| 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]
| Press release
Malawi: Red Cross scales up response to worst cholera outbreak in two decades
Malawi, 25 January 2023—Malawi is currently facing its worst cholera outbreak in two decades, with over 29,000 cases reported and more than 900 people dead. The Malawi Red Cross, in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and in-country partners—Danish Red Cross-led consortium and Swiss Red Cross—is scaling up its cholera response to assist over two million people.
Since the first recorded case in February 2022, cases have continued to spread, with all 29 districts affected. Cholera is now putting over 10 million people at risk, including more than five million children.
“Malawi Red Cross Society is committed to continue supporting the Government of Malawi in responding to the cholera outbreak and other health emergencies. We are grateful to the IFRC and other Movement partners for continued finance and technical assistance to the MRCS Cholera response plan,” said McBain Kanongodza, Secretary General for the Malawi Red Cross Society.
According to the Malawi Ministry of Health’s cholera update on 22 January 2023, over 29,364 cases and 960 fatalities were reported, leaving the fatality rate at 3.27 per cent, which is considerably higher than the acceptable rate of less than 1 per cent set by WHO.
The Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) is already providing lifesaving treatment at the community level by administering Oral Rehydration Therapy. Volunteers ensure that water supplies are safe and that sanitation facilities are working. They also go door-to-door to raise awareness on preventing the disease from spreading. With the rainy season underway, it is crucial that people take precautions to protect themselves and their families.
“We have been monitoring the developments on the ground since the first cases, and we are deeply concerned that this outbreak has taken a foothold in every corner of Malawi. We need to support the joint efforts of the MOH and Malawi Red Cross in their response to this devastating situation. As the outbreak worsens, partnerships are crucial to ensure lives are saved,” said John Roche, Head of IFRC’s Delegation for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The IFRC and its membership are launching an Emergency Appeal seeking 5.2 million Swiss francs, which will help the Malawi Red Cross reach a further 1,385,391 people in need of assistance. Malawi Red Cross and its partners with the IFRC aim to target 15 affected districts, with the core objectives being to prevent and control the spread of the outbreak, reduce morbidity and mortality due to cholera and improve the availability of safe water and sanitation facilities, through continued support to communities and district health offices.
For more information, please contact:
In Lilongwe: Felix Washon, +265 999 95 57 21, [email protected]
In Harare: Ella Mcsharry, +263 78 689 3350, [email protected]
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613, [email protected]
In Geneva: Marie Claudet, +1 202 999 8689, [email protected]
Lights, camera, action! How cinema is saving lives in Cameroon
Combining both learning and entertainment, mobile cinema has, over the years, become a prominent way of engaging remote communities around the world on a wide range of important topics—everything from how to stay healthy, to how to prepare for disasters.
Each mobile cinema kit contains a projection screen and tripod, laptop, microphones and speakers and a generator so they can still run even in the face of power cuts.
Since receiving the kits, the Cameroon Red Cross has been using mobile cinema to share life-saving messages about COVID-19, cholera, and any others relevant topics, which will help people to prepare and stay safe. All in an exciting and effective way, and within a community’s own environment.
"Mobile cinema allows us to provide the right information that communities need in the fight against epidemics and disasters of all forms. This fun and useful tool is undoubtedly allowing us to improve our humanitarian response across the country,”
President of the Cameroon Red Cross
Mobile cinema screenings aren’t just about sitting back and watching. They’re also a great way to engage communities through question-and-answer sessions and to gather people’s valuable feedback.
Each screening is facilitated by Cameroonian Red Cross volunteers—many of whom were recently trained in communication, community engagement and feedback collection. Listening to people’s questions, concerns, thoughts and fears helps volunteers to understand communities’ needs better, and tailor their work accordingly. Marlyse, a 15-year-old student in the southern city of Kribi who attended a recent screening, said:
“This is the first time I have taken part in this type of activity and I have learned a lot. We watched a video on COVID-19 and this reinforced our knowledge on preventive measures. Also the talk with the people from the Red Cross helped us to know more about the vaccine.”
Mobile Cinema attendee in Kribi
You can watch the video Marlyse refers to below (in French):
At the IFRC, we know that epidemics begin and end in communities. And that with the right information and support, everyone can play an important role in detecting diseases, responding effectively, and preparing for future health risks.
Take Mr Biyong, for example, a community leader in Kribi who is excited about the Cameroonian Red Cross project and the potential of mobile cinema:
"We are currently experiencing a cholera epidemic in our community and in the whole region. I think this tool is very timely! Through the broadcasting of the video on cholera, the modes of transmission and how to prevent this disease, my community members were able to see with their own eyes what we try to explain to them every day. This is really a tool that will help stop the spread of the disease.”
Kribi Community Leader
Together, the IFRC and Cameroonian Red Cross hope to expand mobile cinema screenings across the country in the coming months, listening to and learning from the people we support as we go.
