COVID-19

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04/05/2022 | Article

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

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

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05/05/2022 | Article

The IFRC was created to bring kindness – and kindness is needed more than ever

“The world is bleeding, and it needs help now”. Stark words of warning from a humanitarian leader shaken by a brutal war and living under the shadow of a global pandemic. I did not pen these words. They were written in 1919, by Henry Davison, the leader of the American Red Cross. His big idea was that the world’s Red Cross societies – which were set up after the movement was created by Nobel Laureate Henry Dunant in 1863 – should come together as a force for good at all times, and not only during wars. Davison firmly believed the kindness and expertise shown by Red Cross volunteers should benefit humanity in other times as well. And thus, the League of Red Cross Societies was born, on the 5th of May 1919. There were five founding Red Cross Societies – those of the United States of America, Italy, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom. By the end of that year, the League had 30 members. The League changed its name to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – the IFRC – in 1991. We now have 192 member National Societies, with more in formation. The core of the idea has stayed the same while the scope of the IFRC network has grown massively, in reach and in impact. In 2020, 14.9 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers reached more than 688 million people with disaster and other emergency response work; some 306 million with health activities, and 125 million with clean water and sanitation assistance. These are impressive figures, but the scale of the humanitarian needs continues to grow every year. Right now, countless people across the world need urgent support. The conflict in Ukraine and the stress placed on its neighbouring countries is just one example. The lingering physical, social and economic damages inflicted by the global COVID-19 pandemic is another. Alongside these disasters is the ever-present, and worsening, threat of climate change. With challenges like these, can a simple idea – like the one that led in 1919 to what is now known as the IFRC – still help to heal the world? I believe it can – and will. We know what works, and we’ve been proving it for more than a century. It’s one human being reaching out to support another human being in crisis, at the community level, where it is always needed the most. It’s ensuring that local volunteers and local organizations have the resources, training and as much (or as little) international support as they need to respond to disasters and crises. It’s making sure their voices are heard, and their interests represented, on the international stage. And it is working to bring that support to the most marginalized communities and individuals, no matter where they are, and without any discrimination as to who they are. It is – put simply – kindness. I first joined my National Society, the Nepal Red Cross, as a volunteer more than three decades ago. I was trusted – and therefore able to meet and support the people in greatest need – because I was part of their community, I spoke their language, and I understood their concerns. And the key to understanding what people needed was kindness. Over the years, the IFRC has evolved alongside the communities we support. We have adapted our ways of working, expanded our expertise as different vulnerabilities and stressors emerge, and have been agile enough to pioneer and then mainstream new approaches to humanitarian support. We have led on the development and widespread acceptance of cash assistance as the most effective and most respectful way to support people in need. After all, people who have lost everything in a disaster or conflict should not have to lose their dignity as well. And we are driving change in how disaster risks are managed and reduced through anticipatory action, where local communities are supported to reduce their risks, and immediate funding can be triggered once scientifically-measured thresholds are reached. None of this work would be possible without the kindness of our 14.9 million Red Cross and Red Crescent community-based volunteers. On World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, 8th May, we will encourage people around the world to believe in the power of kindness and #BeHumanKIND. The world is still bleeding. It still needs help. But there are nearly 15 million reasons to believe in kindness, and to have hope. -- If you'd like to read more about the history of the IFRC, visit our history and archives page. And check out the hashtag #BeHumanKIND across all social media channels this week to see how our National Societies are celebrating World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.

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17/03/2022 | Press release

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

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

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20/05/2022 | Press release

IFRC report: Goals for poverty reduction, decent work and closing inequality gap, stalled by COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean

Panama City, May 20, 2022 - The devastating socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have stalled some of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is unlikely that the region will end poverty, ensure gender equality, promote decent and equitable work, and reduce inequality within and between countries by the target date of 2030. This is one of the main findings of "Readjusting the path towards equity," a recent study by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The report confirms that COVID-19 increased unemployment, reduced the income of the poorest families, forced more than one million children to leave school, reduced labour protection and worsened inequality and gender violence. Head of IFRC's Disaster, Climate and Crisis unit in the Americas, Roger Alonso, said: "This study helps us understand the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable people’s income, access to food and well-being. The findings underline the fact that a full social and economic recovery will take years. To avoid irreversible levels of vulnerability, it is crucial to implement an inclusive and fair recovery, which also anticipates the effects of the current food and fuel price increases resulting from the conflict in Ukraine." According to the report, the loss of income of the poorest populations increased food insecurity resulting in 60 million people suffering from hunger in the first year of the pandemic. That same year, 23 million women were pushed into poverty and since then, cases of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking have increased. In addition, 10% of jobs in the region were lost during the pandemic, and 30% of these have not yet been recovered. Meanwhile, 51% of the migrant population surveyed by IFRC said they lost their jobs and 53% of those who kept them, saw their income reduced or were not paid. This IFRC analysis is based on literature review, interviews with experts and representatives of international organizations, as well as 1,825 surveys conducted in Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Venezuela. Co-author of the report and IFRC Livelihoods Recovery Officer in the Americas, Daniela Funez, said: ''Listening to the communities we serve is a priority for the Red Cross network. That's what allows us to know their needs in depth and, in this case, the data they provided us confirms the projections made by international agencies about the effects of COVID-19 on the SDGs'." To address the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, the IFRC suggests prioritizing attention to the most vulnerable groups, incorporating a gender approach in humanitarian action and contributing to reducing the effects of climate change. It also calls for increased investment in vaccination, protection and livelihood protection, a key issue to close the 60% funding gap needed to continue responding to the medium and long-term effects of COVID-19. For more information: In Bogota:David Quijano +57 310 5592559,[email protected] In Panama:Susana Arroyo Barrantes,[email protected]

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27/04/2022 | Press release

Vaccinations vital as COVID cripples Pacific countries

Kuala Lumpur/Suva 28 April 2022 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are increasingly concerned for more than 1 million people in Pacific nations as they struggle with their first major wave of COVID-19 fuelled by the Omicron variants. Ramping up vaccinations is vital as the rapid surge in COVID infections is causing increasing death and illness in countries with low immunisation rates. COVID-free for almost two years, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, and Samoa have all experienced outbreaks in their capitals, and the virus is spreading to vulnerable outer island communities which lack basic treatment and vaccination facilities. The virus is putting huge strains on fragile healthcare systems in population centres such as Honiara, Port Vila and Nuku’alofa. A rising number of healthcare workers are being struck down with COVID-19, further limiting health services and escalating the crisis. Sainiana Rokovucago, Acting Pacific Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “It is critical that we reach the last mile with vaccinations in the most remote Pacific island villages. Every effort must be made by authorities to reach these communities, despite the logistical challenges of getting vaccines to these remote tropical islands.” “Red Cross volunteers are working with communities to understand the importance of getting vaccinated and maintaining hygiene to stem the spread of this dangerous virus.” Solomons Islands has reported more than 12,000 infections and more than 100 deaths since January, 2022. Vanuatu has reported over 6,000 cases and 12 deaths in the past two months. After the volcanic eruption and tsunami in January, Tonga is battling a triple disaster with over 9,000 cases and 11 deaths due to COVID. In the Solomon Islands, only 20 per cent of the population have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. In Vanuatu, only 38 per cent have received two doses, considered the minimum initial protocol to help protect people. “There is strong evidence that vaccinations save lives. People in the Cook Islands are experiencing their first wave of the virus, yet due to the high vaccination rate of 100 per cent, they have been able to avoid severe illness and many deaths.” “It is critical that we do even more to counter misinformation, knowledge gaps and rumours about COVID-19 and vaccinations, by building trust and vaccine by understanding any concerns, answering questions, and fostering dialogue through trusted channels.” “COVID is far from over in the Pacific so we need to vaccinate everyone now”. For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Preeti Abraham, +66 61 412 3910, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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12/05/2022 | Press release

Global COVID-19 Summit: “World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments.”

