieges going on in various parts of the city.Supplies running out, winter coming onThe situation inside Gaza hospitals has been all the more tragic, with doctors and nurses resorting to traditional medicine as supplies ran out. Many hospitals were forced to suspend their services due to lack of fuel.Thousands of Palestinians have also sought refuge in hospitals, but after coming under siege, many people - including the sick and wounded - had to evacuate, with nowhere to go.A great deal of affected people in Gaza are currently living in tents or open spaces; this leaves them extremely vulnerable as winter approaches, and with it comes the threat of flooding and the potential spread of disease. PRCS ambulance crews and other volunteers will be there doing whatever they can to ensure people get the best possible care under the circumstances.As of December 11, PRCS crews have provided emergency care to more than 11,000 people and they transported the bodies of more than 3,500 people who died due to the fighting. Crews in the West Bank have cared for more than 3,000 injuries and transported more than 80 people killed in the conflict.“Ever since the hostilities began, the Palestine Red Crescent Society teams and volunteers were on the frontline saving lives, day-in and day out, with no break,” says Hossam Elsharkawi, regional director for Middle East and North Africa.“The unprecedented level of challenges they faced is beyond comprehension. We highly salute them; they have shown humanity at its best. In parallel, we call on the international community to fast-track diplomatic solutions that address root causes, including an end to the inhumane siege on Gaza, and enable more humanitarian aid to get into all parts of Gaza, including fuel.”

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Article

Preventing gender-based violence and HiV: Hloniphile Zinya's mission to protect youth from sickness and violence

Article and interview by Sindisiwe Mkhize In the heart of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, Hloniphile Zinya is making a significant impact in the fight against HIV and gender-based violence (GBV). Hailing from the vibrant community of Amahlongwa, Hloniphile shares her personal story, shedding light on her experiences, motivations, successes, and the existing gaps in her crucial role as a Youth Officer at the provincial office of the South African Red Cross. “I grew up in an era where young people couldn’t freely talk to their parents or adults about sexual reproductive health or gender-based issues,” she says. “This then contributed to a lot of young people becoming victims [of sexual abuse, violence or of sexually transmitted diseases]. “Then I got a job a moved to town where I was also introduced to Red Cross and became a volunteer,” she adds. “I immediately knew that what Red Cross was providing was exactly what my community needed. I wanted to see change in my community especially the youth. I wanted the young people of my community to realise their strengths.” As a youth officer, Hloniphile supervises seven branches in Kwa-Zulu Natal, or KZN, steering the youth program with the assistance of branch coordinators. Her responsibilities extend to visiting branches, providing implementation support, and conducting vital training sessions on sexual and reproductive health. A deep understanding Through her work, she has gained a profound understanding of the diverse community dynamics and their contributions to issues related to HIV and GBV. “I have also observed that GBV survivors undergo a lot of post trauma that in most cases influences the way they respond to life,” she says. “Most of the survivors are judged by others, thus making it difficult for them to come out and speak about their experiences.” During her experiences, Hloniphile has encountered the harsh realities faced by victims of GBV, noting that post-trauma often influences decisions they make in life. “Men are also facing a lot of abuse, but the society has taught them to never show pain,” she adds, noting that this can have a profound impact on the way they live their lives. Hloniphile reflects on the changing attitudes toward HIV prevention, observing that, despite education efforts primarily targeting rural areas, youth in urban centres neglect preventive measures once they leave for further studies. “Most of the youth is practising unhealthy behaviour,” she laments. “The attention of education was mostly given to rural and semi-rural areas with the perception of that they are deprived of information. But the same youth comes to the city to further their studies and forget all that they have been taught.” Investing in the future When asked about her motivation, Hloniphile passionately expresses her dedication to holistic youth development, emphasizing the transformative power of investing in the health, both physical and mental, of the future leaders. Here’s what she says when asked her more about what gets her up in the morning every day. Q: What motivates you to do what you do? A: I want to see an evident change in behaviour in people. especially young people. It is said that the youth are the future leaders so investing in them holistically so that they are healthy even in the aspects of physical and mental health is worth doing every day. Furthermore, witnessing that change through results, for me is great motivation to keep doing more. Q: What does it mean to you? A: To me, the impact of facilitating change in the lives of young people is very personal. The youth of the rural and semi-rural communities were left out and don’t have access to knowledge and information. Our activities enable youth to have a healthy mind and body, thus giving them far better chances to be trusted future leaders. Q: Why do I feel its important to your community? A: I feel that sooner or later young people are going to get into leadership and when that time comes, they must be holistically equipped. Another thing is that my community has had quite an intense number of GBV cases, and some victims never lived to tell the story. Most communities are still struggling with adherence to medications. Gender equality is still another matter that communities need to be educated on. Gender and sexuality crimes are still rife so I feel the community needs us more and more. Q: What have been some of your biggest successes so far? A: Our successes thus far include establishing a Provincial PSS focal person for counselling, building strong relationships with local municipalities, and becoming a master trainer for health workers, contributing to combating HIV, GBV, and early pregnancies. Q: What are some of your biggest challenges? A: Despite these achievements, there are significant gaps in our efforts, such as an unfunded youth program leading to volunteer loss, the need for more interventions targeting perpetrators of GBV, advocating for early intervention strategies in schools, urging for a SARCS hotline for victims in need, and emphasizing the importance of intensive, beneficiary-friendly education.