“In addition to things like food, water and shelter, we know that information is, in itself, aid. The IFRC is working hard to help National Societies like the Cameroonian Red Cross take ownership of the opportunities and benefits of this exciting mobile cinema approach to making communities more resilient,”
IFRC Head of Country Cluster Delegation for Central Africa
This work in Cameroon is part of the IFRC’s multi-country Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), funded by USAID. Click here to learn more about the project and our work in this area.
And if you enjoyed this story, you may also be interested in our new case studies showing how Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have helped prepare communities for, and protect them from, COVID-19.
Care in Communities
The IFRC and our 192 National Societies are training community-based health workers and volunteers to deliveressential community healthservices. In doing so, we’re addressing the global shortage of health care workers and contributing to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and universal health coverage (UHC) agenda.
The IFRC network provides strong advocacy, prevention, treatment and care services for people who use drugs. Our aim is to help National Societies better support people with drug disorders, with a focus on harm reduction and tackling stigma and social exclusion.
| Press release
Red Cross Red Crescent reaching 1.5 million people on the move in MENA, yet millions are left without support
Beirut, 16 December 2021 – Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are reaching more than 1.5 million migrants, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Middle East and North Africa, yet the number of people on the move left without essential support is colossal, a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has found.
Ahead of International Migrants Day on 18 December, the IFRC is calling for a stronger commitment to support people on the move during their journey, not only once they have managed to reach their planned destination – if they ever do.
Fabrizio Anzolini, Migration Regional Advisor for IFRC MENA, said:
“Countless migrants face inhumane conditions along their way, including violence, lack of food, shelter and access to health services. Climate change and conflicts are only expected to accelerate the number of people migrating out of the region in the coming months and years. We need to act right now on the routes and advocating for durable solutions.”
The region, with more than 40 million migrants and 14 million internally displaced people, has some of the world’s longest protracted conflicts, combined with frequent natural disasters, man-made crises and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Regional hotspots include the population movement from Afghanistan to Iran, the migration flows from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya to Europe, the extensive number of internally displaced persons in Syria, as well as the route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Rania Ahmed, IFRC MENA Deputy Regional Director, said:
“Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are reaching more than 1.5 million migrants and displaced people in the Middle East and North Africa, but it is not enough. We need bigger investment and greater long-term commitment to address their plight. We need to mobilize all efforts and resources to ensure people on the move receive humanitarian assistance and protection. Migrants and displaced populations are intensely vulnerable and must be included in COVID-19 prevention, response, and recovery plans. We urge governments to ensure that people on the move have equal access to vaccinations, health care and basic services.”
With the engagement of the IFRC, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the MENA region are on the frontline attempting to cover the enormous gap between people’s needs and the support that is available for them. Red Cross and Red Crescent teams provide multidisciplinary assistance, including health services, livelihood support, protection for children and victims of violence, mental health, and psychosocial support, as well as cash assistance. These support services are also widely available to host communities, leaving no one behind.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies remain committed to continue responding to the needs of migrants and displaced people as well as advocating for the support that they need at country, regional and global levels through evidence-based humanitarian diplomacy. However, their continued activities are hampered by shrinking funding. In addition, access to migrants is often limited, especially in conflict zones and due to restrictions put in place to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can access the full report here: MENA Red Cross and Red Crescent Activities on Migration and Displacement – Snapshot 2021. The survey includes responses from twelve Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Middle East and North Africa.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Geneva: Rana Sidani Cassou, +41 766715751 / +33 675945515, [email protected]
In Beirut: Jani Savolainen, +961 70372812 / +358 504667831, [email protected]
Community focus for global health risks
Community-level health volunteers and activities are vital to addressing the most pressing global health risks. Governments and international partners must provide greater funding and recognition for the role of community level health volunteers and interventions.
Everyone, everywhere has the right to good health. Within their communities, our millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are working hard to promote good health, prevent disease, and reduce suffering.
| Press release
IFRC warns only way to win race against variants is to boost vaccinations and protection measures
Geneva, 16 July 2021–The InternationalFederation ofRed CrossandRedCrescent Societies (IFRC)warnsthatthe global vaccination rate must increaserapidlyand protection measures upheld,if we are to win the race againstmoretransmissible, and potentially more deadly,variants.
At least three quarters of people in most countries want to be vaccinated worldwide, in the face of emerging new variants, according to new survey data.1However, despite lofty rhetoric about global solidarity,there is a deadly gap in the global plan to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines.Only around a quarter of the world’s population have received at least one dose of the vaccine.This number drops dramatically in low-income countries, whereonly 1% of people have received one dose.2And some countries are yet tostart mass vaccination campaigns.
JaganChapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said:
“To world leaders we say, it is time to pull out all the stops to boost vaccine production. This includes atemporary waiver on intellectualproperty, as well asthesharing of knowledge and technologybetweencountries.Vaccine equity is key to reducing the likelihood of variants and saving lives by limiting the spread of the virus. This is the only way we can truly end this pandemic.
