Asia Pacific

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28/06/2022 | Press release

COVID-19: Red Cross Red Crescent turns to animation to boost global vaccine effort

The animation is in the form of a nature documentary that examines how humanity is coping with the global pandemic and why vaccines are key to controlling COVID-19. “Until the majority of humans are vaccinated, the virus will continue to spread and mutate, creating new variants that could evade the vaccine altogether,” a resonating voice reminiscent of David Attenborough explains in the 90-second animation. “The humans only hope is to share the vaccine amongst themselves.” New analysis by the IFRC reveals that nearly one billion people in Asia and the Pacific are yet to receive a single dose of COVID -19 vaccine. Globally, less than 20 percent of the population have received a single dose in low-income countries, according to Oxford University’s ‘Our World in Data’. John Fleming, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Head of Health, said: “The COVID vaccine has saved millions of lives but too many people are still living in danger.If we want to end this pandemic once and for all, we need to urgently address hesitancy in every country, strengthen local delivery to get doses into arms and transfer vaccine and anti-viral drugs technology to manufacturers in low-income nations." “There has been remarkable cooperation between countries around the world, but this pandemic is not over, and much greater action is needed by leaders in richer countries and pharmaceutical companies to enable equal access to vaccines for people everywhere.” The animation video underlines the need to distribute vaccines among poorer nations with utmost urgency. The video can be downloaded here. The IFRC is asking people to just click on ‘share this video’ until it reaches policy makers, pharmaceutical companies, and government authorities. Its message is simple – people all around the world can take action to vaccinate everyone in all corners of the globe by calling upon their governments to help. Help is needed to ensure supply of vaccines to low-income nations as well as to get those vaccines from the tarmac into the arms of people. The quicker we do this, the safer everyone will be. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Bangkok: Preeti Abraham, +66 61 412 3910, [email protected] In Kuala Lumpur: Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830, [email protected]

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28/06/2022 | Press release

COVID-19: Nearly 1 billion still without any vaccination in Asia Pacific

Globally, less than 20 percent of the population have received a single dose in low-income countries, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data. The IFRC is calling for all governments and pharmaceutical companies to act now to achieve greater vaccine equity. John Fleming, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Head of Health, said: “The COVID vaccine has been one of the most remarkable feats of modern science and it is saving millions of lives but too many people are still living in danger. “It is critical for humanity and for economies that people have access to COVID-19 vaccines in all countries. Vaccine equity is the key to winning the race against new variants.” “We urge richer nations to urgently step up and enable equitable access to lifesaving COVID vaccines for everyone in lower income countries.” “Unless we prioritise protection of the most vulnerable in every country, the administration of multiple booster doses in richer countries is like applying a bandaid to a festering wound.” Globally, slightly over 5 million COVID-19 doses are now administered every day. While some high-income countries including Canada and Australia have purchased around 10 COVID vaccine doses per person, others such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Myanmar have purchased less than two vaccinations per person, according to Duke University’s Launch and Scale Speedometer. More than 6 million deaths are recorded globally, however the World Health Organization estimates that 14.9 million lives have been lost due to the pandemic. COVID infections are rising in almost 70 countries in all regions according to the WHO. “If we want to end this pandemic once and for all, we need to urgently address hesitancy in every country, strengthen local delivery to get doses into arms and transfer vaccine and anti-viral drugs technology to manufacturers in low-income nations,” said Mr Fleming. “There has been remarkable cooperation between countries around the world but this pandemic is not over and much greater action is needed by leaders in richer countries and pharmaceutical companies to enable equal access to vaccines for people everywhere.” Coinciding with the IFRC calls for greater action on vaccine equity, a new animation video has been released highlighting the urgent need to get vaccines to everyone in all corners of every country. The video can be viewed and downloaded here. Globally, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have supported more than 400 million people to access COVID-19 vaccines. The network continues to deliver vaccines, tests and treatments to the most vulnerable and is helping to rebuild stronger health systems. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Bangkok: Preeti Abraham, +66 61 412 3910, [email protected] In Kuala Lumpur: Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830, [email protected]

