An interview with Juan Bazo, climate scientist with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, by Susana Arroyo Barrantes, IFRC Americas Regional Communications ManagerSusana Arroyo:In October 2023, Hurricane Otis caused a lot of astonishment after it went from a tropical storm to a category 5 hurricane in just 12 hours. According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, it was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded on the Mexican Pacific coast. Did El Niño have something to do with the rapid intensification of Otis?Juan Bazos: It was a combination of warm oceans, along with El Niño. In addition, the entire Pacific coastline of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and the coasts of Costa Rica, have been very warm. This has allowed the formation of cyclones and storms. Some of these storms have even passed from the Atlantic to the Pacific.Regarding the intensification, this has happened before, Hurricane Patricia in 2015, also had this very rapid intensification in less than 12 hours off the Pacific coast of Mexico, but the impact was not in a very populated area.For a scientific point of view, it is increasingly difficult to forecast this type of intensification. Most, if not all, of the models failed in the short-term forecast, which is one of the most reliable forecasts we have in meteorology. This is due to several factors: the rapid intensification, very local atmospheric conditions, and the temperature of the ocean water in this part of the Mexican coast.Increasingly, intensification is not only occurring in the Pacific and Atlantic of our region, but also in the Indian Ocean. In The Philippines, this has happened many times. That is a challenge, both for the climate services and for the humanitarian response.SA: One thing we depend on to make life-saving decisions is rigorous, accurate, effective forecasts. If we are moving towards an era of greater uncertainty, then we must also look at how we anticipate on other fronts. What can we expect for this year?JB: In the following months, we would normally be entering a neutral period and quickly passing to La Niña phenomenon. And this will also bring its consequences, changing the whole panorama. It could be that this year we will have to prepare for a hurricane season that may be higher than normal. So, we must keep monitoring, considering the climate crisis and the Atlantic Ocean that is still very warm.SA: The IFRC has tried to make more alliances with meteorological institutions dedicated to researching, monitoring, and understanding the climate. Is that one of the paths to the future, to strengthen this alliance? JB: Increasingly, the IFRC has scientific technical entities as its main allies, to make reliable decisions, and I think that is the way we must continue to work. Scientific information will bring us information for our programs and operations at different time scales, in the short, medium, and long term.We must not ignore climate projections but plan how we can adapt knowing that the climate is going to change. This is part of our work, from our policies to our interventions and I think the Red Cross and Red Crescent network does this very well. However, we need to empower ourselves more, get closer to the technical scientific entities, the academia, which are our allies. They can bring us much more information — much richer, much more localized. And this is the next step we must take.SA: Many changes are also coming in the field of meteorology. Now, using artificial intelligence (AI) and increasingly large amounts of data, there will be changes and likely improvements in forecasting. Could we therefore get more reliable forecasts in terms of rapid intensification?JB: Artificial Intelligence opens a lot of room for innovation. Meteorology is not 100 per cent accurate. There is always that degree of uncertainty and there are going to be failures. It is part of our planet's atmospheric chaos, of its complexity and the many variables that play a role in weather forecasting. In that sense, AI will be a great added value for the improvement of forecasts.This brings to the table the need for 1) greater investment in forecast-based early action systems, 2) early warning systems that are more agile, flexible, and capable of informing and mobilizing the population in record time, and 3) humanitarian aid that is pre-positioned to respond to disasters as they occur.
Maputo/Nairobi/Geneva, 22 January 2021 — With Tropical Storm Eloise expected to make landfall in Central Mozambique early tomorrow (23 January), the Red Cross is warning of the potential for major damage and displacement.
Tropical Storm Eloise is predicted to make landfall in Sofala Province, about 20km north of the city of Beira that bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai in March 2019. The Red Cross has activated teams of volunteers to support evacuation and preparation efforts.
Gorkhmaz Huseynov, IFRC’s head of country office in Mozambique, said:
“We are worried about the safety of over 1 million people in high-risk areas. Mozambique Red Cross teams are on high alert and have already prepositioned emergency relief items in the landfall area. They are already providing water, sanitation, hygiene and health services to families in temporary accommodation centres.”
Tropical Storm Eloise is predicted to turn into a category one cyclone with winds between 110km per hour and 185km per hour.
Heavy rains will be felt on the coast of Zambezia, Sofala and Inhambane provinces from this evening (22 of January).
The cyclone is forecast to cross central Mozambique with considerable strength and potential for widespread floods. It is expected to decrease in intensity as it crosses southern Zimbabwe and South Africa.