“The IFRC is already playing its part to get vaccines into the arms of the most vulnerable, but in some countries, vaccination campaigns have hardly started. Our data shows that people want to be vaccinated, but production and vaccine dose sharing needs to happen much faster if we want vaccination to outpace the variants.”
The global number of new cases reported last week (5-11 July 2021) was nearlythreemillion, a 10% increase as compared to the previous week3.This comes asthemore transmissible Delta variant has been identified as the dominant variant in several countries across the globe, many of which have been hard hit in the latestpeaks.*
As cases continue to rise in several parts of the world, the IFRC sends a strong reminder that, in the short term,the best methods ofcurbing transmissionsremain the same as they have been since the outset, even as restrictions ease in several countries.
Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC Director of Health and Care, who has led theorganization’sglobalhealth responsesince the start of the pandemic, said:
“We are facing adéjá-vu situation.Unless action is taken to curbtransmissionand boost equitable vaccine distribution,werisk going back to square one.This virus has not taken a break, and neither should we. As global solutions are sought, we urgently remind that we are all part of the solution. Get a vaccine, if you have access to one, continue to wear your mask, keep physical distance, and meet outdoors or in well ventilated spaces.
“The uncontrolled circulation of the virus will significantly increase the risk of emergence of new and more aggressive variants. This is a deadly risk for everyone in the world, including people already vaccinated. The only way to reduce this risk is tomaintainpublic health measures and increase vaccination coverage everywhere in the world.”
The IFRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are already on the ground,facilitating the deliveryof vaccinesto overlooked and vulnerable communities around the globe.They relentlessly continueto treat, care for, and support hundreds of millions of people, as they have done since the start of this crisis.
The Colombian Red Crosshas supported the vaccination of highly vulnerable and indigenous populations in the Amazon, whileChilean Red Cross is supporting the vaccination of migrants.
The Red Cross Society of Seychelles has supported the vaccination of 83% of the country’s vaccinated population,while the Comoros Red Crescent is helping to identify and support the most vulnerable, elderly people, who want to be vaccinated.
ThePakistan Red Crescent operates the only non-government facility designated as a Mass Vaccination Centreand in Bangladesh, theBangladesh Red Crescent Society has supported the vaccination of over 50%of the country’s vaccinated population.
The Italian Red Cross is runningmultiplevaccination centresinthe country,andthe French Red Cross has supported theimmunisation ofaround 1.5million peopleso far, including through mobile teams thatvaccinate vulnerablepeople athome.
The Lebanese Red Cross runs Lebanon’s largest vaccination centre,with thecapacity to vaccinate up to 5,000 people per dayandtheTunisian Red Crescent has supported the reception and care of more than 80,000 people receiving their vaccination.
MrChapagainemphasized thatthough these are some of the hardest days the world has ever faced, we areallin this together:
“We have seen how all parts of society have come together to protect each other during this crisis. We must not give up on this now. Millions of Red CrossandRed Crescent volunteers have stood side by side with their communities toprovidelifesaving supportandequitableaccess to a vaccine. We have been there since thebeginning,andwewill continue to be for as long as we are needed.”
The IFRC will host a live Q&A with Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC Director of Health and Care onTwitter at 15:00 Geneva time.
Notes to editors
*In Tunisia more than 7,500 casesare being reporteddaily,almostfourtimes higher than a month ago. A significant increase in cases has also been reported in Libya, Iran and Iraq, a trend that the IFRC is concerned could spark a domino effectin the region.
Indonesia is the newepicentrein Asia, with 54,517 recorded cases, which is a 565% increase.
Across Europe,caseshave been steadily increasing over the past month, with sharp rises reported in the last two weeks(30% and 20%, respectively) including new variants.Worrying spikes of cases and deaths have been reported in many countries, but the situation is particularly concerning in Eastern Europe, SouthCaucasusand Central Asia as health systems in those areas are often fragile and most of the people haven’t yet been vaccinated.
Africa has recorded a 43% week-on-week rise in COVID-19 deaths.Southern Africaisreporting concerning numbers of new cases with health systems stretched to capacity and decreased oxygen supply.The majority ofnew cases are nowsequenced as the Delta variant. All countries of major concern have reported less than 5% of their population receiving at least one vaccine dose.
TheAmericas region continues to report the highest incidence of cases and deaths globally, with Cuba and Colombia reporting the highest relative number of new cases in the last week.
 The RCCE Collective Service is an initiative led by IFRC, GOARN, UNICEF and WHO https://www.rcce-collective.net/resource/data-synthesis-public-perceptions-of-the-covid-19-vaccinations-june-2021/
 COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update - WHO
For more informationor to arrange an interview, contact:
AnnVaessen, +41 79 405 77 50,[email protected]
Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 43 67,[email protected]
TheIFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
www.ifrc.org - Facebook - Twitter - YouTube
4 months since the Beirut explosion: Lebanese Red Cross Secretary-General explains the situation now
On the 4th of August, a massive explosion occurred in the port area of Beirut, capital of Lebanon, injuring more than 6500 people and affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands. Four months later, a lot has been done but the work is far from finished.
