| Press release
Survivors stranded at sea: SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC call for maritime law to be respected
The Ocean Viking – a search and rescue ship chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – rescued 234 women, children and men from six boats in distress in the central Mediterranean between October 22 and 26.
“People rescued in the central Mediterranean by ships should and must be allowed to disembark in a Place of Safety within reasonable time as is the case for search and rescue operations conducted by authorities and merchant ships. The ever-worsening blockages faced by rescue ships in this stretch of the sea since 2018 are discriminatory and unacceptable. Keeping survivors onboard ships hostages of political debate longer would be the result of a dramatic failure of European members and associated States,” says Xavier Lauth, SOS MEDITERRANEE Director of operations.
“The people rescued are absolutely exhausted, dehydrated, with psychological distress, and some requiring immediate medical attention. We provided health care, food, water, hygiene items, psychological first aid and opportunity to call and connect with family members. But they cannot afford to wait any longer, this uncertainty is making the situation unbearable with stress growing day by day. They urgently need a port of safety,” says Frido Herinckx, operations manager with IFRC.
People’s right to promptly disembark in a Place of Safety suffers no debate. The current blockage in the disembarkation of the search and rescue operations are grave and consequential breaches of maritime law. The international convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) frames Search and Rescue obligations to States and shipmasters in great detail, from the obligation to respond to and coordinate search for boats reported in distress, to the obligation to assign a “Place of Safety as soon as reasonably practicable”. All circumstances are considered, including the obligation for most able to assist States to cooperate in order to identify a place of safety for disembarkation; the obligation to provide assistance “regardless of the nationality or status of such persons” (Chapter V - Reg 33.1- amendment 2004), as well as the fact that “status assessment of rescued persons” should not “unduly delay disembarkation of survivors”. IMO RESOLUTION MSC.167(78) (adopted on 20 May 2004)
As per maritime conventions, the Ocean Viking informed relevant maritime authorities at all steps of the search and rescue operations and asked for the designation of a Place of Safety.
We must prioritize and cooperate in search and rescue operations for people on the move regardless of their status, including through clear, safe and predictable disembarkation mechanisms for rescued people.
SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC urge EU members and associated states to respect maritime law, cooperate in the designation of a Place of Safety for the survivors on Ocean Viking and put an end to the suffering of hundreds of men, women and children.
| Press release
IFRC warns that the growing heatwave in Europe could have tragic consequences
Budapest, 14 July 2022 - Extreme temperatures have spiraled countries into dangerous heat waves and wildfires across Europe. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) urges cities and communities to prepare to avoid a further disaster.
Since May, Europe has been among the fastest “heat wave hot spots” in the world. Forecasts show no sign of abating. Many parts of western Europe are experiencing extreme temperatures and countries like Portugal are battling raging wildfires, impacting thousands of people.
“With the climate crisis, this heat is part of our ‘new normal’,” says Maarten Aalst van, Director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. “These deadly events are now more frequent and more intense.”
In the past ten years, climate- and weather-related disasters have killed more than 400,000 people, affected 1.7 billion others and displaced an average of 25 million people each year world-wide.The people most at risk of heat waves include older people, children, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing health conditions. Heat waves have cascading impacts in other areas of society, such as reduced economic output, strained health systems and rolling power outages.
Staff and volunteers from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the region are supporting communities preparing for and impacted by the heat waves. At the same time, teams are responding to the devastating wildfires most notably in Portugal, but also Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Turkey brought on by the extreme heat.
“Many have had to evacuate their homes with the few things they can carry," saysAna Jorge, President of the Portuguese Red Cross."Our medical teams are focused on ensuring people are getting to safety, providing critical health care to those suffering from burns and other injuries and providing them with a bed to sleep in and the necessities as they decide their next steps.”
With heat waves becoming more likely around the world as the climate crisis worsens, more preparedness and early warning systems are required to reduce and manage the risks.
“People are not always aware of the dangers of heat. But when communities understand the risks and take simple measures to prepare for it, they can prevent unnecessary tragedies,” says van Aalst. “We urge cities and communities to prepare and take the necessary steps to save lives, now and in the long term.”
For more information and to arrange an interview:
In Budapest: Corrie Butler,[email protected]+36 704306506
In Athens: Georgia Trismpioti, [email protected] +30 6971809031
Note to Editors:
IFRC’s Heat Wave Guide for Citiesand Urban Action Kitare resources for city officials, urban planners and community organizations to anticipate and plan for extreme urban heat and reduce deadly risks.
C40’s Urban Cooling Toolboxprovides approaches to lower urban temperatures and reduce the impact of the urban heat effect; the Heat Resilient Cities Benefit Toolhelps city planners and decision-makers quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of adaptation actions.
A heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures and often high humidity. Extreme heat can cause shock, dehydration and other acute illnesses, and worsen cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
There is now a mountain of evidence that climate change is increasing the occurrence of deadly heat waves. For instance, scientists have concluded that climate change has made the 2022 heat wave in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely, the 2019 heat wave in western Europe at least 10 times more likely, the 2019-20 heat wave in Australia that contributed to the devastating bushfires 10 times more likely, and that the extreme heat in the northwest US and Canada in 2021 would have been virtually impossible without climate change. For details, see for instance, the World Weather Attribution analyses.
| Press release
IFRC and C40 Cities urge cities to prepare for more dangerous and deadly heat waves
14 June 2022, Geneva, New York—Heat waves are becoming more frequent, longer, hotter and deadlier, especially in urban areas, but the threats they pose are preventable if cities and residents are prepared for extreme heat and take steps to save lives.
