Africa: Hunger crisis
Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing one of the most alarming food crises in decades—immense in both its severity and geographic scope.Roughly 146 million people are suffering from acute food insecurity and require urgent humanitarian assistance. The crisis is driven by a range of local and global factors, including insecurity and armed conflict, extreme weather events, climate variability and negative macroeconomic impacts. Through this regional Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Africa to protect the lives, livelihoods and prospects of millions of people.
| Press release
IFRC report: Goals for poverty reduction, decent work and closing inequality gap, stalled by COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean
Panama City, May 20, 2022 - The devastating socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have stalled some of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is unlikely that the region will end poverty, ensure gender equality, promote decent and equitable work, and reduce inequality within and between countries by the target date of 2030. This is one of the main findings of "Readjusting the path towards equity," a recent study by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The report confirms that COVID-19 increased unemployment, reduced the income of the poorest families, forced more than one million children to leave school, reduced labour protection and worsened inequality and gender violence.
Head of IFRC's Disaster, Climate and Crisis unit in the Americas, Roger Alonso, said:
"This study helps us understand the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable people’s income, access to food and well-being. The findings underline the fact that a full social and economic recovery will take years. To avoid irreversible levels of vulnerability, it is crucial to implement an inclusive and fair recovery, which also anticipates the effects of the current food and fuel price increases resulting from the conflict in Ukraine."
According to the report, the loss of income of the poorest populations increased food insecurity resulting in 60 million people suffering from hunger in the first year of the pandemic. That same year, 23 million women were pushed into poverty and since then, cases of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking have increased.
In addition, 10% of jobs in the region were lost during the pandemic, and 30% of these have not yet been recovered. Meanwhile, 51% of the migrant population surveyed by IFRC said they lost their jobs and 53% of those who kept them, saw their income reduced or were not paid.
This IFRC analysis is based on literature review, interviews with experts and representatives of international organizations, as well as 1,825 surveys conducted in Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Venezuela.
Co-author of the report and IFRC Livelihoods Recovery Officer in the Americas, Daniela Funez, said:
''Listening to the communities we serve is a priority for the Red Cross network. That's what allows us to know their needs in depth and, in this case, the data they provided us confirms the projections made by international agencies about the effects of COVID-19 on the SDGs'."
To address the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, the IFRC suggests prioritizing attention to the most vulnerable groups, incorporating a gender approach in humanitarian action and contributing to reducing the effects of climate change. It also calls for increased investment in vaccination, protection and livelihood protection, a key issue to close the 60% funding gap needed to continue responding to the medium and long-term effects of COVID-19.
For more information:
In Bogota:David Quijano +57 310 5592559,[email protected]
In Panama:Susana Arroyo Barrantes,[email protected]
| Press release
Afghanistan: Food shortages escalate as spring fields remain bare
Kuala Lumpur/Kabul/Geneva, 22 March –The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is raising grave fears for millions of Afghans and farming communities as fields remain bare of the annual spring crops.
The ongoing drought means that the area planted with winter wheat is well below average. Field reports indicate that half the ground normally sown with wheat was fallow at the end of the planting window in December. Hunger is worsening in Afghanistan, with 95 per cent of the population going without enough food to eat every day, according to the United Nations.
The few crops which were planted are likely to face harsh conditions, with La Nina expected to bring drier than normal conditions in the coming months, extending the severe drought into a second year.
Mawlawi Mutiul Haq Khales, Afghan Red Crescent Acting President, said:
“Millions of families rely on farming, but they already lost last year’s crops to the severe drought, leaving them without grain to get through the harsh winter or seeds to sow in the fields.
“Without seeds in the ground, there will be no harvest in spring and summer, creating a real risk of famine across Afghanistan, where nearly 23 million people are already unable to feed themselves every day.
“We need to ramp up our efforts to support these communities with relief as they brace for a second year of drought and food shortages, while working to sustain livelihoods that are so important for families and entire communities.”
The drought crisis has fuelled an economic crisis in a country where agriculture is critical for people’s livelihoods and the mainstay of the economy. More than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s population live in rural areas and around 80 percent of livelihoods depend on agriculture, according to the latest IPC Afghanistan food security data.
Afghan Red Crescent, supported by the IFRC, is working with farming communities to have more sustainable water sources, drought resistant crops and other income generation opportunities for women in regional parts of the country.
Johanna Arvo, IFRC’s Acting Head of Delegation for Afghanistan, said:
“The ravages of climate change mean risks and hardship are skyrocketing for people in Afghanistan. Millions of people have faced two severe droughts in four years, causing catastrophic crop failures and devastating food shortages.
“Temperatures are rising, leading to reduced snowfall cover, snowmelt and water supplies. Rainfall is becoming more erratic, decimating agriculture in Afghanistan.
“As well as providing immediate relief, we must invest much more in the future by helping Afghans to establish more sustainable water supplies and drought resistant crops, while supporting income generation for the most at risk, including women and the elderly.”
