Epidemic and pandemic preparedness

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| Emergency

Equatorial Guinea: Marburg virus disease

Marburg virus disease (MVD) is a highly fatal, highly contagious disease that causes haemorrhagic fever. It has with a case fatality rate of up to 88%. Equatorial Guinea’s Ministry of Health declared a Marburg outbreak on 13 February 2023, following confirmed deaths from the disease. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Equatorial Guinea Red Cross to conduct risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) activities, surveillance, case management, infection prevention and control activities, and safe and dignified burials.

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| Emergency

Zimbabwe: Cholera Outbreak

Zimbabwe has been grappling with a cholera outbreak since February 2023, with the number of cases increasing across the country. As of 5 November 2023, suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in all 10 provinces of the country and in 41 out of 62 districts, with the most alarming spikes in the south-eastern provinces of Masvingo and Manicaland. A total of 6,686 suspected and 1,127 confirmed cases were reported by early November. More than 6,200 people had recovered while the total number of suspected or confirmed cholera-related deaths had exceeded 175. The IFRC and its members seek CHF 3 million to support the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society to reach 550,455 people with life-saving assistance and help to contain the outbreak. A total of CHF 2 million will be raised by the IFRC secretariat.

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Cholera: Outbreak silences a once vibrant town in southwestern Zimbabwe

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 The communal gatherings for meals have ceased, laughter is absent, and everyday clothing has been replaced by rain boots and protective suits.The village is grappling with a relentless cholera outbreak, starkly highlighting the severity of the disease.On a recent day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

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| Article

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

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

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| Press release

IFRC Global COVID-19 study: vaccine bank an ‘essential element’ of next pandemic response

Geneva/Panama City/Buenos Aires – 31st January 2024Governments need to prepare for the next pandemic by establishing an international ‘vaccine bank’ which ensures the availability and distribution of vaccines equitably in all regions of the world.That’s the central recommendation of a new report following a huge study into the impact of COVID-19 and authorities’ reactions to it. The report is being released exactly four years on from the IFRC’s first Global COVID emergency appeal, on 31st January 2020.The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) commissioned researchers from the Humanitarian Observatory, an IFRC reference centre hosted by the Argentine Red Cross, to carry out a major research project. For it, they’d carried out interviews with 16,027 people, working in collaboration with 90 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.People from different sectors were asked about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategic partners from the private sector and trade unions also collaborated in conducting the surveys.Participants were chosen to represent people working or active in six societal sectors - healthcare, academia/education, transport, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the corporate sector and the media. The study looked for both common trends and contrasts across geographies and sectors. Its aim was to develop recommendations so that the next pandemic can be handled better than the last.The study – ‘Insights Gained by Strategic Sectors During the Pandemic’ – found:Nearly 70% of people in all sectors and regions had a high fear of catching COVID-19. People in the Americas and/or working in healthcare had the highest fear.More than half of all respondents said their personal finances were affected by the pandemic.54% of participants interviewed said their government handled the pandemic well. The percentage was highest across Africa and lowest across the Americas.Almost half of all respondents working in healthcare and the media felt ‘discriminated against’ for the role they played during the pandemic.The vast majority of interviewees said they received no priority for vaccinations despite the important roles they played during the pandemic.The main recommendations of the report include:Creating a global vaccine and antidote bank to ensure the availability and distribution of supplies equitably in all regions.Establishing priorities for vaccination or delivery of medicines to those who enable the world's citizens to receive food, medical care, news and education.Carrying out a communication campaign from a supranational body that values the actions of the essential sectors to legitimise their tasks and recognize their work.José Scioli, Director of the Humanitarian Observatory of the Argentine Red Cross said:"Some of the answers to the main challenges require establishing efficient processes on a global scale. That is why it is so central to take these global lessons to ensure that we can all – as humanity as a whole - learn from our experience and emerge stronger. We are convinced that we are capable of learning from our past to improve the present and future. With the insights from the Humanitarian Observatory’s study, we can promote the exchange of information to improve our societies."Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General said:“The COVID-19 pandemic led to the biggest worldwide disruption to normal life in a generation. But its impacts were disproportionate. Often, for example, vaccines were distributed on the basis of money, not need. Those who contributed most to helping the vulnerable through the pandemic were too often treated the worst. This important study offers a path to handling the next pandemic better. Its ambition and scale means its recommendations carry weight. “The full report can be downloaded in English here, and from here via the ‘Descargar Informe’ link in Spanish, French and Arabic.There are downloadable graphics and animations to add to coverage hereFor more information or to set up an interview: [email protected] Geneva: Andrew Thomas +41 76 367 65 87In Buenos Aires: Jose Scioli +54 911 64551193In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes +507 6999 3199