The past seven years, from 2015 to 2021, have been the hottest on record and this year is already a punishing one. The life-threatening temperature spikes seen in recent months across India, Pakistan, East Asia and southern Europe and this week’s unusually intense, early-season heat wave gripping parts of the United States are an ominous sign of what is to come as the world gets warmer.
Every year, increasingly scorching temperatures put millions of people at risk of heat-related illnesses and claim the lives of thousands of others. People living in cities are hardest hit because urban areas are warmer than the surrounding countryside and are getting hotter due to climate change. Those most at risk are already vulnerable—the elderly and isolated, infants, pregnant women, those with pre-existing ailments and the urban poor, who often work outdoors or live and work in buildings without air conditioning or adequate ventilation.
But deaths from heat waves are not inevitable. Five billion people live in places that are prone to heat waves and where early warning systems can predict them before they happen.
“Heat waves are the silent killers of climate change, but they don’t have to be,” says Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Most heat waves are forecast days or weeks in advance, giving ample time to act early and inform and protect the most vulnerable. The good news is that there are simple and low-cost actions authorities can take to prevent unnecessary deaths from heat.”
Ahead of the summer season in many parts of the world, IFRC is launching its first global Heat Action Day, today, 14 June—mobilizing branches and partners in over 50 cities to hold awareness-raising events about ways to reduce severe impacts of extreme heat.
The IFRC is also partnering with C40 Cities to call on city officials, urban planners, and city residents in every region of the world to prepare for more dangerous and deadly heat waves.
“Cities that are used to hot weather need to prepare for even longer periods of sweltering heat and cooler cities need to prepare for levels of extreme heat that they are not accustomed to,” says Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities. “From Miami to Mumbai and Athens to Abidjan, mayors in our network are increasing green spaces, expanding cool roof programmes and collaborating on heat actions to improve resilience to rising urban heat. But far more work is needed to reduce andmanage risks as the climate crisis worsens.”
TheC40 Cool Cities Networksupports cities to embed heat risk and management in their climate action plans, develop heat resilience studies, and develop, fine-tune and measure impacts of heat mitigation action, including cooling, greening and emergency management.The network has held intensive workshops on urban heat and equity, developed resources to guide heat action plans and, over the past two years, supported cities in managing the compound crises of extreme heat alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on outreach to vulnerable populations.
Across the globe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are rising to the extreme heat challenge—supporting and improving local and national heat action plans, spreading messages to the public on heat safety, checking in on the most vulnerable, distributing water, supporting medical services, identifying and setting up cooling centres, and even helping people retrofit their homes to improve shade and reduce heat. They’re also expanding research on heat to parts of Africa, Asia and South America that have been overlooked in the past.
“The climate crisis is driving and intensifying humanitarian crisis in every region of the world,” says Rocca. “But when cities and communities are better prepared, extreme weather doesn’t have to become a disaster or a tragedy.”
Note to Editors:
IFRC’s “Heat Wave Guide for Cities” and “Urban Action Kit” are resources for city officials, urban planners and community organizations to anticipate and plan for extreme urban heat and reduce deadly risks.
C40’s “Urban Cooling Toolbox” provides approaches to lower urban temperatures and reduce the impact of the urban heat effect; the “Heat Resilient Cities Benefit Tool” helps city planners and decision-makers quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of adaptation actions.
A heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures and often high humidity. Extreme heat can cause shock, dehydration and other acute illnesses, and worsen cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
There is now a mountain of evidence that climate change is increasing the occurrence of deadly heat waves. Scientists have concluded that climate change has made the 2022 heat wave in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely, the 2019 heat wave in western Europe 100 times more likely and the 2019-20 heat wave in Australia 10 times more likely.
Images and Video for use by media outlets:
Follow thisTwitter thread to access videos and photos of global Heat Action Day events. Heat emergency response images can be accessedhere
For more information or 1:1 interviews, contact:
IFRC: Melissa Winkler, [email protected]RC.org, +41 76 2400 324
IFRC: Tommaso Della Longa, [email protected], +41 79 708 43 67
C40 Cities: Rolf Rosenkranz, [email protected]
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives, build community resilience, strengthen localization and promote dignity around the world.www.ifrc.org - Facebook-Twitter-YouTube
C40 Citiesis a network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities who are working to deliver the urgent action needed right now to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone, everywhere can thrive. Mayors of C40 cities are committed to using a science-based and people-focused approach to help the world limit global heating to 1.5°C and build healthy, equitable and resilient communities.www.C40.org-Twitter-Instagram-Facebook-LinkedIn
IFRC scales up cash assistance to people impacted by conflict in Ukraine
Three months into the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has distributed financial assistance totalling more than 4.3 million Swiss francs to thousands of people on the move.
IFRC Head of Emergency Operations for the Ukraine response, Anne Katherine Moore, said:
“The longer the conflict continues, the greater the needs become. The cost of basic necessities, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, is rising. Increases in the cost of fuel and apartment rentals are also being reported. Millions of people have lost their jobs and their savings are dwindling. Through a new mobile app, we have been able to ramp up our support to help people facing these financial challenges.”
The new technology makes it possible for the IFRC and responding National Societies to reach people at scale and to deliver cash assistance digitally. Successfully introduced in Romania, the mobile app allows refugees to self-register for assistance online, negating the need and cost involved of having to travel to a central location.
The app will soon be expanded to Poland and Slovakia, where cash assistance is already being provided through more traditional methods such as in-person registration, as well as Ukraine and other neighbouring countries.
