“The School Health Club has taught us how to look after our health. I also bring the knowledge I learn from the club to my home, and my parents take those messages to the wider community.”These are the words of Kikanshemeza, a pupil at Mwisi Primary school in south-west Uganda and proud member of her School Health Club.Set up by the Uganda Red Cross, the School Health Club helps primary and secondary school pupils understand how to protect themselves from various disease threats, stay healthy, and share their newfound knowledge with their fellow pupils, families, and wider communities.It’s one of the many different activities under the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) – a multi-country programme run by the IFRC and seven Red Cross National Societies to help communities, first responders, and other partners prepare for, detect, prevent, and respond to health risks.Since joining her School Health Club, Kikanshemeza has built a tippy tap—a simple, low-cost handwashing facility that can help reduce up to 50% of avoidable infections—in her home, supported her family to use it regularly and properly, and shared life-saving information about different diseases.“She told us not to eat the meat of animals that have died and to make sure they are buried properly, and also that bats are a potential cause of Ebola and monkeys can transmit it too,” explains Kikanshemeza’s mother, Annet.Knowledge is powerKikanshemeza is one of 30 School Health Club members at Mwisi Primary school. The club meets up once a week in special sessions led by Akampurira, a facilitator from the Uganda Red Cross, who teaches them all about different diseases—including how to recognize signs and symptoms, which people might be most at risk, and actions the students can take to stop diseases from spreading.Club members are then responsible for maintaining school handwashing facilities, making sure all students follow proper hygiene practices, and sharing what they’ve learned with their follow students—often through large, theatrical performances in the school hall.Students act out informative and lively scenes: everything from a patient seeking help from a doctor after noticing signs of malaria, to a person being bitten by a dog in the street and rushing to get vaccinated.Tackling serious health issues in this more fun and light-hearted way helps break down complex topics, keeps fellow students engaged, and helps them retain the knowledge in case they need it in future.Why involve school children in epidemic preparedness?The IFRC and our member National Societies have long focused on helping people prepare for, respond to, and recover from epidemics.We know from experience that effective epidemic preparedness must involve communities themselves, first responders, and partners from across all parts of society – such as schools.“School health clubs have been a game changer in health risk communication, as engaged learners have been excellent peer educators in school, and also change agents at the household level,” explains Henry Musembi, CP3 Programme Delegate for Uganda and Kenya.“The clubs are a great platform for training the next generation of epidemic emergency responders and champions in target communities,” he adds.Seeing positive changeKushaba, another School Health Club member whose brother had previously suffered from malaria, says he’s learned a lot from the club and has noticed positive change in his community:“We learned how we can control malaria by slashing compounds, draining all stagnant water to destroy habitat for mosquitoes, and how you can use a treated mosquito net.”“Before the introduction of the School Health Club, we didn’t have tippy taps, we didn’t know how to use toilets, even how we can clean our school. Pupils, they were suffering from diseases like malaria, cholera, but now because of the School Health Club, they are fine,” he adds.--The School Health Club in Mwisi is one of several set up in Uganda and other countries through the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme runs in seven countries and supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more:Visit our Epidemic and pandemic preparedness webpageSign up to the IFRC’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness newsletter
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]
Sport is a really powerful way of addressing youth isolation and exclusion and preventing violence. The IFRC has teamed up with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of Qatar 2022 – Generation Amazing on a unique and innovative project that unites young people through one of the most popular sports worldwide: football.
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:
At the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), we believe that diversity is a fact, inclusion is an act. Through all of our work, we aim to protect and promote a positive change for humanity, based on our humanitarian values and Fundamental Principles.
Education is a fundamental human right and an essential public service. The IFRC and our National Societies worldwide work to ensure that all people have safe and equitable access to quality, inclusive education.
Nairobi/Geneva, 5 July 2021 - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Africa Region is calling on its partners to do more to protect children amid increasing vulnerabilities due to climate-related disasters. This call comes ahead of the upcoming Africa Dialogue/Anticipatory Action event.
MohammedMukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“As drought and food insecurity take hold, we see again that Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to the effects of climate change and its related disasters. IFRC is deeply concerned about the disproportionate level of protection risks against children across Africa posed by climate related disasters. Anticipating need and taking effective action is essential.”