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25/05/2022 | Press release

ASEAN and the IFRC partner to strengthen community resilience in Southeast Asia

Jakarta, 25 May 2022 -The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have committed to promoting and developing their engagement in disaster management with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ASEAN and the IFRC on the Strengthening of Community Resilience in Southeast Asia. The MOU outlines the scope and areas of cooperation between the IFRC and ASEAN to strengthen community resilience at regional, national, and local levels in the ASEAN region, including in areas such as disaster management, disaster risk reduction, disaster law, health in emergencies, disaster relief and emergency response, gender, youth, and climate change. This agreement also marks a significant milestone in ASEAN’s longstanding cooperation with the IFRC which has supported the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) in the implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) and its work programmes. The MOU was signed by the ASEAN Secretary-General H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi and the IFRC Secretary General, Mr. Jagan Chapagain, at the sidelines of the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) in Bali, Indonesia, in the presence of the representatives of the ACDM and the representatives of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. At the Signing Ceremony, the two leaders expressed appreciation over the progress of cooperation between ASEAN and the IFRC. Recognizing ASEAN and IFRC’s mutually beneficial roles in strengthening climate adaptation and disaster resilience in vulnerable communities in Southeast Asia, both ASEAN and the IFRC look forward to the implementation of the MOU through collaborative projects in the AADMER Work Programme 2021-2025. In his remarks, Dato Lim emphasized that “in the face of increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters due to climate change, in one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions, coupled with an increasingly complex humanitarian landscape, we must build strategic partnerships to enhance our resilience as one ASEAN community.” In Mr. Chapagain’s speech reiterated that “through this partnership our common goal is to put communities in Southeast Asia at the centre by building individual and community capacities that help reduce humanitarian needs and avert loss and damage caused by the climate crisis." ASEAN countries are located in one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, ranging from earthquakes, floods, landslides and typhoons. The wide geographic stretch of incidences and increasing frequency and intensity of disasters due to climate change require ASEAN to enhance the region’s readiness and emergency response capacity. -- For more information, please email [email protected]

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15/12/2021 | Press release

Over 57 million affected by climate disasters across Asia Pacific in 2021

Kuala Lumpur, 15 December 2021 – Asia and the Pacific have experienced relentless and unpredictable climate-related disasters in 2021, severely affecting more than 57 million people during the peak of the global pandemic. In 2021, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched 26 new operations, 15 of which are climate-related disaster responses. The IFRC is still responding to a further 21 disasters across Asia and the Pacific, from previous years. South Asia has been the worst hit this year, with millions of people affected by multiple disasters and little time to recover from one to the next. In India, more than 18 million people have been severely impacted by floods and cyclones this year, according to data from the Indian Government, Disaster Management Division. In Bangladesh, more than half a million people have been swamped by floods, with hundreds of villages marooned for weeks at a time. Around one third of Nepal suffered floods or landslides with many occurring outsides of the traditional monsoon season. Jessica Letch, IFRC Emergency Operations Manager said: “For much of this year, millions of families across Asia have been reeling after multiple blows from successive disasters and the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “From India to Indonesia, in Nepal and Bangladesh, our health and emergency teams are reporting livelihoods shattered by frequent and unpredictable climate disasters.” In China’s Henan Province, 13.9 million people were affected by severe flooding in July. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia has been worst affected by disasters, with more than one million people swamped by floods in the past month alone, according to the Indonesian Government Regional Disaster Authority. Drought, combined with associated economic collapse – which unfolds slowly but with devastating consequences – is affecting more than 22.8 million people in Afghanistan, according to the latest Integrated Food Security data. Other countries across Asia have also been hit by multiple disasters. Nearly one million people were swamped by flooding in Thailand, more than half a million people affected by floods and typhoons in the Philippines and over 125,000 people hit by floods in Myanmar. Pacific Island countries also faced significant flooding due to storms and rising sea tides. “Responding to disasters at the height of the COVID pandemic has involved some of the most complex operations and the changing climate is throwing unpredictable floods and storms at millions of people, making life even tougher,” said Jessica Letch. “As risks mount with climate change, the IFRC is investing in anticipatory early warning systems to better prepare communities to act before disasters strike, to reduce the loss of lives and livelihoods.” For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Kuala Lumpur: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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16/08/2021 | National society

Asia Pacific Regional Office

The IFRC’s Asia Pacific Regional Office works in support of 38 National Red Cross & 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 programmes throughout the region. View current regional, cluster and country plans for Asia Pacific.