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| Article

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

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

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

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

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| Emergency

Zambia: Cholera Outbreak

A cholera outbreak in Zambia, first reported in October 2023, has seen a dramatic increase in transmission since mid-December. The country has now recorded more than 7,000 cases and 270 deaths, with over 500 new cases daily. The IFRC and its membership seek CHF 4 million (CHF 3 million of which is expected to be raised by the IFRC Secretariat) to support the Zambia Red Cross Society to reach 3.5 million people with life-saving assistance.

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| Press release

Cholera outbreak spirals in Zambia: IFRC launches urgent CHF 4 million appeal

Geneva/Nairobi/Lusaka, 15 January 2024: Responding to a severe cholera outbreak in Zambia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal for 4 million Swiss Francs. This fund is aimed at supporting the Zambia Red Cross Society, in its auxiliary role to Zambia’s Ministry of Health, to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on affected communities and prevent further spread. In October 2023, a new cholera outbreak was reported and has seen an increase in transmission since mid-December, putting over 10 million people at risk. The outbreak initially emerged from peri-urban areas of Lusaka province, where most of the cases are being reported. Due to the high rate of transmission, the disease is now affecting people across multiple geographical areas. Nine out of ten provinces have reported cases of cholera, with six provinces confirming cholera outbreaks. John Roche, IFRC Head of Delegation Country Cluster for Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi, said: “To ensure no more lives are lost, we must prioritize access to clean and safe water. With the waterborne disease spreading rapidly, we are deeply concerned about the situation unfolding. The IFRC and Zambia Red Cross Society are seeking resources to contribute to activities that can support stopping the spread and its transmission.” Cosmas Sakala, Acting Secretary General of Zambia Red Cross Society, said: “With increased rains and possible flooding, the cholera outbreak could escalate, and we fear that many more lives would be lost. Zambia Red Cross requires more resources to support the government in scaling up interventions such as Risk Communication and Community Engagement, enhancing access to safe water and sanitation to curtail the epidemic, and improving community case management to reduce fatalities.” In response to the outbreak, the IFRC has allocated CHF 750,000 from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) to support relief efforts. Zambia Red Cross Society staff and volunteers have been mobilized and are supporting cholera response activities through door-to-door visits, setting up Oral Rehydration Points where people showing signs of cholera can be rehydrated, spreading hygiene messages, and carrying out community sensitizations on cholera prevention and control. This commencement of public health education is being done in collaboration with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and UNICEF. To continue the response, a total of CHF 4 million is needed and will support 3.5 million people. Last year, the neighbouring country of Malawi faced one of its worst cholera outbreaks in years. Additionally, Zimbabwe is currently battling a cholera outbreak that is resulting in daily loss of lives. The IFRC remains committed to halting the spread of cholera in Zambia, ensuring that affected populations receive necessary care and support. More information: To learn more or support the appeal, visit our page by clicking on the link. To request an interview, contact:[email protected] In Nairobi: Anne Macharia: +254 720 787 764 In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67 Carina Wint: +47 4139 1873

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| Article

Nigeria: A community response that is saving lives

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

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| Press release

3 billion mosquito nets shipped to prevent malaria

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

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| Press release

IFRC launches urgent CHF 3 million appeal to combat cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe

