Localization

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Uganda Ebola outbreak 2022: The importance of safe and dignified burials

In countries around the world, burial rituals—whether cultural, traditional, or religious—are an important way of honouring the dead and helping people grieve. For many communities, special burial practices enable them to bid farewell to their loved ones in a respectful and meaningful way.Losing someone is never easy. But what if someone you love passes away, and you’re told that the burial traditions your community holds dear may put you all in danger?This is what happened to people in Mubende, Uganda, in September 2022 when the country declared its first outbreak of Ebola in more than a decade. The government barred communities from burying their loved ones due to the risks involved, declaring that burials should be managed by trained safe and dignified burial teams.Ebola is a cruel disease. Deadly when left untreated, and highly contagious, it’s transmitted from person to person through direct contact and bodily fluids. When someone is infected, their families and friends are unable to provide hands-on care. And when someone dies from Ebola, their body continues to be highly contagious for up to seven days, meaning that safe and dignified burial measures must be followed to prevent further infection.Kuteesa Samuel from Mubende knows this all too well. He lost his wife of 20 years, Monica, to Ebola during the 2022 outbreak. Monica was seven months pregnant at the time, meaning Samuel also lost his unborn child.In Samuel’s culture, it’s customary to wash and wrap the body of the deceased. And if a pregnant woman dies in the community, tradition dictates that the foetus is buried in a separate grave. But during Ebola, these practices would have posed a deadly threat to people’s health.Knowing this, the Uganda Red Cross Society were poised to step in.Local, known, trustedUganda Red Cross staff and volunteers are part of the fabric of society in Uganda. They come from the communities they serve, follow the same local customs, and have a deep understanding of people’s needs and sensitivities when disaster strikes.They therefore understood why Samuel’s community felt scared, confused, and reluctant to abandon their traditions.But following sensitive, patient, and repeated engagement from local Red Cross volunteers—who worked hand-in-hand with local health authorities and community leaders—Samuel’s community agreed to a compromise. Monica’s body was left intact and safely buried by trained Red Cross teams following strict health and safety protocols. While a banana flower was symbolically buried in a separate grave to mark the loss of Samuel’s unborn child. “After the health workers engaged and explained everything to us, we came to an understanding. […] If it wasn’t for Uganda Red Cross, we would not even know where the deceased would be buried. They helped us to bury the deceased to ensure we don’t get infected. So, we greatly appreciate the Red Cross,” explains Samuel.Preparedness saves livesSince the last Ebola outbreak in 2012, the Uganda Red Cross Society had worked hard to improve its preparedness for future health emergencies and strengthen its auxiliary role supporting the Ministry of Health during disease outbreaks.With support from the IFRC through the USAID-funded Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), as well as through an Ebola preparedness emergency appeal (2018-2021) and a Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) operation (2018-2020), they undertook lots of different preparedness activities across different parts of the country.Emergency preparedness involves planning for the worst, so one of those activities was developing a pool of qualified safe and dignified burials trainers and teams across the country. These teams were ready to be deployed immediately to support communities like Samuel’s when the 2022 Ebola outbreak began.“CP3 was so instrumental to this response. We were only able to respond on time because we had done preparations. We already had prepared teams, and this enabled us to swiftly respond,” explains Dr Joseph Kasumba, Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Officer with the Uganda Red Cross who led the response.Humanity in the darkest of momentsDuring the 2022 Ebola outbreak, Uganda Red Cross teams conducted a total of 512 safe and dignified burials. These efforts contributed to the outbreak being declared over in a record four months.What’s harder to quantify is the emotional support and meaningful care that Red Cross teams provided to communities in perhaps the worst moments of their lives. For that, here’s some powerful testimony from those affected by Ebola, or involved in the response:“When it comes to Ebola Virus Disease, communities always need someone they can trust, people they can identify with. And the fact that the Red Cross is always part of the community... we know what cultural practices are done. We know what the community wants us to do and they feel confident identifying with us, even in that time of grief and sorrow.” - Dr Joseph Kasumba“We really thank the health workers because they taught us how to protect ourselves. We are still grateful for what they did. It was a miracle for us.” - Janet, Mubende resident“Since Ebola started in Mubende, it is the Red Cross that has walked with us. Every community knows Red Cross here. We appreciate you for the work you’ve done. The people of Mubende appreciate you for offering your lives to stand in the gap and save lives.” - Rosemary Byabashaija – Resident District Commissioner in MubendeIf you found this story interesting and would like to learn more:Visit the Uganda Red Cross Society websiteClick here to learn more about the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3). Funded by USAID, CP3 supports communities, National Societies, and other partners in seven countries to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to disease threats.Sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Newsletter.

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World Malaria Day: Volunteer goes the last mile to save baby boy’s life in Sierra Leone

Baindu Momoh is a mother from Gbaigibu in Kailahun district, eastern Sierra Leone. Her village is so small and remote it doesn’t show up on most maps—but that doesn’t stop the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society from looking out for the health of her community.In October 2023, Baindu came rushing to her local Red Cross volunteer, Joseph. Something was deeply wrong. Her baby boy, Senesie, had a fever, was sweating and vomiting, and had a puffy face and eyes. Baindu feared for his life.Thankfully, Joseph is part of the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) and is trained in how to detect, report, and respond to disease threats—meaning he knew exactly what to do.“I have established strong relationships with both the health facility and the community. When the child’s mother reached out to me in distress, I immediately recognized the urgency of the situation,” explains Joseph.In the absence of timely local ambulance services, Joseph rushed Baindu and her baby on his motorbike to the nearest Community Health Post in Woroma, where Senesie was diagnosed with severe malaria and anaemia. Baindu was told that, to survive, Senesie needed an urgent blood transfusion—only available at the Kailahun Government Hospital, some 30 miles away.Without hesitation, Joseph offered to help, explaining:“As a trained volunteer with a humanitarian organization, my community is my responsibility.”But in this part of the world, getting to the hospital is easier said than done.On his motorbike, with Baindu and Senesie on the back, Joseph embarked on the long, bumpy road to Kailahun—carefully navigating the treacherous terrain and crossing rivers along the way. Thankfully, they arrived safely and Senesie was quickly treated by hospital staff. “Since I could help, I couldn’t let him die. So I made the decision to pay for the treatment because the parents couldn’t afford the cost,” explains Joseph.Thanks to Joseph’s quick action and support, Senesie made a full recovery from malaria. After a week in hospital, Baindu and Senesie returned to their home in Gbaigibu. Joseph continues to check in on them to make sure they’re doing well.“Joseph risked his life to save my son’s. Upon reaching the Kailahun Government Hospital, he paid for a blood transfusion that the medical practitioners had recommended. To me, Joseph is a true lifesaver who helped us in our time of need,” says Baindu.Baindu isn’t the only person in Gbaigibu to be supported by Joseph. He regularly engages people in his community on how to prevent, detect, and respond to diseases—such as malaria, measles, and yellow fever—so they can stay healthy and safe.Fomba Lamin, head of the Woroma Community Health Post, feels Joseph plays an invaluable role in encouraging village members to seek health support.“We thank the CP3 programme, it is improving our referral rate. Community members we refer in the past did not go to Kailahun for obvious reasons: the means of transportation. But with people such as Joseph, who encourage our people to seek health care in Kailahun, we see the reduction of death in our community,” says Fomba.Although malaria is preventable and treatable, the death toll from the disease remains high for children under 5 and pregnant women, particularly in remote and hard-to-reach communities. Key challenges to controlling malaria include a lack of reliable access to health services and prevention supplies, a decrease in global funding for malaria, and a widespread and increasing rise in insecticide resistance in malaria-endemic countries. Recent innovations, such as the approval from WHO of new insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to address insecticide resistance and two new malaria vaccines for children, are positive steps to tackling the disease. Through programmes like CP3, the IFRC is supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide to plan and deliver high-quality malaria prevention activities, such as:Supporting ministries of health and their partners to plan and implement distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets through mass campaigns or continuous distribution channels. Administering preventive treatment to children as part of seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaigns.Promoting individual preventive practices through social and behaviour change activities to encourage people to sleep under a bed net every night of the year, seek prompt and early healthcare in case of fever or malaria-related symptoms, and attend antenatal care for malaria prevention.This story from Sierra Leone is a great example of how National Societies are supporting communities to prevent and seek treatment for malaria, encouraging them to implement practices that will protect them from the disease, and improving their access to health care—even in remote and isolated communities.The IFRC also houses and chairs the Alliance for Malaria Prevention, a global partnership that supports ministries of health and their financial and implementing partners with the planning and implementation of ITN distribution, primarily through mass campaigns. ITNs remain the most effective tool to protect at-risk communities from malaria. --Joseph, the volunteer mentioned in this article, is part of the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3). Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme supports communities, National Societies, and other partners in seven countries to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to disease threats. If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more:Visit the malaria page on IFRC.orgVisit the Alliance for Malaria Prevention websiteSign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness NewsletterFollow the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society on X, Facebook and LinkedIn

