IFRC President addresses High-Level conference on food security and nutrition at the African Union
Excellencies, Honorable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders and friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor and pleasure for me to be here today, and together with all of you to open this important event on the food security crises that we are facing in Africa.
This conference is a unique platform that we, co-conveners, provide to leverage support from the political, humanitarian, and development actors, as well as the international financial institutions.
We are particularly honored by the close cooperation of more than a decade with the African Union Commission. Through you, Your Excellency Commissioner Sacko, I commend the leadership of the African Union and pledge our continued commitment as Federation to strengthen our partnership.
Yet, while we address the complexity of food security and nutrition, we must equally not forget hearing from those at the frontline of risk and in most marginalized and hard-to-reach communities.
I represent the International Federation of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies—the world’s largest humanitarian network composed of 192 National Societies constituting 14 million volunteers worldwide—prepared, committed, and ready to respond to disasters and crises at local, national, and regional scale.
Our network brings voices from the frontlines of disasters and solutions communities offer. We, the IFRC, champion localization and national ownership in practice on the ground as a necessity across the world.
Empowering local actors, such as our Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, makes us able to save lives and reach more vulnerable people.
Our volunteers are part of the local communities, they know the needs and how to better address them.
Bringing humanitarian assistance to families who are constantly on the move is one of the greatest challenges aid workers face.
For example, our Red Crescent teams in Somalia work closely with nomadic communities and therefore there isnever a question about where to deliver aid. These volunteers come from the communities they serve, and they know how to do it better than anyone else.
As a global network we are deeply concerned by the unfolding food insecurity crisis in Africa, where 800 million people are at threat across the continent and 146 million are in acute need of food.
Hunger is one of the most undignified sufferings of humanity. The situation is expected to deteriorate into 2023, and we must all be worried, but most importantly mobilise ourselves to prevent any catastrophes.
There is no more time to waste! Words and political commitment must be translated in urgent actions. We are also mindful that this crisis is not an African Crisis but a global crisis, triggered by three global factors: climate change, the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide impact on commodities and prices of the international armed conflict in Ukraine.
African National Societies, with the support of the IFRC, have not waited for this situation to deteriorate to act.
In 2021, 4.8 million people were supported with cash and food assistance. As the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement we are also aware that we need to scale up our response.
The IFRC has launched a regional emergency appeal for 200 million CHF that covers 23 affected countries and is focused on reaching 7.6 million people in 14 priority countries.
To break the vicious circle of this food crisis, the IFRC will not only invest in crisis response but will work together with the African Union Commission, and other key partners, on advocating for scaling-up efforts to meet the humanitarian imperative across the continent and address the urgent necessity to also invest in addressing the longer-term needs.
We will act in line with AU Agenda 2063, the AU member states response plans, across the continent and the strategic plans of Regional Economic Communities on food security.
For us, this a global crisis. We are mobilizing all our 192 members to support actions led by the African National Societies. Here today, we have 15 African National Society leaders, plus representation from Red Cross Red Crescents partners from other continents.
We are fully engaged, as one team, to ensure that both emergency response and longer-term solutions to the food crisis are in full alignment with government plans and priorities.
As auxiliary to public authorities, our African National Societies are engaged in mobilizing trained volunteers and capabilities and leverage their unique access to and acceptance by affected or at-risk communities. They also contribute to policy frameworks, such as the global zero hunger commitments (SDG1 and SDG2) and the implementation of Paris Agreement ensuring community-centred response for lasting impact.
This crisis can not be handled by one agency or organisation alone, not in the short term nor in the long run. Strong partnerships, including with communities themselves, are the foundation for succeeding in our common goal of achieving Zero Hunger - a big ambition for all of us to deliver against the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa Agenda 2063.
Collectively, we are also ready to support African-owned and -led longer term solutions to food insecurity challenges. It is in that spirit that we launched our IFRC Pan-African Zero Hunger Initiative, a partnership platform, to address root-causes and to strengthen community resilience through longer term programming. The aim of this initiative is to reach 25% of the most vulnerable people in Africa by 2030 through local, national, regional, and international partnerships.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
Hunger is a very undignified crisis.
Hunger is not just a food crisis.
It leads to health crisis. And livestock crisis.
It means breaking up neighborhoods and disrupting local communities.
It means population movement.
An emergency response alone will not end these hunger crises.
While addressing urgent needs, it is essential to set the foundation for resilience.