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Press release

3 billion mosquito nets shipped to prevent malaria

Geneva – 30 Nov 2023 / On the same day the World Health Organization releases its 2023 World Malaria Report, the  Alliance for Malaria Prevention (AMP) reveals that a significant milestone has been reached. Three billion insecticide treated nets (ITNs) have been shipped since 2004 to prevent malaria, most of them to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. These ITNs are estimated to be responsible for two-thirds of the reduction in malaria cases over the past decades. Thanks to the efforts of national malaria programmes and partners, about 68% of households across sub-Saharan Africa own at least one net. Most of these nets have been bought via funds from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States President’s Malaria Initiative, UNICEF and the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF).  In 2022 alone, more than 190 million ITNs were distributed globally by National Malaria Programmes in malaria endemic countries. Of these 180 million were distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.  Petra Khoury, Director of the Health and Care Department at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which houses the Alliance for Malaria Prevention (AMP), said:  “Three billion is a staggering number – a number reached by phenomenal efforts by people in many countries. Those nets have, over two decades, saved countless lives. Malaria will continue to be a threat, particularly in a warming world. But insecticide treated nets are the most effective tool we have to tackle it.”    In 2004, Togo rolled out the very first nationwide mosquito net campaign targeting children under five years of age with an integrated package of life-saving interventions. Twenty years and six ITN mass distribution campaigns later, Dr Tinah Atcha-Oubou, coordinator of the Togo National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), says the mass distribution of bed nets has had a dramatically positive impact on malaria mortality and mobility. Dr Atcha-Oubou says the NMCP in Togo is aiming for malaria elimination.   ‘We have a vision for our country, a Togo without malaria. We want to free communities from the burden of malaria to improve the economic growth of Togo. Malaria prevention strategies have shown promising results, we also have access to efficient tools to reach this goal. We are hopeful that we can eliminate malaria in the same way that many other countries already have’.   Access to and use of mosquito nets are essential to keep Togo on track for malaria elimination. Investments from partners at national and international level must continue to ensure that the country can keep working towards this goal.  The Alliance for Malaria Prevention’s Net Mapping Project has been independently tracking net shipments from the very first national campaign in 2004 in Togo. Funded by the United Nations Foundation through the United to Beat Malaria campaign,andledby the IFRC, the Net Mapping Project data informs the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report each year, feeding into modeled estimates of ITN coverage across the globe.  Global partners commented on the milestone:  ‘Nets are one of the best tools in our arsenal in the fight to end malaria. The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative is proud to support this historic milestone and applauds the work of AMP and our partners to strengthen the capacity of national malaria programs to distribute nets to the communities that need them most and to track and report data.’  Dr. David Walton, U.S. President’s Global Malaria Coordinator  “The Global Fund remains committed to improving the lives of communities suffering under the burden of malaria. Helping the countries we support ensure optimal vector control coverage is a cornerstone of our malaria strategy. The milestone of 3 billion ITNs should be celebrated and act as catalyst to further drive towards achieving and sustaining this life saving intervention.”  Scott Filler, Head of Malaria, Technical Advice and Partnerships Department, Global Fund  "This landmark achievement of shipping 3 billion insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) represents a crucial step forward in our fight against malaria. The widespread distribution of ITNs with intensive Behaviour Change Communication at community level has contributed significantly to reducing malaria transmission, protecting vulnerable populations, and saving lives.   Keziah Malm, National Coordination of National Malaria Elimination Program in Ghana  Further Information: In the last few years, an increasing proportion of ITNs shipped have contained active ingredients designed to mitigate the effects of insecticide resistance. In 2022, of the 281.5 million ITNs that manufacturers delivered to malaria endemic countries, 47% were treated with a synergist, pyrethroid-piperonyl butoxide (PBO), and 8% were dual active ingredient ITNs, which have combined insecticides with different modes of action.  While protecting people from malaria remains critical, the global community also recognises the environmental footprint of ITNs for vector control from the point of manufacture through exit from the supply chain given the heavy reliance on plastic for the nets themselves and their packaging. Responsible collection and disposal of plastic waste at the point of distribution and as nets become unserviceable for malaria prevention is, therefore, an integral part of many national malaria programmes’ vector control strategies.  Global and national stakeholders and partners are working together to find solutions to limit the amount of waste generated and to ensure more sustainable and environmentally focused supply chains for vector control with ITNs.    Despite the efforts of national malaria programs and their funding, the latest World Malaria Report notes that global malaria cases and deaths in 2022 were higher than in 2019, mostly due to the disruption of services during the COVID19 pandemic. Countries most affected include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Papua New Guinea. The World Health Organization estimates that there were 608’000 malaria deaths in 2022 – 32’000 more deaths than in the year before the pandemic.   The 2023 World Malaria Report also highlights that the funding gap between the amount invested in malaria control and elimination and the resources needed continues to widen. It grew from US$2.3 billion in 2018 to US$ 3.7 billion globally in 2022. Despite the shortage of funding, continued research and development to address insecticide resistance reinforced efforts of national malaria programs and their partners to deliver services to all populations at risk. Significant work to generate sufficient funding to support national malaria strategic plans remain critical in ensuring that the fight against malaria remains on track towards the WHO 2030 targets.    For further details please contact: [email protected]   Andrew Thomas   International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent +41763676587  Tommaso Della Longa   International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent +41797084367  There are spokespeople available to talk about this announcement, including Petra Khoury, the IFRC’s Director of Health and Care.    Partners:   The Alliance for Malaria Prevention receives funding support from USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United Nations Foundation (UNF).  Since 2013, the Net Mapping Project has been funded by the United Nations Foundation and the IFRC. 