Harare/Nairobi/Geneva, 17 November 2023 —The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal for 3 million Swiss Francs to support the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS). The health needs exceed available resources, meaning immediate action to is needed to mitigate the impact on affected communities. Zimbabwe is currently grappling with a severe cholera outbreak, placing immense strain on healthcare systems, and necessitating coordinated action. The outbreak has led to increased morbidity and mortality rates, posing a significant threat to public health and demanding immediate attention. The IFRC had previously allocated CHF 464,595 from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the relief efforts. The Emergency Appeal focuses on critical areas, including the prevention and control of the cholera spread, improved case management, and the enhancement of water and sanitation facilities. The appeal also underscores the importance of community engagement, accountability, and inclusivity in providing a holistic response to the diverse needs of affected communities. John Roche, IFRC Head of Delegation Country Cluster for Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi said: “Access to clean and portable water remain among the most urgent needs in the community. We are deeply concerned with the situation unfolding as before the rains cases have escalated. The IFRC and Zimbabwe Red Cross Society are seeking resources through the appeal that supports activities that can contribute to stopping the spread and transmission of Cholera which will deescalate the worrying trends.” Zimbabwe Red Cross Society staff and volunteers have been mobilised and continue to respond to the outbreak by increasing awareness on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices, emphasising the importance of WASH education for healthier communities. This commencement of public health education is being done in collaboration with Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health. Currently the new cases reported are increasing at a high level and rising at an accelerating pace. This has created an urgency to increase mitigation measures to curb further spread and reduce cross border transmission. More information: For further details on our response to the Cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, visit the Zimbabwe Red Cross Societywebsite or the IFRC appeal page. To request an interview, please contact: [email protected]     In Harare: Kim Stambuli,ZRCS:+263 71 251 72 64 In Nairobi: Rita Wanjiru Nyaga: +254 11 083 71 54 In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67 Mrinalini Santhanam: +41 76 381 50 06

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Measles crisis in Kyrgyzstan: Red Crescent volunteers take the lead

Amidst a concerning surge in measles cases, the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan (RCSK), in collaboration with the IFRC, has launched an immunization campaign to combat what has become a significant threat to many communities in Kyrgyzstan. As of early September, Kyrgyzstan has reported a staggering 1,982 confirmed cases, making measles a major threat to communities in the Kyrgyz Republic and one of the highest measles incidences globally. A highly contagious disease, and a leading cause of child mortality worldwide, measles is almost completely preventable with vaccination. The first major challenge in tackling the outbreak lies in dispelling misinformation about the disease and vaccinations. “Tackling measles and other communicable diseases begins and ends in communities,” says Chingiz Djakipov, president of the RCSK, adding that communities play a pivotal role in addressing diseases like measles. ”Something as simple as a vaccine can help prevent many unavoidable deaths and illnesses. But we have a far way to go to tackle vaccine hesitancy in the country,”. Additionally, the National Society and the IFRC have deployed trained volunteers and staff country-wide to support the government’s national immunization campaign. Their mission includes raising awareness about measles and rubella prevention, dispelling misinformation, alleviating fears, addressing questions, and facilitating access to vaccination points and health services. As an additional help, IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) allocated 139,000 Swiss francs to bolster the RCSK’s efforts in curbing the outbreak. Over the coming months, the Red Crescent Society aims to reach 70,000 individuals across the most affected regions and cities, including the cities of Osh and Bishkek cities, and the Osh and Chui regions. “Debunking misinformation about the disease and vaccinations is the first major hurdle to tackling this next outbreak,” says Seval Guzelkilinc, head of IFRC’s Central Asia Country Cluster Delegation. “For many years, the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan has played a fundamental role in responding to health-related emergencies across the country and it is seen as a reliable and trusted source of information for communities.”

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Risk reduction against water-borne diseases bears fruit in rural Kenya