“This is the fastest we have ever delivered cash at this scale. It has the potential to be a game-changer for our work not just in this response, but also in future operations,” Moore continued.
Cash assistance is a dignified and efficient way to support people impacted by the conflict, allowing them to purchase items specific to their individual needs, while also supporting local economies. It is one part of our integrated and wide-ranging Red Cross and Red Crescent response to the conflict that also includes the provision of health care, first aid, psychosocial support and the distribution of basic household necessities.
Speaking about next steps, Moore said: “There is no short-term solution to the needs of the more than 14 million people who have been forced to flee their homes. We know that even if the conflict was to end tomorrow, rebuilding and recovery will take years. People have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and access to timely healthcare. The IFRC, in support of local National Red Cross Societies in the region, will be there helping people now, and in the months and years to come.”
Watch: our response 3 months on
During the past three months:
Together, we have reached more than 2.1million people with life-saving aid within Ukraine and in surrounding countries. This is 1 in 10 people who had to flee their homes because of the conflict.
Along the travel routes within and outside Ukraine, we've set up 142 Humanitarian Service Points in 15 countries to provide those fleeing with a safe environment. There, they receive essential services like food, hygiene items, blankets, clothing water, first aid, psychosocial support, information, and financial assistance.
In total, we distributed 2.3 million kilograms of aid.
71,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are responding to the crisis.
| Press release
Red Cross extends support to families separated by violence and conflict
Budapest/Geneva, 13 May 2022 – Ahead of the International Day of Families on 15 May, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is expanding its family reunification services with a new initiative.
The Reunification Pathways for Integration (REPAIR) project is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and enables safe and legal family reunification in the EU by assisting beneficiaries of international protection and their family members before, during and after arrival.
The three-year project is led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with the Austrian, British, French and Slovenian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
National Red Cross Societies in these four countries are scaling up their support by offering a range of services including counselling, visa application support, socio-cultural orientation sessions, psychosocial support and language classes. They also provide integration support to help family members reconnect after a long period of separation.
Building on the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement's longstanding work with migrants and refugees, the project aims to improve and expand the current service provision through the development of new tools and approaches, also to be shared with key stakeholders. Activities in the programme will contribute to the improvement of the Family Reunification journey for affected communities and a strengthened network of agencies in Europe and beyond.
IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said the right to family life must be respected, regardless of where people come from:
“Whether from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia, people who flee violence and persecution often become separated from their family members, which can have devastating consequences on their wellbeing. Without their loved ones, they are not able to resume normal lives. Family reunification is essential to realizing the right to family life in Europe and key for long-term integration in receiving communities.”
The project is built on Restoring Family Links (RFL), a key mandate of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to deliver activities that aim to prevent separation and disappearance, look for missing persons, restore and maintain contact between family members, and clarify the fate of persons reported missing.
Family reunification is one of the safe and legal routes to protection to Europe, yet families face many challenges due to the complex legal framework and practical obstacles. Bringing together beneficiaries of international protection and their relatives often turns into a lengthy and unsafe process.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is calling for a more holistic, protection-oriented approach that is safe, inclusive and provides the necessary support to families at every step of the way. Preparing local authorities and host communities for the arrivals should also be an integral part of the action.
“A fair and swift family reunification process ensures dignity and helps prevent desperate families from taking dangerous journeys to join their loved ones, often resulting in tragic deaths and people going missing en route. We are not just helping people, we are saving lives,” Ms. Ebbesen added.
For more information, please contact:
In Budapest: Nora Peter, +36 70 265 4020, [email protected]
| Press release
Ocean Viking rescues 247 people within 48 hours from the Mediterranean Sea, including 5-month-old baby
Budapest/Geneva, 14 February 2022 – Search and rescue (SAR) ship Ocean Viking had an extremely intense weekend, with the crew having saved 247 people in five rescues in less than 48 hours. The ship is operated by European maritime search and rescue organisation SOS MEDITERRANEE in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Survivors are now being cared for onboard, having received food, dry clothes and blankets. The medical team provided first aid and psychosocial support, treating cases of mild hypothermia, fuel inhalation and fuel burns. Some people also show signs of torture.
Among the 247 survivors, there are 52 unaccompanied minors and a 5-month-old baby. The survivors represent 16 different nationalities, with most people coming from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Ivory Coast.
The first rescue operation started on Saturday, 12 February, three days after Ocean Viking had left the port of Trapani, Sicily. An alert was sent for an overcrowded wooden boat in distress in the Maltese search and rescue region. The rescue team of SOS MEDITERRANEE found 93 people in an overcrowded wooden boat without lifejackets and brought them to safety to Ocean Viking.
The second rescue took place during the night of 12 February, again a wooden boat in distress, in the Libyan search and rescue region. 88 people were rescued. The boat was highly overcrowded, very unstable, the people had no lifejackets and had suffered from fuel inhalation.
The third rescue happened on Sunday morning, 13 February, a small wooden boat with 22 people were in distress in the Maltese search and rescue region. The boat was at high risk of taking in water.
The fourth rescue started soon after the third one. Ocean Viking received a VHF call from the aircraft of the NGO Pilotes Volontaires about a boat requiring urgent help and about to take water in. The rescue of 25 people was completed in one hour.
The fifth rescue took place a day later, on 14 February, in international waters inside the Libyan SAR region. 19 people were safely recovered from a fiberglass boat in distress among 1-meter waves.
Since IFRC entered in partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE in August 2021, the Ocean Viking rescued 804 people in distress in the Mediterranean Sea.
