Displaying 1 - 18 of 18
21/09/2023 | Article

Champions of change: Togolese Red Cross Father's Club fights for women’s rights

In the heart of Togo’s capital, Lomé, a group of men are rewriting the narrative of their community. They’re members of the Togblékopé Father's Club, and they’re on a mission to become champions for women. Set up by the Togolese Red Cross in 2013, the Father’s Club seeks to tackle the harmful attitudes and behaviours holding women in the country back. It began when the Togolese Red Cross Society discovered that many pregnant women in Lomé weren’t accessing the healthcare services they needed—in some cases because they didn’t have the means, but in others because their male partners simply weren’t letting them. So volunteers set up the Father’s Club to bring men in the community together and help them understand why it’s important to respect, and stand up for, women’s rights and needs. Ten years on, members are now dubbed ‘Papa Champions’ and proudly advocate for women’s reproductive health, tackle gender-based violence, and act as role models for other men in their community. Sama Abdou Rahime Arabiou, Togolese Red Cross volunteer and President of the Togblékopé Father’s Club, is the driving force behind the initiative and has a heart full of compassion. He believes women are integral to the well-being of every community and deserve to live as freely and happily as men. The first priority for the Father’s Club was reproductive health. Traditionally, women in Togo have had limited access to information about family planning and reproductive health services. So Papa Champions headed out into their community to share trusted health information with men and women. “We do door-to-door sensitization. We talk to men about the benefits of breastfeeding and other health-related activities,” explains Sama. Women in Togblékopé report seeing a big difference in their partners and in community attitudes towards women, thanks to the Papa Champions. “Before, there were some women who couldn’t do anything. They did nothing and were always at home. But through our meetings, their husbands let them start businesses. They now accompany their wives to the hospital for the prenatal consultation for childbirth,” says Azoumi Boukari, a mother from Togblékopé and member of a local Mother’s Club set up by the Togolese Red Cross. Papa Champions are also very active in tackling the pervasive issue of gender-based violence, often running workshops for men on understanding consent and respecting women’s boundaries. They also patrol their neighbourhoods to ensure women can walk safely without fear of harassment, intervening whenever they see a woman in distress and setting a positive example for younger generations. “Since this club was started in our community, I have seen a lot of changes in my husband…They [Papa Champions] have brought joy to our homes,” adds Azoumi. The Togblékopé Father's Club has proven that men can, and should, be powerful allies in the fight for women's rights and gender equality. Not only have they improved the lives of women in their community, they’ve set a precedent for a more equitable society in Togo—in which being a ‘champion’ for women is no longer noteworthy, it’s the norm.