As part of this ongoing support, the IFRC is urgently appealing to the international community for more than 65 million Swiss francs to support the Afghan Red Crescent to deliver health services, emergency relief and recovery assistance to more than 1 million people in the provinces hit by multiple crises.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Asia Pacific Office:
Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451,
Asia Pacific Office:
Joe Cropp, +61 491 743 089,
Cash and livelihoods: a winning combination for long-term sustainability and support to refugees
By Deniz Kacmaz, IFRC Turkey, Livelihood Officer
Turkey is hosting the largest refugee population in the world. More than 3.7 million Syrians have sought refuge as well as 330,000 under international protection and those seeking asylum, including Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, Somalis, among others. With the conflict in Syria now entering its twelfth year with few signs of change, means that we are not just looking at a humanitarian emergency anymore, but on long-term resilience.
Since the refugee influx began in Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) has been taking a leading role in the response. As of April 2020, Turkish Red Crescent through its KIZILAYKART platform and IFRC run the largest humanitarian cash programme in the world, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the EU.
This programme has helped more than 1.5 million cover some of their most basic needs, covering their groceries, rent and utilities, medicine and their children's school supplies.
But humanitarian emergency cash assistance can only go so far. There is also a need to focus on longer-term resilience. This is why we are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities.
From humanitarian cash to longer-term resilience
We are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities. This means being part of the labour market to meet their own needs and rebuild their life without depending on social assistance, including the ESSN.
We must focus on long-term solutions where refugees, supported by the ESSN, gain their power to stand on their feet and become self-reliant again.
I have been working at IFRC Turkey Delegation for almost two years helping identify gaps and find opportunities to empower people's socio-economic capacities. This approach helps ensure they are resilient in combating challenges in the future, including the devastating socio-economic impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and general obstacles around employment opportunities.
We have seen in many contexts when refugees are able to build their resilience and self-sufficiency, they can contribute even more meaningfully to the local economy. When they benefit, we all benefit, including host communities.
What are we doing to bring this long-term solution to the lives of refugees?
As of April 2021, we have launched referrals that link people receiving cash assistance through ESSN with a plethora of livelihood trainings and opportunities in Turkish Red Crescent community centres.
The 19 community centres across Turkey offer support to both refugee and host communities, including work permit support, vocational courses such as sewing; mask producing; various agricultural trainings; and Turkish language courses and skills trainings. These services are critical to breaking barriers in the local markets. The community centres connect skilled individuals to relevant job opportunities by coordinating with public institutions and other livelihood sector representatives.
The ESSN cash assistance provides support to refugees in the short term while giving them opportunities to learn new skills, which can lead to income generation in the long term.
How do we conduct referrals from the ESSN to livelihoods?
There are many sources where families are identified for referrals, some of the most common are:
Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) Service Centre
168 Kızılay Call Centre
Direct e-mail address to the TRC referral and outreach team
Identified potential individuals among ESSN protection cases
Field teams including monitoring and evaluation and referral and outreach teams who are regularly engaging with those benefitting from ESSN
In the first months of combining cash assistance with longer-term programmes, we have supported more than 1,000 refugees.
Some have been referred to employment supports including consultancy for employment and work permit support, while others are attending language courses, vocational trainings, and skills development courses through public institutions, NGOs, UN agencies and TRC’s community centres.
Though we have developed a robust livelihood referral system, collectively, we need to make stronger investments in social economic empowerment in the future.
While we continue to work on improving our programming and referral mechanisms, as IFRC, we are also reaching out to agencies, civil society, donors, and authorities tolook at how we can:
increase investment in socio-economic empowerment in Turkey,
mitigate barriers to employment for refugees, and
create greater synergies between humanitarian and development interventions.
It is this collective effort that will deliver the longer-term gains necessary for both refugee and local communities in Turkey to thrive.
The ESSN is the largest humanitarian cash assistance program in the world, and it is funded by the European Union. The ESSN has been implemented nationwide in Turkey in coordination and collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent and International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC). We reach more than 1.5 million refugees in Turkey through the ESSN, and we give cash assistance to the most vulnerable populations to make sure they meet their basic needs and live a dignified life.
The Turkish Red Crescent with its 19 community centres throughout Turkey supports millions of refugees as well as host communities. The Centres provide several courses, vocational trainings, social cohesion activities, health, psychosocial support, and protection services, among others.
Southern Madagascar: Enhancing local food production through sustainable community-based solutions
Southern Madagascar depends on rain-fed agriculture, but recurrent and prolonged drought for the past 20 years is having a devastating impact on access to food for communities.
The Commune of Ambatoabo, Anosy region is no longer the rice provider for the main town due to unfavourable climate conditions. This is a consequence of El Niño which has caused a rainfall deficit and led to a reduction in agricultural productivity, loss of seeds and the deterioration of crops. The Malagasy Red Cross has been implementing a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) operation in this locality from December 2020 and is now leading recovery activities.