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05/03/2021 | Press release

Myanmar: Red Cross urges protection for first aiders amid recent violence

Kuala Lumpur/Yangon/Geneva, 5 March 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is deeply saddened by recent loss of life in Myanmar and is urging immediate protection for all Red Cross volunteers and health workers. Alexander Matheou, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Regional Director, said: “Amid the spiralling violence, the Myanmar Red Cross has confirmed that over recent days, there have been very serious incidents where Red Cross volunteers were injured and wrongfully arrested. Red Cross ambulances have also been damaged. “We express profound sadness that Myanmar Red Cross volunteers have been injured while on duty providing lifesaving first aid treatment to wounded people, in line with fundamental principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. Red Cross volunteers should never be targeted.” The Myanmar Red Cross has mounted one of its largest ever first aid and patient transfer humanitarian operations with more than 1,500 volunteers and 120 ambulances in action across the whole country. In the past four weeks, the Myanmar Red Cross has provided first aid services, including some lifesaving interventions, as well as emergency ambulance transfers. In all, the Red Cross has helped more than 1,000 people. Mr Matheou said: “There is escalating violence and the number of people killed or injured is rising each day. The IFRC urges restraint and a halt to violence across Myanmar.” Amid the mass gatherings and violence over recent weeks, the IFRC is also very concerned about the risk that COVID-19 may be spreading unabated in areas of Myanmar. “The IFRC is alarmed about the risks of another deadly wave of COVID-19 in Myanmar as testing and access to hospitals or other health services is very limited,” said Mr Matheou. IFRC and other International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners continue to support Myanmar Red Cross in all its humanitarian endeavours at this critical time.

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25/01/2021 | Article

Beyond the data: Time for violence against women and children to end

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women reminds us that for tens of millions of women and children around the world, ‘home’ is a place of fear and violence. Evidence suggests COVID-19 is making things worse. We cannot wait for the full picture. We must plan, invest and act now to increase services that support survivors. In ‘ordinary’ times, 40 per cent of women in South-East Asia over one third (37%) of women in South Asia and more than two thirds of women in the Pacific experience violence at some time in their lives, at the hands of people who claim to love them. Eleven months into this COVID-19 pandemic, early reports in Asia and the Pacific reveal rates are skyrocketing. Police reports in China indicate a 30 per cent increase in reported cases of violence during lockdown. Family violence hotlines are reporting surging numbers of calls, including increases of 137 per cent in Singapore, 150 per cent in Samoa, and 30 per cent in Melbourne. It’s even more horrifying that these statistics are the tip of the iceberg. The majority of violence against women goes unreported and COVID-19 restrictions are forcing many women and children already in abusive situations into closer quarters with their abusers. Many support services are overwhelmed, not operating or harder to access. Making matters worse, communities across Asia have been battered by a devastating string of disasters. Millions have been forced to live in temporary shelters with limited access to basic services, adding to the risk of violence. There are more than 7.6 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers in Asia and the Pacific and our teams are reporting increases in family violence, sexual abuse and violations of child rights. It is critical that we collect more accurate data and rapidly adapt our approaches. We must provide accessible information and effectively support anyone needing help. Trained community volunteers have unparalleled links with communities. They play a crucial role in understanding, monitoring and preventing increased risks of violence against women by identifying people who are most vulnerable, potential violations, and taking appropriate action to help people. It’s our combined responsibility to prevent gender-based violence and respond effectively when it occurs. These efforts must be integrated at all levels by governments and humanitarian agencies into pandemic response plans and activities. We cannot let COVID-19 undermine our hard-won progress. Too many lives are at stake.

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16/12/2020 | Press release

Red Cross faces record number of climate related disasters in 2020

Kuala Lumpur, 16 December 2020 – In a record-breaking year, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has responded to more climate-related disasters across Asia Pacific than any other time this century so far. The IFRC has already responded to 25 climate-related disasters in the Asia Pacific, including floods, typhoons, extreme cold weather and a drought. The climate emergency tally is seven more than last year continuing an upward trend. In total, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams have responded to 29 major emergencies across the Asia Pacific in 2020, only one short of last year’s record number of overall responses. Jessica Letch, IFRC Emergency Operations Manager said: “This record-breaking number of climate disasters reinforces in blunt terms what was revealed in the IFRC 2020 World Disaster Report – that more volatile weather is bringing more climate related disasters.” “Our teams are seeing the devastating impacts first-hand as they respond to widespread – and in many cases unprecedented – floods, storms and other extreme weather events.” In 2019, more than 94.2 million people were affected by climate related disasters in Asia and the Pacific, according to the World Disasters report. The Asia Pacific is by far the most disaster-prone region in the world, with around twice as many emergencies as the Americas or Africa. This year, South East Asia has been the busiest area for the IFRC’s disaster response teams, with 15 emergency response operations launched, including floods and typhoons that have impacted the lives of more than 31 million people across the Philippines and Vietnam. Bangladesh with five ongoing operations, including big floods, Cyclone Amphan and the massive population displacement around Cox’s Bazar, also remains a high priority for the IFRC. “All these disasters are happening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which is making our operations some of the most complex ever. The challenge has been to help affected communities with emergency relief, while also taking the necessary steps to halt the spread of COVID-19.” “People are used to storms and floods right across Asia but this year has tested the resilience of tens of millions of people to breaking point.” About IFRC 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.