IFRC’s Huseynov said:
“Ahead of the landfall, Mozambique Red Cross staff and volunteers—in collaboration with partners—have shared early warning messages to communities in the path of the cyclone in order to minimise the impact of the cyclone. As a result, many families moved to safer areas, where they are receiving support from our teams.”
Mozambique is prone to cyclones and tropical storms which can lead to flash flooding, hundreds of deaths, and massive destruction of property and crops. Eloise is expected to strike areas that have been devastated by previous cyclones, including Cyclone Idai.
Kuala Lumpur/Hanoi/Geneva, 14 November 2020 – Millions of people in Viet Nam are bracing themselves for further floods and landslides, as the thirteenth big storm of the year threatens the country’s hard-hit central provinces.
Typhoon Vamco has caused severe flooding in Manila and across the Philippines and is now due to hit Viet Nam in areas already pummelled by successive storms.
More than 400,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed by the series of storms that have hit the central provinces over the past six weeks. Roads and bridges have been washed away, power supplies disrupted, and crucial food crops destroyed, leaving at least 150,000 people at immediate risk of food shortages.
Madam Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, Viet Nam Red Cross Society President, said:
“There has been no respite for more than eight million people living in central Viet Nam. Each time they start rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, they are pummelled by yet another storm. This is heartbreaking for even the most resilient communities.
"Our greatest concerns are for the elderly and poor, as well as some 400,000 families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged and who now face this latest storm while living in temporary shelters or crowded in with relatives.”
Viet Nam Red Cross has mobilised one of its biggest relief operations ever in response to these storms, providing important relief such as food, drinking water, blankets and cooking equipment to communities devastated by floods and landslides.
Working on multiple fronts, Red Cross is helping communities prepare for the latest severe storm, including working with local authorities to sandbag properties and evacuate communities.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an Emergency Appeal for 3.9 million Swiss Francs to fund relief and recovery efforts for an estimated 160,000 people.
Christopher Rassi, Director of the Office of the Secretary General and acting Head of Country Cluster Delegation in Bangkok, IFRC, said:
“These repeated storms are having a massive impact on even the toughest of people in central Viet Nam. They need urgent immediate relief, and support for the long rebuilding process.
“Now and in the coming weeks we are redoubling our efforts to get critical relief supplies, food, drinking water, tarpaulins and blankets to all those who need it so that people can get back on their feet as soon as possible and rebuild their lives.”
Panama/Geneva, 1 September 2020 — One year after Hurricane Dorian devastated communities in the Bahamas, the Red Cross has assisted thousands of families with emergency relief, financial assistance and support for long-term recovery. This important work continues while operating within the tremendously complex situation created by COVID-19, that limited the movement of volunteers and in-person access to communities on affected islands.
Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on 1 September 2019 as a destructive category 5 storm. It caused extensive flooding and damage across the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama. Volunteers and staff with the Bahamas Red Cross have supported communities since before the storm. They worked in shelters, delivered aid including more than $ US 11 million in emergency financial assistance to more than 3,000 families, supported recovery rental assistance and housing repair programmes, and helping families prepare for the current hurricane season, which has already pushed 14 storms through the Caribbean.
Rundell Fowler is a resident of Grand Bahama. Her roof was ripped off during the hurricane. Through the Red Cross Home Repair programme, she received financial assistance, which allowed her to pay for repairs and strengthen her home in case of future storms. She said: “It was a great help and we’re in hurricane season again, so I am very grateful.”
The Red Cross is working with communities to ensure they are ready to address tropical storms and hurricane conditions during COVID-19. Bahamas Red Cross is working with the National Emergency Management Agency supporting plans for preparedness and response, including the opening of shelters. The Bahamas Red Cross shares information about how-to be ready for disasters and how to be prepared during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted vulnerable families recovering from Hurricane Dorian. Throughout this difficult time, the Red Cross continues to support people in their recovery process while helping those impacted by COVID-19. Bahamas Red Cross and partners continue to support ongoing recovery interventions including rental assistance, home repair assistance, small business grants, psychosocial support, and community engagement.
Ariel Kestens International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Head of Country Cluster for the English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean, said:
“We know the road to recovery is long, and the Red Cross is here for the journey. We were in communities to support vulnerable people before and we are there now and into the future. It is very important to recognize the dedication of Red Cross staff and volunteers in the Bahamas as they continue to support others in these difficult times.”