Secretary-General of the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC), Georges Kettaneh, what are the needs of the affected people four months after the explosions?
[caption id="attachment_70771" align="alignright" width="200"] The Lebanese Red Cross Secretary-General Georges Kettaneh[/caption]
People need three things: cash, health services and reconstruction of their houses.
We are supporting with the minor repairs and providing cash assistance to the families assessed to be in the most vulnerable situation. We continue the lead in the ambulance services and blood transfusions. We are active in primary health care services, providing mental health support, restoring family links and dead body management. We are also responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways.
How was the situation when the explosion happened on the 4th of August?
We had, and still have, an emergency contingency plan to manage unset emergencies. But the Beirut Port explosion was something we had not prepared for or even imagined in our wildest risk assessment exercises. We acknowledge that the humanitarian needs were too big for us to manage completely.
In 2 minutes, the blast caused devastation beyond imagination. People lost their lives, homes, loved ones. When we went to the streets to assess the needs, we found bodies of people laying on the ground.
We started our needs assessment as soon as possible to have the data that helped us to set priorities. Many people left their houses that were destroyed so we could not reach them. Now, they are coming back to us asking to be included. We had to evacuate people affected by COVID-19 and other patients from the destroyed hospitals to the ones that remained functional, either in Beirut or outside the capital.
How is the mental health of the Lebanese Red Cross staff and volunteers?
We Lebanese often like to project a positive image about ourselves pretending that we are doing fine. But in reality, we have been shaken to the bones. Our volunteers and staff need psychological support as all Lebanese people do.
Personally, I went through many challenging situations throughout my 20-year career as a humanitarian. During the war in Lebanon, I evacuated 21 bodies in 1986 in an explosion in Northern Beirut. I was kidnapped many times. I was under fire from snipers several times. All of this affected me for sure. But the Beirut explosion has been by far the most difficult thing to witness.
When the blast took place, people called me on my mobile screaming that they were injured pleading me to evacuate them. We mobilized all the ambulances and volunteers we could, even the retired ones. Some of the ambulances were not able to reach people because the roads were blocked by the rubble. Paramedics were hearing injured screaming under the rubble of their houses but they were not able to reach them.
As a humanitarian, this is your scariest nightmare.This affected me a lot. Some of my acquaintances and friends died. We all need mental health support in this situation, and the Lebanese Red Cross is doing as much as possible to provide it to everyone willing to receive it.
What have you learned from the explosion and the response operation?
The explosions were a force majeure. We were not prepared for such a thing. We didn’t envisage an explosion in the port. We were fully stretched by the COVID-19 as well as in providing first-aid, COVID-19 awareness and responding otherwise to the demonstrations in various parts of the country. No matter how overwhelmed we might be, we should always be prepared for the worse.
Another learning we got when we started to distribute relief item boxes. At first, we had 400 boxes but only 100 people showed up at the collection points. The community members that were affected by the blast, did not come to the street to receive the relief items they urgently needed. Culturally, coming to the public for the aid was hard for them.
We realized we need to adjust our approach to fit the sensitivities of the community. We decided to distribute the relief items from door-to-door even if it meant more work for us. Then, people were very happy to receive the aid as their dignity was intact.
Does the Lebanese Red Cross have enough resources to help the people in need?
We have gotten enough donations to provide cash assistance for 10,000 families. We are providing 300 US dollars per month to the most vulnerable affected families to cover their basic needs. You can read more about the cash assistance on the Lebanese Red Cross website.
The demand would go beyond the 10,000 families but we don’t have resources for more.
We are thankful for all the donations and support we have received from IFRC, ICRC and Partnering National Societies as well as other partners. We have worked together as one in the response to the explosion. From the Lebanese diaspora and companies, we have received more than 20 million USD as they regarded us as a neutral and trusted organization.
What comes to the economic crisis in Lebanon, we don’t have enough for responding to that in long term. For example, we need to provide livelihood support and shelter for the people, including the Syrian refugees.
In this situation, being transparent and accountable is crucial. Therefore, we have hired an international audit company to monitor our performance and to be as transparent as possible.
3,741 Individuals treated & transported by ambulance
14,499 individuals received primary health support
13,895 blood units distributed to hospitals
22,001 households with 110,005 individuals received food parcels & hygiene kits
49,127 door-to-door household assessments completed
6,019 individuals affected by COVID-19 transported
16,437 individuals received psycho-social support
9,744 vulnerable families received cash assistance
The Lebanese Red Cross launched an appeal for 19 million USD to continue providing emergency medical services and relief operations during the first three months.
IFRC, in support of LRC plan, has appealed for 20 million Swiss francs (21.8 million US dollars) to scale up health, shelter and livelihood support over the coming 24 months. Read more on the Lebanon Red Cross website.