Through the interventions of the Malagasy Red Cross in the Commune of Ambatoabo with the support of the IFRC and partners, the focus has been put on resilient and community-based agriculture, where fruits, local trees and anti-erosive trees have been prioritized. While seeds, tools and technical support are provided, local-based Red Cross volunteers are in charge of mobilizing the community around the nursery trees and vegetable garden activities, and follow-up on the sites.
Now, 33 vegetable garden managers and 22 nurserymen are active in the management of these sites. They were trained on nursery installation, reforestation (planting and digging), and land management, as well as technical training on sowing, planting, and pricking. The local-based Red Cross volunteers acquired the necessary skills to look after the sites and to guide the communities. Also underway is training in crop protection against diseases and insects, using biological techniques.
Daniel Aristide, a 40-year-old farmer, is part of this pool of local-based Red Cross volunteers. Taking part in this operation is a way of learning efficient and adapted techniques of cultivation but especially to “Contribute at his level to the development of his commune”. He also added, “Up to now, three tree nursery sites have been set up with 11,000 plants each. But the goal is to make communities from each locality of Ambatoabo set up and look after their own sites; that is why they come here to learn the techniques first."
Click here to learn more about the IFRC's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
| Press release
Ethiopia: IFRC steps up emergency response amid “overwhelming humanitarian needs”
09 December 2021, Addis, Nairobi, Geneva—The ongoing conflict in Ethiopia has affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The year-long fighting—combined with other existing hazards—has resulted in a worrying humanitarian situation, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) today.
This crisis has exacerbated an already dire situation in Ethiopia. Climate shocks, devastating desert locusts, the continued socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 and below-average rainfall have also led to a deterioration in food insecurity and other humanitarian needs.
Ato Getachew Taa, Ethiopian Red Cross Society’s Secretary General, said: “Unless immediate action is taken, millions of lives are at risk due to displacement, food insecurity, trauma and loss of livelihoods. About 23 million people in Ethiopia are now in need of humanitarian assistance across the country, due to the combined consequences of conflict, drought, epidemics, food insecurity, pest outbreaks, and population movement. Our teams are currently handling overwhelming humanitarian needs.”
Urgent needs include emergency shelter and essential household items, food, cash, health services, psychological support, water, sanitation, and hygiene materials—as well as protection services.
The IFRC is deeply concerned by the mounting needs and is stepping up its humanitarian response and preparedness efforts. Through IFRC’s extended response operation, 660,000 people affected by the crisis will receive humanitarian support—including shelter, food, cash, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene items. IFRC’s operational strategy provides targeted assistance and contributes to meeting the immediate needs of the affected population.
Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC Regional Director for Africa, said: “Our teams and partners have been doing their best to reach desperate communities, but the resources are unable to keep pace with the scale of need. To match the growing humanitarian demands and reach people desperate for assistance, the IFRC is seeking 27 million Swiss francs.” Red Cross teams in Ethiopia have been providing humanitarian assistance since the beginning of the crisis. Thousands of displaced families have received shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as household, food and cash assistance. In Sudan and Djibouti, those who fled from Ethiopia are also receiving similar services from Red Cross and Red Crescent teams.
“The IFRC network is working in a neutral, impartial way to support vulnerable communities. In accordance with our Fundamental Principles, we continue to ensure that we deliver our support based on people’s needs alone and prioritize the most vulnerable at all times,” added Mukhier.
For more information, please contact:
In Ethiopia: Dr Solomon Ali, +251 911 252428, [email protected]
In Sudan: Nawal Hassan Yousif, +249 91 265 6872, [email protected] and Osama A. Osman, +249 96 026 0000, [email protected]
In Djibouti: Amina Hussein, [email protected]
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 735 437 906, [email protected]
In Geneva: Ann Vaessen, +41 79 405 77 50, [email protected]
| Press release
EU and IFRC support people affected by the water crisis and drought in Syria
Damascus, 3 December 2021 – In response to the severe water crisis and drought in Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 748,000 CHF (709,000 EUR) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.
The European Union is providing CHF 158.000 (150,000 EUR) in humanitarian funding to assist the most affected people. The funding is part of the EU's overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The funds released to the IFRC will help the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) cater to the humanitarian needs of 15,000 people with food and health interventions over six months in Al Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, which are some of the most affected localities.
Since January 2021, Syria has been witnessing extreme drought conditions coupled with unprecedented low water levels of the Euphrates River leading to poor agricultural production and loss of livelihoods. Millions of people are now experiencing worsening food insecurity and increasing malnutrition rates.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and community health promoters will distribute food parcels and engage in hygiene promotion and disease prevention through awareness-raising about waterborne diseases and COVID-19.
Through the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department, the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the European Union provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs.
The European Union is signatory to a €3 million humanitarian delegation agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to “small-scale” disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal.