This life-saving mission is an integral part of the Red Cross Red Crescent presence to protect and assist people in countries of origin, transit and destination across Africa, Middle East and Europe. As a neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organization, IFRC’s global network provides critical humanitarian assistance to all persons in need, regardless of their legal status.
For more information, please contact:
In Budapest: Hannu-Pekka Laiho, [email protected], +358 40 5257126
In Budapest: Nora Peter, [email protected], +36 70 265 4020
Youth in Europe
The Red Cross Red Crescent European Youth Network (EYN) has empowered and connected young people across the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement since 1975.
| Press release
COVID-19: IFRC calls for urgent action to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Europe amid increase in violent incidents
Budapest/Geneva, 30 September 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for urgent action to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Europe, where there has been a worrying increase in violent incidents against COVID-19 related health infrastructure and personnel.
The pandemic is far from over in Europe, where an average of 2,000 people die of COVID-19 every day. More than one million people get infected every week, and hospitalisations are going up in half of the EU/EEA countries, including among young people and children, but particularly among unvaccinated adults. Intensive Care Units are getting dangerously filled up in Bulgaria and Romania, for example, which have low immunisation rates.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently projected 236,000 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 by 1 December across Europe,[i] and there are growing concerns about soaring infections and deaths in some parts of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.
In addition, disinformation about vaccines’ side effects and potential risks, coupled with the introduction of ‘vaccine passes’, is sparking anger and violence, which have led to concerning incidents against medical services, media and the general public in countries including Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Poland, Slovenia and France.
Vaccination saves lives, but there is still a deadly gap in the distribution and uptake of vaccines in the region: almost 70 per cent of people in high-income countries have received at least one dose, whereas in the poorest ones barely 20 per cent have been partially vaccinated.
Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, said:
“We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 in Europe.
“Access to COVID-19 vaccination remains a challenge due to the shortage of supply in some countries. In addition, low acceptance and barriers for particularly vulnerable individuals are critical elements as well.
“Increased community engagement is needed to tackle vaccine hesitancy, myths and disinformation. Without addressing people’s concerns and fears, vaccines may not find their way into the arms of those most at risk, even where doses are available,” Ebbesen warned.
With support from the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are working to build trust. Local teams have reached out to more than 300,000 people on the importance of getting vaccinated and have helped immunise 31 million people, actively engaging communities to ensure they have accurate information and can protect themselves.
According to a survey conducted by the Collective Service for Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), of which the IFRC is a part, at least three quarters of people in most countries worldwide would agree to be vaccinated, if it was available and recommended.[ii] The data also suggests that in areas where there were high levels of hesitancy initially, increases in vaccinations overall may have impacted acceptance.
More support is needed to address vaccine hesitancy and speed up immunization campaigns across the region, though. “If we don’t step up collective efforts to strengthen community trust and make vaccines widely available, it will be too late,” stressed Ebbesen.
At the moment, IFRC’s COVID-19 Emergency Appeal[iii] is only 60 per cent funded.
For more information, please contact:
In Budapest: Ainhoa Larrea, +36 705 070 131, [email protected]
In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
www.ifrc.org - Facebook - Twitter - YouTube
| Press release
IFRC launches multiregional plan to ramp up humanitarian assistance to migrants and displaced people
Geneva, 26 August 2021– The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched today a three-year plan to extend humanitarian assistance and support to migrants and displaced people along the migration routes of greatest humanitarian concern in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, three regions facing some of the most complex and critical migration dynamics in the world.
As a global humanitarian network with a presence in 192 countries and 14 million community-based volunteers, the IFRC witnesses every day the enormous suffering that many migrants and displaced people face along their journeys.
Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General, National Society Development and Operations Coordination, said:
“Migrants and displaced people are taking increasingly dangerous routes, both across land and sea. During their journeys, they face significant risks and challenges: many are abused and face exploitation – others face protection risks, including child abuse, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking. We are extremely concerned that migrants and displaced people are not able, at all stages of their journey, to access what they need most – such as food, water and sanitation, shelter, and healthcare. Our multiregional humanitarian assistance plan aims to bridge this gap”.
The IFRC multiregional plan brings together humanitarian operations of 34 National Societies across Africa, the Middle East and Europe and focuses on delivering humanitarian assistance and protection to over 2 million people and more than 500,000 individuals from host communities every year. In order to extend humanitarian assistance to a growing number of people in need, the IFRC is appealing for financial support totalling 174 million Swiss francs over three years.
The plan also includes assistance and protection to people in distress at sea on the Central Mediterranean route. Through a partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE, a European maritime and humanitarian organization operating in the Mediterranean Sea, the IFRC will provide life-saving support to people rescued at sea as of early September 2021. SOS MEDITERRANEE will conduct search and rescue operations at sea, while IFRC will provide post-rescue support — including medical care, psychological support, protection and basic necessities — to the people who have been safely brought onboard the Ocean Viking. The IFRC team includes medical doctors, a midwife and professionals who can provide psychological support and assist those who are particularly vulnerable and in need of special protection, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking.
The long-standing commitment and experience of the IFRC network in providing assistance and protection to all migrants all along their migratory journeys allows for an integrated and comprehensive response, based on people’s needs and vulnerabilities. Our principled approach to migration, as well as our global presence along migratory routes, mean that we are uniquely positioned to provide humanitarian assistance and protection at all steps of migrants’ journeys – in countries of origin, transit and destination.
To learn more about the plan, download the document(pdf, 18 Mb).