Panama/Port of Spain, 23 July 2020 — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing a humanitarian response as the Caribbean braces for their first tropical storm of 2020.A hurricane watch is in effect for Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and a tropical storm watch is in effect for the islands of Tobago, St. Lucia, and Grenada. Heavy rainfall, flash flooding and high winds are expected from Friday night through Sunday night.Effective preparedness and early action in disaster saves lives and livelihoods. The Red Cross is working with communities to ensure they are ready to address possible hurricane conditions during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.Across the Caribbean Red Cross volunteers are sharing early warning and preparedness messages, urging people to have food, water, and other necessities available, and to consider personal protection measures, such as masks and hand sanitizer, for emergency go bags.“Tropical storm Gonzalo has the potential to create a very difficult situation if it makes landfall in the Caribbean, placing greater pressures on vulnerable communities already dealing with COVID-19,” said Walter Cotte, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas.“COVID-19 can also hamper our response to a disaster with public health restrictions in place. Using humanitarian diplomacy, we are working with governments, advocating for flexibility in the regulatory framework to allow access and movement of humanitarian goods to ensure access in case of disaster in the region.”In Barbados, Red Cross volunteers and staff are meeting with organizations and government to update emergency response processes, and have been working with the department of emergency management to support community disaster risk teams and to give psychosocial support training to members of district emergency organizations.To mitigate the impacts of a hurricane and associated flooding, emergency supplies are pre-positioned in key areas throughout the region.Latin America and the Caribbean are regions very prone to disasters. The IFRC advocates climate change adaptation measures to mitigate the humanitarian impact of these disasters.
Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka, 02 Jun 2020 – Almost two weeks after cyclone Amphan barreled through Bangladesh, Red Crescent teams have already reached more than 30,000 people, but thousands more are in need of further humanitarian assistance.
Cyclone Amphan made landfall in the coasts of West Bengal, India on 20 May 2020, and then entered Bangladesh with wind speeds of up to 150 kmph, heavy rain and tidal surges that caused huge devastation in 26 districts across the country.
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said: “Thousands of people now need humanitarian support as they are living in temporary shelters with limited access to food, safe water and toilets after the cyclone has passed. Their livelihoods are also greatly affected and many of them do not know how to get back on their feet.”
More than 350,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, alongside more than 176,000 hectares of farmland including standing crops, vegetable and fruit, thousands of trees have been uprooted and fish farms worth approximately 37 million US dollars have been damaged. Tidal surges caused the collapse of embankments, inundations of salt water causing a scarcity of safe drinking water and putting the lives of thousands at risk of waterborne diseases.
More than 70,000 Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers, including 55,000 Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers, have been on the ground since before the cyclone hit, supporting evacuation efforts and distributing relief items.
Now that the extent of the urgent humanitarian needs is becoming clearer, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) have launched an emergency appeal of 5 million Swiss francs (5.1 million US dollars) to provide emergency assistance to 50,000 people in Bangladesh severely affected by the cyclone.
IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said: “Our early actions have saved many lives before the cyclone and now we are speeding up our response efforts so that these people can have access to basic needs and stay healthy.
“With this emergency appeal our aim is not only to provide emergency relief but also to improve the physical, social, environmental and economic conditions to create a more resilient community in an effective and efficient way.”
The funding will support Bangladesh Red Crescent in providing food, safe drinking water, shelter and hygiene items, and cash grants, as well as renovating damaged health clinics to benefit some of the most vulnerable people, including thos living in temporary or makeshift shelters.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also making the emergency situation more complex as people who have been displaced by the cyclone have limited access to handwashing and other hygiene facilities, increasing the risk of spreading the virus further.
Mr Ulla said: “The challenge is to help the affected population with emergency relief while we also take necessary steps to halt the spread of COVID-19.”
As part of their response activities, Bangladesh Red Crescent teams will be taking preventive measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19 including distributing hygiene information and advice, wearing personal protective equipment, and providing appropriate hygiene materials such as masks and hand sanitiser to people in shelters.
The IFRC cyclone Amphan emergency appeal will support Bangladesh Red Crescent response for the next 12 months.
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva 20 May 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing for a major humanitarian response as super cyclone Amphan heads across the Bay of Bengal towards Bangladesh, India and Myanmar.
Heavy rainfall, high winds and storm surges threaten Bangladesh’s and India’s coastlines. In Bangladesh, 14.2 million people live in the cyclone’s path, two thirds of whom are women and children. India’s Odisha State is making plans to evacuate 1.1 million people along its coastlines. While Myanmar is not in the cyclone’s direct path, heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges are also expected to affect northern parts of the country, including Rakhine state.
Early action and effective preparedness can save lives and livelihoods and IFRC is releasing funding to support Bangladesh Red Crescent, India Red Cross and Myanmar Red Cross to scale up preparedness measures to support affected communities in the direct path of cyclone Amphan.