Geneva, 12 May 2022 - During the second Global COVID-19 Summit co-hosted by the White House, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Secretary General Jagan Chapagain underlined the network’s commitment to delivering COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to the most vulnerable and building back stronger health systems. While many countries have successfully rolled out COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, vaccine coverage remains below 10 per cent in many low-income countries including, Papua New Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti or Madagascar. Low-income countries can also not afford tests and other lifesaving tools such as antiviral drugs or oxygen supplies, leaving millions at risk of contracting the virus and suffering its deadly consequences. Mr. Chapagain said: “World leaders must step up and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines, tests and treatments. This means targeting those who are most vulnerable, have the greatest needs and are the hardest to reach. This pandemic is still spreading and killing people. It is too soon to drop our guard and give up our global efforts against COVID-19.” Since the start of the pandemic, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have supported more than 400 million people to access COVID-19 vaccination and provided mental health support to over 13 million people in 152 countries. Because they are part of the very communities they serve, their role is also critical to building trust, informing communities about public health measures and boosting vaccine uptake. For example, across Asia and the Pacific, millions of volunteers have helped tens of millions of people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Afghanistan has one of the world’s most fragile health systems and has vaccinated only 12% of its population with two doses. The Afghan Red Crescent has been operating a 50-bed hospital dedicated to COVID-19 patients and provided food or cash to more than 165,500 people. More than 1 million people were screened through their Mobile Health Teams and clinics in 2021. In Namibia where only 16% of the population has been fully vaccinated, the Namibia Red Cross has led a “get vaccinated – kick COVID-19 out of Namibia” road show campaign. Red Cross volunteers walk through the streets in communities around the country, carrying signs, singing songs, and leading chants about vaccination. At COVID-19 vaccination sites, Red Cross volunteers also support registration for vaccination and data entry and provide basic first aid. During the Summit, Mr. Chapagain expressed IFRC’s support to a pandemic financing mechanism that would allow community actors to access funding to strengthen community health systems and to increase their resilience to future health threats. Mr. Chapagain said: “We need to prepare for the next pandemic now. The world wasn’t ready for COVID-19, but we can be for the next pandemic. We must harness the lessons, successes and failures from the response to COVID-19 and build towards a future where communities are equipped to respond to the next health crisis.” To request an interview or for more information, please contact: In Washington: Marie Claudet +1 202 999 8689, [email protected] Click here to discover more examples of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' vaccination activities during COVID-19.

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13/05/2022 | Article

World's largest youth organizations agree new strategic collaboration with the WHO to build a healthier, more equal and youth-led future

Geneva, 13 May 2022 - Today, CEOs and youth leaders from the Big 6 Youth Organizations met with leaders from the World Health Organization (WHO) to discuss the role of young people in leading COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and agree on a ground-breaking strategic partnership and collaboration of engaging young people in future health-related crises. The partnership agreements signed by five of the Big six are designed to increase multilateral collaboration and put young people at the heart of decision making, whilst the IFRC will use its existing partnership to achieve this goal. This represents an important milestone in the successful collaboration between the Big 6, the WHO, and the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM), a movement of young people taking action to address the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to build back better. Young people today face an unparalleled time of challenge. In addition to the direct health impacts exacerbated by the pandemic, young people continue to be disproportionately affected by disruptions to education, loss or lack of employment opportunities, domestic and gender-based violence, and mental health challenges. The new strategic agreements build on the Global Youth Mobilization, a successful initiative launched at the end of 2020 and supported by WHO and the UN Foundation through the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The Global Youth Mobilization enables the rapid disbursement of micro grants to tens of thousands of young people worldwide to help develop solutions to ensure their communities emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. Through the “Local Solutions”, young people are driving change and implementing solutions in response to COVID-19 by taking action through community-based interventions and voluntary services. The initiative is powering change at a national level too through the engagement and activation of Big 6national organizations across the world. The collaboration between WHO and the Big Six Youth Organizations includes a focus on the areas of mental and physical health, health promotion, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and climate and health. Commenting on the strategic collaboration, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “WHO is proud to support the global movement to engage and empower young people as a driving force in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with the Big 6 and the United Nations Foundation has provided a unique opportunity to learn from millions of young people and be guided by their enthusiasm and ideas to help communities build back better. What the Big 6 have achieved in a year through launching and implementing the Global Youth Mobilization is phenomenal and unparalleled in the youth development sector. We look forward to continuing our support through these new partnership agreements and encourage others to partner with the Big 6 and invest in the health and well-being of future generations.” Anna Segall, CEO of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and Chair of the Global Youth Mobilization, said: “We believe in young people’s agency and know that with the right support and opportunity they can imagine and lead the solutions to the global challenges we face today. In coming together through the Global Youth Mobilization, the Big Six Youth Organisations have shown that by listening to young people and providing them with the space and resources to act, our organisations and young people can make a huge collective impact. We look forward to continuing this vital work through our new strategic collaboration with the World Health Organization. By supporting young people to improve their mental and physical health, sexual and reproductive health and rights and tackle the impact of climate change we can work together to create a better, fairer future for all.” Meti Gemechu, Youth Board Representative for the Global Youth Mobilization and World Young Women’s Christian Association, said: "Through the Global Youth Mobilisation, we have proved that we are not the problem but in fact the solution to not just building back from the pandemic but building back better. With innovation, relentless energy and dedication to bettering our communities young people have led the response and recovery efforts. The Global Youth Mobilization is a critical actor in bringing together everyone for a future we want to be a part of." During the three-day visit the Big 6 shared highlights and recommendations with multinational agencies, institutions, governments, policymakers and corporations to prioritise the needs of young people from the Global Youth Mobilization "Powering Change: Young People Leading the COVID-19 Response and Recovery” impact report. To date the Global Youth Mobilization has already resulted in 200,000 young people actively engaged in addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in their local communities. They have been at the forefront of the pandemic recovery, delivering over 260 projects to date in 77 countries and supporting 800,000 community beneficiaries. For more information contact: Sam Williams, Global Youth Mobilization, Project [email protected] Paleni Amulungu, Global Youth Mobilization, Digital Communications, Partnerships and Advocacy [email protected] Amjad Saleem, IFRC Inclusion, Protection and Engagement Manager [email protected] Click here to learn more about the IFRC's work in engaging young people around the world.