The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF.For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can then be replenished by the donors. The delegation agreement between the IFRC and EU humanitarian aid enables the latter to replenish the DREF for agreed operations (that fit in with its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million.
For more information, please contact:
Rana Sidani Cassou, Head of Communications – IFRC MENA: Mobile +41766715751 / +33675945515 [email protected]
Anouk Delafortrie, Regional Information Officer – European Humanitarian Aid MENA: Mobile +962 777 57 0203 [email protected]
Hope restored: Red Cross helps thousands across Caribbean through COVID-19 livelihood recovery programme
Kingston, Jamaica, 24 November 2021: After 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the socioeconomic consequences of the virus have added to the devastating loss of lives and the severe impact on public health systems. In 2020, about 209 million people fell into poverty in the Americas region, a figure not seen since 2008. The income, savings and livelihoods of the most vulnerable families have declined, with many facing hunger, exclusion and unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines.
This is evidenced in “Drowning just below the surface: the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19,” a global study by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) that analyzes how women, migrants and inhabitants in precarious urban contexts have had the worst of it.
The Caribbean is one region that has suffered greatly from the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic started affecting the Caribbean in early 2020, many countries resorted to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions to help curb the spread of the disease, resulting in the livelihoods of many people across the Caribbean being critically impacted.
Jobs related to tourism were severely affected
In Jamaica, workers in the tourism industry - a major source of income for the country – were among those who felt the impact the most. Oneil Atland, a river raft captain at the Carbarita River in the parish of Westmoreland, is among several rafters who offer river rafting services – a popular tourist attraction which allows guests to relax on a bamboo raft along the river and enjoy the scenery while learning about the rich history and culture of the country. “Things were great before the coronavirus, we had even built an area for rafters and guests to relax. However, since the coronavirus, we have been experiencing a downfall,” said Atland. With the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on the island, tourist arrivals dropped drastically, which left Atland, and many others like him who provide tourist services, without their only means of income.
In the neighbouring parish of St. Elizabeth, shrimp vendors who sell packaged peppered shrimps in Middle Quarters - a frequently visited tourist location - were also affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. “I started doing shrimp vending to help my elderly mother, but then I realized it was an opportunity to earn additional income which I could save and use to send my children to university. Since COVID-19 however, business has been bad as the tourists who used to pass by our shops and purchase shrimps, were no longer visiting the island,” said shrimp vendor, Natasha Malcom Williams.
The Jamaica Red Cross (JRC), with support from IFRC, provided cash cards to 524 persons so far, helping to supplement their income and, in some cases, allowing them to purchase supplies needed to resume their business. Kevin Douglas, JRC Emergency Services Manager said “some rafters were able to purchase supplies to fix their rafts which became water-logged due to inactivity, and some of the vendors used the money received from the Red Cross to venture into other sources of income, such as selling fruits to community members.”
In St. Lucia, women were similarly affected
“COVID-19 disrupted the income of a lot of community members in Anse LaRaye, as many of them work in the hotel industry and became unemployed and could no longer care for their family members; some couldn’t even pay their rent,” said Diana Gabriel from the St. Lucia Red Cross. “It’s been very difficult. I’ve been out of a job since March 2020 and I have been searching for a job, but most companies aren’t hiring much anymore because not many tourists are visiting St. Lucia,” said Cassandra David, hotel worker and mother of three children. “Thanks to the Red Cross for helping me so I could provide for my kids,” she continued.
Supported by IFRC, the St. Lucia Red Cross provided cash cards, supermarket vouchers and food packages to over 3300 affected families and also issued mosquito nets and insect repellants to help prevent the spread of dengue, another health issue which St. Lucia has also been tackling.
Vicky Kenville, one of the recipients of the supermarket vouchers, said her entire family was affected by COVID-19 and in addition, her husband had met in a motor vehicle accident which made it even more difficult for her family. “I was so excited for the voucher from the Red Cross. When I went to the supermarket, every time I put an item in the trolley, I would smile and say if it wasn’t for the Red Cross, I wouldn’t be here shopping, because with none of us working due to COVID, it was very difficult to buy necessities,” said Kenville, who expressed gratitude for the Red Cross support which she said helped her overcome some of the difficulties her family faced due to loss of income.
In Grenada, the Red Cross provided over 200 families from all parishes across the island with supermarket vouchers. Cindy Lewis, COVID-19 Project Manager with the Grenada Red Cross said that “with the supermarket vouchers, beneficiaries are able to shop directly for what they need and this gives them a feeling of independence.”
Education sector also severely impacted
The tourism industry wasn’t the only sector impacted by COVID-19. With most schools closed due to restrictions, and teachers and students resorting to online schooling, school gate vendors across Jamaica also lost their income, when they could no longer ply their wares in front of the school compound. “Since COVID-19, I haven’t been able to sell anymore because schools are closed and it has been very rough, because even though I try to hustle otherwise, it’s still not enough,” said Nadine Wray, school vendor and mother of four children, who noted that her children were not able to do online schooling because of lack of devices and internet. “The cash from the Red Cross is very timely,” she added.