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14/12/2020 | Article

Cut off, holding on, and craving contact

“When you live as an undocumented migrant, one thing that keeps you alive is contact,” says Izzy, a migrant from Sierra Leone whose simple daily encounters with people going through similar struggles have been seriously diminished due to Covid-19. With the pandemic looming over everyone’s daily life,migrants such as Izzy face particular hardships. Cut off even from small jobs and activities,they are not eligible for social benefits that provide the stability needed to cope with a pandemic. “Because these people are considered illegal, they cannot rent a house, they cannot work legally, they don’t have social security, they don’t have bank accounts,” says Joquebede Mesquita of the Company of Friends, which provides practical and legal assistance to undocumented migrants living in Netherlands. Some, she says, end up sleeping in the street, afraid of sharing a room with people who may be infected. “A lot of people want to go home to their parents,” she says. “They say, ‘If we are going to die, we want to die together’.” These stories are a stark reminder: while COVID has been cruel for all of us, it has been catastrophic for migrants.Even in the most developed countries, migrants often don’t have access to critical Covid coping mechanismssuch as mental health care, safe housing(since they often share apartments) or working conditions(with proper hygiene protection measures), according to the IFRC reportLeast protected, most affected: Migrants and refugees facing extraordinary risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.On top of all that, they are even farther from loved ones and moreexposed tomedia disinformation in languages they may not fully master. Still, there are many bright spots amid the challenges. Born in Brazil, Claudia has struggled to find unofficial jobs while taking care of her four-year-old daughter Maria. But she now has a steady job and Maria is enrolled in school, learning Dutch. “She plays with other children and has more contact with kids her own age,” Claudia says. For Izzy, as well, the challenges he and other migrants face have only intensified his desire to something positive for others. “I’ve stayed here a long time and this country has supported me,” says Izzy, who likes to help out at a local shelter and food service for other undocumented migrants in need of a warm meal and a welcoming space. “So, I think I have to give something back.” Claudia, from Minas Gerais, Brazil Originally from the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, Claudia has been working as anundocumented migrant in The Netherlands for a year. “I feel bad because I am considered illegal here,” says Claudia. “But I have been able to find work here and I feel safer here. I can walk on the streets with my daughter. The quality of life I can give my daughter is better than in Brazil. So, I feel more secure than in Brazil, but less secure because I am illegal”. As evening falls, Claudia and her daughter Maria take a break on a bench in Amsterdam. “Corona has made life difficultbecause so many things are closed,” she says. “There is nowhere to go and I have to spend a lot of time with Maria, sitting in the very small room that I rent.” Children in Netherlands begin school soon after their fourth birthday. “I am very happy now that Maria has started school … I want to learn Dutch but Corona has made it more complicated because a lot of the schools are closed. And with Maria it was difficult to find time to study. And now that she is at school maybe I can learn Dutch at a school in the future.” “Maria has a better life now,” says Claudia. “She plays with other children and has more contact with kids her own age. Maria is very happy.She talks about her new school all the time. She is learning Dutch. The school is very good compared to what we had in my neighbourhood in Brazil.” “Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, it has been a terrible time,” says Joquebede Mesquita of the Company of Friends, which provides practical and legal assistance to undocumented migrants in The Netherlands. “The telephone is ringing all the time. They want to go back to Brazil. They want to go back to their family, to their children.We helped more than 200 people go back to Brazil. Their work has stopped and they don’t have money to pay the rent or to pay for food. A lot of people were sleeping on the street and they were very afraid. People get the Corona virus and some of them are living with up to nine people in a small room. How can they survive? And a lot of people want to go home to their parents. They say, ‘If we are going to die, we want to die together’.” An undocumented migrant from Brazil signs up to receive asupermarket food voucherfrom the Company of Friends organisation in Amsterdam.The vouchers are provided by the The Netherlands Red Crossto help migrants who have fallen on hard times since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Because these people are considered illegal, they cannot rent a house, they cannot work legally, they don’t have social security, they don’t have bank accounts,” says Mesquita. “The idea is that they come here for a couple of years, get some money and then return to Brazil, buy a house and have a good life. But most of the people end up staying five or ten years, they don’t learn the language because they work and don’t have time to integrate into the community.” In her kitchen at home, Claudia and a friend unpack somefood donated by the Netherlands Red Cross. “The Brazilian community here in Holland help each other a lot. And if you are a Brazilian woman with a child, they help you even more.” Claudia and her daughter Maria look at a Christmas display in a shop window in Amsterdam. “I don’t know how we will celebrate Christmas. It’s a difficult time. I have to find a new place to live.Normally in Brazil we celebrate with family and friends. But here? I just have Maria”, she says. “My dream is to make some money and then return to Brazil and buy a house for my family. But if the chance came to stay here legally, I would consider it. But at the moment, the future is today. I take each day as it comes.” Izzy, from Sierra Leone After a decade-long civil war engulfed west African nation of Sierra Leone during the 1990s,Izzy felt he had no choice but to leave the country. The conflict took a high personal toll. “I lost my father, my brother, my sister and then later my mother disappeared,” he says. “I still have some uncles there but it’s difficult to know exactly where they are. I’ve been away a long time”. Although his application for asylum in the Netherlands has dragged on for over eleven years, he is confident he will be granted residency soonand he now considers Holland his home. “I miss everything about Sierra Leone,” says Izzy. “The food. The weather. The people. Absolutely everything. But it would be very difficult for me to go back becausethe scars of the war are still there. I was born there. I grew up there and from time to time, you feel this nostalgic. You have to look at your health situation as well and if I went back I would feel overwhelmed to be in my country again. But at the same time, you have this fear of going back and bringing up all the memories again. It’s a difficult thing.” “When you live here as an undocumented migrant,one thing that keeps you alive is contact. When you meet friends, that gives you the energy to do things every day when you wake up. But because of Covid, that has stopped.” “Covid has affected me a lot. First, because I lost a few friends, people that I knew— both Dutch and foreigners – to the disease. But also, and I think more importantly, because of the situation where you have no contact with friends. Things are no longer the way they used to be. You don’t allow people to come and visit you any more. That’s one thing we lost.” Izzy and his friend Kieta from Guinea buy some ingredients for the meal he will prepare for at theWorld House, a place where undocumented migrants can get a warm meal. “There are a lot of Africans in Amsterdam and many of them come to the World House,” says Izzy. “It is a place for refugees and, for most of them, it is their last hope when they have to leave the asylum camps. They have to go somewhere and usually the only place they can go is the World House. We feed them. We help them to find shelter and get back into the asylum application procedures.” “By law I’m not allowed to work or go to university in Netherlands because I still don’t have a residency permit. But I do like to help out becauseI think I have to contribute to society as well. I sometimes cook food for people in the World House, a place where undocumented people can receive help, spend the night and get a plate of warm food.I also help out at the Red Cross sometimes, preparing food packages for undocumented people and people without income. I help at some churches as well, cooking and storytelling, teaching kickboxing, but because of Corona, most of the church activities have been suspended.” “I am doing a course in website design. It is funded by an organisation that helps refugees. I have always had the idea of creating my own website, and maybe doing it for other people as well. So when this opportunity came, I decided to grab it and try to make something of it.I really would like to do something that will contribute to society herebecause I’ve stayed here a long time and this country has supported me, so I think I have to give something back.” -- This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.

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22/06/2023 | Article

‘Anonymous Clinic’ offers safe haven and caretakers who understand

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

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30/06/2023 | Article

Transforming lives behind bars in Mexico

Incarceration can be a bleak and isolating experience. But a new project by the Mexican Red Cross is providing detainees a unique opportunity to make a positive impact and find new meaning even within the prison walls. “There aren’t many groups you can join here to help others” says Julian Gonzalez Moreno, one of the project’s participants who has spent 18 years in prison. “So, this is one of the few where you can really help someone.” Sometimes that even means saving someone’s life. Participants in the programme recently recounted an incident where they successfully resuscitated a person who was suffering a heart attack – just eight days after receiving an updated CPR course. The training is part of the Community Health and First Aid project that is being implemented various penitentiary centres across Mexico City by the Mexican Red Cross. By providing training and workshops on first aid, civil protection, and psychosocial support, the project equips prisoners with life-saving skills and empowers them to become first responders inside detention centres. The programme challenges preconceived notions and helps reshape public perceptions towards prisoners. “The programme has also been beneficial in addressing the social stigma they might face,” says Jesus Enrique, a Mexican Red Cross volunteer and participant in the SPAC project who lives in Mexico City. “For us, it is important to share relevant information, and for the rest of the community inside the prison to see that they are trusted when it comes to providing first aid or helping others.” Equipping inmates with life-saving skills Raquel Jaimes, with 14 years of incarceration, expresses her gratitude for the training she has received. “Today, I know how to place a bandage on a wound, and I can do CPR. The Mexican Red Cross has taught me how to provide first aid”, she says. “I can now teach this to my children and to my grandchildren.” The project not only imparts practical skills but also fosters a sense of confidence and self-reliance, project leaders say. Detainees learn to handle emergency situations such as heart attacks, injuries and accidents, ensuring that they are well-prepared to respond swiftly and effectively. For women’s prisons, the SPAC programme provides specific first-aid courses for new-born babies, given that mothers in prisons are allowed to live with their children when they are up to 3 years and 8 months old. Saving lives and fostering change The SPAC training extends beyond individual skill-building. It cultivates a collective sense of responsibility and compassion among inmates, inspiring a shift in mindset, according to inmate Julian Gonzalez Moreno. “When people realize that you care about them, without any self-interest, they start doing the same with others, and you create a domino effect,” he says. -- This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.