In Beirut: Rana Sidani Cassou, +961 71802779, [email protected]
A pandemic reminds us why health care professionals are so valuable
Each nurse and midwife who joined the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has a different story, but they share a common passion: to care for those in need.“I have a big heart that prompts me to engage in humanitarian work in all sectors, whether in times of peace, war, or natural disasters,” said Etidal Abdo Nasser Al-Qabati, a Yemeni nurse and midwife who has specialized in practical nursing and midwifery for three years and studied for four years to become a paramedic.The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This year, according to WHO, the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.‘’I started to volunteer for humanitarian work, with the Yemeni Red Crescent, in 1973, and fell in love with nursing and helping others,’’ said Etidal, who is known as ‘Mama Etidal.’ “My biggest pain is knowing that we can conduct rescue missions but lack the necessary resources.”Etidal started as a @YemenCrescent volunteer, now she is a professional nurse and midwife: “My long experience and big heart prompt me to humanitarian work.” She is the one who protects the dignity of mothers and women during the most difficult times. #YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife pic.twitter.com/5pnQXElVtf— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 6, 2020 Lebanese midwife Pascale Rizk, joined the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2017 and chose this profession ‘’because it is amongst the most noble professions in the world”.‘’The relationship that the certified midwife builds with the couple is outstandingly beautiful. Indeed, she witnesses the couple’s greatest moment of joy. And the most sacred event of their lifetime, i.e. the arrival of their newborn.’’According to Pascale, midwifery and nursing are misperceived by society. ‘’Honestly, when people used to ask me what I did for a living, I would answer by saying ‘a certified midwife,’ and the first response that I would get was: ‘Oh, so you’re a doula?’ People don’t realize that certified midwives are one of the pillars of the medical sector. ‘’Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services and are often the first and only points of care in their communities. Nurses in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have long been at the frontlines, in war, natural disasters and in combating major diseases like Ebola, SARS, coronaviruses and lately COVID-19, often putting their lives at risk."The core of our work is saving other people's lives," says Pascale, a #midwife at @ICRC_lb.#Midwives reduce suffering and protect the dignity of mothers and women during the most difficult times: war, disasters and disease outbreaks such as COVID-19.#YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife pic.twitter.com/DH7Gelr6FC— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 8, 2020 Muhsin Ghalib, an Iraqi Red Crescent nursing officer, has chosen the nursing profession because it is a vocation that helps preserve human rights. Ghalib narrates an unforgettable experience where he witnessed the death of a young man who was helping his father at the hospital. “I can never forget this experience, because the father was the one who was sick, but ended up staying alive. Whereas his son, who was perfectly healthy, passed away just like that.’’Today, health care workers need #solidarity, not #stigma. Thank them and show them your support every day. By doing this, you help yourself and others to stay safe.Think what would happen if we don’t have enough #nurses and #midwives#YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife @iraqircs pic.twitter.com/EDsgGKU364— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 5, 2020 It is pivotal to create and respect a humanitarian space in order to allow Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and health workers to care for people in need and alleviate human suffering among the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach communities.Health workers who dedicate themselves to saving lives deserve society’s respect. They must not be prevented from reaching those in need.Nurses and midwives have devoted their lives to saving and caring for others. In return, we should protect, respect, recognize and give thanks nurses, midwives and all health workers at all times.Elias from @YemenCrescent was granted a #FlorenceNightingale medal – the highest award one can get in #HealthCareSector.#Midwives and #nurses are needed today more than ever before, and they must be appreciated by everyone. Thank you for what you do! #YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife pic.twitter.com/jUHiflcwj7— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 4, 2020
Dr. Abbas Finds Physical Distancing a Real Challenge in Iraq to Fight COVID-19
Randa El Ozeir: The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) has gathered its efforts to fight COVID-19, and launched “Your Doctor” program to guide, sensitize, and refer people to the relevant health services depending on their situation. In our conversation with the President of the IRCS, Dr. Yaseen Abbas, we talked about how Iraqis are dealing with the pandemic, which hasn’t changed much of their behavior and social culture although it caused them to lose their livelihood and revealed the depth of the economic and social crisis inflicting on the country. Dr. Abbas stressed the need to strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction and Management to protect the population and keep and attract the local and foreign investments.Why the situation in Iraq regarding COVID-19 hasn’t improved despite all the adopted measures? Any measure taken during a pandemic wouldn’t succeed if citizens do not cooperate or understand its importance. Since the beginning, it was obvious that the adopted measures focused on the health side without looking into the reality of livelihood. In the first phase, a curfew has been imposed in Iraq. And this simply meant livelihood interruption for citizens who earn their living from daily jobs. I don’t think citizens would respect such a curfew as it affects their livelihood and their families’ and would find breaking this ban as their only option.The second and more important point in my opinion is the physical distancing during social event. The social celebrations didn’t stop at all, namely “Majalid Al-Aza’a” (Mourning Gatherings). It is an occasion where come together the parents, relatives, friends, locals, and everyone who had known the deceased. They crowd in pavilions, mosques, and halls for three days as per the customs in Iraq. Social distancing was not practiced as well as the physical distancing in such occasions. Shaking hands, and even hugging, continued. Besides, visits during the curfew did not ease if not increased due to work suspension, and the chances