The IFRC network has reached over 200,000 people in eleven countries across the Dutch-and English-speaking Caribbean through provision of cash and vouchers, food and other in-kind assistance as well as skills development for livelihoods, among other interventions. The evidence confirms that these initiatives helped to contain the rise in poverty.
Nasir Khan, IFRC Operations Coordinator for the Dutch and English-speaking Caribbean said:
“We understand the severe hardships faced by many across the Caribbean due to COVID-19, and moreover some of these families were already dealing with overlapping emergencies. Through the livelihood recovery programme, we are able to help those who lost their income because of COVID-19, so they can have some level of hope and dignity and be empowered to keep moving forward despite the circumstances. We are very grateful to all our donors who have contributed to the COVID-19 Emergency Appeal, enabling us to reach those most vulnerable. However, the task is not over yet. The pandemic is still impacting millions of people across the globe, so it is important that we continue our combined efforts to make a real difference in their lives.”
For more information, please contact:
In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva, +876 818 8575, [email protected]
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, +506 8416 1771, [email protected]
In Colombia: David Quijano, +57 3105592559, [email protected]
Food security and livelihoods
Disasters and crises can take a devastating toll on people’s food security and livelihoods. They can increase people’s socio-economic vulnerability and seriously impact their ability to recover, which in turn affects their ability to cope with future shocks and stresses.
A “ray of hope” at a garment factory in Kyrgyzstan
By Baktiar Mambetov, IFRC
Zamira, Larisa, Aizada and Nazira were struggling to provide for their loved ones. Widowed, in difficult economic situations, taking care of disabled family members or many children by themselves, they couldn’t make ends meet. But a Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent sewing course changed that.
“The opportunity to learn tailoring became a ray of hope for me. It’s useful for us, and I don’t feel lonely or depressed any more as I’m part of a good team. We help each other,” said Zamira Zhumagulova.
She is one of about 300 vulnerable women who have been trained and employed through the Skills Development Project of the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan this year, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). She was going through difficult times after being laid off from her job as a taxi dispatcher, but is now working regularly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought along wide-ranging socio-economic impacts in Kyrgyzstan, like in other countries around the world. Many people have been pushed into poverty after getting unemployed, and face challenges to cover their basic needs.
Thanks to the IFRC COVID-19 emergency appeal, the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan expanded the tailoring programme had been running for nine years with support from the Italian Red Cross into a more comprehensive training and livelihood support project, and that is making a huge difference for hundreds of vulnerable women.
The initiative changed Toloshova Nazira’s life. A single mother of a disabled girl, she was at first reluctant to leave her daughter at home with relatives or friends.
“I would constantly call home and ask how she was doing. Over time, I got used to it and could be more involved in the learning process,” she indicated.
The courses helped unleash Nazira’s potential as a seamstress. A month after completing the training, she got a job in an atelier and was able to earn enough money to pay for a treatment and rehabilitation course for her daughter. She is also running a sewing business from home.
As well as learning sewing, attendees are provided with food and clothing, and are taught about first aid and healthy lifestyles, infectious diseases, blood donation and the importance of vaccination.
The IFRC assistance also enabled the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan to set up a garment factory so vulnerable women could receive a stable income completing orders for domestic and international clients.
Ibragimova Larisa Samarbekovna, from Talas region, is one of them. A single mother of four, she lost her husband in 2006 to a chronic illness. After participating at one of the courses of the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan, she opened a mini workshop at home with help from her eldest children, and could even hire two of her classmates, including a single mother of two who is caring for a paralysed mother, Myrzakmatova Aizada.
For the last nine months, 30 women have been working at the factory in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. They are primarily single mothers, women with large families, with special needs or disabled children, ex-TB patients or living with HIV.
“It is very encouraging to see how motivated and hard-working these trainees are. They are determined to learn and eager to work. Each one of them has a human story behind, sometimes a dramatic one. It is great that through this project, the Red Crescent Society gives vulnerable women the chance to gain new skills, generate income and support themselves and their families,” said the course trainer, Aigul Omurzakova.
With the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, the IFRC is aiming to shift from food aid and other material support to longer term endeavours that empower vulnerable people, increase their resilience, reduce their aid dependence and help them more efficiently in less acute, more protracted crisis scenarios.
| Press release
Myanmar: Red Cross ramps up response as humanitarian crisis deepens
Kuala Lumpur/Yangon/Geneva,8 June 2021 – The Myanmar Red Cross supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling up emergency support as hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar need immediate assistance and access to health services.
The Red Cross is urgently ramping up efforts to meet the rising humanitarian needs of 236,000 people across Myanmar.