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27/06/2023 | Basic page

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09/05/2023 | Article

São Tomé and Príncipe: Older people receive care and compassion from Red Cross volunteers

"Today, thanks to the centre, I feel better and have regained a taste for life." These are the words of Manuel, 81, a resident of the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross welcome centre for the elderly, where volunteers work every day to bring a smile and hope to some of the country's older population. Set up in October 2005, with funding from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the welcome centre has been run by the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross for nearly 20 years. Today, volunteers are taking care of 18 residents – people from all walks of life who have come upon hard times and need a little extra help to get by. In Manuel’s case, it was a story of great tragedy that brought him to the centre. He had worked for the Portuguese Embassy for a long time. But financial difficulties meant he was unable to build the house of his dreams – the one where he hoped to spend his old age. When the time came for him to retire, he had to leave his house to move in with his daughter. One night while they were at home, an enormous fire broke out. Manuel lost everything, including his precious daughter. Distraught and completely lost, he found support and comfort in the Red Cross centre after being approached by a volunteer in his community who had noticed his distress. "Today, thanks to the centre, I feel better and I’m getting back to life. I have the support of a doctor, a roof over my head, a meal every day and friends to talk to.” Manuel Resident The centre has evolved a lot during the past 20 years. "The initial project was to provide a home and basic assistance for older people who had been rejected by their families. But over time, we transformed it into a properwelcome centrewhere we take care of more complex needs of our residents,” says Filippa Fernandes, volunteer and director of the centre. "We strive to provide them with an environment where they can flourish by taking care of their physical and mental health," she added. Friendship and conversation are an important part of supporting the mental health of older people in the community. So the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross also runs a social centre nearby which opens its doors every day, letting all older people in the community come and socialize with one another. Together, all visitors can spend the day in a safe and peaceful place where they have access to basic amenities, such as food and washrooms. Ronaldo, is one of the seven volunteers who work to keep the social centre active. As manager and cook, he manages the day-to-day business inside the centre, but also heads out into the community to deliver meals to people with limited mobility. "We try to do our best to make sure that no one is left behind.” Ronaldo Red Cross volunteer Too often in societies around the world, older people are underserved, cast aside or viewed as a burdenon a country's resources. But thanks to the kindness of Red Cross volunteers like Ronaldo and Filippa, older people in their community are being treated with the dignity, respect and care that they deserve. -- The welcomecentre for the elderly receives funding from local churches and associations, as well as members of the diaspora. The social centre was initially set up with funding from the joint IFRC and ICRC Empress Shôken Fund. In 2022, the IFRC provided water, sanitation and hygiene kits to all residents. If you are a donor and are interested in learning more and supporting the IFRC’s work in São Tomé and Príncipe, please read our IFRC network country plan here which includes contact details for our cluster office in the region. You can also click here to learn more about the IFRC’s work supporting healthy ageing.

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19/11/2021 | Press release

“We need to do better” – IFRC report reveals gaps in child protection during climate related disasters

Kingston, Jamaica – November 19, 2021. Adolescents overwhelmingly feel that they do not have the information needed to be safe from potential violence, abuse, and exploitation in climate related disasters. This is one of the main findings of “We Need to Do Better: Climate Related Disasters, Child Protection and Localizing Action in the Caribbean,” a recent study conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The report has revealed that even though climate related disasters affect each person in the region, children are particularly at risk. They make up a large portion of the population of the Caribbean and are most vulnerable to encountering violence, abuse, and exploitation in disaster settings, while systems to protect them do not always work. The study also highlights that there are no specific laws in place to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation when disasters happen. Gurvinder Singh, IFRC’s Child Protection Senior Advisor and one of the authors of the report, said: “While children potentially have great leadership and innovation capabilities, unfortunately, their voices are rarely being sought out or heard. Furthermore, there is a huge deficit in meaningful opportunities for children to be engaged in decisions that affect them. This is especially prominent in the stages of preparing for and responding to disasters. Adolescents believe that even if they do participate, their opinions may not be taken seriously by adults.” By putting the voices, perspectives, and ideas of children at the forefront, the report seeks to understand the generally unexplored relationships between climate related disasters and children’s concerns around violence, abuse, exploitation, and mental health challenges. It also sends a warning to governments and civic organisations to play a more active role in the promotion of and respect for the rights of the child, especially with regards to the issue of child abuse and the need for urgent effective prevention programmes. Ariel Kestens, IFRC’s Head of Delegation for the Dutch-and English-speaking Caribbean, said: “It is critical that governments enhance domestic laws, invest in child protection systems, improve local coordination, train local responders, include protection and climate change in school curriculum, and collect sex-, age- and disability-disaggregated data in disaster responses. The IFRC Network across the Caribbean stands ready to support them to continue striving to meet the best interests of each child affected by more and more frequent, and destructive climate related disasters.” The report also recommends practical actions for the humanitarian sector, such as designing child-friendly communications, implementing community feedback mechanisms, including child protection in anticipatory action, integrating child protection across preparedness, assessments and planning, and creating spaces for children and adults to engage, support one another and find viable solutions to protection risks. The study was based on discussions and an online survey with 198 adolescents ages 14-17 years in the Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago; interviews with 30 adults from different disaster and child protection agencies, and background research. It is part of the campaign “We Need to Do Better” by the IFRC to enhance protection of children in climate related disasters. The full report may be accessed here. The adolescent summary of the report is available here. For more information, please contact: In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva | +876 818-8575 | [email protected] In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes | + 506 8416 1771 | [email protected]

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19/07/2021 | Basic page

Protection, Gender and Inclusion

For the IFRC to remain true to our principles, we must ensure we reach all people effectively and in a non-discriminatory and equitable manner. Our work must ensure dignity, access, participation and safety for all people affected by disasters and crises.