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Stopping a measles outbreak in its tracks in Sierra Leone

Makuma is a remote coastal village nestled in the north-west corner of Sierra Leone, on the border with Guinea. It’s only accessible by one narrow and bumpy dirt track. Its 2,000 or so inhabitants travel by foot or on motorbikes in the drier months. But when waters rise in the rainy season from May to December, the track becomes unusable—cutting people off from their nearest health centre, some 10km away.Its isolated location, coupled with the high risk of infectious diseases in Sierra Leone, means Makuma could be the perfect breeding ground for an epidemic, if it weren’t for one thing: the presence of the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society.Momoh Saio Kamara is Makuma’s local Red Cross volunteer. He grew up in the village and is much loved and trusted, thanks to his work supporting people through the 2014/15 Ebola outbreak.In 2019, Momoh was trained in epidemic control and community-based surveillance through the USAID-funded Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3)—acquiring the skills and tools needed to detect, alert, and respond to disease outbreaks early.So when, in early 2022, people in Makuma started noticing strange symptoms of a mystery illness they’d never seen before, Momoh knew exactly what to do.“One day I was in the village doing house visits. I visited my friend who said there is someone—the nose is red, the mouth is red, the nose runs and there is a rash. I go and look and I thought straight away, it is measles,” explains Momoh.Without hesitating, Momoh alerted his supervisor, Jobel, using a digital community-based surveillance system set up through the CP3 programme. Jobel arrived shortly afterwards on his motorbike to investigate. Seeing the symptoms for himself, he escalated the alert in the system—notifying district health authorities in an instant.“After the alert, I rang the local nurse and called a community meeting to tell the people it is suspected measles,” adds Momoh.A highly contagious viral infection, measles spreads easily among the unvaccinated. It’s a serious illness that can require hospital admission, cause permanent disability, and even kill if not treated properly.Local nurses swiftly arrived and started tracing and registering suspected cases, while Momoh and Jobel went house-to-house to tell people how to stay safe.The following day, a Rapid Response Team from Kambia district hospital arrived to undertake testing, conduct a ring vaccination of nearly 800 children to minimize further infection, and tend to patients.“The Red Cross and District Health Management Team they come. It did not take long. When they arrived, again we called a meeting, we talked to the community. We told them these people have medicine and it is free,” explains Momoh.For N’Mah, a woman from Makuma whose young son caught measles, having Momoh by her side was a huge relief.“My son Morlai fell sick. I had no idea what the illness was and I felt worried and restless. Momoh held a community meeting to let people know he thought it was measles. He told us what he knew about the disease and asked people to tell him if they noticed anyone with the same symptoms. He told us to keep our environment as clean as possible, wash our hands properly, and isolate anyone who showed signs of the illness. I felt really happy because the health services came really quickly,” explains N’Mah.Momoh is one of 250 volunteers in Kambia district trained through the CP3 programme. Together, they are the eyes and ears in hard-to-reach communities, making sure no suspicious health event goes undetected.A total of 124 measles cases were eventually recorded during the outbreak in Makuma. The number could have been significantly higher had it not been for Momoh’s early action, the trust placed in him by his community, and the rapid response from local health authorities.“The successful response which prevented deaths and disability is a result of the early detection and reporting by theRed Cross volunteers, followed by a swift response from the District Health Management Team. It is no exaggeration to say that these volunteers help greatly towards the health care delivery system in Kambia district, especially in public health surveillance,” explains Ishmael Rogers, Kambia District Surveillance Officer.For Makuma village Councillor, Yusif, who has steered his community through difficult times such as Ebola and COVID-19 in recent years, the relief at having Red Cross support in keeping his people healthy is palpable.“I feel happy that Momoh is here. He’s always available for our community – any day, any time. He’s very patient. When our people are sick, he makes sure they are taken to hospital. I feel my community is safe with Momoh. God forbid there is another outbreak, we know Momoh is here for us.”--The rapid outbreak detection and response reported in this article were made possible thanks to the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme supports communities, National Societies, and other partners in seven countries to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more:Sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness NewsletterFollow the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society on X, Facebook and LinkedInTo learn more about community-based surveillance initiatives within the IFRC please visit cbs.ifrc.org

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Kate Forbes: ‘I wasn't surprised, but I was still shocked’ — IFRC’s new president takes on today’s toughest humanitarian challenges

Inspired by her mother’s work helping migrant farm workers in the southwestern United States, Kate Forbes grew up understanding how hard people struggle for a better life. Starting as a Red Cross volunteer at her local branch, she now leads the world’s largest network of local humanitarian organizations. As newly elected president of the IFRC, she talks about extraordinary volunteers she’s met around the world who’ve risked everything to help others, and she explains her approach to today’s most complex humanitarian crises, from climate change to migration.

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Xavier Castellanos: How a near-death experience on a motorcycle steered him to a life helping others

Xavier Castellanos was 13 years old when he joined a Red Cross club at his high school in Ecuador. But it wasn’t until he got into a serious motorcycle accident that his life took a serious turn toward helping others in serious trouble. The teenage Castellanos almost died in that crash, in part because no one nearby knew how to help. “I didn’t want to see anyone else go through that,” he recalls. And so his lifelong humanitarian journey began.