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19/11/2020 | Article

Tackling the humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis together

Imagine two neighbouring communities. One a wealthy neighbourhood next to a lake, its large houses surrounding a community hall that doubles as an evacuation centre. The other, a densely packed, low-income fishing village on the nearby harbour. The weather has been strange lately: destructive typhoons are becoming more frequent; the winds are stronger. Dangerous floods happen more often. Given the increasing risk, the authorities announce that they’ll take action to keep everyone safe. They decide to pay for a second evacuation centre in the wealthy suburb. This is clearly a terrible decision. But scenarios like this are playing out every day in countries and communities most at risk from our changing climate. Globally, 86 million people may be at risk of flooding by 2030, according to new research presented in the World Disasters Report 2020 - released today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Asia is by far the most disaster-prone region in the world, experiencing around twice as many emergencies such as major floods and storms as the Americas or Africa. The study shows that of the 20 countries assessed as most vulnerable to climate change, and climate and weather-related disasters, including Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, not one was among the 20 highest per-person recipients of climate adaptation funding, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. Bangladesh and Myanmar are only just ahead of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate disasters, yet both have seen gains in recent years. In Bangladesh, investment in early action ahead of floods and cyclones is not only preventing death and injury but making it a little easier to recover from more destructive and frequent monsoonal flooding. None of the five countries that spend the most on adaptation to climate change had “very high” – or even “high” vulnerability scores. Not one was classed as “fragile”. place. At the other end of the funding spectrum, less than 1 US dollar per person is being made available for climate adaptation funding in five out the eight “very high” vulnerability countries, and 38 out of 60 countries deemed to be of “high” vulnerability. This is the equivalent of putting the new evacuation centre by the lake, rather than making it accessible to the fishing community that is at high risk from storms and floods. And all over the world, people are being left at risk because the resources required for adapting to climate disasters and reducing risks are not reaching the community level, where they are needed the most. Urgent investment is needed, now, if countries are to introduce necessary climate adaption measures that will protect communities and prevent human and economic costs of disasters. But how can we do this in the current economic situation? After all, looking just at the adaptation needs outlined in the nationally determined contributions of 50 developing countries, 50 billion US dollars is needed every year. My worry is that this shortfall will continue to grow as governments and international donors concentrate on the ongoing pandemic. But climate adaptation work can’t take a back seat while the world is preoccupied with COVID-19. The two crises have to be tackled together. And we have the opportunity to do this. The massive stimulus packages that are being developed around the world in response to COVID-19 are an opportunity to “build back better”. We can build a green and adaptive recovery, using relevant funds to invest in making communities safer and more resilient to future disasters. We can expect the pandemic to have a serious impact on future resources. But this underlines the importance of smart financing to reduce disaster risks and promote climate adaptation in all communities exposed to hazards. Climate change is an even more significant threat to humanity than the COVID-19 pandemic. It affects us all. Some countries in Asia and the Pacific are currently more exposed to climate risks than others, but we will all feel the impact eventually. So we all have to adapt. We can start by putting resources at the disposal of the people who need it most. By protecting them, we give everyone a better chance of preventing the terrible human toll from storms, floods and fires that will affect us all.

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21/10/2020 | Article

The Disaster Law Programme: Ten years in the Pacific

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Law Programme has worked in the Pacific since 2010, starting with the review of Vanuatu’s legal and policy framework for disasters in partnership with the Government of Vanuatu and Vanuatu Red Cross. When Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu in 2014, shortly after the review was finalised, Vanuatu issued its first-ever request for international assistance, to which the response was beyond expectation, and the country was flooded with uncoordinated aid and assistance. Described as a ‘wakeup call’ by the Government of Vanuatu for international disaster law legal reform, it was a catalyst for Vanuatu and the rest of the Pacific. An IFRC disaster law advisor was quickly deployed to support the government with regulatory barriers arising from the response, and in the weeks, months and years that followed, the journey to review, reform and operationalise laws and policy relating to disaster management began in Vanuatu. Since then, IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme has reached across the Pacific Ocean to work in fifteen Pacific countries. Today, we near the completion of the review of Fiji’s National Disaster Management Act in partnership with the Government of Fiji and Fiji Red Cross. This is a significant piece of work that will support the national disaster risk management system to be proactive and focused on disaster risk reduction, a shift from a traditional reactive, response-based model. The review includes theadoption of a cluster system, establishment of subnational administration, regulation of international aid, the strengthened role of a disaster service liaison officer and legal facilities for recognised NGOs and humanitarian organisation. Consultations for the review have been with diverse groups from across Fiji, ensuring that no one is left behind in legislation and in the decision-making process. IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme in the Pacific brings technical experience and expertise, but equally important is the unique way in which we work – long term programming, support that is localised and contextualised and coordination that brings everyone together. For countries like Vanuatu, where significant disaster law reform has been carried out, humanitarian responses are coordinated, effective, and locally-led, with aid getting to those that need it most – a must for the number one ranked disaster risk country in the world. As the only international organisation mandated to provide disaster law technical advice, there is an increasing demand for our support and a widened scope that includes protection and inclusion, displacement, climate change, holistic support to governments on risk governance, and now, COVID-19. Pacific communities are at the frontline of disasters and climate change, and with the arrival of COVID-19 to their shores, supporting governments to have effective disaster laws and well-functioning disaster risk management systems in place which can respond to a multitude of hazards, is crucial for a humanitarian structure that can save lives. 15 Pacific countries working with the Disaster Law Programme 15 disaster law research projects 14 countries with disaster law Influenced or in the process of influencing 10 Pacific governments currently engaging in disaster law processes