In the last two years, villages like Cheplewa in the southewestern county of Bomet have witnessed a significant increase in diseases such as Cholera and Hepatitis B — two diseases triggered by consumption of contaminated water. To ensure comprehensive protection of water sources, the Kenya Red Cross and the IFRC have mobilized to educate communities on measures they can take to protect natural springs from contamination and then ensure that they remain clean. Springs serve as the main source of water in this region but it’s common practice for animals to be taken to the springs to drink. Meanwhile, residents also come to the spring and scoop the same water for domestic use. Chebett, a community health worker trained by the Kenya Red Cross, believes the lack of springs in neighboring villages accelerated the increase in Cholera cases. In the previous months, those villages also experienced an outbreak of Hepatitis B. A massive checkup ”At the time of screening and sensitizing communities about Covid-19, and about the importance of getting vaccinated, some people were diagnosed with Hepatitis B”, Chebett said. “We reported this to the Ministry of Health and they called for a massive checkup”. That checkup included community-wide screenings for Hepatitus B as well as continued sensitization on sanitation practices. Those found to be negative for Hepatitus B were vaccinated, while positive cases were given drug treatments. After several months, medical personnel from the Cheplewa dispensary embarked on another massive screening and vaccination, with the aim of eradicating the Hepatitis B virus in the area. But complete eradication became difficult because the Hepatitis B vaccine is given in two doses. Some community members took the first dose, but did not return. It was not long before symptoms — such as non-stop talking or speaking incoherently — began to appear. Mass screening is still ongoing to hasten the identification of new cases. The efforts come as part of IFRC’s focus on working with communities to build their resilience and support to break the cycle of disaster impacts amidst the changing climate. In the Horn of Africa, the alternating weather patterns have continued to cause drought and flooding, impacting water sources, livelihoods and food security. All these factors leave people more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Erasing fear by engaging communities Chebett said that when speaking with community members, she tells them that springs must be protected and the area kept clean. To avoid contamination of the water, communities were encouraged to build underground water tanks to collect spring water. Water taps were then installed next to these tanks at a distance of 10 meters. Community members were involved in the construction of the underground tanks. Though the spring water flowing through the taps is now clean, families were encouraged to boil the water used for drinking and cooking and store it in clean containers, and to keep the containers closed. Water pans for animals to drink were also created. Improved hygiene through education Because this area is between two hills, rainwater flowing down the hills also carries debris. Those who drink the water before boiling it could suffer from Acute Water Diarrhhoea. This led some families and community members to claim that the water had been poisoned and so they stopped drinking water altogether. But, after receiving information from community health workers who were trained by the Kenya Red Cross, they started boiling water used for drinking and cooking, and washing their hands before and after eating. The hygiene standards have also generally improved. Every household was encouraged to build a toilet, and to wash their hands after using the toilet. “The education we give is bearing fruit,” Chebett said of the community engagement efforts, which were made possible through support by USAID funded Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness (CP3) programme.

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Rural Guatemalan women at the heart of community health

Gladis Gómez wears a purple Huipil, a traditional outfit worn by people from the mountainous, western part of Guatemala. The colour represents mourning, as she sadly lost a distant relative a few days earlier. Despite this, a smile lights up her face—a smile that so many people in her community recognise. Gladis is the President of a local health committee in her small village of Xecaracoj. The committee brings together a dozen rural women who have been trained in key health issues by the Guatemalan Red Cross so they can help promote healthy practices in their community. Together, the women go door to door around their village, sharing knowledge on how people can prevent common diseases and deaths, especially among children. This work is vital. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world, and more than half the population live below the poverty line. The COVID-19 pandemic also took a heavy toll on the country – with 20,000 people dying from the disease within 3 years. ‘’We have spread the new knowledge given to us by the Guatemalan Red Cross to inform men, boys and girls about things as simple as hand washing, cleaning our homes and our streets, and the importance of breastfeeding and nutrition.” “We now know that healthy habits make the difference between having a strong and healthy community or continuing to take our babies to the hospital,'' says Gladis. Juan Poyón, Epidemic and Pandemic Control Technician for the Guatemalan Red Cross, says he’s learned a lot from the health committees, like the one run by Gladis, and has used the women’s local knowledge to guide and improve their support. “We identified key issues, for example, that their priorities were the prevention of COVID-19 or malnutrition. Today, with the committees already trained, we identified that the women wanted to reach more people, in fact, they prioritised radio, information kiosks or messages via WhatsApp as the best channels to share their knowledge more widely,” explains Juan. To share these valuable community insights even further, the Guatemalan Red Cross connected the women-led health committees with the country's Ministry of Health—which has proved to be an eye opener for the national authorities. They’re now working together to improve community health across the country. Ana Gómez, Epidemiologist at the Guatemalan Ministry of Health, explained: “We have worked with the Guatemalan Red Cross to identify people’s needs, respecting the diversity of the population. We learned about, and welcomed, women's points of view to strengthen community health, and along the way we confirmed that their role is key.” “Women are the main users of health services. They also play a fundamental role in the education of the next generation who will be in charge of the country. Involving women ensures positive behavioural change in families and communities, and therefore contributes to improving Guatemala's health,” says Ana. Spending time with Gladis, it’s clear to see that she takes a lot of pride in her work, and that she and her fellow health committee members are happy their voices are being heard. As she sits and weaves herself a new corte – a traditional Mayan skirt – she points to the yellow stripes that represent hope. “Tomorrow I will wear a yellow Huipil to represent the colour of life, the rays of the sun, and corn,” says Gladis. “The women of this community are special, very special, because today we have the knowledge to protect life.” -- The promotion of these local health committees in Guatemala is part of the epidemic and pandemic preparedness pillar of our Programmatic Partnership with the European Union. So far, 1250 families in the rural area of Quetzaltenango, western Guatemala, have received valuable and trusted health advice provided by the local health committees. Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas, the Programmatic Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies. The IFRC will continue to strengthen the capacities of communities in Guatemala to prevent pandemics and epidemics; and to encourage more women to take leadership positions so they can have a profound, positive impact on the future of their communities.