IFRC is releasing almost760,000 Swiss francsfor early action to aid needs assessment and support vulnerable families with evacuation, emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment and material assistance.
This includesmore than 134,000 Swiss francs (139,000 US dollars) fromIFRC's Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fundwhich will support20,000 vulnerable people in Bangladesh with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19.
“We are concerned that Cyclone Amphan will put vulnerablecommunities at a dual risk during the COVID19 pandemic,”said Jess Letch, Manager of Emergency Operationsat IFRC’s Regional Office for Asia Pacific.
“The COVID-19 crisishas the potential tohamper humanitarian response efforts. Our biggest challenge is going to be ensuring that the millions of people at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods get the relief and shelter they need, while doing all we can to keep them safe from the new coronavirus.”
In Bangladesh, authorities have prepared 12,000 shelters, three times as many as in previous years to help ensure physical distancing and other COVID-19 hygiene measures. In India, coronavirus quarantine centres are already being shifted further inland to accommodate the cyclone evacuees.
Thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilised across India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to share early warning messages, help communities prepare and support evacuations where needed.
As super cyclone Amphan heads towards the West Bengal-Bangladesh areas, Bangladesh Red Crescent has triggered the release of forecast-based funds from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to reduce the storm’s impact on vulnerable communities living in the nine coastal districts of Bangladesh.
According to the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) in Bangladesh, more than 14.2 million people are in the path of the cyclone, of which 7.2 million are women and 1.4 million are children. This has put these communities at a dual risk amid the existing COVID-19 pandemic.
This forecast has triggered the pre-agreed release of 134,317 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
The funding will help support more than 20,000 vulnerable people with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19 through the disinfection of cyclone shelters and provision of personal protective equipment sets.
IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said:
“In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working tirelessly alongside local authorities, sharing early warning information and pre-positioning relief supplies, as well as having teams to support evacuations as super cyclone Amphan approaches Bangladesh.
“With the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, we are enabling communities to take all sorts of preparedness measures to reduce the loss of life and livelihood in the coastal districts including the camps in Cox’s Bazar, where around one million displaced people reside in temporary shelters. Forecast-based actions mean the communities no longer wait for a cyclone to hit, rather anticipate it and act early.”
“We have seen many mega cyclones in the past that have brought massive devastation in this region. This funding allows Bangladesh Red Crescent to take actions to reduce the impact of such an event.”
Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people take early actions ahead of cyclones rather than only having access to support after they have been hit.
The goal of Forecast-based Financing is to anticipate cyclones, decrease their impact as much as possible, and reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is reached. As part of this mechanism, an Early Action Protocol for cyclones outlines which anticipatory measures the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society will implement to reduce the cyclone’s impact. This work is developed by National Societies with the technical support from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said:
“We are scaling up our preparedness measures and early actions to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are in the direct path of cyclone Amphan. The current COVID-19 crisis is slowing our efforts down, but our volunteers are not stepping back from reaching out to the most vulnerable communities.”
Over the past 10 years cyclones have affected more than a million people in Bangladesh, causing death and injury, destroying homes and undermining livelihoods.
The Early Action Protocol for cyclones in Bangladesh has been revised considering the current COVID-19 epidemic. While the priority remains to move people to safe shelters if an evacuation order is issued, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are taking action to help prevent further outbreaks, including sharing hygiene information and items, identifying alternative evacuation spaces to enable physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting cyclone shelters.
This is only the second time IFRC’s early action funding mechanism has been used after over 210,000 Swiss francs were released to Mongolia Red Cross in January 2020 based on the forecast of an extreme winter season. The funding provided cash grants to vulnerable herder families to help protect their livestock and livelihoods.
German Red Cross is providing technical expertise and funding support to the Forecast-based Financing project and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Head of German Red Cross’ Bangladesh Office Gaurav Ray said:
“The impending cyclone, Amphan, is putting the lives of the most poor and vulnerable families at risk. By taking forecast-based early actions well ahead of the cyclone, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is setting a precedent, especially in the face of this dual crisis. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme will play a critical role in alleviating the distress faced by communities at risk.”
Read the Bangladesh Cyclone AmphanEarly Action Protocol for Cyclones and the early action protocol activation announcement for Cyclone Amphan.
The Forecast-based Action by the DREF was established with support from the German Red Cross and the German Government Federal Foreign Office.