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21/10/2020 | Article

The Disaster Law Programme: Fifteen years in Asia

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Law Programme works across the diverse and vast region that is Asia, from Afghanistan to Japan, Mongolia to Timor Leste, providing disaster law technical support, capacity building, peer learning and research in 21 countries for more than 15 years. In Asia, the Disaster Law Programme focuses on countries with particularly high disaster risk and those who are actively developing or reviewing their disaster risk management legalisation. We have worked across Southeast Asia - Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. We have worked extensively in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, Mongolia, and recently in China, where a research report, International Disaster Response Law in China, has been under consideration by the Ministry of Emergency Management. Given the differences and diversity of the region, the Disaster Law Programme’s approach in Asia is not ‘one size fits all’. This tailored approach applies to who the programme works with, adapting to work in partnership with governments, national disaster management offices, Red Cross Red Crescent Societies and with regional bodies like ASEAN. The tailored approach also reflects the growing scope of the Disaster Law Programme and the needs of the countries– from response-based to underpinning all aspects of disaster risk management – risk reduction, preparedness for response and recovery, integration into resilience and also working to ensure community engagement in the disaster law process. In Mongolia, IFRC and Mongolia Red Cross have worked with the Government to revise disaster protection law through a contemporary approach to disaster management, moving the country from a reactive response paradigm to one which is proactive and works to prevent and reduce the risk of disasters on people, livestock and the environment. Mongolia is now putting concerted efforts into ensuring these new frameworks are implemented and well understood, particularly at the community level through a national awareness campaign with support from Red Cross. A common and important theme to our approach and outcome of the work in Asia is a shift to a more localised way of working, with disaster law processes and systems grounded in strong and nationally owned governance frameworks, and regional mechanisms. With countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan who have immense experience responding to frequent and intense disasters and emergencies, huge knowledge and expertise already exist in within the region. Effecting law and policy change requires a long-term investment and partnership. Having worked in the region for more than 15 years, we are now working with countries who are already in a position to review disaster management laws for a second time, following the learnings over time from large scale disasters and wanting to ensure that their governance frameworks are more responsive to current and emerging challenges like displacement, climate change and health hazards. Fifteen years on from our early work in Asia after the huge tsunami to hit the region in 2004, we are again working regionally as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic alongside National Societies, governments and communities to ensure all emergency preparedness and response efforts - whether it be for natural hazards, climate induced, or public health emergencies is underpinned by clear laws and regulations.

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19/10/2020 | Article

How can we tackle a growing COVID-19 caused mental health crisis?