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27/04/2022 | Article

World Immunization Week: going the last mile to keep communities safe from COVID-19

Immunization is the foundation of healthy communities. And right now, in the continued fight against COVID-19, vaccines are one of many important tools we have to keep communities around the world safe and healthy. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is supporting COVID-19 vaccination efforts in 172 countries. And, together, our National Societies have supported more than 325 million people to access COVID-19 vaccination globally. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve made special efforts to reach vulnerable, marginalized and hard-to-reach communities worldwide. To go what we call the ‘last mile’—because all people, no matter who or where they are, deserve access to health services, vaccines, testing and lifesaving treatment. And because we know that no one is safe until everyone is safe. So, what does this work actually look like? Scroll down to discover photos and examples from five different countries: Papua New Guinea, Libya, Zambia, Kyrgyzstan and Canada. And if you like what you read, sign up to the IFRC’s immunization newsletter for a monthly round-up of immunization activities in response to COVID-19 and other diseases. Papua New Guinea Papua New Guineahas one of the lowest vaccination coverage rates in the world. The Papua New Guinea Red Cross is working closely with provincial health authorities in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, and a crucial part of this work involves building public confidence in vaccination. Volunteers are providing accurate, reliable and trusted public health information about COVID-19 vaccination. In many cases, they work in partnership with local community groups—such as the Country Women Association in Madang province—to reach people in spaces they already feel comfortable in. By listening and responding to people’s concerns about the vaccines, they are dispelling people’s fears and encouraging more and more people to come forward for their jab. Libya The Libyan Red Crescent Society is partnering with the Libyan National Centre for Disease Control to support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination—with a focus on community engagement and logistical support. More than 600 volunteers have been going out and about in their communities to engage with local people and answer their questions about vaccines. Volunteers have been helping with vaccine registration and data entry, so people can sign up for their jabs, and several Libyan Red Crescent health clinics in the south of the country are currently being used as vaccination centres. Zambia Zambia Red Cross Society volunteers are running a mobile COVID-19 vaccination campaign to take vaccines out to remote and hard-to-reach communities across the country. They’re working with trusted local community leaders, helping them to be advocates for COVID-19 vaccines so that their communities feel confident coming forward. Volunteers are also working hard to continue routine immunization activities across the country so that all Zambian children are fully immunized before the age of 5. Kyrgyzstan Hundreds of Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent Society volunteers across the country have dedicated their time to supporting the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. They set up a special COVID-19 vaccination hotline to answer the public’s questions and address rumours and misinformation about vaccines. And they’ve been deployed to vaccination centres to lead vaccine registration and data entry so people can easily schedule their appointments. Canada In Canada, the Canadian Red Crosshas been supporting provincial, territorial and Indigenous health authorities in vaccination efforts among remote and Indigenous communities. For instance, in Northern Alberta, CRC’s Indigenous staff have been embedded into mobile vaccination teams to help understand and address the roots of vaccine hesitancy. They’ve been supported virtually by an Indigenous People’s Help Desk, set up to respond to the unique needs of Indigenous leadership during the pandemic. -- For more information, visit our immunization page or sign up to the IFRC's monthly immunization newsletter.

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23/03/2022 | Press release

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

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

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10/03/2022 | Press release

Ukraine: Millions at risk as health concerns exacerbate vulnerabilities

Budapest/Geneva, 10 March 2022 – As the conflict continues in Ukraine and a cold front descends, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns of the dire health - including the spread of COVID-19 - and mental health consequences for millions of people both inside and outside of the country. The fighting in Ukraine has continued for two weeks and no one has been left unscathed. An estimated 18 million people – a third of the country’s population – will need humanitarian assistance, and more than 2.3 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. As the lives of millions are being upended, there is a real concern of diseases spreading, pre-existing health conditions worsening and mental health concerns increasing. “Many of the people affected were already vulnerable before the conflict and now face an even harsher situation as they are losing their homes and their livelihoods, being forced to seek shelter wherever they can or fleeing their country in search of safety. They urgently need food, water and shelter, but also emergency medical care, protective measures and psychosocial support to avert an even greater humanitarian catastrophe,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC Regional Director for Europe. At the Przemyśl railway station in Poland, a woman was crying and being comforted by a volunteer from the Polish Red Cross. When asked what had happened, she answered that she had spent the whole night and day waiting for the train from Ukraine that would bring her daughter to safety. The train had finally arrived, but her daughter had not. People fleeing conflict often experience highly distressing situations, loss and trauma, which may impact their mental health and ability to cope. Psychosocial support will be needed in the days, weeks, and months to come. In conflict settings, public health measures to prevent diseases from spreading become extremely challenging. People are forced to shelter in crowded spaces with limited sanitary conditions or access to basic health services, which increases the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, such as tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. The spread of COVID-19 is a particular concern as the vaccination rate in Ukraine is among the lowest in Europe with only one-third of the population having received the first dose. Ukraine also has one of the highest rates of multidrug resistant tuberculosis in the world. Adding to what is already a desperate situation, temperatures are dropping below freezing. There is an urgent need for warm clothing and adequate shelter to shield people in temporary locations and those who are queuing at the borders from the elements, the majority of whom are women, children and older people. “Our Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in Ukraine and neighbouring countries are doing their utmost to support anyone in need, in particular those who are most at-risk including unaccompanied minors, single parent households, older people, and people with disabilities. They have the full support of IFRC and our global network, but more funding is desperately needed as millions of lives are at stake. Even if the armed conflict was to end tomorrow, the humanitarian consequences will be felt for years to come,” said Bischoff Ebbesen. Notes to editors In Ukraine, Red Cross teams are providing first aid and first aid training, helping in reception centres and to transport people to safety, and distributing relief items, including warm clothes. Despite the mortal danger they themselves are under, 3,000 new local volunteers have stepped up to support their neighbours. In Hungary, Red Cross teams are operating three health service points at the border. They are also running reception and collection centres where they are welcoming people crossing from Ukraine and distributing relief goods. In Poland, where 60 per cent (more than a million) of people from Ukraine are fleeing, the Polish Red Cross has activated more than 20 rescue teams, including approximately 450 medics, who are providing round-the-clock health care and psychosocial support at five of the eight border points as well as in major cities. In Moldova, volunteers and staff from Moldova Red Cross have provided support to approximately 200,000 people who have crossed over from Ukraine. They are at all border crossing points offering hot tea, warm food, diapers, and personal protective equipment including face masks and sanitizer. Volunteers are also helping at reception centres, assisting with food preparation and playing with children. In Russia, Red Cross teams have delivered 187 tonnes of aid including clothing, hygiene kits, baby products and household items. They are providing psychosocial support, have opened a mental health support hotline and, to date, have provided 756 consultations. More than 160 calls have come in to the restoring family links hotline. In Romania, volunteers and staff from the local Red Cross are at various border crossings distributing food items, water, basic necessities, hygiene products, and thousands of SIM cards to people in need. The Red Cross is helping local authorities in equipping reception centres with tents, bedding, food and hygiene and baby items. Volunteers are also visiting placement centres, playing with children and helping local staff to prepare food and other necessary support. In Slovakia the Red Cross is at all three of the country’s border crossings, where teams are providing services such as warming shelters, referrals to essential services, and first aid. As people are quickly moving on from the border area, the Red Cross is quickly scaling up support along the routes. This support includes psychosocial support and providing child-friendly spaces; social services, particularly referrals for services such as education, healthcare and registration for legal status; providing first aid, health assessments, referrals to clinical care and COVID-19 testing. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: In Budapest: Kathy Mueller, [email protected], +1 226 376 4013 In Budapest: Nora Peter, [email protected], +36 70 953 7709 In Geneva: Caroline Haga, +358 50 598 0500, [email protected] Read more about the IFRC's emergency appeal for Ukraine and impacted countries. Photos and videos: Ukraine - Romania - Hungary - Croatia - Poland - Slovakia - Russia - Moldova - IFRC Newsroom