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23/06/2021 | Basic page

Inclusion, protection and engagement

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.

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22/01/2021 | Article

12 months of coronavirus in Europe

The moment the first coronavirus case was reported in Europe – on 24 January 2020, in Bordeaux, France– no one could have possibly imagined the monumental scale of the year of loss and struggle ahead. Nor could they have foreseen how Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies stepped up their activities across Europe and Central Asia, enabling them to be at the heart of the response. Staff and volunteers from the movement have been running first aid tents, delivering critical supplies to the elderly, caring for the sick and dying, at the end of the phone for people unable to leave home. They’ve provided food, shelter, a kind word and a friendly face, supported those who fall through the cracks – the migrants, people on the move, people who are homeless. They’ve provided trusted information. The numbers are staggering. More than 12.5 million people across the region have received food and other material aid from Red Cross Red Crescent[1]. More than 2.8 million people have received direct cash or voucher assistance and 1.3 million more received psychosocial support to help them through the tough times. Red Cross Red Crescent ambulances carried more than 325,000 COVID-19 patients to hospitals. Accurate information was shared to help inform people about the virus and how to stay safe, and an estimated 60 million people in the region have been reached with this messaging. The breathtaking spread of the virus With Italy the centre of the first wave, and the first country to go into lockdown, it remained the hardest hit country in Europe for months. Italian Red Cross was the first National Society in Europe to deliver food and medicine to people in quarantine, and ramped up their ambulance service to cope with the escalating number of people infected. By March Europe was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that on 18 March more than 250 million people were in lockdown in Europe. And now, nearly 12 months after the first case, sadly by 19 January 2021, 30.8 million cases were confirmed and 674,00 people in the region had died. [2] The Red Cross Red Crescent response needed to be swift. On 30 January the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and the following day the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) allocated funds for a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and a preliminary Emergency Appeal. With its long experience in health emergencies it anticipated COVID-19 could develop into a pandemic with a devastating humanitarian impact and sadly it has shaped up to be one of the world’s most challenging crises, affecting every corner of the region with everyone vulnerable to contracting this virus. In line with Red Cross Red Crescent’s unique role as auxiliary to government, and as a community-based and widely-trusted organization, in Europe region the Red Cross movement came up with innovative responses. The Austrian Red Cross developed a contact tracing app. British Red Cross surveyed people on their loneliness and pivoted to provide extra support for those newly alone. The Czech Red Cross trained volunteers to work in hospitals that had become overwhelmed. The Turkish Red Crescent researched people’s knowledge and attitudes towards the virus and pivoted to fill the gaps they discovered. Swedish volunteers helped children with their homework. The Red Crosses of the countries of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia worked together to get supplies across their borders to people in an isolated part of Croatia. Extra support was given to people with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia whose treatment was disrupted by the pandemic. With the rapid surge in prevention activity, while case numbers grew at an alarming rate, by the end of Spring the situation had improved somewhat. By summer as numbers plateaued government restrictions relaxed. The movement urged people to stay the course and maintain prevention measures in the face of pandemic fatigue and a sense the worst was behind us. Second wave Sadly conditions deteriorated, leading to a second wave. From late July case and death numbers steadily worsened again. By October, the Europe region accounted for the greatest proportion of reported new cases globally, with over 1.3 million new cases in the last week of October, a 33% leap in cases in a week. The national societies doubled down. Many had by now switched to remote and on-line support, however 23 National Societies continued to deliver COVID-safe clinical and paramedical services, including those in Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain and the UK. As well they ran quarantine and testing stations, triage facilities and outpatient fever clinics to support the public emergency medical service, and provided mobile care services. Some National Societies also supported experimental treatments by collecting plasma from patients who recovered from COVID-19 and had antibodies, and in turn provided this plasma to hospitals to treat very sick patients. Countless training and guidance sessions for staff and volunteers on COVID-19 were helped across the region, on the proper use of personal protective equipment and ambulances cleaning and disinfection. Vaccines – a potential game changer By the start of December, the future started to look brighter. Countries started to plan for the possible arrival of vaccines, but this was taking place against a background of a relentless resurgence in the number of people infected with COVID-19. In the WHO Europe region, there had been more than 4 million new cases in November alone, with the region accounting for 40 % of new global cases and 50% of new global deaths. [3] The vaccine results have come to be seen a large part of the solutions to containing the virus, but it has brought with it the challenge of countering misinformation and building trust in vaccines, as well as managing expectations that they will bring about a quick end to the pandemic. IFRC has supported local efforts to educate communities about their safety and efficacy. Those hardest hit In January more evidence came to light of the disproportionate impact the coronavirus was having on older people when the IFRC’s Europe office published the results of a survey[4] which found older people had become sicker, poorer and more alone as a result of the pandemic. It added to a growing body of evidence that coronavirus had harmed the poor and most vulnerable the most, pushing millions more into poverty. [5] Sadly, migrants were also identified in new IFRC research as those least protected and most affected by the pandemic. [6] And now, as we enter the start of the second year of the pandemic under ongoing harsh lockdowns, many countries are starting to see cases stabilise and even reduce. This emergency has had significant challenges, including global flows of misinformation and disinformation, response fatigue and system-wide impacts of multiple waves of cases. The Red Cross Red Crescent movement is well-placed to do its part in the regional response given its extensive history with disease outbreak. And planners in the movement acknowledge that vaccines will not be the silver bullet to end this pandemic alone. Red Cross will continue to work with communities to ensure they are informed about the virus, how it spreads and what to do to keep safe. It’s continuing to advocate for tracing and isolation of people who are ill as a central part of the response. To keep in the fight against COVID-19, the entire population must stick to the preventative measures which have been proven to help stop the spread of the virus – even as a vaccine becomes more widely available. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

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07/01/2021 | Article

Opinion: Will migrants and refugees be left out of mass vaccine programs?