Following the recent battering of several Pacific nations by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold, vulnerable communities are still recovering in an increasing complex disaster environment. The storm hit the Solomon Islands on 3 April, before passing through Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, causing significant damage to buildings and communities, destruction of crops, roads and contaminated water supplies. Some areas, such as Luganville, Vanuatu’s second largest city, reported almost 90% destruction.
In the days following the Cyclone, more than 1,000 Red Cross volunteers mobilised across Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands to offer physical and emotional support, including delivering essential items.
Daniell Cowley, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) COVID-19 Pacific Operations Manager, says: “the challenge in several areas is compounded by the risk of Coronavirus [COVID-19] and the potential impacts on already vulnerable, and often geographically isolated, communities.”
“The aim is to help Pacific communities and individuals best prepare, and ultimate reduce their risk of infection,” Mr Cowley says. “We are focused on all Pacific Islanders, but in particular the most at risk and vulnerable groups, including the elderly, people with existing medical conditions or disabilities and other vulnerable groups. There are many challenges, and we are also very aware of the broader social and economic impacts of COVID-19 outbreak.”
Pacific Red Cross Societies have been working underneath their Ministry of Health COVID19 incident management structures since March. Their role includes Red Cross volunteers visiting communities across the islands, offering advice and handouts about reducing the risk of infection, promoting correct handwashing practices and giving advice on physical distancing.
IFRC is also working closely in partnership with other lead agencies supporting Pacific ministries of health, including WHO, UNICEF and Pacific regional organisations.
“Getting simple and accurate information to communities is crucial to prevent rumour mills, and ultimately provide the information that might help save lives,” Mr Cowley says. “We already have Red Cross active networks and trained responders through the National Societies in many islands, who can mobilise quickly to support communities to take early actions prior to the onset of a disaster and to take life-saving actions after an event, like TC Harold.”
The distances between islands can mean it can take longer to reach all the communities that need provisions and support. Travel between islands is restricted and any sea freight takes longer to reach the Islands and is required to be fumigated and disinfected and often quarantined for many days.
Red Cross staff and volunteers are having to overcome new challenges to access to the people that need them most. For example, where once, five people in one car with kits would have sufficed. Now, because of social distancing, multiple cars are required with fewer people per car, and each car needs to be disinfected before use.
“Our strong community volunteer network across Vanuatu is well trained to provide COVID-19 information,” Suzanna Gislapno,Logistics Officer for the Vanuatu Red Cross, says.
“We have integrated community awareness on prevention options into the distribution of hygiene and household kits in response to TC Harold to the most affected communities.
“Because of COVID-19, the Vanuatu Red Cross has had to apply a new approach, as restrictions have meant fewer support staff being able to get to the Islands. Therefore, we have used the capacity and ground resources we have on the Islands – in a sense applying true localisation, while using technical remote support from other Islands, New Zealand and Australia.”
Some aid items are taking longer to arrive because of COVID19 restrictions.
“It’s been uplifting to see how communities are finding their own solutions,” Ms Gislapno says. “Although there has also been positive feedback from people about the good work that Vanuatu Red Cross is doing in the community, as we were the first organisation on the ground to offer support and assistance to the affected population by mobilising the community through our volunteer networks.”
“Knowing the local context is vital in the fight against COVID19,” Mr Cowley adds. “We are here to support the national authority by reaching communities and preventing the spread of COVID-19, for as long as it is needed.”
IFRC’s COVID-19 appeal in the Pacific is being supported by the Japanese Government, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, United States Agency for International Development, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Red Cross and New Zealand Red Cross.
Suva,22April2020–As a fuller picture of the destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu begins to appear, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released an additional allocation under its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to cover urgent relief assistance in the first six months.
Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold left a trail of destruction across Vanuatu in early April, affecting more than 127,0000 people, and destroying 90 per cent of housing in some areas, including Luganville, Vanuatu’s second largest city. Onthe Island of Pentecost, up to 95 per cent of houses were destroyed, and many families are still sheltering in evacuation centres.
At the time of TC Harold’s arrival, the country, which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world, was already dealing with immense humanitarian challenges, including COVID-19 preparedness as well as ongoing volcanic eruptions in Tafea province and localised flooding.
“Vanuatu Red Cross Society, as an auxiliary partner to the National Disaster Management Office of the government, are experienced and were well prepared to respond to needs on several fronts,” IFRC’s Head of Country Cluster Support Team for the Pacific , Kathryn Clarkson, says.
"At the time of TC Harold, they were already providing COVID-19 awareness session and hygiene promotion in communities, and now have scaled up their extensive volunteer network throughout the islands to support the needs of people affected by TC Harold.”