By Dr Eliza Cheung, Technical Advisor International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support. In ‘ordinary’ times, good mental health is fundamental for overall wellbeing. But when we are all stalked by fear and uncertainty caused by COVID-19, access to good mental health support is more important than ever. It is life-saving. There is mounting evidence that this Coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of people in Asia and across the globe. At the global level, a major review of 36 studies across the world has found that around one in three people are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression during this pandemic, while recent modelling suggests that unemployment caused by COVID-19 may lead to almost 10,000 additional suicides a year. An analysis of 160 studies of eight South Asian countries also shows that nearly one in three people experienced anxiety or depressive symptoms. In the midst of this global pandemic, it is understandable that people are worried about their health, their loved ones and how they will cope if they get sick. Ongoing restrictions are limiting social interaction, leading to increased loneliness and isolation. COVID-19 is causing enormous stress for people who were already worried about how they will support their families. A new survey by the International Committee of the Red Cross in seven countries, including the Philippines, shows that one in two adults believe their mental health has been negatively affected by COVID-19. It is also alarming that latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures reveal the pandemic has interrupted or suspended mental health support services in 93% of countries. Across most countries in Asia, investment in mental health support is woefully inadequate, even before this pandemic and in some countries there are only 0.3 psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to serve 100,000 people. By contrast, WHO data shows that the rate of psychiatrists is 120 times higher in countries such as France, Canada and Sweden. The stresses we are experiencing affect us physically, psychologically and emotionally, as well as changing our behaviour. The stress undermines our ability to stay healthy, look after our families, and process new information. It can endanger nurses, doctors, police, leaders and disaster responders, jeopardising life-saving decisions to contain the virus and reduce longer-term impacts. People already living with mental health challenges are experiencing the loss of critical support networks and clinical management. Yet they need this care more than ever. We simply cannot afford to wait until the epidemic is under control before dealing with the massive, and increasing, psychological toll. To have any hope of stopping and recovering from this pandemic in a way that leaves no one behind, we need to treat the psychological and physical distress at the same time. So how can we do it? Early intervention prevents distress from developing into more severe mental health conditions. We need to bridge the gap between those who need psychological and emotional support and those who seek it. We also need to better harness and strengthen existing community and clinical resources. Preventing psychological issues and mental health support need to be integrated at all levels, in local communities, workplaces, schools, in hospitals and health systems. People in communities are our first line of defence, making teachers, parents and colleagues in our workplaces critical for bridging the current resource gap. We urgently need to invest in supporting, engaging and equipping them to know what questions to ask, what signs to look for and what to do if someone may be struggling. Asia-Pacific is the world’s most disaster-prone region and many people have developed an incredible ability to cope with adversity. Across our region, millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are first to respond, experiencing the stress in crises, from monsoon floods to typhoons, and COVID-19. The trauma is real. People have lost loved ones, jobs or livelihoods. They have been separated by borders or quarantine, stranded and jobless in another country or living in crowded camps. All too many are overcome by anxiety, depression and distress. It’s vital that we all support each other at this time. Get in touch. Be kind to friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, as well as ourselves. Taking good care of oneself enables us to take care of others. We are at a crossroads. The response to COVID-19 and associated socio-economic impacts will be more effective and we will save countless more lives and livelihoods if we invest wisely in accessible and sustainable mental health and psychosocial support.

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12/08/2020 | Article

Celebrating the contribution of young people in the Pacific

In recognition of the invaluable contribution young people make in their communities, seven Pacific Red Cross Societies are marking International Youth Day today with a range of events and celebrations. Globally, around half of the 14 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are young people, and this is also true in the Pacific. Young people are already acting as leaders, first responders, innovators, activists, and changemakers, bringing much-needed skills and knowledge to their work in support of those who are most vulnerable. Despite this, young people are often the least likely to have a strong voice in times of crisis, especially when it comes to formal decision-making institutions and mechanisms. International Youth Day is held every year on 12 August (today). This year the day will highlight the ways in which young people are enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as highlight lessons that can be learned on enhancing their engagement and representation in formal institutional politics. Kathryn Clarkson, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Suva, Fiji said: “Young people are at the heart of our Red Cross Societies, and the Pacific youth networks are an exciting forum to witness the strong voice that our Pacific youth have, tackling challenges such as climate change. It’s awe-inspiring to see the passion and dedication these young people have in building a strong and resilient Pacific Island network, while honouring their culture and heritage. The IFRC is a strong advocate of young people in the Pacific, and we support the youth-hub under the Pacific Resilience Partnership.” Red Cross National Societies in the Pacific create strong youth networks that empower young people to have a voice, make a difference and connect with their communities. They play a powerful role inreaching young, marginalised or vulnerable groups, promoting health and care and preparing communities to respond to disasters. Pacific Red Cross Societies, including Kiribati, Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, are collaborating with local organisations and governments to build awareness about the role of youth in global action. Ms Clarkson said: “The theme of International Youth Day this year is‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’. In the Pacific, this translates to a core focus onclimate change and COVID-19. The role of youth in the Red Cross, and in our communities, cannot be underestimated, and it’s great to have a day to celebrate them. Across the Pacific Island nations, a range of fun and interactive events underlined with powerful messages are taking place to do just that.”

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27/04/2020 | Article

Regional response to pandemics, disasters and climate change: What can we learn from the Pacific?