After a brutal year dominated by the coronavirus, 2021 at last promises hope. When mass vaccination campaigns roll out, it will mark a critical turning point in the pandemic. However, vulnerable communities – especially migrants and refugees – run the risk of being left behind again. COVID-19 has exposed and magnified inequalities, destabilized communities, and reversed major development progress made over the past decade. For the 80 million people who remain forcibly displaced in 2020, the pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges and pushed them into more devastating, vulnerable and exploitative situations. About 66% of migrants and refugees have lost access to work due to COVID-19, with many losing the sole income they rely on. Many have experienced ballooning debts, which forces many to cut spending on essentials, including health, education or food to survive. People on the move too often fall through the cracks when it comes to accessing essential health services and we worry the same could happen for the vaccine. People in particularly fragile settings, like displacement camps, have access to fewer basic health care services. Many barriers exist, including direct exclusion, laws restricting access based on migration status, language barriers and lack of culturally-accessible and appropriate information about the vaccine. The health and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on millions of refugee and migrant families for years to come. We must address the many barriers to universal health coverage and ensure that migrants are fully included in national vaccination campaigns. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been at the center of the pandemic, stepping up our support to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, providing access to critical information, health services, psychosocial support as well as helping to mitigate COVID-19’s socio-economic impacts and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable groups. In Greece and Spain where there have been large number of people arriving, Red Cross has for several years been supporting individuals and families by providing food, water and other practical support so they’re treated with dignity and respect along their journeys. Through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the European Union and implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC, 1.8 million refugees receive cash assistance every month to help cover their essential needs such as rent, transport, bills, food and medicine. Additional financial support was provided from June to July to help people cope through particularly tough months. All migrants, irrespective of status, should be protected from harm and have access to health care and the vaccine without fear of arrest, detention or deportation. This includes ensuring COVID-19 testing, tracing, treatment and the vaccine are available and accessible to everyone. The inequitable distribution of vaccines globally not only threatens to leave the most marginalised behind but also risks undermining our shared health if the virus is left to continue among unprotected communities. The vaccination roll-out must work in parallel with access to critical public health preventative measures. We ask governments, the private sector, international organisations and civil society to unite towards “a people’s vaccine.” A people’s vaccine should equally protect the affluent and the poor, those in cities and in rural communities, older people in care homes and those living in refugee camps. A global social contract for a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 is a moral imperative that brings us all together in our shared humanity. We must take concrete action to prevent the exclusion of groups at significantly higher risk of severe disease or death, such as refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers or those affected by humanitarian emergencies. Migrants and refugees must not be left behind while the rest of the world recovers: none of us are safe until all of us are safe. *This opinion piece was originally published on Thomson Reuters Foundationon December 24, 2020. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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20/10/2020 | Article

When the pandemic reached the indigenous communities in northern Argentina

By Olivia Acosta Maximiliano is 24 years old, a senior nursing student at the Argentine Red Cross Superior Institute in Salta, a province located in the northwest of Argentina that borders Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay. He is also responsible for the humanitarian camp of the Argentine Red Cross in Salta, where he and his colleagues support 800 indigenous families of Wichis, Toba and Chorote ethnicities every day. The project started at the beginning of the year due to the declaration of an emergency following the death of 10 indigenous children from malnutrition and lack of access to water. According to Maximiliano, "it was at this time when the Argentine Red Cross decided to implement a humanitarian camp to provide health care, food and drinking water to indigenous families affected by malnutrition and drought, and to support the development of their capacities". The camp is located in the heart of the communities, in the middle of nowhere, and through its 10 tanks and a water treatment plant it is able to provide between 45,000 and 60,000 liters of water daily to the indigenous families of the area. Survival in Salta is very difficult, the temperature can reach 45º, the area is very arid and deserted. "Access to the communities is very complicated, there are no roads, we had to create them ourselves in order to be able to get there with our vehicles and bring water every two or three days. The children are waiting for us very excited, with the little cups ready... I have learned to value water very much, you realize how important it is when you don’t have it. Since we brought them the water, we have managed to reduce diarrhea and improve the children's size, because before they took water from contaminated rivers, putting their health at risk." Given the scarcity of medical care in the area, the camp also has a first aid tent and a mobile team to be able to move patients from the most remote villages. All camp volunteers are trained in first aid and provide support to families with a protection, gender and inclusion perspective. When COVID-19 arrived in the area, Maximiliano thought that if there were a high number of infections, the pandemic could wreak havoc, because it would be very difficult to control it. Indigenous families are very vulnerable and their houses, which are barely 8 square meters, with mud walls and plastic roofs, are home to families of more than 8 people, in conditions of great poverty and overcrowding. "The first thing I thought was: how are we going to teach them to wash their hands to avoid infection, if they barely have water?" With the arrival of the pandemic, the volunteers of the camp had to work to adapt to the isolated conditions and decided to increase the distribution of drinking water, with the intention of generating more hygienic habits in the families. Besides that, they started to collaborate with the San Victoria Hospital in the "Plan Detectar". Their work consists of visiting the communities to evaluate symptoms and respiratory problems, with the objective of verifying the need for PCR tests if the established criteria are met. For severe cases they coordinate the transfer to the hospital and for mild ones, they follow up on their health status at home and distribute masks and hygienic disinfection kits. According to Maximiliano, "the use of masks has been complicated for them, because they had never worn any before. We had to hold workshops and give guidelines through community radio to advise, for example, to avoid crowds. Now, almost 75% wear masks and follow the prevention measures, which has been a success and has compensated for all the effort. So far, we have had 18 positive cases and 16 are already recovered," he says proudly. According to Maximiliano, these are nomadic communities that are deeply rooted in their culture, religion, and language, and it is not easy to establish relationships. "I have been in the camp for 250 days and now everyone knows us, several volunteers are learning their language, some even speak it already, and wichi language is very complicated! For the children of the indigenous families, the camp is a fun place with trailers, motorcycles, lights, vehicles... they find it very appealing and love to come visit us". Now begins the second stage of the project for the development of these communities and improvement of their quality of life, through a plan of crops and gardens, training in the use of recycling, waste collection, construction and access to latrines, among others. "Sometimes we get frustrated when we think about all the work we have ahead of us to support the development of these communities, we feel like ants, but then I always think: if we weren't here, how would they be now? And then I see the progress we made together with the families, I realize the great value we bring and how important it is for the communities," concludes Maximiliano. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Argentine Red Cross has been developing articulated actions to support the response to COVID-19 with the aim of reducing infections, alleviating the suffering of affected people and their families, and contributing to reduce the impact of the emergency in the country. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the volunteers of the Argentine Red Cross have carried out more than 9,500 social and health actions in response to the emergency.