IFRC is calling on all humanitarian actors to do a better job at preventing children from increased violence, abuse and exploitation. IFRC’s study, “We Need To Do Better” shows that climate related disasters puts pressure on protective systems, leaving families in desperate situations, and reducing children’s chances of shaping their own futures.
Mukhier added: “Climate change related extreme weather and rising temperatures have increased the frequency of droughts and floods in Africa and around the world, leading to knock-on effects such as economic hardship, child labour, severe malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and WASH facilities, child marriage and lower school attendance. The consequences of these are felt today and will continue to undermine children’s protection for years to come. We need to invest more in preventative action including anticipatory action with a specific lens on child protection.”
Presently, the menace of floods, COVID-19, conflict, and locusts in parts of the African region, linked to the warming climate, is a key example of the risks. Yet, this may worsen in the coming months, especially between June and August 2021, with the exacerbation of food insecurity.
Furthermore, climate related displacement is a significant concern. Rapid and slow onset environmental degradation diminishes living conditions, forcing families to leave their homes and often separate from their children. Many children are also forced to reside in unsafe refugee and IDP camps in countries across the continent where they are at risk of trafficking, recruitment into armed groups and sexual violence.
Climate related disasters in the region also threaten children’s access to school including through forcing schools to close, intensifying dropouts, families having to choose between school and livelihoods, and making transport and access to school hard for the poorest. This is already happening in Eastern and Southern Africa, where around 28 per cent of the children are unable to attend school. The lowest attendance rates are observed in the Horn, where climate related disasters are particularly prevalent.
School attendance is vital for children because—apart from education—learning institutions provide an environment that protects children from abuse, violence and exploitation.
Children’s mental health is also affected by the short and long-term impacts of repeated disasters. Instability and separation from family can exacerbate the stress and trauma of the experience. Psycho-social support is crucial for the emotional wellbeing, mental health and development of children.
Girls are at particular risk in climate related disasters as they experience unequal access to school, resources and decision-making, particularly in areas facing severe poverty. During and after climate related disasters, girls are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Child marriage, for example, may be used as a coping mechanism by families who experience economic hardship induced by environmental disasters. Girls who are married are at risk of physical and sexual abuse, poor nutrition, and increased chance of maternal neonatal death.
Mukhier called for a more proactive approach: “Local humanitarian actors need to take urgent, coordinated, and preventative actions to better protect children from the dire consequences of climate related disasters in the Africa region. We need to better anticipate protection needs and take practical actions. Children have not contributed to the climate crisis and yet they carry its heaviest burdens today and for the decades to come. We need to do better to ensure we work with children as partners and prioritize their protection and education.”
The IFRC urges humanitarian actors to: (1) recognize the impact of climate change related disasters on children; (2) invest in child protection and education systems, including localized coordination mechanisms; (3) include children, both boys and girls, in climate disaster related decision-making processes and the development of local solutions; and (4) prioritize anticipatory action to protect children from the impacts of climate disasters.
Randa El Ozeir: Undeterred by the interruption of physical communication due to COVID-19, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has continued to support and help children with disabilities and those with special needs by using productive communication tools delivered by 60 teams responsible for distance learning and rehabilitation. Suheir Badarneh, the director of rehabilitation in the PRCS, explained that “due to the sudden closing down, this initiative didn’t require a special digital platform. We resorted to groups on WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook to exchange the information. We had to call some families on mobile phones and landing lines when they didn’t have neither internet connection nor smart devices.”
Up to now, 686 children with special needs have benefited from the program that consists of special activities prepared by 187 volunteers, who have instructed the parents to implement them at home and send their feedback to the specialists and the rehabilitation workers. According to Badarneh, the activities aim to develop the children’ capabilities, relying on four main channels: a) equipping families with lessons and learning activities to be completed at home; b) providing through guidance and mental support a safe space for the children and their parents to express and release their feelings, fears, and inner thoughts; c) understanding the needs of the children and their parents and meet them as much as possible; d) and raising the awareness on virus prevention through health pamphlets created by the PRCS or other organizations.”