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Ebola in Uganda: Red Cross and community members fight the virus’s spread

Nairobi/Kampala/Geneva, 13 October 2022 – Uganda is currently facing an outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD). The first case of the EVD was reported on 20th September 2022 and the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) immediately activated an Ebola Preparedness and response program to fight the spread. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an Emergency Appeal to scale up these activities—targeting 2.7 million people. Robert Kwesiga, Uganda Red Cross Secretary General, said: “We have trained our volunteers to conduct safe and dignified burials and carry out health promotion activities. We are engaging communities directly with information about Ebola symptoms and how to prevent further risk, including early detection of new cases”. The last Ebola outbreak in Uganda was in 2020, when more than ten districts experienced the virus’s wrath, particularly areas neighbouring the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Regular cross-border communications, information sharing, and support helps mitigate risk and enables Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in neighbouring countries to conduct effective readiness activities and scale up their responses, if necessary. Papa Moussa Tall, IFRC Head of Delegation for Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan said: “The Ebola virus is devastating for families, but I am relieved that we are able to offer experienced teams and lessons learned from past outbreaks to help. The IFRC—through our Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF)—has activated resources to support the Uganda Red Cross to quickly respond and save lives”. The IFRC urgently seeks CHF 10 million to address gaps and procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for URCS staff and volunteers, who are at the forefront of the Ebola response. IFRC’s appeal will help address these and other needs, such as building the URCS team’s capacity to manage safe and dignified burials. Tall added: “The Red Cross has deployed ambulances to the most affected districts to support quick evacuation of probable cases to the nearest Ebola treatment centres”. The Uganda Red Cross has more than 500,000 volunteers and members spread across 51 branches and over 300 staff members including a skilled health department with health experts in areas directly linked to the epidemic response. The IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) is currently being implemented, with focus on community epidemic and pandemic preparedness. The Uganda Red Cross is part of the task force that leads the response efforts as the country puts up a fight against the epidemic. For more information, please contact: In Kampala: Irene Nakasiita, +256 755000695 / 774382583, [email protected] In Nairobi: Rita Nyaga, +254 110 837154, [email protected] In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, +1-202-603-6803, [email protected]

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COVID-19: Red Cross Red Crescent turns to animation to boost global vaccine effort

The animation is in the form of a nature documentary that examines how humanity is coping with the global pandemic and why vaccines are key to controlling COVID-19. “Until the majority of humans are vaccinated, the virus will continue to spread and mutate, creating new variants that could evade the vaccine altogether,” a resonating voice reminiscent of David Attenborough explains in the 90-second animation. “The humans only hope is to share the vaccine amongst themselves.” New analysis by the IFRC reveals that nearly one billion people in Asia and the Pacific are yet to receive a single dose of COVID -19 vaccine. Globally, less than 20 percent of the population have received a single dose in low-income countries, according to Oxford University’s ‘Our World in Data’. John Fleming, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Head of Health, said: “The COVID vaccine has saved millions of lives but too many people are still living in danger.If we want to end this pandemic once and for all, we need to urgently address hesitancy in every country, strengthen local delivery to get doses into arms and transfer vaccine and anti-viral drugs technology to manufacturers in low-income nations." “There has been remarkable cooperation between countries around the world, but this pandemic is not over, and much greater action is needed by leaders in richer countries and pharmaceutical companies to enable equal access to vaccines for people everywhere.” The animation video underlines the need to distribute vaccines among poorer nations with utmost urgency. The video can be downloaded here. The IFRC is asking people to just click on ‘share this video’ until it reaches policy makers, pharmaceutical companies, and government authorities. Its message is simple – people all around the world can take action to vaccinate everyone in all corners of the globe by calling upon their governments to help. Help is needed to ensure supply of vaccines to low-income nations as well as to get those vaccines from the tarmac into the arms of people. The quicker we do this, the safer everyone will be. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Bangkok: Preeti Abraham, +66 61 412 3910, [email protected] In Kuala Lumpur: Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830, [email protected]