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07/03/2022 | Press release

COVID-19 two years on: A new normal for some while millions still at risk, warns Red Cross Red Crescent

Geneva, 7 March 2022 – Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, as many countries are declaring the crisis chapter over, millions of lives are still at stake. Much of the world lacks the high vaccination coverage, strong healthcare systems or testing capacities to be able to transition to “a new normal”. Until everyone has access to the same tools to fight and recover from COVID-19, this crisis cannot be solved and will continue to impact everyone. Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “'Living with the virus’ is a privilege that many countries and communities around the world cannot enjoy. Ensuring equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and treatments will not only save lives, but will also protect the world against the emergence of new and more dangerous variants. It is the only path to normalcy. None of us is safe until we all are.” Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers are working around the clock to bridge the equity gap ensuring that vaccines make it from the airport tarmac into the arms of vulnerable, at-risk, and marginalized individuals and communities. Their role is crucial, not just in helping people to get vaccinated, but also in informing communities, building trust, and dispelling misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. Since the outset of the pandemic, they have reached over 300 million people through immunization activities. In countries like Zambia, where health systems are fragile and rumors around vaccines are spreading fast, vaccine supply is just one of numerous obstacles. The Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS) has set up a mobile COVID-19 vaccination campaign, bringing vaccines directly to people in hard-to-access areas. Volunteers mobilize communities for vaccination, raise awareness about the mobile vaccination centers, provide information about vaccines and engage local leaders as advocates for healthy behavior change. In Afghanistan, a new wave of infections is hitting hard, and the country’s health system is struggling to cope. Afghan Red Crescent is ramping up services at its health clinics across the country and its COVID-19 hospital in Kabul, while supporting nationwide vaccination efforts and running information campaigns on preventing the spread of the virus. In the Pacific region, the virus is running rampant in several countries for the first time. This record surge of infections is threatening to overwhelm hospitals and health systems. In countries like Fiji and Vanuatu, with more than 165 inhabited islands, Red Cross volunteers have been travelling by car, boat and foot to reach remote communities to increase awareness about COVID-19 and get people vaccinated. COVID-19 has not only thrived on longstanding inequities but also intensified them, pushed families into poverty, and increased domestic violence and mental health issues. Women, urban communities and migrants have been disproportionately affected by the devastating socioeconomic impacts. More than 5 million children have also lost a parent or another caregiver to COVID-19. Psychosocial support has been at the centre of our work, and volunteers are seeing a significant rise in mental health support needs. Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC, said: “This pandemic is not just a health crisis. Entire communities will continue to endure socioeconomic and mental health impacts for years to come. We cannot let COVID-19 become the disease of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. It is critical that the global response and recovery include everyone and focus on building resilient communities and stronger health systems.” For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Geneva: Marie Claudet, +1 202 999 8689, [email protected] In Geneva:Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 43 67, [email protected] Click here to learn more about the IFRC's COVID-19 emergency appeal.

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11/03/2022 | Press release

Americas: Five million more people in extreme poverty and highly exposed to disasters after two years of COVID-19 pandemic

Panama, 11 March 2022.Two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic five million more people are in extreme poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, making them more exposed to the impact of disasters, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). This brings the total number of people in extreme poverty in the region to 86 million, with women, migrants and people in vulnerable urban areas especially impacted. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the IFRC and Red Cross societies network in the Americas have provided water, sanitation and community hygiene services to more than 10 million people. Its teams in the field provided information on COVID-19 and vaccines to more than seven million and supported the vaccination of 1.5 million people. It has also responded in parallel to the humanitarian needs of more than 680,000 people affected by disasters during the pandemic. Martha Keays, IFRC director for the Americas, said: "The income, savings and purchasing power of the most vulnerable families have declined, and unless we act in 2022, we will continue to witness these effects in the form of hunger, exclusion and unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines. To avoid this, we urgently need to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, ensure equitable access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, and build trust in communities." This level of extreme poverty, not seen in 27 years, leaves vulnerable communities highly exposed to the impact of disasters, such as the recent rains and floods in South America and other climate crisis-related events. It also increases their risk of displacement and migration. In 2020 alone, at least 1.5 million people were displaced in Central America due to emergencies, including hurricanes Eta and Iota. Globally, since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 139 million people have suffered the compound effects of COVID-19 and climate-related disasters. Ghotai Ghazialam, IFRC's COVID-19 operations manager for the Americas, said: "During the response of the COVID-19 pandemic of the past 24 months we witnessed how communities were pushed further to poverty and inequality, while facing other parallel emergencies related with climate events; this affected people already in a very critical situation. To strengthen their resilience, it is critical to accelerate and support their socioeconomic recovery and ensure their access to vaccines and comprehensive health services, all of which are key to preventing them from falling into irreversible precariousness.’’ In 2022, local Red Cross teams will continue to promote disaster risk reduction, preparedness, equitable access to vaccines, and implement their COVID-19 response programs. These programmes will continue especially in areas where vaccination rates are low, such as in the Caribbean region, through cash transfers, vaccination of isolated populations, ongoing research on the impact of the pandemic on the well-being of populations, and activites to build trust in vaccines. Notes and additional information: • New report warns that climate contributes to humanitarian crises in vulnerable contexts and drives displacement in every region of the world. • The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean report indicates increases in extreme poverty and inequality. • IFRC warns of the devastating socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the report ''Drowning just below the surface''. • 2 years of COVID-19 / 11 unprecedented moments: a selection of pictures to never forget of the biennium of the pandemic. For more information or to schedule interviews with specialists on the COVID-19 situation in the Americas region, please contact: In Panama, David Quijano, +57 310 559 2559, [email protected] In Panama, Susana Arroyo, [email protected]

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23/02/2022 | Press release

Afghanistan: Global support critical as COVID runs rampant

Kuala Lumpur/Kabul/Geneva, 23 February –The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies calls for urgent global support for health and testing services, and vaccinations to slow the spread of COVID-19 that is surging across all areas of Afghanistan, stretching the country’s fragile healthcare system. A new wave is hitting Afghanistan hard. Testing is inadequate, and the World Health Organisation reports that almost half of tested samples are coming back positive, indicating an alarming spread of the virus. With only 10 per cent of people fully vaccinated according to Our World in Data, the country’s fragile health system is struggling to cope with the surge in COVID-19 infections after dozens of COVID-19 health facilities were forced to close due to lack of medicines, essential medical supplies, and a lack of funds to pay for utilities and salaries of health workers. Fewer than 10 of the country’s 37 public COVID-19 health facilities remain functional, and they are unable to keep up with demand. Afghan Red Crescent is ramping up services at its health clinics across Afghanistan and its COVID-19 hospital in Kabul while supporting nationwide vaccination efforts and running information campaigns on preventing spread of the disease. Mawlawi Mutiul Haq Khales, Afghan Red Crescent Acting President, said: “As the number of COVID-19 infections increase from cities to remote corners of the country, the international community needs to open up the doors to support critical healthcare, testing and other essential services before it’s too late for the people of Afghanistan. "It is vital to increase the number of functional COVID-19 health facilities so that pressure can be eased on the few functioning hospitals.” International sanctions have severed hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that is critical for maintaining the country’s health care system, including forcing the closure of dozens of COVID-19 case management facilities. Compounding the health crisis, a measles outbreak has infected thousands and killed dozens of people last month alone in Afghanistan. Necephor Mghendi, IFRC’s Head of Delegation for Afghanistan, said: “The measles outbreak is alarming since Afghanistan is in the middle of one of the worst droughts and food crises in decades, leaving children malnourished and far more vulnerable to the highly contagious disease. "It’s crucial for us to get relief to communities struggling in the face of multiple crises and severe hunger, while urgently investing in local institutions that deliver vital basic services including COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations. “Locally staffed community health programs and a well-functioning public health system are proven ways to help the most vulnerable in the communities across Afghanistan.” As part of this ongoing support, the IFRC is urgently appealing to the international community for more than 65 million Swiss francs to support the Afghan Red Crescent to deliver health services, emergency relief and recovery assistance to more than 1 million people in the provinces hit by multiple crises. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Joe Cropp, +61 491 743 089, [email protected]