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'There is an urgent need to integrate climate adaptation in emergency preparedness and response'

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure to address the 2023 Belt and Road Ministerial Forum for International Cooperation in Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management. I congratulate the Government of China for their leadership on this initiative, which has marked significant achievements and efforts on disaster risk reduction and emergency management over the past ten years. The IFRC welcomes our partnerships, including with the Government of China, that supports our Disaster Response Emergency Fund for the most efficient response to disasters and crises. Friends and colleagues, we have witnessed a year of unprecedented disasters around the world, which have been further compounded by climate change and geopolitical conflicts. Global humanitarian needs are rising at an alarming rate. These needs are vastly outstripping the resources available to address them. The human costs of disasters and crises remains unacceptably high. As the world’s largest global humanitarian network, with a unique global and local reach, the IFRC has been supporting the National Societies in impacted countries to respond to the needs of crisis-affected communities. The Government of China and the Red Cross Society of China have also been providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to our IFRC network. Still, more needs to be done. Today, I have three important messages I would like to share with you. Firstly, the climate crisis is the biggest multiplier in increasing disaster risks. If humanity fails to act, hundreds of millions of people will put in a highly increased disaster risk because of the humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis. There is an urgent need to integrate climate adaptation in emergency preparedness and response. The IFRC is working with our member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the world to strengthen the coordination, preparedness and response to large-scale disasters and crises. Secondly, investing in disaster risk reduction saves lives and livelihoods. Over the last decade, some of the most recent—and often predictable—extreme weather events were the most deadly, costly, and devastating. The IFRC network has been transforming our emergency response mechanisms to integrate early warning approaches that anticipate disasters so that people can act ahead of time to save lives and livelihoods. This helps them recover and build resilience to the next disaster. It is encouraging to see recent efforts in China to reinforce disaster prevention measures and scale up early warning and early action systems. Finally, global solidarity and multi-sectoral collaboration is must to bring the disaster preparedness and emergency response to scale. It will take joining forces to prepare for and effectively respond to the potential mega disasters. No one organization can do this alone. The Belt and Road Initiative on Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management offers us a platform and opportunity to work together and confront the challenges of today and in the future. I am especially pleased to see that localization and investment in local actors is included in this years’ Joint Statement. The IFRC welcomes collaboration with the Government of China and other countries along the Belt and Road Initiative to reduce the humanitarian needs. I wish you all a successful Ministerial Forum, and I wish you many positive discussions and outcomes from this important event. Thank you.

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Mahabub Maalim: Planting hope amid a hunger crisis in Africa

A regional leader in the fight against food insecurity in Africa, Mahabub Maalim knows first-hand the impact that hunger has on people and communities. Growing up in eastern Kenya, he’s seen how cycles of drought, crop loss and hunger have become more frequent and more severe. He’s dedicated his life to helping communities develop local solutions and he now serves as special advisor to IFRC’s response to the current hunger crisis in Africa (now impacting 23 countries).

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IFRC Secretary General statement at UNGA High-level Ministerial Side event on Sudan

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Our inaction today is extracting a heavy and unacceptable price on the people of Sudan. The IFRC has been working closely with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society before and since the onset of this conflict. We closely coordinate with ICRC. The Sudanese Red Crescent Society has more than 40,000 trained volunteers. It has access and reach to all 18 States and across both sides of the conflict to deliver life-saving assistance. IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal to help scale up response in support of Sudan and neighbouring countries. Sadly, the response to the appeal has been very poor and many of the services may have to stop in coming months. Excellencies – I join you all to call for an end to this inaction because the price Sudanese people are paying is inexcusable. First—let’s have the heart to demonstrate solidarity and commitment to all crises, irrespective of their global profile. Let’s have the moral courage to treat all people affected by crises equally as they all deserve our attention and resources. Second, let’s get the funding to the local actors that have the infrastructure and trained personnel on the ground. So far only a tiny portion of the USD 1.5 billion raised for this crisis has reached local actors. Investing in them maximises the impact of every dollar spent. Third, let’s ensure safety, access and non-politicization of humanitarian action. Sadly, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society has already lost 5 volunteers while on duty. The sacrifices and courage of these volunteers, these local actors form the backbone of our humanitarian efforts. They must be protected at all costs. Together in partnership and solidarity, we can substantially alter the trajectory of the current inaction in Sudan to make a lasting, positive difference. Thank you.

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New IFRC podcast introduces the 'People in the Red Vest’

When disaster strikes, the sight of someone wearing a red vest is a sign that help has arrived. It’s a powerful symbol of hope and comfort amid the chaos following an emergency, worn by members of the IFRC and its 191 member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. And now it’s also a symbol of our brand new podcast. Launching on 12 September across all major streaming services, People in the Red Vest is a twice-monthly podcast that features inspiring stories of people from across the IFRC network. They’ll speak about their personal experiences of responding to the world's biggest humanitarian crises and what inspires them to keep going. The first episode features IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain, who talks about his recent missions to several countries in Africa impacted by an acute hunger crisis, and to Slovenia, hit by severe flooding. He also speaks of his upcoming trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly and shares what inspired his own personal humanitarian journey. “One thing that always stuck into my head was something Albert Einstein said, ‘You live a real life by making a difference in someone else's,’” said Chapagain, who was 14 when he became a volunteer for the Nepal Red Cross. Keenly interested in science from a young age, Chapagain is an engineer by training. But it was his first job, helping refugees in Nepal, that steered him down the humanitarian path. “Just listening to the refugees’ stories, their dreams and plans for their families... in many ways, that cemented my belief that if you want to live a satisfied life, you should do something for others,” he adds. Upcoming guests include: A regional leader in the fight against food insecurity in Africa, Ambassador Mahabub Maalim, who also serves as advisor to IFRC’s response to the current hunger crisis in Africa (now impacting 23 countries). He shares his thoughts on how to break cycles of food insecurity in the face of the climate crisis, as well as his own personal experiences growing up with hunger in eastern Kenya. Nena Stoiljkovic, a leader in the world of humanitarian and development finance who serves as IFRC’s Under Secretary General for Global Relations, Diplomacy and Digitalization. She talks about her life-long passion for using innovative financing and partnerships to help people and communities bounce back from hardship, as well as her experiences as a woman leader in the still male-dominated world of finance and development. Future episodes will also include people working at the heart of IFRC emergency and recovery operations around the world, as well as volunteers and leaders from its member National Societies. They will share their own compelling and inspiring stories and their thoughts on new trends in technology and humanitarian response, how to make our operations more inclusive and equitable, and what makes them to keep going despite the mounting challenges. In each episode, the guests will also tell us what the Red Vest symbolizes to them. If you’re curious, subscribe and join us wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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The untapped potential of innovative financing and humanitarian organizations