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COVID-19: Nearly 1 billion still without any vaccination in Asia Pacific

Globally, less than 20 percent of the population have received a single dose in low-income countries, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data. The IFRC is calling for all governments and pharmaceutical companies to act now to achieve greater vaccine equity. John Fleming, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Head of Health, said: “The COVID vaccine has been one of the most remarkable feats of modern science and it is saving millions of lives but too many people are still living in danger. “It is critical for humanity and for economies that people have access to COVID-19 vaccines in all countries. Vaccine equity is the key to winning the race against new variants.” “We urge richer nations to urgently step up and enable equitable access to lifesaving COVID vaccines for everyone in lower income countries.” “Unless we prioritise protection of the most vulnerable in every country, the administration of multiple booster doses in richer countries is like applying a bandaid to a festering wound.” Globally, slightly over 5 million COVID-19 doses are now administered every day. While some high-income countries including Canada and Australia have purchased around 10 COVID vaccine doses per person, others such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Myanmar have purchased less than two vaccinations per person, according to Duke University’s Launch and Scale Speedometer. More than 6 million deaths are recorded globally, however the World Health Organization estimates that 14.9 million lives have been lost due to the pandemic. COVID infections are rising in almost 70 countries in all regions according to the WHO. “If we want to end this pandemic once and for all, we need to urgently address hesitancy in every country, strengthen local delivery to get doses into arms and transfer vaccine and anti-viral drugs technology to manufacturers in low-income nations,” said Mr Fleming. “There has been remarkable cooperation between countries around the world but this pandemic is not over and much greater action is needed by leaders in richer countries and pharmaceutical companies to enable equal access to vaccines for people everywhere.” Coinciding with the IFRC calls for greater action on vaccine equity, a new animation video has been released highlighting the urgent need to get vaccines to everyone in all corners of every country. The video can be viewed and downloaded here. Globally, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have supported more than 400 million people to access COVID-19 vaccines. The network continues to deliver vaccines, tests and treatments to the most vulnerable and is helping to rebuild stronger health systems. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Bangkok: Preeti Abraham, +66 61 412 3910, [email protected] In Kuala Lumpur: Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830, [email protected]

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

Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector. In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation. The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability. European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said: “I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.” IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said: “Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.” The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components. Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU. Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies. Key facts The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross. For more information In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected] In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924

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"Never before has the need for a localized approach to crises been so evident"

Geneva, 27 December 2021 - “As we end this year, and on this International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, I would like to pay tribute to the brave and invaluable contributions of frontline responders. For the past two years, they have helped to detect and slow the spread of COVID-19, to treat and support those most affected, and dispel myths and rumours about the virus, vaccines and the wider response. They continue to support our communities worldwide. While some literally gave their lives to keep others safe, governments struggled, and are still struggling, to pull together a global coordinated and inclusive response. “Never before has the need for a localized approach to crises been so evident, but it cannot fall on the shoulders of local responders alone. The international community can, and must, do better by them. Unique opportunities to put communities at the centre of the response are laid before us in 2022, from the upcoming White House COVID summit and the launch of Global Vax to the reconvening of Member States to agree on an international instrument to strengthen preparedness and response to pandemics. We urge decision-makers to strengthen recognition of, and support to, community engagement and feedback mechanisms, community health systems and community surveillance and preparedness programs. “Public health emergencies are our past, our present, and we will face them again. 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 continue to support communities and respond to their needs.” For more information In Geneva: Ann Vaessen, +41 79 405 7750, [email protected] Learn more about our work in epidemic and pandemic preparedness.

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"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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Epidemic and pandemic preparedness

The IFRC and our National Societies engage and train people worldwide in epidemic preparedness and response. We help them prevent, detect and quickly respond to outbreaks—saving countless lives and promoting healthier communities.

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