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Article

Central African Republic: Red Cross project gives a boost to a weakened health system

IFRC's Muriel Atsama and Bienvenue Doumta, head of communications at the Central African Red Cross, visited several of these facilities and filed this report. It's 7.30 am when we arrive at the Sakai health centre. On the benches outside, several patients are waiting to be examined by Don de Dieu, who is the head nurse that day. Among the many patients sitting on the benches is Rebecca, who is holding her sick daughter in her hand. "My family and I used to come here for consultations when we were ill," she says. "The nurses treat us well and we get free medication”. Located about thirty kilometres from the capital, Bangui, the Sakai centre receives patients from 36 villages. Renovated in 2020 by the Central African Red Cross (CARC), it previously consisted of a single building made of earth and was in a state of advanced deterioration. Now the centre now has two buildings, including a maternity hospital, a room for maternal, child-health and family-planning, a child consultation room, and a child hospitalisation room. There is also a dispensary with a five-bed hospital ward, a treatment room, a laboratory, and a pharmacy. In previous years, the centre had only the bare minimum to accommodate and treat patients. The renovation and equipping of the centre by the Red Cross has been a breath of fresh air for the whole village. The aim of these renovations was to make the Minimum Package of Activities, a basic standard for heath services, available to the people here. "The health centre has changed a lot and has really improved," adds Rebecca. "We can see it in the equipment the nurses use to look after us. Today, more than ever, we come here for consultations, and we're satisfied." For Don de Dieu, these improvements also make it possible to offer hospital services to a greater number of people, consistently and over a longer period. "Thanks to the project, we have benefited from solar panels that provide continuous electricity," he explains. "We can now carry out patient examinations at any time and store our products in better conditions". The centre has also received an incinerator for waste management, as well as beds, office space, a waste-sorting shed and a borehole for pumping water from the ground. "Thanks to this new facility, the number of patients attending the Sakai health centre has increased exponentially", adds Don de Dieu. "From around a hundred patients a month in the past, we now welcome more than 500 patients from the surrounding villages.” Pride of the village A little further on, we meet Charles, the chief of the village of Sakaï. He explains that this new building is the pride of his village and the surrounding villages. What's more, his entire community gets safe drinking water from the borehole. "The borehole at the Sakaï health centre is a source of water that serves the whole community," says Charles. The Sakai health centre is not the only one to have benefited from these rehabilitations. A total of 14 other health centres across the country and one hospital have received a wide range of equipment, including an ambulance, an X-ray machine and other equipment required to meet the necessary standards. Our visit continued at Bangui University's Faculty of Health Sciences, where we were welcomed by the Dean, Professor Boniface Koffi. "Thanks to the Red Cross and its donors, all the offices have been renovated,” he said. “The roofs of some buildings have been replaced, as has the electricity. We have also received office furniture, around 1,200 chairs and tables for the comfort of our students, as well as around twenty microscopes.” The University of Bangui was founded in 1969, and the two buildings that make up the Faculty of Science and Health were constructed in 1970 and 1980. Since then, they had not been renovated, and crises weakened them. A perfect illustration In addition to this equipment, the Red Cross has equipped the faculty's digital library with 35 desktop computers, eight laptops and video projectors. "We are very grateful for this major donation from the Central African Red Cross, which has breathed new life into our faculty,” he concludes. “But as you know, the hand that receives asks for more. We would like to have many more classrooms to accommodate and train even more students. Our country badly needs them for the well-being of the population". Our journey ends at the Central African Red Cross University Institute for Paramedical Training, where we are welcomed by Honorine Konzelo, Director of the Institute studies. Created in 2010, the initial building was constructed at the CARC headquarters. Following the crisis that hit the country, the institute was relocated to an abandoned primary school that was in urgent need of renovation. Today, it has three laboratory rooms, a library and lecture theatres. The Red Cross is also paying the salary of the staff accountant, who has also worked as a teacher since the project began. "Our institute is a perfect illustration of the Red Cross's commitment to the well-being of young people, who need high-quality training, and to the population, which needs qualified health workers," says Ms Honorine. The CAR health system reconstruction project has been implemented by the Central African Red Cross since 2018 thanks to technical support from IFRC. Funded by the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW), the project is in its second phase of implementation, which will run until 2026.