This piece was originally published in the OECD Development Co-operation Report 2023 'Debating the Aid System', available here. The past several years have been unprecedented for the humanitarian sector. Worsening disasters and evolving crises across the globe have demonstrated that, despite our best efforts, the assumptions, approaches and structures that have long defined humanitarian responses are no longer capable of adequately meeting people’s needs. This comes as no surprise to members and observers of the humanitarian sector. Important and necessary discussions on questions of localisation and the decolonisation of aid reveal the extent to which transformation is necessary – not only for the future of the humanitarian system but also the future of our organisations and the future we strive to build for the individuals and communities we partner with. At the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), local organisations lead our humanitarian action. The 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that make up the IFRC network are embedded in their local communities and are intimately aware of the needs and how best to shape an appropriate humanitarian response. In this way, the IFRC network has a unique strength and capacity to directly channel resources from the international ecosystem to local and national organisations. A recent analysis found that local and community actors deliver programming that is 32% more cost efficient than that of international intermediaries. We know through the work of our IFRC network that localising humanitarian assistance promotes greater inclusion and equity, more trust, faster and more timely responses, more flexibility, broader access, and long-term sustainability in our operations and programming. By investing in local and national support systems, we are able to strengthen and reinforce national infrastructure – directly benefiting the people who need it most. Yet despite donor commitments in the Grand Bargain and significant progress made by some donors, the overall percentage of direct funding to local actors has barely moved beyond the low single digits. As the impacts of climate change accelerate, and as new and unexpected conflicts devastate entire populations, small or medium-sized crises and disasters struggle to attract visibility and funding, leaving those affected at risk of being neglected by the international community. At the IFRC, we are exploring innovative ways of covering the costs of our work to prevent this from happening. We’ve had to ask ourselves, how are we reacting to the challenge of doing better with less? How are we exploring innovative ideas around financing and engaging with new donors? The blurring of lines between the humanitarian and the private sectors is an area of exciting growth that represents untapped potential when it comes to innovative financing. In a groundbreaking move, the IFRC is collaborating with Aon and the Centre for Disaster Protection to build an innovative insurance mechanism whereby commercial insurance markets leverage the contributions of traditional donors to expand the capacity of our Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) to respond to natural disasters. The DREF, established in 1985, is a central funding mechanism through which the IFRC releases funds rapidly to national societies for early action and immediate disaster response. The balance of funds required by the DREF to meet the demands of national societies has historically been funded through an annual appeal. However, in 2020, high requests for funds meant that DREF allocations surpassed available resources for the first time in history. The growing needs facing national societies around the world and the uncertainties of the future have therefore sparked a process of modernisation with the aim of making the DREF more flexible and more effective. Through the insurance structure we are developing, donors would pay the premium instead of directly financing disaster responses through the DREF. This extends the value of their contributions and transfers the risk to the private sector if allocation requests exceed available resources. Reinsurance markets would relieve the risks of excessive natural hazards and would ensure funds are available for national societies to rely on even in periods of excessive or unexpected demand. Through this cutting-edge approach, we aim to increase annual DREF allocations to CHF100million (Swiss francs), equivalent to about USD 100 million, in 2025. As it is impossible to reach this target through donor grants alone, the insurance mechanism represents an enormous step forward that has the capacity to transform how the international humanitarian system responds to complex crises in the future. Another way the IFRC has answered this call is through our cash and voucher assistance programming. Using cash reiterates our commitment to more agile and efficient methods of providing humanitarian support that promotes choice and preserves dignity for people and communities. This type of programming allows us to cut down operating costs by placing the people affected by crisis and disaster – and most importantly, their own preferences and decisions – at the centre of our operations. Recently we developed a new Cash app, built on learnings from other emergency operations, that allows people fleeing Ukraine to self-register and be verified for assistance. This new innovative approach to cash, which has been rolled out in Romania, has allowed us to take our response to scale and at speed, in many instances as the leading agency in the delivery of cash in the Ukraine response. Over 56000 people have been reached and assisted with EUR 17.4 million in Romania. The app has also been launched in Bulgaria, where in just four days, 20% of the known Ukrainians in the country were able to self-register. Ultimately, by scaling up and replicating these ambitious and innovative programmes across our global network, the community-connectedness of organisations like the IFRC can be harnessed in a powerful way. The inescapable reality is that more funds will be urgently needed to confront the ever-increasing humanitarian emergencies of the world – yet financial innovation holds the key to sustainable, meaningful and impactful humanitarian work.

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IFRC statement at the High-Level Pledging Event for Sudan and the Region

Excellencies, The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has been working closely with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in close coordination with other Movement partners before and since the onset of this conflict. The Sudanese Red Crescent Society is the largest humanitarian responder in the country. It has more than 40,000 trained volunteers. It has access and reach to all 18 States and across both sides of the conflict to deliver life-saving assistance. The IFRC has launched Emergency Appeals to scale up response in support of the Sudanese Red Crescent and National Societies in neighbouring countries to provide dignified and safe assistance to people on the move. Excellencies – today I call on the international community to make following commitments: First - Ensure Protection: The IFRC calls on all parties to the conflict to take all precautions to avoid civilian injuries and loss of life, and ensure critical civilian infrastructure is protected. Second – Ensure Access: Sudanese Red Crescent Society and other first responders must have the humanitarian space to conduct their lifesaving work. The IFRC is deeply concerned at reports of increased cases of violence affecting civilians and reports of surging cases of sexual and gender-based violence. Third – Ensure resources: We urge world leaders, to urgently increase their funding so that local organizations including the Sudanese Red Crescent Society have sufficient resources to save lives. The people of Sudan need our support today and, in the weeks, and months to come. Their lives are on the line. The world cannot afford to look away. Thank you.

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Statement to the UN Security Council Ministerial Open Debate on climate change, peace and security

On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and our 191-member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I am pleased to address the Security Council Ministerial Open Debate. Our National Society volunteers from their local communities tell us that the climate crisis is the number one humanitarian crisis that communities face around the globe, threatening human security. Currently, 90% of all disasters are climate and weather-related, resulting in the deaths of over 410,000 people in the last decade, and impacting 1.7 billion people. The impacts of climate crisis are compounding other crises – food insecurity, disease outbreaks, water shortages and large population movements – reversing development gains thereby impacting global peace and security. Although the climate crisis affects us all, the science and data shows that we are not all impacted equally. Our focus must be on the communities most impacted and at risk, especially those in fragile settings. Mr/Madam President, While we know that a one-size-fits-all solution to reducing climate risks does not exist,the IFRC proposes three important shifts to address the magnitude of the climate crisis before us: Focus on community leadership, ownership and reach – Investing in large scale disaster risk reduction, climate mitigation and adaptation, at the community level, where it is most needed and has the greatest potential impact is essential. Local organizations are critical to designing and implementing climate action, and channeling climate finance to the right places, to those most in need. They must drive the change. Fill the financing gaps –Some 30 of the most climate vulnerable countries ­­– a majority of which are fragile contexts ­– receive only $1 per person per year in climate adaptation funding. We must change how we finance climate action. There must be a more integrated approach to humanitarian, development, climate and peace financing, putting the needs of the communities at the center. The funding must reach the local level to build and empower localinstitutional and responsecapacities and solutions. The empowered local communities form the foundation for peaceful societies. Forecasting and anticipatory action –We all must scale upearly warningand early action systems that provide communities with information and funding to act before climate events become disasters. This means giving local organizations more direct access to finance and decision-making processes through mechanisms like IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF), that provides direct funding to National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies who play a key role in protecting people from the impacts of climate change. We all – whether from the humanitarian, development, climate or peace sectors – must work together to address both immediate needs and strengthen long-term resilience to prevent and alleviate human suffering and thereby contribute to the maintenance of human dignity and peace in the world. Thank you.

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Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2023