Prof. Dr. Htin Zaw Soe, Secretary General of the Myanmar Red Cross Society said:
“Covid-19 has caused immense economic hardship across Myanmar in the past year. The current crisis has led to further social and economic upheaval. Many people are struggling to earn an income and have very limited access to basic services such as healthcare.
“We are preparing to provide assistance to people who face worsening poverty, including immediate food relief, and cash assistance that enable people to buy produce locally, in turn stimulating local economies.”
Factory and retail closures signal an emerging economic crisis with thousands left jobless. With no income, people living in informal settlements in urban areas are particularly vulnerable
With a nationwide network, Myanmar Red Cross Society is the country’s largest humanitarian organisation delivering humanitarian assistance across the country.
Since February 1, over 2,000 trained Myanmar Red Cross first aid volunteers have played a critical role on the frontlines of the current crisis, providing lifesaving first aid, healthcare and ambulance services,in line with their fundamental humanitarian principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality,to individuals injured and/or ill including pregnant women for safe delivery of babies. Until now, more than 3,000 people have already received these services.
In the coming months, the Myanmar Red Cross will scale up its first aid and basic healthcare services and will also address rising food insecurity and poverty among families, including longer term support to re-establish people’s fractured livelihoods.
Joy Singhal, IFRC’s Head of Delegation in Myanmar said:
“With a steady increase in humanitarian needs we are preparing for what could become a protracted crisis. This means scaling up both immediate and longer-term support while also factoring in the limited COVID-19 prevention efforts in the country.”
“As the deadliest COVID-19 surges worsen across Asia, every effort needs to be made to contain the virus as the monsoon season looms large, with cyclones and floods adding another layer of hardship for hundreds of thousands of people in the coastal regions.”
Four of the five most vulnerable regions in the upcoming monsoon season - Ayeyarwady, Bago, Tanintharyi and Mon – have also been impacted by the current civil unrest. Between 2000 and 2019, Myanmar was one of the top three countries, most affected by the impacts of extreme weather events.
In preparation for the monsoon season, the Red Cross is pre-positioning stocks of key relief items including shelter equipment for people displaced due to disasters and emergency response equipment such as water purification units.
Note to Editors:
The IFRC’s emergency appeal in response to the civil unrest in Myanmar can be downloaded here
No more excuses! The next disaster is coming, what are you doing about it?
By Robert Kaufman, Head of Philippines Country Office, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Imagine getting hit by six typhoons during a deadly pandemic. For millions of people in the Philippines, this is their reality as 2020 comes crashing to a close. Predictions of the increasing severity and frequency of emergencies have come true.
It’s heart-breaking, exhausting, and scary. But most of all it’s frustrating as much of this human and economic toll can be prevented.
We have known about the brutal effects of climate change for a long time, yet we haven’t been doing enough to fix it. Debates about the effects of climate change or whether partners should support more preparedness are failing people. If your roof blows off three times in one month and this extreme weather happens with relentless certainty, there’s nothing to debate. It is time to prepare more for what’s coming.
We know that the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, topping the charts with the most disasters of all countries the past two years. It’s number two for the past decade just behind China.
We know the number of climate-related disasters has risen almost 35% since the 1990s. The stuff of Hollywood movies has become a reality for tens of millions of people around the world, as they face bigger, more violent storms and more disease outbreaks.
For decades we anticipated another pandemic. Hollywood blockbusters told horror stories of contagious diseases. Since 2008, we’ve seen fantasy become reality with several pandemics, the H1N1 flu virus, SARS and now COVID-19. Yet somehow, the world has been taken by surprise.
Let’s make no mistake, we have made inroads. Governments, humanitarian agencies and countless communities deserve credit for helping to save lives. Just seven years ago, the most destructive typhoon to hit the Philippines on record, Haiyan, killed close to 7,000 people. When Typhoon Goni hit in 2020, a storm as strong as Haiyan, less than 70 lives were lost. Still, I’m frustrated.
Early on in management, I learned that when you spend significant time and money on something, it is a priority. Most of the time and money in the aid sector is still spent on response, as if we don’t know what’s coming; neither the humanitarian community, the policymakers, nor the big donors.
Why are we not using our extraordinary capacity to anticipate crises to prioritize our time and money? What price do we need to place on the lives of people who have died or had their livelihoods ripped apart by disease and disaster before we change our priorities?
Today, we largely know the types of risks we are going to face, where they are going to hit and even in many cases, when. Many of the answers are clear as day.Typhoons strike the Philippines every November and December. Floods always follow drought in East Africa.
We know the risks and we know what to do about it. The latest study on the value of preparedness confirms what we already knew. Every dollar invested in reducing risks from climate-related disasters saves us $6 when we are fixing up the mess, according to the United States Institute of Building Sciences and the United Nations.
Super Typhoon Goni packed the most powerful winds of any storm in the world last year. Together with typhoon Vamco and other major storms, they came at a huge cost, seriously affecting the lives of more than 8.1 million people. More than 425,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed.