In response to these challenges, on April 21, the IFRC allocated an additional CHF 657,590 from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to boost the ongoing emergency response operations of the Vanuatu Red Cross.
“This will target 5,050 families [approximately 25,250 people or 30 per cent of the affected population] with emergency shelter needs, non-food relief items, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH), health and first aid,” Ms Clarkson says.
“With restrictions on travel at the moment across the Pacific due to COVID-19, we also need to adjust to provide technical support remotely from our IFRC office in Fiji with additional delegates working remotely from New Zealand and Australia.“
This assistance will also complement other financial and in-kind assistance provided by the U.S Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Australian Red Cross and New Zealand Red Cross.
“Vanuatu Red Cross are on the ground, and in the most affected communities, supporting in a number of ways, including collaboration with health authorities and partners, to offer health stations in evacuation centres where the existing medical facilities have been destroyed,” IFRC’s TC Harold Operations Manager, Rene Jinon says.
“By accessing relief stock on the islands, it has enabled the Vanuatu Red Cross Society to work quickly to support those who need it most,” Mr Jinon adds. “To date more than750 standard Vanuatu Red Cross Society family kits have been provided to affected families on three of the Islands, including a shelter tool kit, two tarpaulins, kitchen sets and hygiene kits, two mosquito nets, a 20L jerry can, two sleeping mats and blankets and a solar lamp.”
IFRC’s assistance is to respond to immediate relief needs, while detailed assessments continue to be carried out for recovery needs.
Geneva/Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 8 April2020– AsCyclone Harold hammers Vanuatu and Fiji, initial reports show extensive damage across both island nations as the storm continues to sweep through the Pacific.
Cyclone Harold hit Vanuatu on Monday night as a powerful category 5 storm - the strongest to hit the country since 2015’s devastating Cyclone Pam - bringing heavy rain, damaging storm surges and winds of up to 235 km/h. It then moved on to Fiji on Wednesday morning as a category 4, forcing more than 1,000 people to take shelter in evacuation centres.
Ms Jacqueline de Gaillande, Vanuatu Red Cross Society Secretary General, says while there have been no reports of fatalities, information is beginning to trickle out.
“It appears that many buildings and crops have been destroyed and some people in the most affected areas have lost everything,” she said. “Our teams have already been out doing assessments where they can, and feel a real responsibility to help as many people as possible.”
Phone networks are still down in many of the worst affected islands in Vanuatu. However, initial reports from Santo’s main town Luganville, where the storm first made landfall on 6 April, suggest that 50 to 70 per cent of buildings in the town were damaged and hundreds of people are sheltering in evacuation centres.
As many as 1,000 trained Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers - 120 of whom are Emergency Response Team members - have been on the ground since Friday, prepositioning essential relief items, and helping communities prepare by sharing life-saving information and helping people get to evacuation centres.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released more than 50,000 Swiss francs (more than 51,500 US dollars) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support Vanuatu Red Cross’ work, and is ready to provide further support as the full picture of the storm’s impact emerges.
The ongoing work to protect Vanuatu from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some challenges for teams helping to prepare communities for the cyclone, and may also complicate the response to the disaster.
While Vanuatu currently has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the country has been in a State of Emergency since 26 March, with border restrictions and a ban on inter-island travel in place to help keep the disease out for as long as possible.
Over the weekend, disaster authorities had to lift bans on public gatherings of more than five people to ensure people made their way to evacuation centres, and further decisions are expected to be made to make sure that affected communities get the support they need as quickly as possible.
“Cyclone Harold will have a big effect on our COVID-19 activities,” Ms de Gaillande said. “We cannot afford to have any confirmed cases in Vanuatu so we must really take care in the coming time.”
Parts of Fiji are still experiencing the worst of Cyclone Harold's impact, with reports of widespread flooding and damage. People living in coastal areas are being warned of powerful storm surges and Fiji Red Cross teams have been helping people move to higher ground.
Photos are availablehere.
Panama/Geneva/Bahamas, 2 December 2019 – Three months after communities across the Bahamas were devastated by Hurricane Dorian, the Red Cross has supported more than 9,000 families by providing emergency relief, psychosocial support, and financial assistance.
In the aftermath of the storm, Laurel Dean, her sister Emilyann Johnson, and their children were evacuated to Nassau. Their home on Abaco Island was destroyed, so the sisters are finding jobs, enrolling their kids in school and working hard to get back on their feet.
“When you have that mindset, there is nothing else you can do except just push forward,” Emilyann said. The Red Cross is supporting their recovery through financial assistance.