The Empress Shôken Fund (ESF) is named after Her Majesty Empress Shôken of Japan who – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – proposed the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. The fund is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which maintains close contact with the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute in Japan. The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evidenced by the regularity of their contributions to it. The Fund has a total value of more than 14 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that benefit the communities they serve in many different ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921 to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, more than15 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 171 National Societies. The grants are announced every year on 11April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken. Increasingly, the Fund encourages new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit our International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. 2023 selection process The Fund received 51 applications in 2022 for the 102nd distribution of income, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies globally. The applications submitted featured more innovative proposals than in previous years, further confirming the need for the ESF to support innovation and experimentation within National Societies. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 367,187 Swiss francs to 13 projects in Albania, Belgium, Burundi, Eswatini, Fiji, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Paraguay, Sudan, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay. The world’s current crises have impacted the performance of the fund, and ESF Joint Commission members have adjusted the process accordingly. This year the projects selected cover a variety of topics, including first aid and rescue, youth, disaster preparedness, health, and National Society development (NSD). The 2023 grants by theme The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches, and this is clearly reflected in the selection of proposals to receive funding. Some National Societies are incubating and testing their innovative solutions and experimenting with a host of ideas and approaches. With their pilot methodology, they could potentially scale up and implement their initiatives with the support of other funding sources.In this category, the selected grantees are as follows: Pilot methodology The Honduran Red Cross has taken an innovative approach to volunteer empowerment and engagement. The goal of its project is to establish a fund that supports innovative micro-projects developed and led by local volunteers. This will help forge stronger links between the National Society and the communities it serves. It has designed a pilot with 12 micro-projects, responding to an identified need to grow activity at the branch level. The Uruguayan Red Cross is focusing efforts on improving mental health resilience among young people by providing training in schools, creating psychosocial support mechanisms and forming youth brigades. There is a growing need for youth mental health support, and this pilot in two schools will give the team an opportunity to learn and adapt their approach. The Indonesian Red Cross Society will pilot a community-based approach to environmental awareness and food security. A renovated community learning centre will be used to launch the pilot, which will engage over 100 stay-at-home spouses and 30 children. The project aims to tackle emerging issues, such as climate change, while building stronger community connections. Many National Societies have prioritized innovative solutions to combat the challenges of climate change. In this category, the selected beneficiaries, in addition to the Indonesian Red Cross Society, are as follows. Climate change Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards. The Belgian Red Cross will engage and empower young people impacted by floods to express and share their feelings on climate change through digital story telling. Simple to replicate and scalable, this initiative has the potential to give us tremendous insight and allow for powerful messages to be shared. As a means of addressing the challenges of climate change, the Burundi Red Cross will engage in implementing activities such as tree planting and promoting improved city waste management. The project is a youth volunteer-led initiative that will reduce youth unemployment. This comprehensive approach will result in significant learning opportunities. The Paraguayan Red Cross will develop a mobile app that will serve as an early warning system and educate communities on how they can respond to flooding in seven community districts. This solution is scalable, innovative and a sustainable approach to addressing community needs. Finally, the last group of beneficiaries will use their grants to address issues related to disaster preparedness, health and youth. In this category, the selected grantees are as follows. Disaster preparedness The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society will improve data management processes for effective decision-making during emergencies in Eswatini by 2025. The main idea is to integrate and mainstream a mobile phone app dashboard into the existing National Society information management system and increase community participation (affected communities) in information sharing and management. Thailand is prone to natural hazards, which often cause devastating damage and loss of lives. Therefore, the Thai Red Cross Society aims to improve disaster readiness, mainly for earthquakes, by training children and young people using virtual reality simulation. The Sudanese Red Crescent will use the funds to support flood-affected women, providing them with cash, grants and livelihood tools to allow them to start their own business. The aim is to build resilience and longer-term recovery contexts for current and future crises by empowering the most vulnerable in a self-sustaining way. Health The Red Cross Society of Guinea will focus on developing a mobile health app to comprehensively improve the quality of basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care, especially for complex deliveries, with a view to reducing maternal and newborn mortality. Youth According to figures on human trafficking, Albania is a primary source country and the non-EU European country with the second highest number of victims. To address this threat, the Albanian Red Cross will use the grant to train staff and volunteers, with a view to activating peer-to-peer prevention in high schools. The National Society will reach out to other sister National Societies to build a strong network of certified trainers who will raise awareness through peer-to-peer activities. The Fiji Red Cross Society aims to overhaul its current volunteer programme, using the grant to implement end-to-end digitization to enhance the onboarding experience and increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of volunteer management. The idea is to also include community-level training that will generate meaningful learning and be easily replicable elsewhere. At present, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has more than 18,000 staff and volunteers across its local branches who support it in carrying out its humanitarian mission. With a view to scaling up branch development by complementing other initiatives, the National Society will use the grant to digitize its policies for online courses that can be freely accessed at any time, making training more convenient for its network of staff and volunteers. ESF and learning The Fund constantly strives to generate insights from the projects implemented for the benefit of the whole Movement and to diversify its learning materials. Later this year, the Fund will join with the stakeholders of the other NSD funding mechanisms, namely the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and the National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA),for a learning event, with the aim of sharing lessons learned and experiences from grantees across the different funds. It is important to recognize the diversity of National Societies within the network and the wide range of NSD support that is needed. The ESF and the other funding mechanisms (which focus more on NSD) operate in a complementary way, and togethertheyhave the capacity to meet this array of NSD and learning needs and support a broader transformation in our network.

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Honduran Red Cross: Kindness shines bright in local communities

It’s 8am on a peaceful Sunday morning in Copán Ruinas, a small, picturesque town in western Honduras that was formerly one of the most powerful cities in the Mayan empire. Shopkeepers are starting to open their doors. A scattering of women and children play in the main square. And many locals – wearing their signature wide-brimmed hats – are heading out on their morning walks. But one man stands out in his bright red vest and cap. A large Red Cross emblem and the words Cruz Roja Hondureña proudly emblazoned on the back. I watch for a moment as he chats to people in the village, who all seem to greet him warmly with a handshake or fist bump. I catch up to him, say a friendly “¡Hola, amigo!” and learn his name is Stanley. A Red Cross volunteer for more than 22 years, he’s on his way to a meeting with fellow volunteers and staff from around their region. He invites me to visit the local branch later that afternoon to learn about what they do. And so I did! And the welcome couldn’t have been warmer. Over lunch, I learned that everyone had come together from across the region to share their stories, knowledge, and experiences of supporting their local communities through various crises and day-to-day challenges. Let me tell you about three of the people I met: Mirian, Napoleón and Loany. Mirian Mirian is the proud President of the Copán branch and has been volunteering for more than 10 years. Her branch runs the only two ambulances in the whole town, meaning that when someone gets into trouble, it’s her team that answers the call. She oversees far more than emergency health services, though. Her branch does a lot of work helping local people, including indigenous groups living in the surrounding hills and schoolchildren, to be prepared for crises – such as hurricanes and floods. Her branch is also supporting the growing number of migrants passing through Honduras on their way northwards, including, amongst other things, through Humanitarian Service Points: strategically located spaces where migrants can access safe and reliable support on their journeys. “I am motivated by humanitarianism, by seeing how the Red Cross is an organization full of love for others. That we are people willing to give everything. For me, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me – being a member of the Red Cross family,” says Mirian. Napoleón Napoleón is based in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city. He’s a former cameraman who has been volunteering as a driver for the Honduran Red Cross for five years. A couple of years ago, Napoleón was one of many Honduran Red Cross volunteers who responded to devastating hurricanes Eta and Iota that ravaged the region. He describes driving a large rescue truck through flood water so deep his vehicle nearly washed away. Despite treacherous conditions, he was able to reach and help rescue many stranded people, their belongings, and pets. He also assisted with the massive recovery and reconstruction effort, helping to put people’s lives and homes back together again. The pride Napoleón takes in volunteering is written all over his face. His smile beams from ear to ear as he talks about supporting his fellow volunteers and rallying them together during a crisis. “I like being a volunteer because you donate part of your life and you share feelings in helping humanity. It makes you feel good, feel satisfied, to be able to help,” says Napoleón. Loany Loany is also based in San Pedro Sula, but her role is a little different. She’s not a volunteer, instead she’s employed by the Honduran Red Cross to help volunteers. She works with local branches, like the one in Copán, to improve their governance, financial management, and resource mobilization, so that their volunteers can provide better care and support to their communities. While it might not sound as impressive as wading through flood waters to rescue survivors, Loany’s work is no less important. Strong local branches are the bedrock of the IFRC network. Without them, we can’t provide the fast, effective and local support that communities in crisis really need. With one year’s experience, Loany is a relative newcomer to the Red Cross family. I asked her what working for the Red Cross means to her and whether she plans to continue: “For me it means love, because wanting to do things well, wanting to help other people who are vulnerable or at risk, makes us give the best of ourselves as people. Now that I’ve entered the world of the Red Cross, I don’t know if I’ll ever leave!,” she says. At the end of the volunteer meeting, the group disbands, bidding each other fond farewells. I walk back to the main square in Copán, thinking about a word we often use in the humanitarian sector: ‘localization’. It’s a jargon term. But what does it really mean? I realise that, to me, it means Mirian, Napoleón and Loany: three people working hard within their local communities to make life better, safer, and brighter for those around them. And it means Stanley: a man treading the same familiar streets for years in his hometown wearing his Red Cross vest. A man known, trusted, and respected by his local community, there for them through good times and bad.