For more information and to set up interviews, contact:
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
Europe Regional Office
The IFRC’s EuropeanRegional Office works in support of 54 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Through its Country Cluster Support Teams and Country Offices, it provides coordination, financial and technical support for disaster operations and longer-term development programs throughout the region. View current regional, cluster and country plans for Europe.
Global action needed to prevent the deepening crisis in mental health
By Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC Europe Regional DirectorThe verdict is in: COVID-19 worsens mental health. So there can be no excuse and no delay in stepping up now to prevent a worsening and chronic catastrophe.There is no health without mental health, therefore recovery from the pandemic needs to factor in mental health and psychosocial interventions.Let’s step back and view the evidence. No group is immune from COVID-19’s insidious effects on mental health: from school children, to those of us working remotely, to the elderly. Studies have documented the extreme negative impact of the isolation caused by school closures which, at one point, saw 90 per cent of the world’s children locked out of school. A study of children in China found elevated rates of depression and anxiety. Similarly, another study found 86 per cent of Italian and Spanish parents noticed changes in their children’s emotional states and behavior during home confinement.Sadly, children at home can be more at risk of abuse and neglect, as stressors on families increase, and the structure of the school day is taken away. There is also evidence of increased risk of suicide and self-harm among young people during the pandemic. Other studies have pointed to negative consequences of increased screen time . For the wider population, the suicide risk has also climbed . And new research co-led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has found older people become sicker and poorer and feel more alone as a result of living through the pandemic.To bridge the gap between ballooning mental health care needs and services, traditional mental health care systems will not be the only answer. The IFRC and its network of 192 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies is already part of this solution. Mental health and psychosocial support is a core part of our work.Following commitments we made to the state parties of the Geneva Conventions at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2019, we are making mental health and psychosocial support an even bigger part of our work.Globally we have provided mental health and psychological support to 7.16 million people affected by COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Volunteers and staff have taken to telephone hotlines, new digital forms of support such as webinars, videos and SMS chats.Our support comes alongside a wider expansion in new ways of reaching out to people suffering depression, anxiety, and PTSD, such as videoconferencing, online forums, smartphone apps, text-messaging, and e-mails, which evidence shows have been found to be effective ways of delivering treatment. In Armenia, Red Cross psychologists provide psychosocial support services to people and assign volunteers to those identified as struggling to provide extra help with household chores. Danish Red Cross set up a phone service for volunteers to chat with people who are home alone.A new form of support was seen in a project run by Serbian Red Cross, which published a collection of creative writing about peoples’ experiences of living through the pandemic.The French Red Cross has set up Croix-Rouge Chez Vous (Red Cross at Home), combining a national call centre and the dispatch of aid to all parts of France, both mainland and overseas territories. It targets any socially-isolated person who has no connections or support from family, friends or neighbours, who are able to call in and receive a listening ear, and receive a follow-up delivery of goods if needed.Bulgarian Red Cross operates a telephone-based psychology service, where people can book free sessions online with qualified psychologists.And Italian Red Cross psychologists are on board quarantine ships for migrants, to support the mental health and protection of the most vulnerable migrants, including minors, trafficked women, pregnant women and victims of discrimination. They also support the wellbeing of Red Cross personnel.In a partnership with the IFRC, British Red Cross psychologist Dr Sarah Davidson has featured in a successful social media video series to reach new audiences.Global actionWith the pandemic’s effects expected to extend well beyond the current year, it’s clear more action needs to take place now if we are to be serious about preventing the deteriorating mental health of millions of people.We are recommending three key steps: A serious scaling up of mental health and psychosocial services. High attention to widening national societies’ access to new digital and other innovative means is needed. The IFRC network is well placed to facilitate sharing new practices and learning, and to work towards narrowing the digital divide. Governments and major donors should step up investment in addressing mental health problems to enable individuals, families and communities to meet the challenges brought by the pandemic. Early and effective access to mental health and psychosocial support is key to creating sustainable and healthy local communities. More care for the carers. Red Cross and Red Crescent people, who have worked through the pandemic, often when responding to other disasters, are immensely tired. We have become a more flexible workplace with increased support systems and monitoring of staff and volunteers’ wellbeing, and encourage wider formal supports for these often invisible responders.Sadly, the full effects of this pandemic will only emerge much later, robbing many people of their future dreams. Now is the time to invest more in mental health care and psychological support that works. Even a small investment can have big results. Our movement is uniquely placed to scale up engagement through the variety of new platforms and services with our networks of trained volunteers in every community. Together with our partners, we can meet increased demand with expanded and integrated services and supports.
Opinion: Will migrants and refugees be left out of mass vaccine programs?
By Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen
After a brutal year dominated by the coronavirus, 2021 at last promises hope.
When mass vaccination campaigns roll out, it will mark a critical turning point in the pandemic.
However, vulnerable communities – especially migrants and refugees – run the risk of being left behind again.
COVID-19 has exposed and magnified inequalities, destabilized communities, and reversed major development progress made over the past decade.
For the 80 million people who remain forcibly displaced in 2020, the pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges and pushed them into more devastating, vulnerable and exploitative situations.
About 66% of migrants and refugees have lost access to work due to COVID-19, with many losing the sole income they rely on. Many have experienced ballooning debts, which forces many to cut spending on essentials, including health, education or food to survive.
People on the move too often fall through the cracks when it comes to accessing essential health services and we worry the same could happen for the vaccine. People in particularly fragile settings, like displacement camps, have access to fewer basic health care services.
Many barriers exist, including direct exclusion, laws restricting access based on migration status, language barriers and lack of culturally-accessible and appropriate information about the vaccine.