Volunteers and staff from the Bahamas Red Cross have been supporting affected communities since Hurricane Dorian made landfall on 1 September. The Category 5 storm remained in the Bahamas for almost two days, causing widespread destruction to homes and infrastructure – particularly on the northern islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Three months later, communities have regained teleconnectivity, road access has improved, and ports and airports are operational again. Many residents are starting to return home to Abaco and Grand Bahama to assess the damage to their homes and determine their next steps.
Red Cross and Red Crescent partners, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) continue to support people affected by the disaster. The emergency relief phase is now transitioning into one of long-term recovery. Ongoing interventions include health care, water, sanitation and hygiene, financial assistance, and activities designed to prevent and respond to violence against vulnerable groups.
Walter Cotte, IFRC’s Regional Director for the Americas, said: “Extreme weather events like Hurricane Dorian can’t be prevented, but they don’t have to become disasters of the scale we saw in the Bahamas.
“We now need to rebuild and repair with the next hurricane in mind, by ensuring communities have stronger buildings and more resilient infrastructure. This will greatly reduce the impact of future hazards by reducing long-term vulnerabilities across the islands and limiting people’s exposure to potentially catastrophic climate-related events.”
Powerful Cyclone Fani, at its worst an “extremely severe” storm, brought heavy rainfall and winds of 209 km/h to communities across India and Bangladesh. About 15 deaths have been reported so far, and hundreds of homes are likely to have been damaged.
As a massive clean-up operation gets under way in the affected areas of India and Bangladesh, the Red Cross and Red Crescent are assessing what help people need. Roads are being cleared and communication lines restored, although it might be up to two weeks for full connection to be restored to some remote areas. Staff and volunteers in Bangladesh and India are coordinating with the authorities and partners to support the affected communities.
The approach of the cyclone - one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades - was met with intense disaster preparedness work by the Indian Red Cross Society and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.
Tens of millions of people in the cyclone’s path received warnings. In India, about 1.1 million people were evacuated away from the coast; in Bangladesh, 1.6 million were evacuated. In India and Bangladesh, in coordination with government agencies, staff and volunteers issued warnings to communities at risk. The Indian Red Cross opened 65 shelters in Odisha state, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. More than 15,000 people stayed in Red Cross shelters.
In the hours before Fani hit, final preparations were in full swing to keep people safe. In the Indian state of Odisha in the path of Fani, Indian Red Cross staff and 1,500 volunteers trained in first aid, disaster management and rescue passed on life-saving early warning messages to some of 20 million people in at-risk districts. Among the messages: Try not to panic. Listen to the radio and follow instructions. We will help. The Red Cross is here with you.
Bangladesh’s renowned and life-saving cyclone preparedness system swung into full action. Volunteers in the Red Crescent/government cyclone preparedness programme alerted communities and provided information about the threats, potential impact and dangers through social media, megaphones and loudspeakers, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. An estimated 50,000 cyclone preparedness community volunteers were involved.
Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades, made landfall near Puri, India, at 8am on Friday 3 May, with winds gusting at more than 190kmh.
Tens of millions of people are in the cyclone’s path, and more than a million people were evacuated away from the coast in India alone. Stretches of coastal India and Bangladesh are threatened by storm surges, and heavy rains could cause flooding.
The local authorities have set up around 850 shelters and have evacuated 1 million people living along the coast. The Indian Red Cross is operating 65 shelters in Odisha state, with a capacity of 1,000 to 3,000 people in each. They can withstand winds of 400kmh and storm surges of 1.5m.
For India, IFRC has allocated 87,700 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for preparedness, initial assessment and, if necessary, emergency assistance.
A total of 59 million people in Bangladesh (total population 165 million) could be exposed to cyclone wind or a deep depression. Communities have been advised to listen for evacuation orders related to Fani, which has since been downgraded from a “severe extreme cyclonic storm” to a “very severe storm”.
Beira/Nairobi/Geneva, 26 April 2019 – Red Cross teams in northern Mozambique are reporting serious damage in towns and communities that bore the brunt of Cyclone Kenneth overnight.
Kenneth made landfall with wind speeds of up to 231 km per hour – almost the equivalent of a category 4 hurricane. Initial reports from Quissanga indicate extensive damage to houses, while communication with Macomia and Muidumbe remains down.
Antonio Carabante, Relief Delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Nampula said:
“These are initial reports, but they are quite concerning. We are being told that the wind caused quite a lot of damage. We are worried, especially about people living in communities that we have not yet heard from. We are working to open lines of communication, and to get personnel and supplies to where they are needed.”