The Pacific region has weathered many storms and bears the brunt of the harsh reality of climate change. Despite this, Pacific people remain resilient and face new and emerging challenges with a sense of solidarity and ingenuity. So, when COVID-19 started knocking on the region’s door, the Pacific community knew they had to mobilise quickly and collectively to minimise and contain the threat caused by the virus. Like in other parts of the world, borders were closed, commercial travel all but ceased, and tourism dried up. As a collection of small island states dotted across a vast ocean, many highly dependent on imported food and with weak local health systems, the region was acutely aware that simply shutting its borders to the outside world was not going to be an option. In mid-April, Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers agreed to establish the “Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 “(PHP-C)’. The pathway is a high-level, political mechanism to ensure regional coordination and will be available to member countries on request. It will expedite assistance and cooperation between Pacific countries in preparing for and responding to COVID-19. This includes facilitating the provision of timely and safe medical and humanitarian assistance from regional and international development partners, across the region. It may also be used for response to other emergencies that may arise during COVID-19. Although this arrangement was urgently developed due to COVID-19, initiatives in support of a Pacific mechanism for regional disaster and humanitarian response is not new. In fact, National Red Cross Societies and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have been advocating for a formalised regional approach and supporting efforts towards this goal for the past five years. Through its recognised disaster law expertise, Red Cross has supported governments in the revision of disaster laws and policies in over half of all Pacific countries. This has included strengthening provisions for the coordination and facilitation of international humanitarian assistance in accordance with the international disaster response law (IDRL) guidelines. Earlier this year, the Pacific IDRL Online Platform was established, providing easily accessible information on the domestic rules and provisions for fast tracking international humanitarian aid across the 16 English-speaking Pacific Island countries. In addition, Red Cross also supported the development of draft Pacific guidelines for the coordination of regional and international assistance in 2015. These efforts have not gone unnoticed by Pacific governments and regional partners and can inform the governance arrangements in the roll-out of the Pacific humanitarian pathway. More importantly, Pacific Red Cross Societies are working around the clock in partnership with their governments to prevent transmission of the virus, help communities already affected by the outbreak to maintain access to basic social services, and reduce the economic, social and psychological impact on people. As witnessed recently when Cyclone Harold tore a destructive and deadly path through the region impacting multiple Pacific countries, climate-induced hazards will not wait for the pandemic to pass. Dame Meg Taylor, Head of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, has recognised the interconnectivity between the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change and made a rallying call to the global community to not become complacent about climate change as their attention shifts to the pandemic response. She points out that: “the COVID-19 public health emergency and its ensuing humanitarian and economic fallout offers us a glimpse of what the global climate change emergency can become - if it’s left unchecked and if we do not act now.” No country can tackle these complex issues alone. Regional and global solidarity is a must. However, solidarity alone is not enough – it needs to be backed by political will, strong leadership and clear rules of the road. The Pacific Humanitarian Pathway is a great example of this and provides an innovative regional model for countries to provide humanitarian support to each other in these unprecedented times. Red Cross is proud to play its part in such efforts and ensure that communities across the Pacific continue to remain resilient in the face of crisis.

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14/01/2020 | Press release

Media advisory: Philippines volcano - Red Cross prepares for the worst

Manila/Kuala Lumpur 14 January 2020 – Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated after Taal volcano in Batangas, the Philippines, began spewing ash on 12 January and lava in the early hours of 13 January.The Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology raised the volcano’s alert level to four out of a maximum of five, prompting precautionary evacuations of people living in a danger zone. Almost 25,000 people are now in more than 120 evacuation centres. More than 450,000 people live within the 14-kilometre danger zone and could be displaced by a hazardous eruption, which is possible within hours or days.Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said:“I’m not trying to scare everybody, but we are preparing for the worst. The possibility of an explosive eruption is high. The challenge right now is taking care of many evacuees. Even more people need to be evacuated. “We urge people living in the danger zone to evacuate and follow evacuation orders issued by the authorities. Bring your animals and livestock to evacuation centres if you must. The Philippine Red Cross is working round the clock to assess and meet the needs of affected communities.”The Philippine Red Cross has been providing services and emergency items to people in evacuation centres through deploying ambulances, giving out dust masks, providing hot meals, water, sanitation and hygiene, and offering psychosocial support and child-friendly spaces.Acting Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Country Office, Patrick Elliott said:“This is an uneasy time for thousands of people living near Taal volcano. Almost 25,000 people have managed to evacuate very quickly but more are at risk if the activity escalates into a major eruption.”About IFRC 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. - Facebook - Twitter - YouTube 