The health and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on millions of refugee and migrant families for years to come. We must address the many barriers to universal health coverage and ensure that migrants are fully included in national vaccination campaigns.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been at the center of the pandemic, stepping up our support to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, providing access to critical information, health services, psychosocial support as well as helping to mitigate COVID-19’s socio-economic impacts and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable groups.
In Greece and Spain where there have been large number of people arriving, Red Cross has for several years been supporting individuals and families by providing food, water and other practical support so they’re treated with dignity and respect along their journeys.
Through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the European Union and implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC, 1.8 million refugees receive cash assistance every month to help cover their essential needs such as rent, transport, bills, food and medicine. Additional financial support was provided from June to July to help people cope through particularly tough months.
All migrants, irrespective of status, should be protected from harm and have access to health care and the vaccine without fear of arrest, detention or deportation. This includes ensuring COVID-19 testing, tracing, treatment and the vaccine are available and accessible to everyone.
The inequitable distribution of vaccines globally not only threatens to leave the most marginalised behind but also risks undermining our shared health if the virus is left to continue among unprotected communities. The vaccination roll-out must work in parallel with access to critical public health preventative measures.
We ask governments, the private sector, international organisations and civil society to unite towards “a people’s vaccine.” A people’s vaccine should equally protect the affluent and the poor, those in cities and in rural communities, older people in care homes and those living in refugee camps. A global social contract for a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 is a moral imperative that brings us all together in our shared humanity.
We must take concrete action to prevent the exclusion of groups at significantly higher risk of severe disease or death, such as refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers or those affected by humanitarian emergencies.
Migrants and refugees must not be left behind while the rest of the world recovers: none of us are safe until all of us are safe.
*This opinion piece was originally published on Thomson Reuters Foundationon December 24, 2020.
This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
| Press release
Red Cross warns: Vigilance needed as Europe’s intensive care beds fill up
Budapest/Geneva, 22 October 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned people not to take their foot off the brake as hospital intensive care units in many cities across Europe near capacity.
Last week the number of cases reported in Europe was almost three times higher than during the first peak in March.
The IFRC’s Regional Director, Europe, Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen said Europe’s alarming second wave shows there has never been a more critical moment to maintain vigilance and practise prevention.
“The Europe region has the second highest death toll after the Americas and the fastest increasing death rate in the world,” Ms Ebbesen said. “There’s a big jump in hospitalisations and many countries are reporting they will reach their intensive care bed capacity in the coming weeks.”
Hospitals have reportedly reached capacity in parts of Belgium and are filling up in Czech Republic, France, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.
IFRC Regional Health and Care Coordinator Dr Davron Mukhamadiev said; “Reports show that along with hospitalisations increasing, time spent in hospital is two to three times longer.” He warns extra deaths will follow as people will be unable to receive treatment for pre-existing and chronic conditions such as HIV, TB, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Other concerns include the increasing, unrelenting pressure on healthcare workers, and with intensive care beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients, added difficulties for hospitals in managing the increase in seasonal flu as the colder weather approaches.
With up to 3.5 million severe cases of seasonal influenza worldwide, and up to 650,000 respiratory-related deaths each year, Ms Ebbesen said all of us can play our part in trying to halt the further transmission of viruses.
“The best thing people can do right now is to have their flu shots, and be vigilant with hygiene; wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, cover coughs and maximise ventilation. “We know from the work Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies are doing across Europe and our research that mental health concerns are soaring with months of restrictions, so be kind to yourself, and to each other.”
 World Health Organisation
 World Health Organisation
 World Health Organisation
 IFRC and ICRC research, COVID and mental health
| Press release
Red Cross calls on people to check on neighbours and loved ones during dangerous heatwave
Budapest/Geneva, 29 July 2020 – As temperatures soar across Europe, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on the public to check on neighbours and loved ones who might struggle to cope with the searing heat.
According to European meteorological offices, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Romania can expect temperatures in the mid to high 30s during the week., with Paris and Madrid forecast to reach around 40°C on Friday.
To prevent loss of life, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging people to check in on their vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends while following COVID-19 safety measures.
IFRC’s acting health coordinator for Europe, Dr Aneta Trgachevska, said: “Some older people are unable to spend on things like air conditioning. They may be socially isolated. When coupled with thermoregulation problems, reduced water intake and physical ability and chronic diseases, there could potentially be a large at-risk group.”
IFRC is also concerned about the potential compounding impact of COVID-19 during this period of soaring temperatures, said Dr Trgachevska:
“Managing the impact of heat and COVID-19 at the same time poses a challenge to frontline workers, health care systems and local communities. The spread of COVID-19 will not stop in summer. On the contrary, it increases the risk of extreme heat by compromising our usual coping strategies.”
People who would usually visit public places like parks, libraries and shopping malls to find refuge from the heat may be reluctant to leave their homes due to fear of infection. For the same reason, some may be afraid to seek medical care for heat stroke.
“While self-isolation is advisable for vulnerable people during a pandemic, during a heatwave it could be life-threatening, especially for people living alone without home cooling systems. To make sure our loved ones and neighbours stay safe, we should check on them daily via phone or video calls. If you need to physically help someone, make sure to follow hygiene rules, such as wearing a mask and washing your hands upon entering someone’s home,” explains Dr. Trgachevska.
People who are most vulnerable to heat stress are also those most at risk of COVID-19, including people older than 65, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions, prisoners and marginalized groups such as homeless people and migrants. Due to the pandemic, health workers and first responders are also more prone to heat stress as they need to wear personal protective equipment.