Among the millions whose livelihoods were disrupted, at least 200,000 farmers and fishermen lost their only source of income. The cost of agricultural damages totalled more than ₱12.3 billion (US260m) according to the Philippines Department of Agriculture.
Together, the storms were considered the secondmost expensive typhoons on record, costing more than $US 1 billion.
Money normally reserved for responding after disasters strike needs to be made available earlier and for longer-term solutions.
We need to stop soil erosion, plant trees and improve drainage. We need to avoid crop wastage with better grain storage and irrigation. We need to build safer houses with stronger and more permanent foundations. We need to protect land rights and strengthen economic development and social protection programs so that people are not dependent on aid when disaster strikes.
There needs to be a public accounting of how well resource allocation aligns with scientific prediction and the lessons we have learned.
We must put our money where our mouth is. Failing is a dereliction of our responsibility to those most at risk and to ourselves.
This past year, millions have faced often insurmountable hardships and heartache. We have a duty to protect the hope and dignity of those we pledge to support by ensuring everyone has a fair chance of a decent life.
There just can’t be any more excuses.
Behind Mongolia’s COVID-19 success is a story of lost livelihoods
Ariuntuya meets with Mongolian Red Cross volunteer Surenkhorloo and IFRC’s Javzaa: Photo: Mongolia Red Cross Society
Ariuntuya is no stranger to tragedy. Thirteen years ago, the 51-year-old lost both her legs in a car accident. She lost her much-loved husband some 10 years ago, and two years later her son tragically died in another car accident. Her immediate family gone, she now lives with her 15-year-old niece in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, making her living by sewing woollen slippers.
Yet even this simple livelihood is now under threat due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Tourists, who were her primary customers, can no longer travel to Mongolia. After the country shut down to prevent the spread of the virus, many of her local customers stopped placing orders after losing their jobs. Without an income, Ariuntuya now relies on food parcels from the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS). “I appreciate the good gesture shown by the Red Cross in helping me and my family in a time I need them the most,” she said.
Stories like Ariuntuya’s are playing out in homes all across Mongolia, a country which has not received global attention largely due to its relative success in tackling COVID-19. As of late September, only 313 COVID-19 cases and zero deaths were reported in the country. This was achieved through restrictions on movement and widespread prevention measures, such as the closure of borders and schools at the start of the pandemic. Though schools re-opened at the start of September, international flights have not resumed.
These restrictions have led to significant socio-economic impacts and increased vulnerability among poor households. The World Bank’s Household Response Survey revealed the impact on the country’s poorest families in stark terms: nearly half of poor respondents had been uncertain about their ability to obtain food in the previous 30 days due to lack of money or rising prices; almost one in four (23%) were concerned about food security in the coming week; more than half (53%) said they were worried about their finances over the next month. Moreover, the report revealed that 12% of households experienced job losses, and 7% of households had to close their non-farm business.
In response to this economic impact, the Mongolian Red Cross, together with the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), has been providing food and hygiene parcels to the most affected families. So far they have reached more than 3,000 households. Red Cross staff and volunteers are also part of the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19, distributing face-masks, conducting hygiene training and information sessions as well as providing psychosocial support.
Secretary General of MRCS, Bolormaa Nordov, said the country’s economic situation was becoming more challenging every day. “These challenges directly lead to significant negative impact on social vulnerability and household livelihoods. IFRC’s COVID-19 operation provided timely support for the most vulnerable households during this pandemic.”
Head of the IFRC’s East Asia support team, Gwendolyn Pang, said: “The impacts of COVID-19 in Mongolia are much greater than the limited number of infections and deaths in the country. At IFRC we always value the impact on human lives, more than the numbers.”
“In the case of Mongolia, we try to reach out to the most vulnerable people in the most hard to reach communities with services and information that not only protect people from COVID-19 but alleviate the human suffering that is a tragic side effect of this pandemic.”
"Finally I can see some light"
A decade ago it seemed like a dream could come true for Nafe Ahmad Khalifah from Syria. For two years he had worked long days making pastry in Thailand, hoping to one day have his own little bakery and house. In 2009, he finally returned home with enough savings to start building.
“I came back to Syria with a small amount of money and a big dream to live there with my family for the rest of my days. I never thought I would have to leave again”, Nafe Ahmad Khalifah says.
As Mr. Khalifah started to build his house and his business, the Syria crisis began. At first, he was not worried, just thought that it will be over in a few days. As those days turned into weeks and into months and finally into years, and there was no end at sight, fear took over him and his family.
“One night, my firstborn daughter got so scared by the sounds of shooting nearby that all night she held onto me very tightly, refusing to let go. I still remember how desperate I felt when I realized that we have to leave.”
The beginning of the year 2013 was very dark for the family: their house was destroyed in the conflict. The family fled to Jordan, where they were first taken to Zaatari refugee camp. It’s still difficult for Nafe Ahmad Khalifah to even talk about this time.