upped for everyone to stay late and meet in the morning, at noon, and at night.Do you find that learning and education factor in helping with the awareness about the seriousness of COVID-19? And how do you deal with people who believe only in our written fate? Learning plays a crucial and direct role in the process of accepting and perceiving information. But nowadays, we notice a lot of confusion circulating through the social media. Unfortunately, part of the confusion is coming from highly educated people. There is been a talk lately, about the concept of “COVID-19 fatigue” as a widespread phenomenon among people, the youth in particular. Does this apply to Iraq or specific parts of it? Yes, it does apply to Iraq, and I suspect it to be a human nature regardless of the country. The latest measures in Iraq reflect this fatigue, which is noticed through the complete opening of institutions. All restaurants, coffee shops, and public shops are open in a manifestation of COVID-19 fatigue.Prior to COVID-19, Iraq was still struggling with social, economic, and political crisis. How the unfavourable impact of the virus reflected in the whole situation of the country? As a result of COVID-19, many jobs discontinued in Iraq. For instance, the hospitality and restaurant sector almost stopped altogether. It employed huge numbers of citizens and affected other related sectors, which was a direct reason for too many to lose their livings, especially those who bank on daily jobs with no protection or insurance.The other factor is the falling of oil prices, which directly affected many businesses linked to official spending, such as construction, business related to public firms, buying from the markets, and the salary of some public employees or the people who do daily work with the government. The government was in a tight spot to secure the permanent employees’ salaries, which led to harming some of those who earn a daily living.“Your Doctor” for Help and GuidanceAre there any particular initiatives you like to highlight or believe they played, or could play, a positive role in protecting the population? In the extensive awareness program the IRCS adopted since the end of last January, the Society launched “Your Doctor” project due to the many confusing opinions circulating about COVID-19. We gave the phone numbers of numerous doctors to guide, at certain hours, those who are suspected of being infected or who are actually infected. Our doctors receive a high volume of calls and refer the caller to the best way of consulting health institutions when his situation worsens and encourage him not to ignore the approved health guidelines in Iraq, as well as these of World Health Organization.We asked the government to adopt the concept of “Disaster Risk Reduction.” The world and the investors evaluate the countries’ situation by their capacity and resilience at times of disasters whether it be natural or man-made. The risks of investment and building projects in a country are assessed by its capacity to deal with all kinds of disasters. A lack of such plans raises the risk level in investment for both local and foreign investors.Iraq suffered an unrest due to the living conditions that affected the stability of political situation. There were demonstrations and strikes that might have coincided with what happened in Lebanon. Then later came the COVID-19 pandemic. We all need to understand that “Disaster Risk Reduction” is not a luxury, but a necessity and foundation for any development process to achieve progress and stability. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and notably the National Societies, and the IFRC are involved in directing the government’s focus to prepare emergency plans. To this date, many governments haven’t done that. This is a real problem, as we may find ourselves facing other disasters without any fending governmental plans, the way it happened with COVID-19. Thus, we see the amplified effect in our countries where the most vulnerable groups in society are to bear it.There’s no doubt that the virus is present among the healthcare workers on the frontline, and the volunteers and staff of the IRCS are no exception. What measures are in place to curb the spread of cases, and how do you deal with the infection cases within the Society?From the beginning, we realized that our affiliates should follow three simple steps: cleaning the hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing. So we have made clear decisions to reduce the number of people in the offices, limit the numbers within the field teams, and in a clear educational method, stress on the importance of taking the obligatory steps to keep the hands clean and put on the mask. We succeeded to a great extent in preventing the infections inside and through our activities and in our institutions. But this did not spare our staff and volunteers from getting infected by their social interactions, in one way or another, with their families and other members of society. There have been cases, but I believe that 99 percent, if not 100 percent, of them came from outside the Iraq Red Crescent National Society.Are you still capable of providing the Society’s regular services on a daily basis (for instance, the ambulatory services, the psycho-social support, etc…) although COVID-19 has been on the top priority of the service list? The psycho-social support is currently a continuing service, namely for the patients, their families, the medical and health cadres who have started to suffer from exhaustion and anxiety too. We offer the First Aid now through our ambulances, but with lower frequency compared to previous times. In fact, I think that as IRCS, we should do business as usual, but gradually and with safe coexistence with people.What does it mean for you, personally, to be the IRCS president in the time of COVID-19? What are the most difficult challenges you have to face?As a president of the IRCS in such circumstances and in a country where human suffering is diverse and abundant, it means one thing: keep trying to be innovative in all means. We shouldn’t follow the traditional ways, as we have to be creative in order to deliver our response to the amounting humanitarian needs deriving from COVID-19 and from other issues. And this is the primary challenge. Thank God we haven’t stopped providing our services to the community and were able, despite the regular life disruption for a period of time, to conduct our activities according to population’s needs emerging from the pandemic. As IRCS, I believe we navigated lots of phases in fulfilling our humanitarian goals, as well as answering people’s requirements.Among other challenges is maintaining the National Society’s regular activities, effectiveness, and staff performance. I mean here particularly its the staff who have been working every day, day and night, without interruption in spite of the difficult circumstances that we went through.