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17/02/2022 | Press release

Solomon Islands: Vaccines vital as COVID overloads health system

Kuala Lumpur/Honiara/Suva, 17 February 2022 – Ramping up vaccinations is critical in the Solomon Islands as COVID-19 crashes across the country overloading the country’s fragile health system from the capital city Honiara to remote islands and villages. Free of COVID-19 in the community one month ago, the Solomon Islands has reported nearly 5,000 infections and more than 50 deaths. Last week, authorities said one in every two people had COVID-19 symptoms, and testing was overwhelmed, indicating that many more people are sick with the virus. More health workers are infected with COVID-19 limiting medical treatment, testing and vaccinations. Authorities are training non-health workers on how to scale up rapid testing to urgently help fill the gap. Clement Manuri, Secretary General of Solomon Islands Red Cross Society said: “COVID-19 is spreading faster than the wind from our cities and towns to the most remote communities. Testing and health services are overloaded, and this dangerous virus is running rampant in villages where people are yet to be given a first dose of the vaccine. “We are urgently sending more Red Cross teams to raise awareness on how deadly this virus is so that people can protect themselves. We are helping people with critical information on how to isolate at home and care for sick family members.” In the Solomon Islands, only 11 per cent of the eligible population have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 16 per cent have received a first dose, according to Our World in Data. Misinformation and rumours have contributed to people being hesitant to get vaccinated. Getting vaccines to remote island communities remains a major logistical challenge. Katie Greenwood Pacific Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “We have already seen in Fiji and Papua New Guinea how this ruthless virus overwhelms hospitals and health systems. As COVID takes off across the Pacific, it’s more important than ever that vaccines get in the arms of people who are unvaccinated.” "Solomon Islands and other countries in the Pacific are facing their first wave of COVID-19 and it’s clear that vaccinations help protect people from severe illness, hospitalisation and death, particularly in countries with fragile health systems. “Increasing vaccination rates in the Pacific is crucial to prevent death and suffering. We must remember that it’s also critical to help control the spread of this virus by maintaining physical distance, wearing masks, washing hands and avoiding crowded places.” For more information, contact: In Honiara: Kennedy Waitara, +677 7388 152, [email protected] In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Courtney Wilson, +61 481 150 973, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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01/02/2022 | Press release

Pacific: COVID-19 endangers fragile health systems

Kuala Lumpur/Suva 1 February 2022 – A record surge of COVID-19 is threatening to overwhelm hospitals and fragile health systems in Pacific countries as the virus is running rampant in several countries for the first time. Solomon Islands is experiencing its first-ever community outbreak, with more than 780 reported cases and its first five COVID-19 related deaths. Fiji is experiencing its third wave of COVID-19 infections, fuelled by the Omicron variant, while previously COVID-free countries Kiribati and Palau have also recorded community infections. Katie Greenwood Pacific Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “For nearly two years most Pacific countries have done an incredible job holding COVID-19 at bay. These new outbreaks in small Pacific countries threaten health systems that are fragile and struggling to cope with needs of Pacific Islanders. Every effort must be made to prevent and contain the virus. “While vaccination rates are remarkable in some Pacific countries, others are still far too low. It’s critical that vaccines doses reach the last mile to everyone across the Pacific, with trusted information about how vaccinations provide protection from severe illness and death. “Building vaccine confidence is vital in the Pacific to make sure we reach a critical mass of people vaccinated in all countries. Although we know physical distancing and isolation within households can be very difficult in many places, with the huge surge of the Omicron variant around the world, these measures, along with wearing masks, are critical for slowing infection rates.” Some countries in the Pacific have high vaccination rates, such as Palau, where 96 per cent of the population has received two doses and Fiji with 68 per cent. Other countries have much lower numbers of people vaccinated, such as Solomon Islands with 10 per cent, Vanuatu with 22 per cent, and Kiribati has just one in three people fully vaccinated. Healthcare systems in many Pacific countries suffer from lack of resources and have limited equipment and infrastructure. This is compounded by challenging logistics and communities spread across remote islands, making the provision of healthcare difficult. Pacific countries also face cyclones and floods in the coming weeks, while responding to other disasters such as the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga. “Many people around the Pacific are currently dealing with a bitter double whammy of severe disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. "In Fiji, Cyclone Cody has affected tens of thousands of people as the latest COVID surge skyrockets in the country. Providing support to people affected by these floods and the tsunami and volcanic eruption in Tonga is critical, though harder than ever. “We must not swap one disaster for another. It is vital that every measure is taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Pacific.” For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Courtney Wilson, +61 481 150 973, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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12/01/2022 | Press release

South Asia: Omicron threatens to overwhelm health systems

Kuala Lumpur/Delhi, 12 January 2022: The Omicron variant is fuelling a rapid surge of COVID-19 across South Asia that threatens to overwhelm health systems still reeling from a deadly wave of the Delta variant last year. Countries across South Asia from India to Nepal and Bangladesh are reporting alarming increases in COVID-19 infections, with India alone reporting a 2,013 per cent increase in COVID-19 infections in the past month, with cases now topping 179,000 in a day. The new wave is causing further misery for hundreds of millions of people across South Asia, already living in extreme poverty, exacerbated by COVID-19 over the past two years. Udaya Regmi, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Head of Delegation, South Asia, said: “This latest surge of COVID-19 spells immense danger for millions of people and health systems across South Asia. Omicron is spreading fast and while vaccination rates have been soaring, after such tragic loss of life last year, fear is mounting of record infection rates. “People everywhere want this pandemic to end but we must boost efforts to keep people safe with the basics, by wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and getting fully vaccinated where possible.” Last year, health systems were boosted by IFRC with increased supplies of oxygen equipment across South Asia, helping health authorities to be prepared for this latest COVID-19 surge. Several million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are working hard to provide people most at risk with access to lifesaving medical care, testing and vaccinations. In South Asia, a majority of countries have vaccinated less than 50 per cent of their population, putting people at greater risk of developing severe illness and requiring hospitalisation. India has fully vaccinated 45 per cent of its population, while Pakistan has 32.8 per cent and Bangladesh 33 per cent who have received two jabs, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data. Dr Abhishek Rimal, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Emergency Health Coordinator, said: “The Omicron variant appears to have milder symptoms than the Delta variant, but it is more infectious, so high case numbers are still leading to thousands of people being hospitalised and hundreds are dying. “We must accelerate efforts to get everyone vaccinated, and it’s critical to wear masks and avoid crowds, to keep families, friends and people most vulnerable safe. “To avoid endless waves of this deadly virus, we need vaccines to be available to everyone, in every country, especially for people who have not yet had their first dose and those most at risk, including older people and healthcare workers.” For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected] South Asia Delegation: Arabella Seebaluck, +12349000801, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Courtney Wilson, +61 481 150 973, [email protected]

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02/12/2021 | Press release

“Impulsive reactions are an affront to the global solidarity we need to successfully respond to a crisis of this scale.”