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09/07/2020 | Article

PRCS introduces children with disabilities and their families to distance learning

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.

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01/07/2020 | Article

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Statement on building an environment free from racism and discrimination

The continued wave of Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism protests, across the United States and beyond, has put a spotlight firmly on deeply ingrained historic and systemic racist attitudes and discrimination against Black people and people of colour – including in the humanitarian sector and in our own organisations. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is committed to help achieve the required changes to all systems that are oppressive to people of colour. In recent weeks, many colleagues across the Movement have spoken up about their own experiences or perceptions of racism and discrimination. Many have expressed solidarity. There is a clear collective desire to achieve equality and dignity in the treatment of all people – those whom we serve and those who serve with us. This is also a global call for equal access by all - including migrants, indigenous peoples and minorities - to food, shelter, health care, education, and full respect for international humanitarian law. Some of the conversations have been painful and uncomfortable, revealing hard truths about racism and related discrimination. These include entrenched problems of power imbalances and subtle, insidious, and unconscious inequity engrained in our structures and history. At both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), we have been listening, learning and asking ourselves some serious and difficult questions about these issues within our organisations. We need to do better, and we need to be better. Rejection of discrimination of all kinds lies at the heart of our Fundamental Principles and values. Our principles of humanity and impartiality demand that there be no discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. This is key to ensuring that the suffering of anyone in need may be relieved. Our principle of neutrality does not mean staying silent in the face of racism and violence. The Fundamental Principles provide the ethical, operational, and institutional framework for our work as a Movement around the world. Drawing on our principles, it is our duty to take forward the drive for diversity. We are committed to the global struggle to promote and protect the rights of all, with no exception. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has long embraced inclusive initiatives. The very structure of National Societies makes our global network particularly inclusive of people of colour, different ethnic origins and religious backgrounds. However, our humanitarian work and financing demand that we continuously examine our own behaviour, practices and structures to ensure that we are holding ourselves to the highest standards when it comes to inclusion and social equity. Most importantly we must also ensure that words are translated into a meaningful reality. Achieving this requires total commitment across the whole Movement. We know that achieving genuine inclusion and diversity must begin first within our organisations. We need to better understand the linkages between discrimination, power imbalances and disadvantage. We need to dismantle the systemic barriers that may prevent colleagues from achieving equality because of their gender or their racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. We know we have more work to do in this regard. That is why, on behalf of the ICRC and IFRC leadership, we wish to express our firm and unequivocal condemnation of racism in all its forms, and to commit to taking steps toward ensuring an environment free from all discrimination within our Movement. This includes: At all levels, working to deliver the individual, structural and cultural change that will ensure no form of discrimination, intolerance or exclusion on racial or other grounds takes place within our organisations. Building a supportive, safe and inclusive environment to continue to foster honest conversations around racism and discrimination. This includes encouraging difficult questions to improve mutual trust, respect and acceptance of each other’s diversity. It also entails strengthening understanding and support for better practices within the Movement, enabling all to have their voices heard and respected. Working to remove any culture of fear or impunity is an important aspect of this. Assisting victims of racism and racial discrimination and working actively with all stakeholders and partners at all levels to create the conditions to ensure the safety of all persons or communities affected by racism or discrimination on racial grounds. Ensuring that our institutional frameworks and statutory commitments prevent and strictly prohibit any forms of racial discrimination, and that racism and discrimination are expressly prohibited behaviours in our Codes of Conduct. Renewing our commitment to advancing the Fundamental Principles of our Movement, which aim for truly inclusive humanitarian action, and implementing activities that promote a spirit of racial tolerance. The ICRC, for its part, commits to ensuring that there are clear and unambiguous expectations of its hiring managers, as just one specific example. A range of supportive policies and practices are being developed by the leadership team to drive organisation-wide progress. The ICRC also stands firm in its commitment to engage communities in the decisions that affect their lives, breaking through power dynamics and patterns of exclusion. The IFRC commits to working to fulfil the commitments in the Safe and Inclusive Workplace Pledge, launched at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2019. This allows the IFRC to commit to ensuring that the organisation and the wider Movement are as safe, inclusive and accessible as possible; to eradicate racism whenever and wherever it is found; and to address any overt, hidden or unconscious biases and discrimination within its systems. This is essential to ensure that the Fundamental Principles are upheld, and that all people are treated with dignity and respect. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has a responsibility to rebuild fractured communities. All of us in the Movement are united by a common purpose: to make a positive difference in the lives of people affected by conflict, disasters and crisis. We are committed to ensuring that this driving force applies equally to how we treat one another within our own organisations. We are committed to upholding our Fundamental Principles and making our Movement as inclusive and accessible as possible, in words and deeds. Jagan Chapagain, IFRCSecretary General Robert Mardini, ICRC Director-General