The race to eradicate the curse of polio in the Philippines. Again.
Dr. Susan Mercado is strategic adviser at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She is a former Philippines Undersecretary of Health.
We are on the verge of wiping out polio again in the Philippines, a battle many of us have been waging for decades.
Growing up with neighbors and schoolmates who wore leg braces for limbs withered from polio, I didn't realize that polio was an ancient scourge that globally maimed or killed tens of thousands of people every year.
My first job as an assistant to the Philippines Health Secretary 30 years ago gave me the privilege to work on eliminating the wild poliovirus that was living in nine million Filipino children when then Health Secretary Juan Flavier launched an immunization campaign called "Oplan Alis Disis" -- Remove Sickness -- that was based on a simple strategy: mobilize the 3 "M"s: mayors, midwives, and the media.
Calling for a "Ceasefire for Children," the Philippines established local "peace zones" in areas of best by armed conflict. There we were able to deliver polio drops and other lifesaving vaccinations against measles, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and Vitamin A -- regardless of religion, socio-economic status, or political affiliation.
In response, mothers, fathers, and grandparents brought nine million children -- some dressed in their Sunday best -- to receive vital polio drops at health centers adorned with balloons, bands, and freebies as if for a fiesta. It took ten years of consistent routine vaccination, interspersed with national immunization days and the constant education of families in health centers, to the point of eradicating polio. By the time I became Undersecretary of Health in 1998 and by 2000, the Philippines was declared "polio-free."
Yet polio is back. Today, I am seeing Red Cross volunteers and staff wearing face masks and shields standing alongside government health teams as they scour the densely populated slums of Metro Manila, going door to door to administer polio vaccine drops. After almost 20 years being polio-free, the virus has returned. The COVID-19 crisis has only made it more difficult for health workers. Today stands as one of the most dangerous periods in decades, with thousands of children not receiving vital polio vaccinations because of the lockdown.
There are other problems too. Some Red Cross vaccination teams are welcomed with smiles, with families grateful that they do not have to bring their children to a health facility where they are afraid of contracting the COVID-19 virus. But for many other families, the fear of contracting COVID-19 is so great that they refuse to open their doors, speaking only through their windows.
We must not allow COVID-19 to block out the message that the Philippines government has embarked on a new effort to halt the spread of polio.
Take the example of Mary Rose Amauin, who refused to talk to Red Cross volunteers at first when they knocked on her door in August and her husband claimed their child had already been vaccinated. Patiently the Red Cross volunteers urged Mary Rose to reconsider. After all her questions were answered, Mary Rose eventually allowed her 10-months-old baby, Bianca to receive the drops, apologizing that she was more cautious as times are tough because of COVID-19.
For Philippine Red Cross volunteer Merlita Daygo, patience and kindness have helped her convince other hesitant parents like Mary Rose to allow their children to be vaccinated. She knows that taking the time to clearly explain the purpose of the vaccine will help save children's lives. Without a house-to-house vaccination campaign, many children would miss their polio vaccination.
As part of the preparation for the mass polio vaccination, volunteers and staff undergo training on how to handle refusals and how to keep everyone safe. Another volunteer vaccinator Mary Grace Kafilas told me how sad she feels when parents decline the polio vaccine. On the first day of a recent vaccination push in Rizal, seven parents refused the vaccination. What hurts so much is that it's such a simple, easy measure to prevent a life-threatening virus
I am encouraged by parents whose children have contracted polio and who now strongly advise and encourage other parents to take immunization seriously. Polio infections have occurred for thousands of years and was portrayed in ancient Egyptian paintings and carvings. But it was only in the 1940s and 1950s that polio epidemics infected more than half a million people around the world every year, inflicting a lifetime of paralysis, and in some cases death.
As we celebrate the great success of the eradication of the wild poliovirus in Africa, we must remember that national immunization days and the strengthening of routine vaccinations through grassroots mother and child health programs played a critical role in ridding an entire continent of this terrible disease.
As the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine heats up, we must also remember that today millions of children in the Philippines also need lifesaving polio drops to address its re-emergence. In the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years, let's make sure we take the last steps.
This article first appeared in the Nikkei Asian Review
| Press release
South Africa: Lessons of HIV/AIDS key to halting COVID-19 slide, says Red Cross
Johannesburg/Geneva, 7 August 2020 – A senior Red Cross official has warned that South Africa needed to learn lessons from the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS to help curb the rise in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, as the number crossed the half a million mark on 1 August 2020.
South Africa is the worst affected nation on the African continent, and currently has the fifth highest number of people testing positive worldwide, after the United States, Brazil, India and Russia.