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09/01/2020 | Press release

Red Cross releases funds in anticipation of extreme winter in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar / Kuala Lumpur / Geneva 9 January 2020 – Forecasts of an extreme winter in Mongolia have triggered the release of funding to reduce its impact on vulnerable herders. This is the first time this early action funding mechanism developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been used anywhere. On 2 January, Mongolia’s National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring announced more than 50 per cent of the country was at risk of an extreme (dzud) winter. This unwelcome news has triggered the pre-agreed release of CHF 210,968 (217,000 US dollars) to the Mongolian Red Cross Society for forecast-based action from IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). The funding provides 88 Swiss francs (90.6 US dollars) cash each for 1,000 vulnerable herder families to prevent the starvation, dehydration and cold exposure of their livestock because of poor access to feed, water, veterinary care and shelter. A livestock nutrition kit will support livestock health during winter’s lean months. Mongolian Red Cross Society Secretary General: Bolormaa Nordov said: “Dzud is catastrophic for the agricultural sector, which is vital to the Mongolian culture and economy. We have 70 million livestock, which directly support about a quarter of our people. Horses, camels, goats, cattle and sheep for milk, cashmere, meat and other livestock products are the only source of income for herders. “Every extreme winter brings misery, hunger and hardship for thousands of families and forces them to move to squatter settlements outside Ulaanbaatar, our capital. This finance allows the Red Cross to help some of the most at-risk people before winter sets in for good.” Using meteorological models and historical data, experts can forecast the probability of extreme weather events with increasing accuracy. Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people can prepare for extreme weather. The goal of forecast-based financing is to anticipate disasters, prevent their impact, if 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 triggered. IFRC Head of Beijing Country Cluster Support Team Gwendolyn Pang said: “Forecast-based financing helps communities move from reacting to disasters to anticipating them. Climate change, which brings disasters that are increasing in frequency, length and intensity makes this kind of finance model even more crucial. Simply waiting for disasters to strike is no longer an option.”

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05/11/2019 | Press release

Philippines: Thousands in need of humanitarian assistance after Mindanao earthquakes

Manila / Kuala Lumpur, 5 November 2019 – More than 180,000 people are affected with many families requiring humanitarian assistance after a series of powerful earthquakes, struck Cotabato province in Mindanao, Philippines. IFRC Philippines Head of Country Office Chris Staines said: “People in the affected communities were already vulnerable before the earthquakes and now they are in urgent need of shelter, safe drinking water and food. The earthquakes’ epicentres were recorded near Tulunan, Cotabato, but many locations in this mountainous area have been affected. Because access is difficult we expect the full extent of the damage to become clearer in the coming days as we reach more communities. The Red Cross is scaling up our efforts to ensure no one is left behind.” Mindanao has been shaken by three consecutive earthquakes within the same location on 16, 29 and 31 October 2019, each compounding the effect of the previous one. According to authorities, the death toll from the last two earthquakes is now at 21 with over 400 people injured and an estimated more than 35,000 people displaced. Many families have been left homeless due to the destruction of their houses The Philippine Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are appealing for 1.85 million Swiss francs. Through this appeal, Red Cross staff and volunteers will support approximately 35,500 people with health, water sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, shelter and cash grants. The affected communities will also receive immediate first aid and psychosocial support. Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said: “People are left anxious by the earthquakes and the ongoing aftershocks. Families do not feel safe returning to their homes. Since the first earthquake hit, our volunteers and staff have been working around the clock to provide not only relief items and safe drinking water, but also psychosocial support to help families cope with their fears.”

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25/10/2019 | Press release

Philippines: Red Cross triples polio vaccination target

Manila / Kuala Lumpur, 25 October 2019 – The Philippine Red Cross is more than tripling the number of children it aims to vaccinate in a door-to-door polio vaccination campaign, the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said today. On 1 October 2019, the Red Cross announced support for a Department of Health campaign by activating volunteers in parts of Mindanao and Metro Manila to vaccinate 30,000 children in the hardest-to-reach communities. In fact, the Philippine Red Cross has reached nearly 60,000 children. Today, the target was increased to 100,000. Announcing the increase, Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said: “We’re particularly worried about children under five in urban slums, rural areas, migrant families and indigenous communities who have missed out on life-saving vaccinations. It’s simply not right that these children are at risk of death or lifelong disability in the 21st century. The tripling of our target reflects the commitment of Red Cross volunteers and staff, who are literally climbing mountains and crossing rivers to ensure no child is left behind. What’s more, they will do this again in a month when children need a booster, and a month after that too.” Apart from low immunization rates, factors that contribute to the spread of polio, dengue and measles include low health literacy, unsafe water, poor sanitation, poor living conditions, high rates of chronic childhood malnutrition and poor access to healthcare. The Red Cross is also planning to reach 1 million people with life-saving health, hygiene and sanitation information. IFRC Philippines Head of Country Office Chris Staines said: “The current outbreaks of measles and polio in the Philippines are a serious risk. There is a real danger that the situation could return these preventable diseases to being endemic. While mass immunization right now, successfully implemented, will stop the transmission, we need routine vaccination for several years to bring these diseases under control.” Polio, measles and dengue fever have featured at the 16th annual South-East Asia Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders’ meeting in Manila, attended by Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam, and IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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