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10/06/2020 | Article

In support of nomadic Bedouins during COVID-19: Algerian Red Crescent sends aid to Al-Oued

Randa El Ozeir:Everywhere on the planet, we hear news about COVID-19. Despite this fact, some remote places stayed sheltered from the scene without receiving or watching reports about it, thus they were kept in the dark regarding the details of the virus or the scope of its dangers. These locations are secluded in Al-Oued State to the south east of Algeria where the Algerian Red Crescent (ARC) is working on providing knowledge, awareness, prevention steps, imperative quarantine when needed due to COVID-19, and even food aids within reach. The journey of the ARC team lasts 10 hours to two full days depending on the distance required to get to the nomadic Bedouin families. The convoy usually leaves the ARC’s state committee office in Al-Oued city and necessitates taking four-wheel-drive cars to cross the tricky sandy roads of the Algerian Sahara. But at the finish line, the nomadic Bedouin families receive the volunteers’ convoy with open arms and twinkling eyes. Salem Bou Slah, a field paramedic and the head of the ARC’s social media platforms, said, “The volunteers face no issues in introducing the families to the ARC and its humanitarian activities, as our relationship goes back a long way. The ARC’s flapping flag on top of the cars represents for them hope and assistance. Also, the volunteers connect personally with some of these families”. The situation in these isolated parts of Al-Oued State is different and the internet connection there isn’t reliable. Prior to the arrival of the ARC teams, the nomadic Bedouins didn’t know about the virus, its risks, and the ways of its transmission, unlike the population of the urban areas of the State who benefitted from the prevailing of social media and satellite channels. Due to the ethnic diversity in these far spots, the ARC volunteers, who number around 400 people specialized as nurses and doctors from various social and educational levels, play a very important intermediary role in simplifying the concepts and notions in the Bedouin’s language, conveying the awareness messages, and explaining the relevant health practices to illiterate-ravaged groups. And the volunteers try, with what is available, to bridge the gaps stemming from the absence of health facilities, hospitals, and even clean drinking water. Nomadic Bedouin families don’t settle down in permanent locations and keep moving on the border strip between Algeria and Tunisia. The ARC nurse, Masoud Al-Taieb who has joined the ARC as a volunteer since 2012, told us about the singularities of these families that constantly change places where they must mingle with people from various localities, “therefore, these families become more susceptible to waterborne and infectious diseases, and many of their children don’t receive their vaccinations regularly and on time. The ARC contributes by supplying them with the vaccines and the medical services”. Such visits to the Bedouin families aren’t unprecedented, although they have increased in numbers and frequency lately with the spread of COVID-19. “The visits to the families happen periodically under the ARC volunteers’ flag in Al-Oued State. The State committee consists of different cells, such as “Community’s Health”, “Media and Communications”, “Field Paramedics”, and “Feminist and Childhood’s Protection”, said Mr. Boudiaf Said, the president of ARC’s State committee in Al-Oued. To date, 734 families with about 800 children and over 113 seniors have reaped the benefits of 2000 food packages and health follow-up examinations in coordination with the “Civic Protection” and “Military Health” that have means. In practice, “volunteers deliver their services. I provide a health service in the hospital where I work to help the destitute families that cannot afford the treatment or the trip to faraway hospitals”, said Al-Taieb. The ARC does sensitization and sterilization operations as well. The ARC’s part here is exceptionally important and sensitive. Virtually everyone is aware of the reserved nature within the structure of the nomadic Bedouin families that demands presence of female, not male, volunteers to communicate directly with the women in these families. Hence, the primordial importance of the female activists within the ARC. They are the ones who make sure the awareness messages have been delivered and the service has been scaled up to pass to as many women as possible in the local community. Al-Taieb weighed in on this saying, “Most of these families choose herbal remedies as a main treatment, but this can pose a risk in some cases, especially on women, pregnant women, and children. Our work of providing health and nutrition assistance is of great value”. In the light of these hard times, the food assistance that the ARC insists on distributing also became a resource for these families to stave off hunger. Like many places around the world, this region in Al-Oued State got hit hard economically due to COVID-19. It is a major farming source in the country that banks on exporting agricultural products (34% of all the exported vegetables are from it) affected by the quarantine and the suspension of air flights. Notwithstanding the organized exportation campaigns to help the farmers, the nomadic Bedouins carried the hefty burden of the negative effects occurring from the curfews and the shutdown of livestock markets. General Background: the Algerian Red Crescent (ARC) was founded in 1956 during the peak of the liberation and independence revolution. The ARC is considered the most ancient humanitarian organization in Algeria. Its first work was treating the war’s casualties. After getting recognized by the government as an independent voluntary relief society, the ARC joined the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent (IFRC) in July 1963. It has 48 branches around the States and an office in each city, which has many committees that provide basic health services, humanitarian aids, charitable assistance, along with another set of environmental, sports, and arts activities.