So far, 10 PRCS Branches have participated in the program, which was geographically spread to Ariha, Anabta, Al-Khalil, Tarqumiyha, Toubas, Nablus, Bani Nai’m, Ramallah, Khan Younis, and Rafah. The PRCS has contacted 1048 families and supplied them with cognitive and kinetic activities along with instructions for self-care to train the children after the shut-down of schools and rehabilitation centres and the pending of face-to-face education. Badarneh said, “we were able to increase the number of beneficiaries to reach 70% of all targeted children. The positive involvement and the responsiveness of parents and children with the program team were crucial to the success of the initiative. At the beginning it wasn’t easy to convince the parents to commit to distance learning, as it was a new concept for them, and many believed it to be ineffective.”
Given the novelty of the experience, the PRCS kept the door open for comments and suggestions from parents who wanted to improve the performance and the delivery methods of information to their children, including the deaf. The PRCS Branches created between 18 and 847 specific activities to be sent every day depending on the participation ratio and the nature of each Branch’s centre. Badarneh said, “we promoted social interaction among family members and the contribution to house chores, as well as developing language and communication capability in children, focusing on behaviour modification and boosting their fine and gross motor skills. We also completed the kindergarten program based on speech training, concept recognition, reading and writing, and sign language learning.” Asmahan Assfour, the coordinator of the sign language unit at the PRCS, said that a sign language translation has been provided to several female students to finish their digital marketing training online. And a group of female deaf students put their experience to test by producing 57 animated videos to spread awareness about COVID-19.”
“This project requires an equipped team of volunteers and specialists to guide the families of children with disabilities and visit them as part of an awareness program,” suggested Sirine Abou Samaha, a psychologist with the PRCS, who also raised the alarm that, “people with special needs are one of the most marginalized and stigmatized groups in the world, even under normal circumstances. If the government and the relevant institutions didn’t act quickly to contain them in their response to the spread of COVID-19, they would be exposed to the infection risk and death. They are less immune to facing the virus, and this affects their families’ mental health and is reflected in chronic anxiety that can develop into depression. Abou Samaha warned that the psychological conditions of these children can become detrimental after being severed from their safe space in learning and rehabilitation centres. There they can socially interact and enjoy extracurricular activities, which channel their energy in the right direction, giving them a sense of self and the right to play, learn, and live like any other child. Abou Samaha suggested to coordinate health check-up campaigns for these children and encourage as many of their families as possible to be in the digital world.
Om Karim, a mother of two children who attend the PRCS’ Total Communication School for teaching the deaf, welcomed the program. “The teacher, Najah Zahran, sends videos showing the letters’ and sounds’ phonetics, their signs, and their pictures to use when I teach my children. It has been a fruitful experience in many aspects for me and for my son. We have been able to fill our free time at home with learning. I, myself, even gained new skills.”
There is value in looking at this distance learning program during COVID-19 and beyond. “We are weighing with the IT unit the options to best develop this technology, so we can keep working with the children with disabilities during COVID-19 or any similar situations,” concluded Badarneh. But the hard-financial position of the families remains the major obstacle to meet the necessary requirements and ensure an effective communication and participation of both children and their families.
GENEVA/NEW YORK, 10 March 2020 – The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) today issued new guidance to help protect children and schools from transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The guidance provides critical considerations and practical checklists to keep schools safe. It also advises national and local authorities on how to adapt and implement emergency plans for educational facilities.
In the event of school closures, the guidance includes recommendations to mitigate against the possible negative impacts on children’s learning and wellbeing. This means having solid plans in place to ensure the continuity of learning, including remote learning options such as online education strategies and radio broadcasts of academic content, and access to essential services for all children. These plans should also include necessary steps for the eventual safe reopening of schools.
Where schools remain open, and to make sure that children and their families remain protected and informed, the guidance calls for:
Providing children with information about how to protect themselves;
Promoting best handwashing and hygiene practices and providing hygiene supplies;
Cleaning and disinfecting school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities; and
Increasing airflow and ventilation.
The guidance, while specific to countries that have already confirmed the transmission of COVID-19, is still relevant in all other contexts. Education can encourage students to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, in school, and in their community by talking to others about how to prevent the spread of viruses. Maintaining safe school operations or reopening schools after a closure, requires many considerations, but if done well, can promote public health.