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IFRC Secretary General on the year ahead: "Hope in the midst of hopelessness"

It’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness these days – climate crises, people on the verge of starvation in parts of Africa, multiple wars, protracted conflicts, people having to leave their homes out of desperation, shameful cases of exclusion in many parts of the world, rising mental health crises, people not having basic access to water and sanitation. This list can go on and on. While these crises are affecting everyone, the marginalized, excluded, and last mile communities are bearing the brunt of these crises disproportionately. Some 43 years ago, I signed up to be a young volunteer of the Nepal Red Cross. I joined not knowing how my life would unfold and where this would lead. I didn’t fully understand then, but I do now – the mission and mandate of our IFRC network, and the fundamental principles that guide our work with a very simple vision--to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Three years ago, we didn’t know the scale of impact of a global pandemic, international armed conflict in the middle of Europe and all other global crises we have been responding to. In this context, let me share some of my reflections on the current state of play. Reflection on the IFRC’s mandate and relevance As the world grapples with “polycrisis”, our mandate becomes as relevant as ever, if not more. The IFRC is at the forefront of humanitarian efforts in times of disaster, crises, and other emergencies. By providing immediate assistance and long-term sustainable development programmes, the IFRC network puts people at the centre of vital, life-saving assistance. We work to strengthen the resilience of communities in vulnerable settings, ensuring they are better prepared for and better able to cope with our changing world. In a time of great global disparities in terms of access to services, we bridge the gap. The role of truly local organizations like our member National Societies is critical to reach the most disadvantaged sections of societies. Localization is fundamental as crises grow; but resources do not keep pace with them. Business as usual is not going to work. True empowerment of community organizations and decolonization of aid will be critical in 2023 and beyond. Reflection on our fundamental principles, particularly the principle of neutrality The threat to our principles, particularly the principle of neutrality, lies in the fact that the international armed conflict in Ukraine has taken on a much-heightened political dimension. This has placed great pressure on the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. We must maintain a neutral stance and perform impartial aid operations, to ensure our principle of neutrality is observed. While we remain sensitive to the challenges emerging out of the conflict and we will be doing everything in our capacity to deliver on our mandate, it is essential that our fundamental principles remain the bedrock of our actions. Failing to do so will irreparably damage the notion of neutral, independent humanitarian action. Amid rapid changes in the global humanitarian landscape, one thing remains constant – that’s our fundamental principles. Our values and principles transcend all the divisions that exist in the world. Reflection on current trends We closely monitor the global trends that impact our work. Climate and Environmental crises have been at the forefront. Social issues like the erosion of trust, migration and displacement, inequality, global health and food crises are directly linked to our mandate. Economic issues like the cost-of-living crisis and energy crises will impact our work. Technological issues, like the opportunity created by digitalization as well as the risks arising from the digital divide and those linked to humanitarian data security, will have to be considered. We must also be mindful of the global political landscape and current lack of global political leadership able to deal with multiple crises. The international armed conflict in Ukraine will significantly impact the geopolitical landscape and will exacerbate the humanitarian situation across the globe. We must be humble enough to acknowledge that there is no humanitarian solution to most of these crises. There must be a political solution and we must support and advocate for the same. Reflection on our ambitions Our ambitions are simple as we deal with these trends. We will continue to be bold in our support to our membership both on humanitarian action and in building resilience. We will work harder to build a trustful relationship with our membership and governance structure. We will invest more in National Society transformations leveraging the power of youth and volunteers. Advancing gender and inclusion will require consistent push. We must do more to be a learning organization that continuously evolves. Within the family, we will continue to build mutually respectful movement cooperation. We will expand our humanitarian diplomacy efforts and further strengthen our highly professional partnership with all partners. Further building on the new operating model and new resourcing architecture, we will develop more inclusive IFRC wide approaches. We will accelerate our digitalization journey. We will continue to strengthen agility and accountability. Respectful workplace, issues of fraud and corruption, sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, racism, and discrimination will be dealt with proactively and decisively. The world is full of daunting challenges. But it is also full of people and organizations committed to confront them and work together to bring about positive change. We are one of those organizations. We will lead from the front, working with our membership and their volunteers. We will be bold in our actions, but calm and composed in our approaches. There will of course be challenges along the way, but we will always move forward with integrity. We will have to be at our best when the challenges are the greatest. And we will have to always bring hope amid hopelessness.

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Red Cross Red Crescent humanitarian leaders agree on a road map to alleviate the suffering in MENA

Cairo, 1 March 2022 -The first ever Middle East and North Africa Humanitarian Leadership Conference will conclude today with a set of recommendations to address the increasing humanitarian challenges in the region. The conference, held under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Egypt, brought together humanitarian actors to address key humanitarian concerns in the region, home to some of the worst protracted crises in the world. The two-day conference, organized by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Egyptian Red Crescent Society (ERCS), discussed how to enhance collaboration to alleviate human suffering and support those affected by climate change and related disasters, conflicts and health emergencies.Participants included representatives from the Egyptian Government, the World Health Organization, World Bank, International Committee of the Red Cross as well as Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies. Dr. Nivine Al Qabbage Minister of Social Solidarity, Vice president of Egyptian Red Crescent Society said: “We, as Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies, are the first responders to humanitarian crises in our respective countries. We meet here today with other humanitarian actors to ensure that international humanitarian coordination mechanisms are aligned and relevant as well as to develop innovative partnerships that mobilize resources to continue supporting our communities.” The countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue to suffer from decades of extreme climate conditions, including severe heat, limited groundwater and rainfall and scarcity of agricultural and arable land, which make them particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. An estimated 70 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the region. Young people in particular continue to pay the price of protracted crises and disasters. The region has the highest youth unemployment rates in the world and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, leading to an average of up to 40 per cent of young women being without a job. Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, IFRC Regional Director said: “Even after two years, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to amplify the inequalities in the region. It is imperative that all humanitarian actors come together to better assist those most vulnerable, who too often fall between the cracks. This can only happen when we shift the leadership to truly locally led humanitarian efforts while committing to respectful partnerships focused on local priorities.” At the end of the conference, the participants will agree on a call to action that will shape their joint humanitarian response operations during health emergencies, climate related disasters, migration and partnerships. Participants agreed on: Working hand in hand with nature, use nature-based solutions to enhance and/or build resilience. Engage in the development of National Adaptation Plans since Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are auxiliaries to their governments and can lead the climate action from the local level. Empower youth as agents of change in changing leaders’ mindset and advocating for change and addressing the climate and environmental crises. Proactively work to formalize and implement cross-sectoral and multi-agency partnerships that include key governmental bodies/authorities to scale up humanitarian preparedness and response focused on vulnerable communities, people on the move, protracted crises, epidemics/pandemics, and natural disasters. Support IFRC in leading the Localization work stream, supervising the implementation of efforts aiming to make humanitarian action “as local as possible and as international as necessary”. Continue embarking on IFRC’s strategic approach to National Society Development that aspires to strengthen National societies and their branches when it comes to quality leadership, transparent financial management, relationship with authorities and community engagement and participation. Conduct Humanitarian diplomacy efforts to better recognize the added value of Red Cross/ Crescent National Societies through our auxiliary role to public authorities and grassroots access through volunteers. For more information or to organize interviews: Silvia Simon, Egyptian Red Crescent Society, [email protected], 00201227404477 Rana Cassou, IFRC MENA, [email protected], 0033675945515

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

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

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Localization

Local humanitarian actors are the first to respond when disasters strikeand often have access to areas that international actors do not. Their presence within communities before, during, and after crises means they are generally best placedto linkimmediate response efforts to longer term resilience-building, preparedness and recovery.