More efforts must be made — by governments, private sectors, and humanitarian and development groups — to support long-term food security, livelihoods, and resilience plans.
Measures must include investments in strengthening grassroots food systems and investment in community actors to sustainably achieve food and economic security.
One of the approaches to consider is anticipatory action for food security, based on forecasts and risk analysis.
We, the IFRC, stand ready to do our part with governments and partners. We believe that this high-level event can be a key moment to strengthen our cooperation and save more lives.
As we all know, responding late will mean immense suffering for millions and millions of people. And to us this is unacceptable!
Confronting the environmental causes of Africa’s food crisis
This blog was originally posted on the WWF website here.
Africa is facing its worst food crisis in 40 years. Nearly 114 million people across sub-Saharan Africa – a figure approaching half the entire population of the United States – face severe food insecurity. In Eastern Africa, 50 million people are at risk. Across the Sahel, the number of people needing emergency food assistance has quadrupled to 30 million in the past seven years.
The causes of this current crisis are manifold. Conflict and the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have played their part. But more significantly, the continent has been wracked by prolonged drought, flooding and swarms of desert locusts – natural hazards, exacerbated by man-made climate change and the degradation of nature.
It is the most vulnerable who are bearing the brunt of the current hunger crisis. Men and women are losing their livelihoods as crops fail, animals starve or die of thirst, and soil is washed away. Children go hungry, and their education is abandoned. Women eat less, and drought means dietary requirements, especially for young girls, pregnant and lactating women, and menstrual hygiene are relegated.
There is an urgent need for life-saving humanitarian assistance in all countries in Africa. Organizations such as Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are stepping up their actions, with the IFRC, governments and partners, to provide this urgent support. But they recognize, as does WWF, the need to also build resilience to shocks and to address the root causes of food insecurity.
A changing climate
Many underlying causes can be found in the twin environmental crises of climate and nature loss, which are compounded with the crises caused by factors including poverty and conflict. The rising levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere – primarily from the rich and middle-income countries of the global North – are driving temperature rises that are disrupting weather and climate patterns and degrading natural ecosystems.
Climate change is making extreme weather events worse, more frequent and more trans-boundary. It is changing patterns of precipitation, undermining water and food security. It is impacting human health, as well as putting additional stress on nature and biodiversity, exacerbating pressures from land-use change, over-exploitation, pollution and invasive species.
Presently, around 30 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food systems. Not only are food choices in rich, urban areas leading to a health crisis of obesity and non-communicable disease, but the over-consumption of unsustainably produced foods, and inefficient and wasteful behaviours across all value chains, are directly contributing to food insecurity in Africa.
This underscores the urgent imperative for rich countries to reduce emissions as quickly as possible. Even if all other sectors linearly decarbonise by 2050, business as usual food systems will account for nearly the whole carbon budget of a 2 degree future.
While around 89 countries have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of this century (which would still not deliver the emissions cuts needed to limit warming to 1.5°C), few have yet developed the suite of policies and regulations that will put them on a net-zero trajectory.
Many vulnerable communities in Africa need to be supported in the face of climate shocks by strengthening their capacity to respond, reducing their risk exposure and building their resilience.
There is much that can and should be done to directly help vulnerable communities and ecosystems in Africa today and in the decades to come.
Urgent investment must be made to help vulnerable communities adapt to the current impacts of climate change, and to become more resilient to climate shocks yet to come. Critically, this involves building a shared understanding, securing financing and enacting favourable policies so that governments, NGOs and the private sector in Africa can recognise the threats posed by the impacts of climate change and implement the urgent solutions needed to help local people adapt.
The link between climate and nature
Significant solutions also exist that use nature to both mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to help communities to adapt and become more climate resilient.
The world’s land, oceans and freshwater systems already absorb and store half of the emissions humankind produces each year: protecting, restoring and enhancing ecosystems will be critical to addressing climate change. Food systems can also be a major part of the solution to the nature and climate crises.
Investment in nature-based solutions – such as adopting agroecological food production practices, forest conservation, protecting wetlands or enhancing coastal ecosystems – can help store emissions, protect communities from extreme weather events, and provide food, jobs and habitats. Such solutions, if high quality, well-designed and properly funded, can help build climate resilience.
But as well as individual projects, climate impacts and vulnerabilities, and the protection of nature, must be integrated into public- and private-sector decision-making at every level across the continent. The extent of the challenge posed by climate and nature loss means that they need to be considered across all levels of decision-making and by economic actors large and small.