“The consensus reached among Member States this week to commit to a legal instrument that has preparedness, equity and a whole-society approach at its centre, is crucial. That the discussions this week took place in the shadow of Omicron, could not more clearly evidence the need for global collaboration to prepare and respond to pandemics. “But broad principles agreed are not enough. When Member States next meet, they will need to drill down on exactly what is required to achieve these. We also need to keep in mind that this process is an opportunity to address the mistrust that has plagued the response, and so we urge member states to keep communities at the centre of discussions. We need to build on what has been learnt and instrumentalize an approach to global pandemics that is powerful on paper, and transformational in reality.” Commenting on the Omicron variant discovery, Chapagain added: “It has been an illusion to believe that speedy vaccination in some countries, while massive pockets of the world remain without access to vaccines, will bring this pandemic to an end. And instead of applauding the great science and the transparency that helped to uncover a new variant, countries punished it with impulsive reactions. This is an affront to the global solidarity we need to successfully respond to a crisis of this scale.” For further information In Geneva: Ann Vaessen, [email protected], +41 79 405 77 50

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01/12/2021 | Article

COVID-19: Scaling up testing and strengthening national health systems with EU support

Since the beginning of the pandemic, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe have been supporting their countries’ health authorities in the fight against COVID-19 through a wide range of services to help curb the spread of the virus and ensure nobody is left behind. In Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, National Societies expanded mobile testing capacities thanks to a EUR 35.5 million partnership between the European Commission and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The European Commission financed this project as part of its Emergency Support Instrument to boost testing capacities and provide immediate support to Member States. The project’s success – it trained and equipped more testing teams as initially targeted – shows the value of a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic amongst European Red Cross National Societies. From September 2020 to September 2021, this initiative has been a vital part of the COVID-19 response, making RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing available for more people. Local Red Cross teams performed more than 1.2 million tests within the scope of the project. Moreover, 6,800 Red Cross staff and volunteers were trained for testing and 1,428 mobile teams were set up and equipped to provide COVID-19 testing services. The outreach role of National Red Cross Societies and their capacity to reach vulnerable groups has been particularly important in countries like Greece and Malta, where the Red Cross provided health and care services to migrants and refugees. Set up in camps and remote areas, these testing facilities aimed to help contain the spread of COVID-19 where access to health services was often limited. “Testing is essential to help contain the pandemic. With all its initial targets surpassed, the project has proven that National Societies can play a key role in supporting national health systems in Europe and has opened new possibilities for further collaboration with health authorities,” said IFRC project coordinator Francisco Fong. Local Red Cross teams also set up testing stations at transport hubs where a large number of people pass by every day. In Italy, staff and volunteers offered rapid antigen tests free of charge at 10 train stations across the country for travellers and commuters. In countries like Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, the Red Cross mobile testing teams have been invaluable in reaching out to marginalised communities in the countryside, where many people don’t have health insurance. As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge across Europe, collective efforts are more important than ever to disrupt transmission chains and save lives. The partnership between the European Commission and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been instrumental in providing support to health authorities and curbing the spread of COVID-19.

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29/11/2021 | Press release

“Impulsive and ineffective reactions” to COVID-19’s Omicron variant will send more Africans into poverty

In response to the news that a number of countries are restricting travel from South Africa and several other countries in the region; Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC Regional Director for Africa, said: “This impulsive wave of travel bans will further worsen the livelihoods of families across Africa. We need greater science-driven coordination to bring an end to this pandemic—not impulsive reactions. South Africa should not be punished for doing a good job of detecting a new COVID-19 variant, especially when imposing travel bans is likely to do more harm than good. The emergence of a new variant is happening against the background of low vaccine coverage, and this is where the focus should have been all along. We reiterate our call for equitable vaccine coverage. Variants will continue to emerge while the virus continues to circulate. Vaccine, data and knowledge equity are key to protecting the African continent and the world. We call on the international community to make decisions based on solid scientific evidence and avoid any move which may unjustifiably lead to a further worsening of the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.” For more information In London: Teresa Goncalves, [email protected], +44 7891 857 056 In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, [email protected], +254 735 437 906

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29/11/2021 | Press release

"The pandemic has both thrived on inequities and exacerbated them"

“The pandemic has both thrived on inequities and exacerbated them. Any new legal instrument, be it a treaty or otherwise, must affirm a commitment to equity: equity in access to health services and care, equity in access to vaccines, data, diagnostics and other treatments, and equity in access to recovery efforts, including economic recovery. “Too often we neglect the important work of community-level responders. We need increased investments and coordination in programmes that put communities at the heart of the response. “This pandemic has made it clear that we need bold new solutions – both in international and domestic laws – to avoid the same mistakes happening again. “Public health emergencies are our past, our present, and we will face them again. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, yet two years on we are still overly reactive and uncoordinated. Variants, like Omicron, will continue to emerge while the virus continues to circulate. Vaccine, data and knowledge equity are key to protecting the global population. “Based on the IFRC’s years of experience in responding to health crises around the world, and on our network’s mandate to assist Governments with legal preparedness for disasters and public health emergencies, we stand ready to strengthen this work. Whatever the outcome of these sessions, it must not only be powerful on paper, but it must also be transformative in reality.” For further information In London: Teresa Goncalves, +44 (0) 7891 857 056, [email protected]

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24/11/2021 | Article

Hope restored: Red Cross helps thousands across Caribbean through COVID-19 livelihood recovery programme