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Speech

IFRC Secretary General statement at the High-level meeting of the General Assembly on Universal Health Coverage

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. UHC political declaration marks one of the most ambitious gatherings on health. I am happy to share the perspective of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on this important topic. Through our experience reaching 1 billion people with health services during COVID-19, I can tell you that a primary health care approach is the only way we stand a chance to achieve universal health coverage and to ensure no one is left behind, both in times of crisis and stability. Resilient health systems focused on primary health care (PHC) with enough trained health workers, data capacity, and well-functioning basic services are better prepared to prevent and respond to health emergencies. Health emergencies often differ from other emergencies in their complexities, their scope, durations, and in response approach. Here are the shifts needed to embed the PHC during health emergencies, this comes from the IFRC study on recent COVID19 pandemic: First and foremost: trust. Governments must do the groundwork to build trust with the public before health emergencies - people won’t use even the best health systems if they don’t trust them. How do we do this? -Proximity: People trust people they know, such as community members. -Education: People trust what they understand, via health literacy programmes. -Listening: People trust those who listen to them and act on their concerns, such as trained community engagement specialists who gather feedback and analyse it. -Access to services: People trust those who address their needs, including their basic health and social protection needs. -Ownership: People trust measures they feel ownership of and are consulted on. Second is equity. Do not exclude anyone. Equity is fundamental element of embedding PHC during emergencies. Migrants, refugees and other disadvantaged communities are the worst impacted by health emergencies. We need to address formal and informal barriers to access to health and other essential services, including stigma and discrimination. Data driven decision making significantly helps to ensure inclusion. Embedding a PHC approach requires integrating health information systems to facilitate real time data sharing and evidence-based decision making. Finally, local action. Strong Community Health Systems that combine the power of communities and technologies: We must prioritize health systems strengthening at the community level, with a well-resourced and protected community health workforce to match. To do this, a much greater portion of existing health financing needs to go to the local level. Universal health Coverage plans must be tailored to the communities they serve by putting them at the center of policy design. It is groundbreaking that governments have committed in paragraph 104 of the declaration to involve local communities in the design of universal health coverage plans, and to find ways of enhancing participatory and inclusive approaches to health governance. Excellencies, humanitarian needs are only growing, and global health is at a crossroads: without systemic change, we will only achieve health for some, and not health for all. Strong governance and leadership are expected of all of us. In the decades since the Alma-Ata Declaration, the international community has focused more on diseases rather than on individuals, and on treatment rather than on prevention. We can’t continue down the same path and expect a different result. Today must represent a shift towards a community-driven, primary health care-first model to global health systems. Thank you.

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Basic page

REACH initiative

Our Resilient and Empowered African Community Health (REACH) initiative, in partnership with Africa CDC, aims to improve the health of communities across Africa by scaling upeffective, people-centred and integrated community health workforces and systems.