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09/08/2019 | Article

Women are the agents of change for climate change in southern Africa

By: Dr Michael Charles Today South Africa marks Women’s Day. Much like the women being commemorated for the march to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, women in southern Africa today may well hold the same flint that lights a “new movement” – climate change. Southern Africa is one of the regions projected to experience the most serious consequences of global warming and the El Niño effect. In 2019, we experienced one of the worst disasters the region has ever seen - Cyclone Idai ravaged communities in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and continue to rebuild their lives. Urgent action is needed to increase the region’s preparedness for natural disasters. It is only a matter of time until the next disaster strikes. Being female often automatically means that personal susceptibility to sexual and domestic violence, rape and assault in emergency situations is significantly heightened. Women experience additional difficulties because they are typically responsible for sourcing water and preparing food; caring for children, the injured, sick and elderly; and maintaining family and community cohesion. Tackling climate change is, undoubtedly, women’s business. They have a vested interest in avoiding and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is time that humanitarian actors and policy and decision-makers mainstream gender in policy and practice. It is not a “nice to do”; it is crucial to making real and sustainable differences in the lives of affected people. In 1956, 200,000 South African women declared that enough was enough and acted to defend themselves and the unity and integrity of their families from restrictive laws that required them to carry a pass to reside and move freely in urban areas. Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock! was the rallying cry of that day, used to signify the women’s unshakeable and unbreakable resolve in the face of adversity as they marched to the Union Building in Pretoria, and sparked change in the course of South Africa’s history. As countries in southern Africa ramp up their disaster risk management and humanitarian organisations work to strengthen community recovery and resilience, women in southern Africa should not just be considered victims and survivors who need special protection and assistance. They are forces for change who can be relied on to represent themselves within their communities and at the highest decision-making levels. I am always inspired by the women I meet responding in disasters, most recently in Cyclone Idai. Women like, Sonia, a volunteer who was working long hours to support women in a shelter, displaced by Cyclone Idai or Flora, who was affected herself by flooding but was dedicated to helping her neighbours rebuild their homes and their lives. Happy Women’s Day, South Africa. May the flame that was lit in 1956 and the fire of women’s empowerment and participation that was built over the decades rage on.

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18/07/2019 | Article

Everyone Counts: why gender parity and equality make us better humanitarians

By Prof. Cecile Aptel, Director of Policy, Strategy and Knowledge, IFRC Gender and diversity are about what we do, how we do it, and who we are as humanitarians. Diversity is at the heart of the Red Cross and Red Crescent network, which is made up of National Societies assembling 13.7 million volunteers in more than 190 countries, and an international secretariat in Geneva. A critical element of that diversity is gender equality, which is key to a humanitarian organization delivering better support and services. Sadly, we know from experience that women and girls are often disproportionately affected by disasters or crises, and are at higher risk of violence, abuse, neglect, discrimination, and being left behind. To effectively reach these women and girls, humanitarian organizations must themselves be inclusive: they must include women and girls’ perspectives at all levels of decision-making, from the design of a programme to its evaluation through its delivery, and therefore must have women at all levels, including the highest ones. For several years now, the breadth and depth of the programmes and services of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have been captured in its Federation-Wide Databank and Reporting System. This year, for the first time, we have reviewed our performance by analysing the number of women reached by Red Cross and Red Crescent programmes, as well as the proportion of women in staff and governance. The sex disaggregated data at all levels of the network - from leadership and governing bodies, to paid staff and volunteers, and all the way to the people reached and supported by its activities - has been analysed and the results are published in the Everyone Counts report, which we are launching today. As of 2017, women comprised 52 per cent of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, 50 per cent of National Society staff, and 45 per cent of IFRC’s paid staff worldwide. Yet, the percentage of women on IFRC’s Governing Board was only 17 per cent – significantly lower than the 31 per cent figure across National Societies. Globally, only 21 per cent of National Society Presidents and just 31 per cent of National Society Secretaries General are women. The results are variable by region and are affected by both the National Societies themselves as well as the communities they are situated in: if a country is doing well with regard to gender equality, this tends to be reflected within its National Society. These numbers provide a baseline but we know that sex disaggregation is only one indicator of gender equality, and other issues should be taken into consideration when striving for a more inclusive Red Cross and Red Crescent. To start with, sex and gender are different things: sex refers to biology, and does not capture all the dimensions of gender as a social construct. The categories of men, women, boys, girls and other gender identities are all made up of individuals with different lives, roles and vulnerabilities, and societal structures often amplify these. In this context, is it enough for humanitarian organizations to reach equally men and women? Shouldn’t they also aim to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are addressed, for instance in terms of menstrual hygiene? And contribute to achieving a more level playing field where parity can actually lead to gender equality, social justice, and a better future? Having women able to speak and be heard at all levels of an organization is vital if these questions are to be asked, and to be answered meaningfully. This year’s Everyone Counts report is a reminder that more is needed on this front. Because there are structural and cultural barriers preventing skilled, talented, and committed women from progressing in their humanitarian careers, everyone – especially men - should work together to dismantle those barriers. The IFRC is committed to rising to this challenge. It has recently announced that, by 2028, its secretariat will have gender parity at all staffing levels. It is also working with National Societies across the world to help them set their own targets based on their own analysis of current staffing as well as projected growth and staff turnover. A Red Cross and Red Crescent network with sex parity as a prelude to gender equality will be better able to function and deliver more considered and more effective services. It will be a better reflection of the communities we work alongside, and be better able to harness the full power of humanity in all its diversity. This is who we should be as humanitarians.

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09/07/2019 | Article

British Red Cross supports young refugees to integrate through theatre

By Gurvinder Singh & Debbie Busler While performers recite famous lines from William Shakespeare on the Globe theatre’s main stage, a few yards away is a room where Abye and other young migrants and refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia are gathered. They alternate between periods of intense focus creating puppets to tell stories and bursts of laughter as they practice freezing into various dramatic poses. Partnering with the Compass Collective and the Globe Theatre in London, the British Red Cross facilitates a drama group for young refugees and asylum seekers. Abye and his friends at the group have developed a production that they performed at the Globe Theatre for the public during Refugee Week. Tickets for the show were sold out. Abye and his friends arrived in London alone as children without their parents or families. They joined the British Red Cross to integrate into the local community and benefited from its protection services. “My friends and I come from Eritrea. There are so many problems and not much future for us there, so I left. It took me nearly two years to reach the UK and I traveled alone through many countries. I spent months in Libya waiting to cross the sea. It was very hard times and we were detained and treated badly until we could pay to move on,” Abye explains. Through the project, the British Red Cross and its partners are supporting young migrants and refugees to find their voices, express themselves, and share their experiences with the public. Its benefits are summed up by Irfan from Iraq. He shares, “I joined this group because my friends told me about it. I am learning a lot. It has made me happy to meet these other guys and to do this together.” Learn more about this project:

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