For example, safe school guidelines implemented in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the outbreak of Ebola virus disease from 2014 to 2016 helped prevent school-based transmissions of the virus.
UNICEF is urging schools – whether open or helping students through remote learning – to provide students with holistic support. Schools should provide children with vital information on handwashing and other measures to protect themselves and their families; facilitate mental health support; and help to prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to be kind to each other and avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.
The new guidance also offers helpful tips and checklists for parents and caregivers, as well as children and students themselves. These actions include:
Monitoring children’s health and keeping them home from school if they are ill;
Encouraging children to ask questions and express their concerns; and
Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose.
The International Academy of the Red Cross and Red Crescent was established in Suzhou on 31 August 2019, co-founded by the Red Cross Society of China and Soochow University.
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Dr CHEN Zhu, President of the Red Cross Society of China, Vice-President of the IFRC and guests from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Emergency Management, the International Development Cooperation Agency and other relevant ministries and commissions, leaders of Jiangsu Province and Suzhou City, Leaders of Soochow University and the Red Cross Society of China, the executive leadership team and people from all walks of life attended the inauguration ceremony.
Chen delivered a keynote speech entitled "Building and sharing humane education to deliver wisdom and strength.” He pointed out that the establishment of the academy was a major event in the history of the Red Cross, not only for the Red Cross Society of China. The establishment of the academy would bring new impetus into the Red Cross and a platform, wisdom and solutions for the development of global humanitarian undertakings.
“We have witnessed the establishment of the International Academy of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which is an invitation to the world to jointly build a community and create a better future for humanity,” Chen said. “We hope that all the people who care about the cause of human progress will join hands with us to embark on this great journey.”
Francesco Rocca also delivered a speech at the inauguration ceremony applauding the academy’s establishment and accepting an invitation from the Red Cross Society of China to be the honorary president of the academy. He said the academy would contribute to meeting current and increasingly complex humanitarian demands and was a contribution of the Red Cross Society of China to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. He said the academy would become a training center for professional humanitarian workers, a research center for humanitarian theory and an international platform for humanitarian communication and cooperation.
There had been no comprehensive Red Cross Red Crescent university or academy) anywhere in the world before, and the establishment of the International Academy of the Red Cross and Red Crescent fills this gap. After years of demonstration and preparation, the Red Cross Society of China, Soochow University, and the Chinese Red Cross Foundation officially signed a cooperative start-up agreement in Beijing on 30 June 2019.
The agreement involves setting up six research centres, including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement research center, an International Humanitarian Law centre, the Belt and Road international exchange and cooperation centre, Nightingale nursing centre, humanitarian resource mobilization and values dissemination centre, and an emergency management and disaster preparedness centre to develop and design different types of humanitarian education training and teaching courses, conduct short-term training, medium-term training and advanced training courses, and recruit master's and doctoral students in related fields.
By Mark Richard South, IFRC
Getting people talking, that’s the aim of a new partnership which has seen the British Red Cross team-up with a refugee-led language learning start-up. As part of the AVAIL project, the British Red Cross is working together with Chatterboxto connect language learners with teachers coming from refugee backgrounds.
Through the Chatterbox platform, language learners can pick from more than ten languages – including Arabic, Persian, French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese - to learn and practice online with trained native speakers.
“Too often the skills of people who are refugees go unrecognised and unused when they arrive in a safe country,” explained Fiona Harvey from the British Red Cross. “Working with Chatterbox we are recognising people’s skills, helping show that the talents refugees arrive with are an opportunity we can all benefit from, and also strengthening connections between refugees and people in their new communities.”
As well as tapping into existing skills and providing a flexible option for employment – often a challenge for refugees arriving in the UK – Chatterbox also provides an opportunity for refugees and language learners to interact and know more about each other, and each other’s cultures, in a natural environment.
The project is also helping key workers – such as police officers and health workers - to learn languages commonly spoken by refugees.
Supporting the development of these language skills not only benefits the learners in their day jobs, but also makes services more accessible to refugees more widely, and enhances the value of refugee languages in the workplace - further contributing to overall integration and understanding.
“Getting people communicating, understanding and empathising with each other is a key part of integration,” added Harvey. “Whether it’s online or in person, simply chatting together really can make a world of difference.”