“I was not even really living, just trying to survive and keep my family alive. This was the darkest period of my life.”
After a few months the family was able to leave the camp and to live with some other Syrians in Amman. However, the conditions remained difficult.
“We lived in very crowded places without privacy, our own space or windows, without enough warmth or light. We had small kids. I had no job and could not provide for my family. We only got by because of support from organisations, friends and relatives”, Mr. Khalifah explains.
Formerly a baker by profession, Mr. Khalifah was hoping to find work in Jordan.
“Preferably to have something to do with my hands, but I would have taken any job to support my family and make a living.”
He had been cutting his friends’ hair to pass time, and got interested in becoming a barber, but all the courses were too expensive for him. Then one day he found an ad in Facebook about a free barbering course through the Jordan Red Crescent, supported by the IFRC and funded by the European Union Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, also known as the EU MADAD fund.
Now Nafe Ahmad Khalifah is a proud graduate of that barbering course, and much more hopeful for the future than before.
“Not only was this course like wonderful gift, and I hope that eventually I can make my living out of barbering, but I’m also very grateful for all the support I got from the Jordanian Red Crescent. They were the first ones in years that really listened to me, that made me feel like I exist again – that I am human”, Mr. Khalifah says.
Together with his four children and his wife, Mr. Khalifah has quite recently moved to a small storage room inside of a parking hall in a residential building in Amman. As long as he cleans the garage and washes the cars of the residents, they are allowed to stay.
“It’s not ideal, because I need to find time to also start practicing my barber skills and look for a job in a salon. But at least now my family has a roof over their heads, we have this tiny space for ourselves, and there is a window from which we see the sun. Finally, after many years of darkness, I’m hopeful and I can see some light."
Photo and words by Mirva Helenius / IFRC
Beekeeping boosts Ukraine veterans’ income and spirits
By Nora Peter, IFRC
Evgenii Novikov gently sweeps snow from the base of one of his colourful beehives and starts to tell a story about how a tiny insect gave him back his life.
When the former soldier returned to his hometown of Pavlograd from the conflict zone in Ukraine’s east, he found that everything had changed. There were no jobs, and his family, friends and neighbours did not understand what he had been through.
“When servicemen return from the conflict zone, they bring a different mindset that is difficult for others to understand. This can result in mental health issues and a distance between them and their loved ones,” Evgenii explains.
Evgenii, 56, was thrown a lifeline when the Red Cross told him about its livelihoods scheme. With five other former soldiers, he used a grant of 6,000 Swiss francs to buy 50 beehives and build up a business.
“When you work on an apiary and devote yourself to beekeeping, you’ll start feeling better because you see a creature who works and does good. You can approach them only with love and they repay it in kind.
“Bees work together as a family and make you understand that life never stops. If you adopt the same attitude and devote yourself to the work, your problems and sorrows eventually disappear.”
Luckily, two members of the group had experience with bees. Evgenii became the manager of the company and handles administrative tasks, while the others do the manual work.
He says there is a good demand for the honey from factories and local markets, and they plan to increase the number of beehives to 1,000 in a few years. But the bees provide more than just an income.
“All the guys feel emotionally uplifted as a result. It improves their relationships with their families and their communities.”
“We can become a good example for other people,” he concludes.
Since the start of the conflict five years ago, more than 25,000 people in Ukraine has received support through the joint livelihoods scheme of the IFRC and the Ukrainian Red Cross in the form of food vouchers, small business grants or multipurpose cash grants.
"I dream of a healthy and happy community"
At first sight, Maria Elena is a shy, reserved woman who speaks little. She can not hide her smile of happiness when she notices the arrival of Idanic and Marilyn, Venezuelan Red Cross volunteers who are supporting the community in the development of the livelihood project that will allow this community to strengthen its local capacities and be more resilient.María Elena lives in the community of Mirador de la Lagunita, a town located an hour and a half from Caracas. In this small community, this community leader is vital when it comes to organizing her colleagues and neighbors in community work.She takes a deep breath when she remembers that she had to return two years ago from the Dominican Republic to take care of his father who was in poor health. She returned with seven months of pregnancy, now her son is going to be one year old, and she only hopes that her Dominican-born partner will soon be with them in the Mirador de la Lagunita.Between laughs and gestures of gratitude towards the volunteers of the Venezuelan Red Cross, María Elena dreams of a healthy and happy community. Idanic and Marylin, volunteers of the Venezuelan Red Cross, continuously encourage her to keep going. For her part, she keeps reminding them that she wants to do the planned activity with the children, in the next few days, with her favorite volunteers. María Elena is also a teacher in the community school and the promoter of the "Community Pot". She enthusiastically tells us that she has taken on the great challenge of raising her community in the company of the other leaders who, like her, work hand in hand along with the Venezuelan Red Cross.