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Article

‘Anonymous Clinic’ offers safe haven and caretakers who understand

While Thai culture is relatively open in terms of gender identity, transgender people in Thailand continue to face discrimination and exclusion in many aspects of life. Health care is no exception. “The topic of gender diversity isn’t widely discussed [in Thailand]”, says Piglet, a transgender woman who lives in Bangkok. “Sometimes I’m not able to talk to anyone about it because it makes me feel nervous”. Piglet (not her real name) is a client at the Thai Red Cross Anonymous Clinic, a health centre in the heart of Bangkok designed to help people get health services without fear of being identified or of feeling stigmatized because of her gender or sexual identity. Understanding the challenges The goal is to create an environment where transgender individuals can openly discuss hormone treatment, sexual orientation, and other related issues with healthcare providers who understand their needs and what they are going through. Because transgender people often confront discrimination or a lack of understanding of the unique health needs, they often experience physical, mental and emotional stress when seeking out care. This is especially true during public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent health studies. In some circumstances, this anxiety may prevent people from getting care or lead them to avoid seeking care. The Thai Red Cross Society has long been dedicated to reaching out to marginalized communities, including transgender people and men who have sex with men, in their efforts to combat HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Services for optimal health The Anonymous Clinic offers a wide range of services, including counselling, testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, hormone monitoring, gender-affirming hormone therapy, neovagina examination, anal cancer screening, and Hepatitis A/B vaccination. “The main mission of the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre (Anonymous Clinic) is to provide effective prevention measures, widely known as PreP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)”, explains Chanin Suksom, a psychologist at the Anonymous Clinic. “The health services we provide represent an equal opportunity to everyone at a very low cost”. While the clinic was initially established in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it now plays a critical role in providing gender-affirming services and improving the overall well-being of transgender individuals. “During the past year, we assisted approximately 360 transgender clients, from which over 200 of them accessed services for free”, says Suksom. By offering a comprehensive range of services and fostering a safe and inclusive environment, the Anonymous Clinic empowers transgender individuals to take control of their health and well-being. “People who have come to the clinic for the first time are usually reluctant to talk about their stories. So, we ask informal open-ended questions”, explains Naiyapak Chaipun, a counsellor at the Anonymous Clinic who is herself transgender. “We sometimes chat in a very casual way. We encourage them to take things step by step without forcing them”, she says. For people like Piglet, the Anonymous Clinic has become a safe haven, where people can learn how to better take care of themselves. “I brought my friends to the Anonymous Clinic because they feel shy, and it reminds me of my own experience when I felt frustrated and didn’t know where to go”, she describes. “I think the Anonymous Clinic is a great place for transgender people to access health services. A place where we can love ourselves and where we can learn how to keep ourselves healthy in the long run”. -- This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.

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Article

Gardens of health: Preparing nutritious meals for new and expectant mothers in Zimbabwe