The current food crisis faced by millions across Africa demands urgent humanitarian aid. But, without a much more comprehensive and long-term, locally-led, people-centred response to climate change and biodiversity loss, humanitarian resources will be stretched beyond breaking point.
The IFRC is partnering withWWF, the world's largest environmental conservation organization, to work with nature and protect people from the climate crisis. Click here to learn more about our partnership.
“Hunger is one of the most undignified sufferings of humanity”: Tackling food insecurity in Africa and beyond
Food insecurity is not a new phenomenon. But the recent escalation in severity and geographical spread of chronic hunger is serious cause for alarm.
The hunger crisis is most starkly felt on the African continent, where many regions, notably the Horn of Africa, Sahel and Lake Chad regions, are experiencing the worst food crisis in decades.
Millions of people are facing hunger across Africa—prompting the IFRC to launch Emergency Appeals for hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Niger and Angola all within the past year.
Back in May, I met some of those affected whilevisiting drought-affected areas in Marsabit County, Kenya—where levels of malnutrition are among the highest on the continent.
I saw first-hand the level of suffering caused by a severe lack of rainfall over four consecutive seasons, coupled with pre-existing vulnerability in parts of the County. Children, young mothers and the elderly are most affected and facing near depletion of their livelihoods.
Although this hunger crisis is, to a large extent, climate-induced, it is also driven by the effects of widespread locust swarms, disease outbreaks, conflict and insecurity, and economic slowdowns—including those triggered by COVID-19.
Furthermore, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is disrupting the global trade of food, fertilizers and oil products, with prices of agricultural products reaching record highs. Eastern Africa, for instance, gets 90 per cent of its imported wheat from Russia and Ukraine (source: WFP), and the conflict has led to significant shortages. The Ukraine crisis has also diverted both the attention and resources from other crises.
While Ukraine is an extremely worrying crisis, affecting millions, we cannot afford to lose sight of other urgent crises around the world. Not least of which is the rapidly deteriorating food security situation in many parts of Africa. The clock is ticking and soon it may be too late to avert a widespread tragedy.
So the question that should concern us all is: what can we do, as a humanitarian collective, to avoid the tragic history of the early 1980s repeating itself?
We need urgent and massive action to scale up life-saving assistance to millions of people on the verge of collapsing, but also to decisively address the root causes of this crisis through longer term commitments.
The IFRC has an important and unique role to play. With our unparalleled community reach and expertise, our 100+ years of humanitarian experience, our ability to act both locally and globally, and our National Societies’ special status as auxiliaries to public authorities—we can turn this tide. But we need the resources to do so.
Our collective immediate priority is to muster life-saving support, within and outside our IFRC network, for the next six months—paying particular attention to the Horn of Africa, Central Sahel and other hot spots across the continent.
During this emergency phase, we will focus our support on the things we know from experience will make the most difference to affected people’s lives and livelihoods: food assistance, cash programmes and nutrition support.
At the same time, we will develop longer-term programming, together with interested National Societies, to address the root causes of food insecurity. We will build on our previous successes and work in support of governments’ plans and frameworks to restore the resilience of the most impoverished communities, including displaced populations.
Everything we do will be underpinned by solid data and meaningful community engagement to ensure that our response is evidence-based and tailor-made.
Hunger is one of the most undignified sufferings of humanity. To alleviate human suffering, we must rise to this challenge through collective mobilization and action—both in the immediate and long-term.
We simply cannot afford to do too little, too late.
The IFRC network reached 4.8 million people with food assistance and non-food items, combining all humanitarian response operations (Emergency Appeals, DREFs and our COVID-19 response)
More than 20 African National Societies have been implementing food security-related projects as part of their regular programming
33 African National Societies have increased their capacity to deliver cash and voucher assistance
Click here to learn more about the IFRC’s work in food security and livelihoods.