Across Europe, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff are on high alert to support communities during summer. The Austrian Red Cross operates cooling centres in malls. It also has a mobile app to help people stay safe with a real time heat map and list of cool public places. In Spain, Red Cross volunteers are helping people with disabilities to enjoy a dip in the sea.
In Monaco, volunteers are regularly checking in on isolated older people via daily phone calls or physically distanced home visits, and in the Netherlands, they go door-to-door to distribute life-saving information. In several other countries, including Italy and the UK, Red Cross teams are reaching out to vulnerable groups to inform them on how to stay protected from both the heat and COVID-19.
Heatwaves can have a catastrophic human toll. In 2003 an estimated 70,000 people died during a record-breaking heatwave in Europe. Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of heatwaves globally.
Some tips to stay cool and safe:
Close drapes and shutters during the hottest parts of the day to reduce direct sun exposure
When it’s cooler outside, open windows on opposite sides of the building to create a cross-breeze
Avoid cooking food indoors during the hottest hours of the day
Unplug large electronic devices that produce heat
Use an electric fan and set a bowl of cold water or ice in front to create a cold breeze
Wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothes
Avoid exercise and strenuous activities during the hottest hours of the day
Drink plenty of cool water, avoid alcohol and caffeine
Some medicines may reduce tolerance to heat. Get medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.
Stay connected, listen to the weather forecast and adapt your plans if necessary
Follow social distancing guidance when using shared outdoor spaces such as parks and beaches
Ask for medical help in case of signs of heat-related illness.
Download the heatwave guide developed by the Red Cross Red Crescent climate centre
| Press release
Red Cross and Red Crescent urges continued vigilance amid alarming resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe
Budapest,26 June 2020– As a resurgence in COVID-19 cases is reported in many parts of Europe and total deaths on the continent near 200,000, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls on communities to continue practising safety measures to prevent a deadly further spread of the virus.
“None of us is safe until all of us are safe,” said Dr. Davron Mukhamadiev, IFRC’s regional health and care coordinator. “Despite the easing of restrictions and summer weather, it is critical that we all continue to adhere to health and safety measures to avoid a ‘second wave’ across Europe.”
“Without effective and sustained community-based epidemic control measures, the pandemic will remain in communities and further peaks can be expected until the virus is eradicated.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases are recorded in Europe every day and more than 25 countries have seen an increase in new cases in the past two weeks. The top ten countries with the most significant increases are Croatia (2,680%), Iceland (+900%), Slovakia (+311%), Kyrgyzstan (241%), Bulgaria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Israel and Luxembourg.
In recent weeks, many European countries have begun easing public movement restrictions or ending ‘lockdowns’. Combined with warm and sunny weather across many parts of the region, there is fear that people forget to practise the safety measures that are of critical importance to preventing a deadly resurgence.
“There are simple, yet effective precautions all of us should continue to take so that we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe,” said Mukhamadiev.
“Hand washing, physical distancing by remaining two metres apart from other people, proper use of face coverings and avoidance of large crowds are the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers across Europe have been working around the clock to provide critical and accurate information on COVID-19 and its prevention. Teams continue to do so as restrictions are eased to help keep communities stay healthy and safe, and prevent further resurgence of cases.
Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in 54 European countries are also providing health care and ambulance services, distributing personal protective equipment, disinfectants and water to health care services, delivering food, medicine and hygiene items, supporting in temperature checks at ports of arrival, running telephone hotlines and providing mental health and psychosocial support to those in distress.
Key health and safety measures everyone should practise include:
Frequently wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and immediately throw away the tissue. Cough into your elbow if a tissue is not available.
Maintain at least a one metre distance between yourself and others, and avoid crowded places.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Anyone with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should seek medical care according to their national recommendations and stay at home and self-isolate.
Follow your local Ministry of Health’s guidance on the use of masks and face coverings.
| Press release
MEDIA ADVISORY: Europe heatwave - Red Cross experts available
Geneva, 22 July 2019 – Red Cross climate experts are available to discuss the potential humanitarian impact of this week’s European heatwave, as well as the simple and affordable steps that can be taken to protect lives.
Temperatures are expected to climb to record levels over the coming days, placing huge pressure on health and social welfare systems across the continent, and potentially threatening the lives and well-being of vulnerable people.
Red Cross experts can highlight some of the concrete measures that individuals and authorities can take to reduce the potential humanitarian impact of the heatwave. They can also discuss the clear links between climate change and heatwaves and share findings from the Red Cross’ recently released Heatwave Guide for Cities.
Available experts include:
In New York: Julie Arrighi, Red Cross climate expert and one of the authors of the Heatwave Guide for Cities.
In Geneva: Tessa Kelly, Climate Change Coordinator, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Red Cross joins EU Aid Volunteers initiative
Four European Red Cross societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) joined EU Aid Volunteers, a programme of the European Commission that provides opportunities to European citizens to get involved in humanitarian aid projects, support the provision of needs-based humanitarian aid in third countries and engage in volunteering opportunities through deployment and online volunteering. A two-year project named EU Aid Volunteers - Enhancing Aid Capacities is implemented by the IFRC in partnership with the Red Cross societies of Austria, Bulgaria, Italy and The Netherlands.The project’s overall objective is to improve the capability of potential sending organizations to provide quality support, managing enhanced pools of competent volunteers and staff for emergency response and improving remote support of operations. European Red Cross societies can become a sending organization by completing a certification process that enables them to deploy volunteers in emergencies of non-EU countries through the EU Aid Volunteers scheme.There are four learning events planned for 2019 that are partially funded through the EU Aid Volunteers initiative: Cash Assistance and Coordination, Assessment and Planning (CAP) for Red Cross Red Crescent Operations trainings taking place in Bulgaria, as well as Information Management and Coordination/Assessment trainings to be hosted in Austria.To find out more about the EU Aid Volunteers project, visit the official webpage.