Bending over her traditional clay cookstove, 38-year-old Lucky Mazangesure stirs the simmering ingredients in a small saucepan: fried-green bananas in stew of tomatoes and onions. As the fire crackles, the scent of woodsmoke mixes with the savory-sweet aroma of the saucy, steaming treat. “Trust me,” she says, “after eating this banana dish you won’t be able to stop.” She can’t resist a quick taste – just to make sure it’s coming out the way it should. “I really love cooking,” she says. “I like tasting the food while cooking. It makes me happy and it keeps my stomach full.” Then she checks on some simmering beans and starts preparing another local delicacy: pumpkin porridge with roasted peanuts, which will be complimented by cooked spinach and broccoli. This diverse meal does a lot more than keep her full, she adds. It gives her body the vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohyrdates she needs to keep herself and her infant, nursing child healthy. Like many new mothers here in Chibuwe, in southeastern Zimbabwe, Lucky is able to prepare these well-balanced meals thanks to a garden at the Chibuwe Health Clinic, which is tended largely by pregnant woman and new mothers who visit the clinic for pre-natal and post-partum care. The garden got started several years ago as part of a larger initiative by the British Red Cross and the Zimbabwe Red Cross to set up gardens for expecting and new mothers at hospitals and local health clinics, where health workers were witnessing worsening nutrition levels among women and young children. In a region hard hit by drought, windstorms, cyclones and flash floods, many legumes, fruits and root crops that are rich in vitamins, proteins and minerals are hard to get. Infant malnutrition here has been on the rise in recent years, with some estimates suggesting that roughly one-third of children under 5 are malnourished. Covid-19 has only aggravated the situation by disrupting regional and local food distribution systems. “It’s hard for expecting mothers in this community to get a decent meal,” says Robert Magweva, a nurse at the Chibuwe Health Clinic, adding that too often, people must rely only on sadza [sorghum], a carbohydrate, and a limited range of leafy vegetables. “It’s a major challenge to have a well-balanced diet here. So the vegetables that are grown in the clinic garden help them to get a well-balanced meal.” As a mark of the programme’s success, most of these gardens are now sustained entirely by the clinics, hospitals and the communities around them, with support of local agriculture experts and local Zimbabwe Red Cross volunteers. Better farming for a changing climate Still, growing one’s own food in this environment is not easy. The climate has generally gotten hotter and drier, with dry spells punctuated by intense storms and winds, and unpredictable rains. Scorching heat evaporates water quickly and can easily whither young seedlings. “At this clinic garden, we were taught smart agriculture techniques as a way of combating the effects that climate change was having on our harvest,” says Beauty Manyazda, another new mother who works regularly at the Chibuwe Clinic garden. “We learnt techniques such as conservation farming and mulching.” Conservation farming is an approach that aims to improve soil moisture and health by minimising the intensive tilling and plowing associated with large-scale crop production. Mulching is one very common conservation technique in which straw, leaves or other organic matter is laid down on the soil between the crops. This keeps moisture from evaporating, while discouraging weeds and providing nutrients to the soil as the mulch decays. Such techniques are increasingly critical as climate change makes farming more difficult. “Our rainfall patterns have changed over the years,” explains Lucky. “We used to get rain in October, when we would sow the seeds for our crops. Now, we get rains in January. So the seeds we put in the ground get damaged waiting for the rainfall.” Meanwhile, storms, droughts and heatwaves have become more and more intense, says Lucky. “Temperatures have continued to rise and this has resulted in regular, violent winds,” she notes. “These winds have destroyed our homes. We also get floods which also contribute to the destruction.” Amid these challenges, the garden provides also provides other nourishing ingredients: the joy and satisfaction of being able to work and provide sustenance while also being among plants, close the soil with other women at her side. “I love gardening,” says Lucky, her baby tied to her back, fast asleep as she picks a handful of chard. “The green nature of the garden warms my heart. With the garden, I know my family will always have a home-grown, nutritious meal.” -- This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this, click here.