Kingston, Jamaica, 24 November 2021: After 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the socioeconomic consequences of the virus have added to the devastating loss of lives and the severe impact on public health systems. In 2020, about 209 million people fell into poverty in the Americas region, a figure not seen since 2008. The income, savings and livelihoods of the most vulnerable families have declined, with many facing hunger, exclusion and unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines. This is evidenced in “Drowning just below the surface: the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19,” a global study by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) that analyzes how women, migrants and inhabitants in precarious urban contexts have had the worst of it. The Caribbean is one region that has suffered greatly from the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic started affecting the Caribbean in early 2020, many countries resorted to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions to help curb the spread of the disease, resulting in the livelihoods of many people across the Caribbean being critically impacted. Jobs related to tourism were severely affected In Jamaica, workers in the tourism industry - a major source of income for the country – were among those who felt the impact the most. Oneil Atland, a river raft captain at the Carbarita River in the parish of Westmoreland, is among several rafters who offer river rafting services – a popular tourist attraction which allows guests to relax on a bamboo raft along the river and enjoy the scenery while learning about the rich history and culture of the country. “Things were great before the coronavirus, we had even built an area for rafters and guests to relax. However, since the coronavirus, we have been experiencing a downfall,” said Atland. With the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on the island, tourist arrivals dropped drastically, which left Atland, and many others like him who provide tourist services, without their only means of income. In the neighbouring parish of St. Elizabeth, shrimp vendors who sell packaged peppered shrimps in Middle Quarters - a frequently visited tourist location - were also affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. “I started doing shrimp vending to help my elderly mother, but then I realized it was an opportunity to earn additional income which I could save and use to send my children to university. Since COVID-19 however, business has been bad as the tourists who used to pass by our shops and purchase shrimps, were no longer visiting the island,” said shrimp vendor, Natasha Malcom Williams. The Jamaica Red Cross (JRC), with support from IFRC, provided cash cards to 524 persons so far, helping to supplement their income and, in some cases, allowing them to purchase supplies needed to resume their business. Kevin Douglas, JRC Emergency Services Manager said “some rafters were able to purchase supplies to fix their rafts which became water-logged due to inactivity, and some of the vendors used the money received from the Red Cross to venture into other sources of income, such as selling fruits to community members.” In St. Lucia, women were similarly affected “COVID-19 disrupted the income of a lot of community members in Anse LaRaye, as many of them work in the hotel industry and became unemployed and could no longer care for their family members; some couldn’t even pay their rent,” said Diana Gabriel from the St. Lucia Red Cross. “It’s been very difficult. I’ve been out of a job since March 2020 and I have been searching for a job, but most companies aren’t hiring much anymore because not many tourists are visiting St. Lucia,” said Cassandra David, hotel worker and mother of three children. “Thanks to the Red Cross for helping me so I could provide for my kids,” she continued. Supported by IFRC, the St. Lucia Red Cross provided cash cards, supermarket vouchers and food packages to over 3300 affected families and also issued mosquito nets and insect repellants to help prevent the spread of dengue, another health issue which St. Lucia has also been tackling. Vicky Kenville, one of the recipients of the supermarket vouchers, said her entire family was affected by COVID-19 and in addition, her husband had met in a motor vehicle accident which made it even more difficult for her family. “I was so excited for the voucher from the Red Cross. When I went to the supermarket, every time I put an item in the trolley, I would smile and say if it wasn’t for the Red Cross, I wouldn’t be here shopping, because with none of us working due to COVID, it was very difficult to buy necessities,” said Kenville, who expressed gratitude for the Red Cross support which she said helped her overcome some of the difficulties her family faced due to loss of income. In Grenada, the Red Cross provided over 200 families from all parishes across the island with supermarket vouchers. Cindy Lewis, COVID-19 Project Manager with the Grenada Red Cross said that “with the supermarket vouchers, beneficiaries are able to shop directly for what they need and this gives them a feeling of independence.” Education sector also severely impacted The tourism industry wasn’t the only sector impacted by COVID-19. With most schools closed due to restrictions, and teachers and students resorting to online schooling, school gate vendors across Jamaica also lost their income, when they could no longer ply their wares in front of the school compound. “Since COVID-19, I haven’t been able to sell anymore because schools are closed and it has been very rough, because even though I try to hustle otherwise, it’s still not enough,” said Nadine Wray, school vendor and mother of four children, who noted that her children were not able to do online schooling because of lack of devices and internet. “The cash from the Red Cross is very timely,” she added. The IFRC network has reached over 200,000 people in eleven countries across the Dutch-and English-speaking Caribbean through provision of cash and vouchers, food and other in-kind assistance as well as skills development for livelihoods, among other interventions. The evidence confirms that these initiatives helped to contain the rise in poverty. Nasir Khan, IFRC Operations Coordinator for the Dutch and English-speaking Caribbean said: “We understand the severe hardships faced by many across the Caribbean due to COVID-19, and moreover some of these families were already dealing with overlapping emergencies. Through the livelihood recovery programme, we are able to help those who lost their income because of COVID-19, so they can have some level of hope and dignity and be empowered to keep moving forward despite the circumstances. We are very grateful to all our donors who have contributed to the COVID-19 Emergency Appeal, enabling us to reach those most vulnerable. However, the task is not over yet. The pandemic is still impacting millions of people across the globe, so it is important that we continue our combined efforts to make a real difference in their lives.” For more information, please contact: In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva, +876 818 8575, [email protected] In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, +506 8416 1771, [email protected] In Colombia: David Quijano, +57 3105592559, [email protected]

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23/11/2021 | Press release

Bangladesh: Greater efforts needed to keep people safe on Bhashan Char

Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka/Geneva, 23 November 2021: Urgent action is being taken to keep people safe from cyclones and the COVID-19 pandemic on Bhashan Char Island. COVID-19 vaccinations have been underway for people aged over 55 on the island, and more doses are due for the remaining adults. Around 18,000 people displaced from Rakhine, Myanmar, have been relocated by authorities from camps in Cox’s Bazar to sturdier homes on Bhashan Char. Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working directly with displaced people so that lifesaving measures are in place ahead of the next big cyclone, as big storms regularly threaten the area from September until December. Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said: “Every effort is being made on Bhashan Char Island to improve living conditions and support people to be well prepared to take early lifesaving action ahead of any super cyclones. Volunteer teams have been trained in early warning action drills, first aid, search and rescue, and managing cyclone shelters. “Our teams have been helping with COVID-19 vaccinations for older people most at risk of the disease while helping everyone to stay safe and healthy with clean water, food relief packs, hygiene kits, and access to healthcare.” The IFRC is appealing for 86 million Swiss Francs to provide critical immediate and longer-term humanitarian support for the nearly one million displaced people living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar and those on Bhashan Char Island, including safer shelter, healthcare, improved access to clean water and sanitation and protecting people from the growing risks of climate disasters. In recent weeks, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers have helped vaccinate more than 1,000 people aged over 55, and more vaccinations are planned as soon as vaccines become available. Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, international Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said: “Everyone living on Bhashan Char Island needs to feel safe and every effort needs to be made to enable Bangladesh to have a fair share of COVID-19 vaccines. This is a critical part of enabling Bangladesh to manage the responsibility of hosting such a large number of displaced people.” “The IFRC has revised its Emergency Appeal for the next three years, to help meet the growing humanitarian needs in Cox's Bazaar and Bhashan Char, including risks from climate disasters. There is a critical 75 million Swiss Francs funding gap. After meeting the Bangladesh State Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, Alexander Matheou said: "Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, it is clear that we must work together to support safety, livelihoods, recreation and overall well-being of people experiencing such a long and traumatic displacement.” Alexander Matheou is visiting Bhashan Char with the leadership of Bangladesh Red Crescent today. Read and download the revised Emergency Appeal here. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Dhaka: Sajid Hasan, +880 1673 019617, [email protected] Mahmudul Hasan, +880 1716 103333, [email protected] In Kuala Lumpur: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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22/11/2021 | Press release

Drowning just below the surface: New IFRC research reveals magnitude of socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