The situation is likely to be compounded in coming days by expected torrential rains. Some predictions suggest that Kenneth could drop as much as 250mm of water over the weekend – equivalent to about a quarter of average annual rainfall for the region.
IFRC’s Carabante said:
“While attention is often given to wind speed, we know from experience that it is rainfall – and subsequent flooding and landslides – that can be even more dangerous from a humanitarian perspective. This was certainly the case for Cyclone Idai.
“The terrain in many affected communities are precarious – many of these areas are prone to flooding and landslides in normal rainfall, and this is far from a normal situation.”
The districts of Macomia, Quissanga, Mocimboa da Praia and Mecufi are expected to experience the worst of the rainfall, according to meteorologists.
Red Cross staff and volunteers across southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique have been helping communities prepare in anticipation of Cyclone Kenneth’s landfall. Their Red Crescent colleagues in Comoros have already supported search and rescue efforts, providing urgent first aid. Red Crescent teams have reported that more than 1,200 people are affected so far with this number expected to rise as homes and crops are damaged and destroyed across the islands of Comoros.
IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for 31 million Swiss francs to support the Mozambique Red Cross to provide 200,000 people with emergency assistance following Cyclone Idai over the next 24 months.
IFRC is also supporting Tanzania, Comoros, and northern Mozambique, deploying experts to support local efforts in assessing and responding to the immediate needs on the ground.
Nairobi/Geneva, 24 April 2019 – Teams of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are on alert as a Cyclone Kenneth makes its way to Comoros and potentially on to Tanzania and Mozambique.
Red Cross volunteers in northern Mozambique are alerting communities in areas where the concern of flooding, erosion and landslides are particularly high, including Nacala-Porto and Nacala-A Velha districts. Tanzania and Mozambique Red Cross are prepositioning supplies and preparing teams in anticipation.
Kenneth formed into a cyclone earlier today (24 April), and it could strengthen further before reaching Comoros as early as this evening.
Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Regional Director for Africa for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“We are concerned about the impact that this storm could have across the three countries. We are especially concerned about its possible impact in Mozambique where communities are still recovering from the devastation of Cyclone Idai.
“We are supporting local Red Cross and Red Crescent teams on the ground across Comoros, Tanzania and Mozambique, ensuring they are ready if and when Cyclone Kenneth strikes.”
An IFRC specialist is en route to Comoros to support local Red Crescent efforts.
More than one month ago, Cyclone Idai affected approximately 1.8 million people across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and killed nearly 1,000. IFRC has launched an Emergency Appeal for 31 million Swiss francs to support the Mozambique Red Cross to provide 200,000 people with emergency assistance water, sanitation and hygiene; shelter, health, livelihoods and protection services over the next 24 months.
Suva/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 13 February 2019 – With the South Pacific cyclone season under way and Cyclone Oma headed for Vanuatu, Red Cross societies are prepared and ready to respond.
The cyclone season runs in the South Pacific from November to April, with tropical cyclones bringing the risk of huge damage and destruction to communities, livelihoods and infrastructure.
Kathryn Clarkson, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Pacific, says that while cyclone season can be unpredictable, the Red Cross is prepared.
“Good emergency response starts with good preparedness. Pacific Red Cross societies prepare for cyclone season throughout the year and work with local authorities to ensure communities know how to get prepared and what to do when disasters occur," Ms Clarkson said.
“Local preparedness and response are crucial in the Pacific where people live in remote island communities scattered across vast distances. Essential services like healthcare can be hard to access, which makes it essential that local people are trained in first aid, have emergency plans in place and are able to be first responders in their community.”
Red Cross Societies in 12 Pacific countries have an extensive network of more than 5,000 volunteers trained in first aid, emergency preparedness and response, both across urban and remote outer island communities.
Communities are supported to understand weather warnings, develop emergency plans and kits, and to identify a safe place to evacuate. These simple steps can save lives.
Emergency relief items including tools to help repair damaged houses or build temporary shelters, essential cooking items, water containers, sleeping mats, blankets water purification tablets are prepositioned across the islands, ready for immediate distribution.
Pacific Red Cross staff and volunteers are experienced disaster responders. Their preparedness and response activities helped communities to withstand Cyclone Gita, a category five cyclone, as it moved through Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in February last year.
This year, Pacific Red Cross teams have already responded to storms in Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
IFRC and Red Cross societies also work closely with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to ensure seasonal weather outlooks are used to guide Red Cross societies with their early preparedness activities.
Meteorologists have forecast a higher cyclone risk for Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji this cyclone season. While a relatively normal season is predicted, meteorologists cannot rule out a category 5 storm and expect three to four cyclones to be severe.