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Egyptian Red Crescent shows localization at its core

“I am impressed and inspired how the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) has scaled up and modernized services to respond to many emergencies, including COVID19," says Dr. Hossam Elsharkaw, IFRC Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). "I was happy to meet ERC dedicated staff and volunteers working to preserve dignity. They are a strong and diverse teams of men and women working in the front lines. They are potentially a pool of expertise that can benefit the whole region and beyond." IFRC Regional Director and Ms. Rania Ahmed, Deputy Regional Director visited the Egyptian Red Crescent in Cairo earlier this week to discussstrategic directions, the programmes, the challenges, and the cooperation with the Government and the communities. The visit included strategic meetings with Dr. Nevine El Kabbaj, Minister of Social Solidarity and Dr. Rami Al Naser, the Director General. Minister Nevine El Kabbaj, praised the collaboration with the Egyptian Red Crescent and the role the National Society has been playing in COVID-19 response. Including interventions in the areas of public awareness and behavioral change campaigns, health clinics, food distributions, mental health and psycho-social support. Dr. El Kabbaj encouraged investing in Mental Health and Psychosocial support and expanding the services to support other countries in Africa and beyond. Dr. Elsharkawi reiterated the role of IFRC in support of ERC and other National Societies in the MENA region, including focused commitment to capacity strengthening, stronger partnership, coordination and resource mobilization. One of the main highlights of the visit was the Red Crescent Community Center in the area of Zeinhom, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Cairo. The center ensures tackling the needs of the public from a holistic approach, providing, health, mental health, child protection, education and income generating opportunities and trainings for women, youth and education of children. “Hundreds of people benefit from Zeinhom center. Great example of how the Egyptian Red Crescent responds to the needs and emphasis the trust and acceptance among the communities. This is trusted access and localization at its core," Dr. Elsharkawi says. The team visited as well the blood bank and witnessed the high quality and standards applied to ensure a safe national blood supply. Dr. Elsharkawi visited ERC programs related to health, migration, livelihood and protection: “Red Crescent staff and volunteers efforts go way beyond the emergency response and disseminating the health messages. ERC is supporting communities, including migrants and refugees with socio-economic and income-generating activities.” Egyptian Red Crescent is the largest national provider of humanitarian and relief services in Egypt.

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How a local response can halt this global crisis

Geneva, 4 March 2020 -Borders are closed. International travel is restricted or forbidden. And the clock is ticking to contain the spread of the coronavirus. How are we to touch – and save – the lives of people most affected when we in the humanitarian sector face countless barriers in no-touch zones? In living memory, there has not been such a truly global crisis. Humanitarian organisations are rushing to support the most vulnerable people: the elderly, communities in overcrowded urban slums, people living in fragile states and poverty, marginalised groups, and people on the move. Our traditional methods of support have had to be either reinventedor tossed out the window altogether. Despite these changes, we’re relying on our strongest advantages as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). We know the key to stopping this crisis lies in a fully localised response. This means adapting our model of global solidarity, where resources, equipment, and personnel have been quickly moved into position to support a Red Cross or Red Crescent Society that is responding to a major disaster or crisis. We have been striving for a model that is “as local as possible and as global as necessary” in line with our localisation commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. And the value of strong local and national humanitarian response – backed by global resources where they are needed – has never been more evident than it is today. Fortunately, the IFRC didn’t have to start from scratch: the Red Cross and Red Crescent has always been a collection of hyper-local units and branches. This community presence means that our experts in health and care, disaster response and risk reduction, and humanitarian logistics were already on the ground when the pandemic took hold months ago. Our network of humanitarian workers in 192 countries will stand alongside their communities for as long as the pandemic continues, and they will still be there long after the crisis has passed. This is how we’ve always worked: at community level. The IFRC was founded in 1919, just one year after the deadly influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people and infected at least 500 million worldwide. The Red Cross Societies of France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States created our federation so that the medical expertise gained during the 1918 pandemic, and the World War that had preceded it, could be shared across the world. For now, our priority lies in health and care services. This includes pre-hospital and medical services, community health and care, risk communication, and community engagement. We are also providing the mental health and psychosocial support that will continue to be desperately needed as individuals and communities come to terms with the threat to the people they love, and the frightening changes to the world they have always known. While responding to immediate needs, we cannot lose sight of the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 will cause in communities large and small across the world. People are losing their jobs, incomes are vanishing overnight, and people are scared – not only for their health, but for their ability to care for and provide for their families. In many urban slums, there is growing fear that the restrictions placed on people’s lives during lockdown, together with loss of income and associated fears of not being able to afford food and rent, could lead to mental health crises or even civil unrest in some settings. Further, natural disasters, climate-related extreme weather events and other health crises – such as malaria, tuberculosis, measles, and cholera – will not stop while the COVID-19 pandemic has the world’s full attention. Our everyday work to reduce the risks of these events, and to help prepare for and recover from them, must continue. Disease outbreaks begin and end inside local communities. Today, 14 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and 165,000 local branches across the world are already supporting theirs. Every volunteer plays an important role connecting directly with their communities. This ongoing commitment will be key to slowing – and eventually halting – this pandemic. To help make all of this possible, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – IFRC, the ICRC, and the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – have appealed for funding for community-level healthcare, critical health supplies, the mobilisation of local volunteers, emergency cash grants for families, and the mitigation of the pandemic’s social and economic impacts. Individually and collectively, our volunteers represent hope. Let’s work to ensure that they have the global support they need to work safely and effectively at the local level, where lives will be saved and communities will be protected. This crisis has already made history. Our actions now will shape the future. By Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General View the opinion piece in the New Humanitarian

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Global youth gathering of thousands to celebrate 100 years of world’s largest humanitarian network

Geneva/Rome, 6 June 2019 – More than 10,000 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders and volunteers from 140 countries will gather in northern Italy from 17-23 June to celebrate the centenary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The weeklong “4th International Solferino Youth Meeting” will include a series of workshops for hundreds of young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders, focusing on major humanitarian challenges such as climate change, as well as some of the world’s most pressing and protracted crises. They will also contribute to the development of IFRC’s new Strategy 2030 that will guide the organization’s work for the coming decade. The week will culminate on 22 June with the annual Fiaccolata – a candle-lit march involving thousands of volunteers between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere. Solferino is the town where in 1859, Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organized local people to treat the soldiers' wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Media opportunities The International Youth Meeting offers numerous, compelling media opportunities, including the chance to speak with and profile young volunteers from around the world. These passionate humanitarians are committed to solving the problems they see. They are a powerful antidote to the sometimes-cynical representation given to millennials around the world. Below are some suggestions of how journalists and media outlets can capitalize on the event. Italian Red Cross and IFRC communications staff will be available in the lead up to and during the event to support. The event is highly visual, involving thousands of young people from around the world living in a Red Cross humanitarian base camp. The Fiaccolata march sets off from the medieval centre of Solferino at sunset, with participants carrying candles as they wind their way towards Castiglione delle Stiviere. Interviews/profiles of youth representatives from your country More than 10,000 volunteers, including more than 400 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders representing 140 countries are attending the event. These young and passionate leaders will be taking part in a series of events during their time in Solferino focused on identifying solutions to the world’s most pressing humanitarian problems both now and in the future. Interviews/profiles/discussions with young people on the front lines of today’s major humanitarian crises Among the participants are Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers responding to some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian emergencies. These are young women and men who choose to dedicate their time and even risk their lives to help people affected by conflicts and violence, stigma and discrimination, and disasters and health emergencies. The “Fiaccolata” (Saturday 22 June) - a highly visual and emotional march More than 10,000 volunteers will follow the path of Henry Dunant, walking from Solferino to Castiglione delle Stiviere. Setting off at sunset, this candlelit march is highly visual. Senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officials In addition to youth representatives, a number of senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officials will participate. The IFRC President, Francesco Rocca, will be present during the Solferino events, together with more than 60 Red Cross Red Crescent leaders. Media facilities Journalists are invited to attend the event on 21-22 June. Requests to attend on other dates will be considered. Some logistical support is available for journalists interested in attending the event. Please contact the media contacts below. A media centre is available on site with dedicated internet. Photos and video will be made available to media throughout the event via IFRC’s multimedia newsroom: www.ifrcnewsroom.org.