Geneva, 22 November 2021 – Women, people in urban areas and those on the move have been disproportionately and uniquely affected by the devastating socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are some of the findings of new research published today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The COVID-19 pandemic has had major economic impacts on every nation in the world. The IFRC’s new research also shows the extent of the pandemic’s secondary consequences on communities and individuals. This crisis has caused: increased unemployment and poverty; increased food insecurity; a higher vulnerability to violence; and a loss of education and reduced opportunities for children. It has also exacerbated mental health issues. Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC, said: “Our research shows what we have long suspected and feared, namely that the destructive secondary impacts of this pandemic have damaged the fabric of our society and will be felt for years, if not decades, to come. People who were already vulnerable, due to conflict, climate-change, and poverty, have been pushed further towards the edge. And many people who were previously able to cope have become vulnerable, needing humanitarian support for the first time in their lives.” The new research provides a global overview, with a special focus on ten countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Philippines, Spain, South Africa and Turkey. Overall, women had more significant impacts on their income, were at greater risk of COVID-19 due to caregiving roles, more exposed to sexual and gender-based violence and experienced mental health impacts to a greater degree than men. In urban areas, poverty rates grew, in some cases at a faster pace than in rural areas. People on the move were more likely to lose jobs or have their hours cut during the pandemic and have been widely neglected by formal protection and safeguarding measures. Furthermore, a lack of preparedness made it harder for countries to build a comprehensive response to what has simultaneously become a public health emergency, global economic shock, and political and social crisis. “As frontline community responders, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the globe have been able to bridge the gaps in this response. They have a deep knowledge of the inequalities that exist and of how they are perpetuated and are therefore among the best placed to help people to recover from the harms to their livelihoods, health and education. But to continue to do so they will need significant additional support: both financial and political,” Rocca continues. The report also reveals that the world is on course for a wildly unequal recovery, depending on the efficacy and equity of vaccination programmes. “We have consistently warned that the inequitable distribution of vaccines will not only allow for high levels of transmission to continue, but that this inequity will also hinder, prolong, or exacerbate the impacts of this pandemic. While we continue to allow profits to trump humanity and richer countries continue to monopolize doses, we will never be able to say that this pandemic is over. “The world must open its eyes, take heed of what is happening around them and shift from words to action. If not, we face the risk that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be just as uneven and unjust as the impacts of the pandemic itself,” Rocca concludes. Click here to download and read the report (available in English, Arabic, French and Spanish). For more information and to arrange interviews: In London: Teresa Goncalves, co-author of the report and IFRC COVID-19 Communications Coordinator, +44 (0) 7891 857 056, [email protected] Watch this short video about the report:

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05/11/2021 | Press release

In the race against the pandemic, the poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalized are being left far behind

“Around half of the world’s population has now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is a tremendous achievement that even just a year ago seemed unfathomable. However, while richer countries are speeding ahead with vaccination campaigns for their populations, in lower-income countries, only about four per cent of people have received even one dose of a vaccine. Over half of the countries facing humanitarian crises do not have enough doses to vaccinate even ten per cent of their population. “In the race against the pandemic, the poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalized are being left far behind. It is a humanitarian imperative and a global responsibility, not to mention an economic and recovery necessity, to ensure that everyone has access to vaccines, not only those in countries with the means to buy protection.” Last week, the UN and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement jointly made five asks to government and the international community, to achieve the equitable distribution and delivery of vaccines. For more information In London: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]

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28/10/2021 | Article

Actions must speak louder than words: Five asks to achieve equity in vaccine delivery

In June 2020, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement jointly called on governments, the private sector, international and civil society organizations to accelerate efforts to develop, test, and produce a safe and affordable “people’s vaccine” to protect everyone, everywhere and bring the crisis to an end. A people's vaccine should protect the affluent and the poor, the elderly as well as the young, forcibly displaced persons, migrants regardless of their immigration status, and other often neglected populations, both in urban areas and in rural communities. Fifteen months later, thanks to extraordinary scientific and technological advances, as well as global collaboration and mutual reliance in regulatory aspects, multiple safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 are available and being administered in countries around the world. Yet, despite lofty rhetoric about global solidarity, the goal of a “people’s vaccine” is far from being reached. Equitable vaccine distribution is a political, moral, and economic priority which has so far been largely neglected. Profits and short-sighted vaccine nationalism continue to trump humanity when it comes to the equitable distribution of vaccines. Though more than 48 per cent of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, that percentage drops to barely 3 per cent in low-income countries. The situation is particularly worrying in countries in humanitarian crisis which need almost 700 million more doses to reach the World Health Organization’s target of vaccinating 40 per cent of their populations by the end of the year. Over half of the countries with a humanitarian appeal do not have enough doses to vaccinate even 10 per cent of their population. Seven of the poorest in the world only have enough doses to reach less than 2 per cent of their population (Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, South Sudan, and Yemen). Wealthy countries with access to large quantities of vaccines have generously pledged to donate their excess doses to low- and middle-income countries via COVAX. However, far too few of these donations have been received. Supply of doses to the most vulnerable continues to be constrained by export restrictions and an unwillingness of countries to give up their place in the production supply line to COVAX, even if they cannot use those doses immediately. The Humanitarian Buffer, part of the COVAX Facility, has been open for applications since June 2021. The Buffer is a measure of last resort to ensure the world’s displaced and other vulnerable populations are reached with COVID-19 vaccines. It is also part of the efforts to curb inequity, which would otherwise jeopardize social and economic recovery in humanitarian settings. We therefore need to urgently boost supply, share vaccines, and ensure that everyone has access. But having vaccine doses available is only part of the solution to this crisis. We must ensure that the vaccine makes it from the airport tarmac into the arms of the most vulnerable – including refugees, migrants, asylum seekers, marginalised groups, people who are stateless, and those living in areas controlled by armed groups and/or affected by armed conflict. There must be greater investment in local delivery mechanisms and capacity, not only to guarantee that vaccines are delivered quickly and fairly, but also to strengthen national health systems for more effective pandemic preparedness and response. All around the world, efforts to curb the pandemic are undermined by mistrust that leads to vaccine hesitancy. More than ever, it is important to work with and within communities, including through social media and community networks, to build trust and strengthen confidence on the efficacy and safety of vaccines. Activities that strengthen support for local actors and address misinformation are key to ensuring the successful delivery of vaccines to local communities, especially those most at-risk. The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement remain steadfast in their commitment to ensure equitable and effective access to COVID-19 vaccines across the globe. As the pandemic requires the international community to take extraordinary measures, today we unite our voices again to say it is time for actions to speak louder than words. --- It is a humanitarian imperative and our shared responsibility to ensure that lives everywhere are protected, not only in the few countries that have the means to buy protection. We call on governments, partners, donors, the private sector, and other stakeholders: to scale up COVID-19 vaccine supply and access to COVAX including through donations from high-income countries to donate vaccines to those countries and regions that remain inequitably served; to increase the funding and support to local actors to ensure that vaccines leave capital airports and reach everyone, including through investment both in the local health systems required for delivery and in community engagement to enhance acceptance and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines as well as vaccines in general; to strengthen the capacity for COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution worldwide, particularly in low- and middle-income countries; to accelerate the transfer of technology and know-how: investments made now will last well beyond this public health emergency and will strengthen the global capacity for response to future epidemics and pandemics; to request the lifting of all remaining barriers (by manufactures) to allow humanitarian agencies access COVID-19 doses, including through waiving the requirement for indemnification, particularly where the most vulnerable populations can only be reached by humanitarian agencies using the COVAX Humanitarian Buffer. For more information Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC,+41 79 708 43 67, [email protected] Crystal Ashley, ICRC, +41 79 642 80 56, [email protected] Anna Jefferys, UNOCHA, + 1 347 707 3734, [email protected]

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