The 13th Mediterranean Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies closes with the adoption of the Sarajevo Declaration
Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders in the Mediterranean have reaffirmed their commitments embodied in the Sarajevo Declaration, which set out their priorities across the region for the coming four years.
By fostering the dialogue among the Mediterranean National Societies and responding to the common humanitarian challenges, the Declaration reflects as key priorities: Migration, Social Inclusion, Raising awareness on Trafficking in Human Beings, Youth Engagement, Women’s leadership, and Climate Change.
These were the main outcomes of the 13th Mediterranean Conference, participated by more than 130 humanitarian professionals and volunteers from 21 Mediterranean National Societies and Movement partners, hosted in Sarajevo by the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We have a lot of challenges in common,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Now the focus is on migration, but this region is also prone to natural disasters, living the consequences of the climate change. So, it’s very important that we seek, discuss and find common strategies to improve the lives of our communities.”
„It’s the first time our National Society hosted such a large-scale international event,” said Hasan Topalovic, President of the Assembly of the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina. ”The Conference had the spirit of mutual understanding and trust, and we will continue working on the commitments with endurance and dedication.”
| Press release
Red Cross Red Crescent Mediterranean National Societies to tackle cross-cutting migration issues
Sarajevo/Geneva, 2 April 2019 – More than 150 Red Cross Red Crescent delegates from 23 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea are meeting in Sarajevo this week to discuss approaches to aiding vulnerable migrants and the communities receiving them.
Hosted by the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Centre for the Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CCM), the meeting’s theme is “Standing for Humanity”. The focus on will be on the safety and protection of migrants, improving social inclusion, preventing trafficking and exploitation, mobilizing more volunteer assistance and the National Societies’ role in implementing the recently adopted Global Compacts on refugees and migration.
“While our main focus is assistance for migrants, the Red Cross also assists the host communities,” said Rajko Lazic, Secretary General of the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “It was not long ago that our people experienced what it means to be a refugee, and some are still displaced in their own country and in dire need. We seek to balance assistance for both populations.”
Maria Alcázar Castilla, spokesperson for the Centre for Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CCM) said the humanitarian issues faced by the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies in the region are interlinked, so common analysis and approaches are needed.
“The Mediterranean region is facing multiple humanitarian challenges - due to unrest and violence, the ongoing flow of vulnerable migrants, economic crises and climate change impacts. The conference intends to reaffirm the urgency of principled humanitarian action, promote humanitarian access and reinforce the absolute necessity of placing the safety and needs of people at the heart of our action,” she said.
The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Francesco Rocca will also address the conference.
“Every human being, especially people fleeing conflict and insecurity, should have unhindered access to aid and also to information, at all phases of their journeys. Every human being has the right to protection, health care, education and social services” said President Rocca. “Human dignity should be respected and protected, regardless of their legal status.”
Migrant arrivals in the Mediterranean region and other areas of Europe usually rise during spring and summer months.
| Press release
Ukraine: Red Cross deployed to help contain largest measles outbreak in Europe in four years
Budapest/Geneva, 5 March 2019 – Ukrainian Red Cross Society volunteers are being deployed to help contain a measles outbreak that has affected more than 75,000 people, making it the largest outbreak in Europe since 2015. This includes 54,000 measles cases reported in 2018, and more than 21,000 cases registered thus far in 2019.
Poor immunization coverage has contributed to the measles outbreak in Ukraine. In 2018, the measles vaccination rate for newborn babies was only 54 per cent, which is amongst the lowest in the world. This is well below the target of 95 per cent recommended by the World Health Organization. A rate of 95 per cent would protect even those members of the community who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Professor Mykola Polishchuk, Acting President of Ukrainian Red Cross Society, said: “Ukraine has one of the lowest vaccination rates against measles in the world and this is a very worrying trend. We are deploying 100 Red Cross volunteers to raise awareness about vaccination and conduct education campaigns to stop the spread of this disease.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 109,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help the Ukrainian Red Cross Society tackle the outbreak.
Officials say the low coverage rate and widespread transmission of the virus is due to many factors, including transport costs for those in rural areas, a high number of people with weakened immune systems, such people living with HIV and tuberculosis - and vaccine refusal.
The funds will allow Ukrainian Red Cross Society to assist 90,000 people, including the most at-risk – children under six years of age, people with weakened immune systems, and people who have never been vaccinated against the disease.
The emergency funds will also allow volunteers to help health authorities raise awareness about vaccination, to conduct education campaigns in kindergartens, schools, hospitals and aged care facilities, and to provide protective equipment for Red Cross volunteers.
IFRC Europe Regional Director, Simon Missiri, said vaccine refusal is an increasingly worrying trend worldwide.
“It is hard to believe that children are dying of measles in Europe in 2019,” he said. “This disease is almost completely preventable. Red Cross workers have an important role in helping communities understand the importance of vaccines, and in answering concerns that are increasingly prevalent in many countries.”
The measles operation will run for four months in five regions across the country.
Recent global declines in vaccination rates resulted in more than 110,000 measles deaths worldwide in 2017. The Ukraine outbreak coincides with other measles outbreaks across Europe and in the Philippines where measles cases are up more than 547 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017.