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Major humanitarian conference to explore regional crises, migration

Buenos Aires/Panama/Geneva, 17 May 2018 – Red Cross leaders from across the Americas and around the world are gathering in Buenos Aires from 21-23 May for the 21st Inter-American Conference of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).The conference will involve leaders and representatives from the 35 Red Cross societies of the Americas, as well as global IFRC figures. Participants will explore a range of issues, including: the rising needs of vulnerable migrants across the region, the increasing impacts of climate change, the Red Cross response to humanitarian crises, the centenary of the founding of IFRC – the world’s largest humanitarian network.Media opportunitiesRed Cross spokespeople are available to speak on all topics related to the conference, as well as on issues of humanitarian concern. Spokespeople include: Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC (Languages: Spanish/English/Italian Diego Tipping: President of the Argentine Red Cross (Languages: Spanish). Miguel Villaroel: IFRC Vice-president for the Americas (Languages: English/Spanish).Other Red Cross experts and leaders are also available on request.

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8th May – Local actors are crucial to save lives!

by Francesco Rocca - IFRC President At this very moment, in Mozambique, we are taking care of hard-to-reach communities, after Cyclone Idai hit. We are supporting hospitals and health facilities in Venezuela, providing lifesaving items. In Syria, we are doing our utmost to support the country’s growing needs. In the Pacific and Caribbean Islands, we are preparing local communities to respond to the humanitarian consequences of climate change. In Italy and in Spain, we are strengthening our actions for the most vulnerable, to be able to reach communities on the fringe of our society, as well as continuing our activities for migrants, to save lives, to protect human dignity and to work for integration. In Afghanistan, we are scaling up our activities to support the population which is suffering from drought and floods. These are only a few examples of Red Cross Red Crescent activities around the world. I could go on, with at least 191 examples from our 191 National Societies. On World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, I want first to thank all our volunteers and staff who are working around the clock to reach people in need and to alleviate their suffering. You are the last mile of humanitarian aid everywhere in the world, you are the proof that local actors are crucial to save lives, to prepare communities, to work faster and better in every single crisis in the world. We are facing unprecedented humanitarian challenges. Crises are worsening and are frequently becoming protracted over many years. Natural disasters and climate change are putting millions of people at risk, and causing new population movements. Drought and famine are hitting a larger number of countries and communities. In war zones, rules are frequently not respected, civilians are trapped and used as a tool of war and our volunteers and staff are becoming a target. Today I want to remember all the volunteers and staff who have lost their lives in the line of duty: we will never forget you, you will be with all of us every day, inspiring our actions and activities. And I will continue to advocate in every place, in every conference, in every meeting for the safety of our people in the field, reaffirming that we must not be a target: an attack against humanitarians is an attack against humanity, an attack against entire vulnerable communities and a crime of war. If we look at the news and the current scenario, a sense of frustration affects all of us. Individually, we all have our own personal stories, our own backgrounds, experiences, careers and personal lives, but we still come together as humanitarian actors, engaged for humanity and committed to our Fundamental Principles. For this reason, we must continue being optimistic, we have to keep hoping and to continue serving humanity, as the Red Cross Red Crescent Family is much needed by humanity. And it is for this reason, too, that we have to speak out for the protection and dignity of people enduring the worst of times, to influence without being influenced, and to detect vulnerabilities that might affect our communities. Again, thank you to all of you. As a volunteer myself, I am deeply proud and honoured to represent and to be part of the Red Cross Red Crescent Family and its 14 million volunteers. Thank you for your daily support to humanity and making the world a better place.

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| Press release

IFRC President praises Palestine Red Crescent volunteers and calls for more support

Ramallah, 14 Dec 2018: For the past 50 years, volunteers at Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) have been providing humanitarian services not only in the occupied Palestinian territory but also to the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Egypt. To mark the anniversary, PRCS organized an event in Ramallah attended by volunteers, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement representatives, NGOs and several humanitarian organizations. Dr. Younis A-Khatib, President of Palestine Red Crescent Society, said: “On our 50th anniversary, I congratulate our volunteers and staff for their dedication and passion, without which, we wouldn’t have been able to provide humanitarian services in an extremely difficult working environment. “I would like to express our gratitude for the remarkable support we have been receiving from our sister organizations, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and look forward to fostering additional strategic partnerships to further strengthen the capacity of our volunteers and staff.” Mr Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and IFRC Regional Director Sayed Hashem attended the event. Mr Rocca said: “We are in Palestine to express our solidarity and admiration of the hard work that volunteers and staff have been doing under difficult circumstances for the past 50 years. Humanitarian needs here are already serious and I fear they may worsen in 2019. At least 1.9 million Palestinians could be at risk of conflict and violence, forcible displacement and denial of access to livelihoods. We call on the international community for greater support to PRCS: local actors are always best placed to serve their own communities. “While we celebrate 50 years of achievements, we remember all volunteers who lost their lives in line of duty and we remind all parties to the conflict that Red Crescent volunteers, staff and emergency medical technicians are neutral and should be protected and enabled to do their humanitarian duty at all times.” Palestine Red Crescent Society emergency services are ready to respond at a moment’s notice across the occupied Palestinian territory. In addition, PRCS provides disaster management services when needed and deploys mobile emergency teams and field hospitals to isolated and affected towns and villages where teams provide health care and relief items to communities in need.

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| Press release

European humanitarian summit closes with commitments on migration, increasing diversity among volunteers

Almaty, Kazakhstan, 4 May 2018 – Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders have reaffirmed their support for all migrants regardless of status and have flagged improved trans-national cooperation to ensure more consistent care and protection for people on the move.This announcement came at the end of the 10th European Regional Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which was held for the first time in Almaty, Kazakhstan.“Migrants are vulnerable whatever the reason they embark on their journey towards a better life, and it is our duty to support them,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “What we have seen here in Almaty is a renewed commitment from all 53 European National Societies to stand with migrants, to stand against intolerance, and to stand for improved cooperation and increased impact.”The conference adopted the “Almaty Commitments” which set out Red Cross and Red Crescent priorities for the coming four years. In addition to migration, the declaration carries clear pledges on improving engagement with volunteers and young people, and on strengthening cooperation and coordination.Dr Kerem Kinik, IFRC Vice President for Europe, said: “Our commitments will see us expand our support to local communities, ensuring we work in an affective and inclusive way - that is key to us making sure we are effective and relevant.“There is suffering here, in Europe, and much of it is unmet. We need to expand our volunteer base, drawing from more diverse groups, including from marginalized communities. And we need to invest more in improving their skills, so they can reach people in need,” said Dr Kinik.

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