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Press release

Vanuatu: One month on since double cyclones, rising cases of Leptospirosis a concern

Port Vila, 31 March 2023 – There are grave concerns over the increase in Leptospirosis cases, a bacterial disease, one month on from the double category 4 cyclones in Vanuatu. The country has reported 19 new cases of Leptospirosis and three deaths since the cyclone passed. The majority of cases have been in Santo and Efate islands, with a few cases in Malekula, Pentecost, Malo and Erromango. Vanuatu Red Cross is working in coordination with authorities to curb the situation with health awareness in communities across the six provinces. Vanuatu Red Cross Secretary General, Dickinson Tevi said: "It is usually in the aftermath of any cyclone that we see an increase in diseases such as Leptospirosis. Flooded waters have contaminated water sources, animals have been affected, and people who are in contact with these animals and infected water sources, usually get it." "Our volunteers are raising awareness on these issues, including to watch out for symptoms, when they visit the communities with relief distributions. Teams are also raising awareness on other diseases such as typhoid and dengue fever which are also common in the aftermath of a cyclone. They are advising communities to practice safe hygiene and to boil all drinking water. Cleaning their surroundings is also important to prevent dengue fever." Vanuatu Red Cross has so far reached over 9,000 people with immediate relief assistance. Over 1,000 shelter toolkits, 2,500 tarpaulins, 1,600 mosquito nets, 800 hygiene kits, 250 dignity kits which includes sanitary hygiene items for women and girls, and 1,400 jerry cans for storing water have been distributed to severely affected communities. The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) continue to work with Vanuatu Red Cross and partners to provide essential support to the teams on the ground. Emergency funds totalling 799,389 Swiss Francs has been released to support Vanuatu Red Cross with their operations over the next six months – until September, 2023. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said: "We continue to provide critical support to Vanuatu Red Cross and the affected communities. Families are slowly picking up the pieces and the Red Cross is right there assisting them get back on their feet.” “In the coming weeks and months, we will focus on early recovery efforts in the form of water source rehabilitation through rainwater harvesting and restoring livelihoods through cash voucher assistance.” For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 998 3688, [email protected]