Dr Michael Charles, the Head of the Southern Africa Country Cluster office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“This is a time to look back and look at the experiences of the past. South Africa was really the epicentre for HIV/AIDS, and we learnt so much from it. Yes it took a while before we could get it up and running in terms of our prevention methods, in terms of stigma, and these are the examples and the lessons learnt that we can bring to the fight against COVID.”
South Africa’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed on 5 March 2020. When the cases doubled every two days in the following three weeks, the country imposed an early lockdown, slowing the transmission. However, following the decision to ease the lockdown in July, the country has seen an exponential rise in cases, causing worldwide concern as it rapidly rose up the ranks of the world’s COVID-19 tally.
As of yesterday (5 August), South Africa had reported almost 530,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and almost 10,000 deaths. Last week, a record 572 deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours. These figures have confounded analysts who cannot explain the high rise in numbers but relatively low numbers in death. South Africa has a far lower death toll than other countries that have fewer confirmed cases, for example the UK.
Masks are still mandatory, strict government guidelines have been issued for hygiene practices on public transport like taxis, social distancing is promoted in all public spaces, bars and shebeens (informal drinking spots in townships) remain closed and gatherings like funerals prohibit more than 50 people at a time. Despite these measures, however, many South Africans within and outside the hotspots flout government prescriptions, with community feedback indicating that many believe the virus not to be real or not likely to affect them.
Stigma is an ongoing challenge, with humanitarian actors quoting behaviour similar to that seen during the AIDS pandemic, when people would rather not test, than know they have COVID-19 and be stigmatised or ostracised.
The IFRC’s Dr Charles said:
“It is really our responsibility to stop stigmatising people who have COVID, stop harassing people within the communities because of COVID, and it’s time for us to get together and fight the cause together. It is only then that we can say that we are winning the fight. At the moment unfortunately we are not winning it because our numbers are going up and up but am sure that once we change our attitude, once we bring the lessons learnt from the past, that is when we will start to see the numbers go down.”
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the South African Red Cross has partnered with the Department of Health to support in screening, testing and contact tracing in key hotspot areas. Ongoing parallel hygiene promotion and behavior change messaging accompany all Red Cross activities to increase health awareness among the general public and targeted communities. Media Communication and Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) activities have been rolled out to the affected and non-affected communities by Red Cross volunteers. During lockdown, the Red Cross has been providing food to homeless people and other highly affected groups, with a focus on people living in informal settlements.
Fighting COVID-19 in planes
By Fernando Gandarillas.
Cristian is a volunteer of the Chilean Red Cross and a specialist in psychosocial support. Along with other medical and psychological volunteers, he has been providing psychosocial support since April to passengers on domestic flights. So far, nearly 1,000 people have been reached in 15 trips, thanks to a partnership with the private company in Chile. "The combination of a pandemic and air travel can be intimidating for a person. People get very nervous", Cristian said.
He is in the aisle, talking to passengers and giving them psychosocial support. As he finishes his talk, another volunteer waves at him from the other side of the aisle, so that he moves closer to an older woman who is in a state of panic. Minutes earlier, the Red Cross medical volunteers were giving practical demonstrations on the use of masks and proper hand washing, when one of them noticed the woman had injuries on her hands, and was very stressed. He waited for Cristian to finish talking and called for his attention.
Cristian starts talking to the woman to create trust. She says she is returning to Santiago de Chile after attending a family wake in Iquique. During the last few days, she had washed her hands with chlorine, mistakenly believing that this would stop COVID-19. She tells Cristian how petrified she is of catching COVID-19 on the plane and bringing the virus home.
It's 10 pm and the flight is about to arrive in Santiago. Cristian moves away from the woman and they both take their seat to prepare for landing. It has been a long day for the volunteers. At 6 am they were already at the Arturo Merino Benitez Airport in Santiago to provide support to the crew and passengers who were travelling on the outbound flight from the capital to Iquique. "People who leave the capital for different regions usually present significant levels of anxiety. However, those who travel from small cities or towns in the country to Santiago are the ones who face higher levels of fear, because they know that the capital is where the greatest concentration of cases are. Many of these people need to travel to the capital because they have to undergo health treatment," Cristian says.
Chile is one of the countries in the region most impacted by COVID-19. To respond to the pandemic, the Chilean Red Cross has been working to raise public awareness of disease prevention, providing psychosocial support, and delivering personal protection equipment to various cities throughout the country. To strengthen this work, actions have been coordinated with the private sector. The support that volunteers provide on commercial flights within Chile is part of these coordinated efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
The plane lands and Cristian, together with his colleagues, waits for all the passengers to leave. "I learned a lot about prevention measures on this flight, and above all I felt support. I loved the emotional release techniques they taught us," said one of the passengers. Before getting off the plane, the Red Cross volunteers hold a small meeting to listen to the flight captain and crew's observations. "As soon as we get into the plane, they welcome us and make us feel part of their team," Cristian says.
Satisfied of providing help in the fight against the pandemic, Cristian crosses the runway to go to airport control. "Personally, I think this is a way of fulfilling our humanitarian mission. And for me it's a way to thank life.”