You may also be interested in reading:
'To beat Africa’s hunger crises, start with long-term planning' -opinion piece in Devex by IFRC Regional Director for Africa, Mohammed Omer Mukhier-Abuzein
'Because of hunger, I am here' - photo story from the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine about Angolan refugees fleeing to Namibia due to the drought and resulting lack of food and water
And scroll down to learn more about our active Emergency Appeals for food insecurity in Africa and beyond.
| Press release
“Impulsive and ineffective reactions” to COVID-19’s Omicron variant will send more Africans into poverty
In response to the news that a number of countries are restricting travel from South Africa and several other countries in the region; Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC Regional Director for Africa, said:
“This impulsive wave of travel bans will further worsen the livelihoods of families across Africa. We need greater science-driven coordination to bring an end to this pandemic—not impulsive reactions. South Africa should not be punished for doing a good job of detecting a new COVID-19 variant, especially when imposing travel bans is likely to do more harm than good. The emergence of a new variant is happening against the background of low vaccine coverage, and this is where the focus should have been all along. We reiterate our call for equitable vaccine coverage. Variants will continue to emerge while the virus continues to circulate. Vaccine, data and knowledge equity are key to protecting the African continent and the world. We call on the international community to make decisions based on solid scientific evidence and avoid any move which may unjustifiably lead to a further worsening of the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.”
For more information
In London: Teresa Goncalves, [email protected], +44 7891 857 056
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, [email protected], +254 735 437 906
| Press release
Africa CDC, IFRC, and USAU call for equitable vaccine coverage in Africa
Addis Ababa, 23 September 2021 - Today, during a high-level event on COVID-19, on the margins of the UN General Assembly, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU) called on partners and governments to do more to end vaccine inequity. The event entitled “Saving Lives, Saving Livelihoods: Achieving high-level, equitable, COVID-19 vaccine coverage in African Union (AU) Member States" aimed to follow-up the Global COVID-19 summit convened by U.S. President Joseph R. Biden on September 22, with local African partners.
Much of the population of Africa is being left behind, even as other parts of the world begin their path to recovery from this deadly pandemic. The deep inequities in vaccine distribution are also linked to the devastating socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. According to a report released in April 2021, economic disruption is likely to persist in Africa due to COVID-19 restrictions—and the slow pace of vaccine rollouts. Worryingly, Africa has been facing multiple, chronic crises, including poverty and food insecurity, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
Africa CDC, IFRC and USAU warned that, in addition to slow vaccine rollouts, the presence of several crises, including COVID-19, in many African countries, is resulting in the continued loss of lives and livelihoods. The three institutions also indicated that having the vaccine doses alone won’t be enough.
John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said: “As we call for the end of vaccine inequity, we know that the work doesn’t end there. We also need to be able to deliver those vaccines to the communities; ensure that people are prepared to be vaccinated and that the doses are being delivered where they are needed. It is crucial to continue working more closely with communities.”
The response to COVID-19 has been made more complex by decreasing perceptions of risk, pandemic fatigue, vaccine hesitancy and mistrust of authorities. The IFRC and member National Societies have been tackling the spread of misinformation by providing educational materials, running radio campaigns and information hotlines for the community.
Nena Stoiljkovic, IFRC’s Under Secretary General for Global Relations, Humanitarian Diplomacy and Digitalization—who joined the high-level summit on COVID-19 from Addis Ababa—said: “More than ever, the pandemic is testing our ability to tackle multiple, mutually exacerbating crises, concurrently. COVID-19 has plunged thousands of African families into poverty and exacerbated the vulnerabilities of those already facing multiple threats before this pandemic hit. To minimize its socio-economic impacts, which will be felt for many years to come, we must tackle the pandemic more aggressively. This means more equitable access to vaccines as a priority. It also means investing in local actors, such as National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, who have been on the frontlines of this crisis since this outset, building community trust and resilience for the future.”
The three institutions reiterated the need to do more to bring the pandemic to an end, while preparing to respond to future crises.
Ambassador Jessye Lapenn said, “We [the United States] are working with our international partners, investment entities, pharmaceutical companies, and other manufacturers to create the kind of global vaccine production and manufacturing capacity and capabilities that will help the world beat this pandemic and prepare us to respond to future threats.”
With increasing concerns that the secondary impacts of COVID-19 could have long-lasting affects across Africa, particularly for those living in poverty, IFRC is increasing its focus on livelihoods support, particularly through cash-transfer programming where appropriate. But the humanitarian organisation warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could not be defeated unless more vaccine doses reached the arms of the most vulnerable on the continent.
H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of the Republic of Liberia, delivered a keynote address during the COVID-19 summit today. She said: “Vaccine inequity threatens to reverse the gains we have been making in building trusting global partnerships to tackle global challenges, including the existential threat we all face, namely, climate change and the environmental crisis. There has been a lot of talking, but now we must see these words turned into action. We call upon governments, partners and vaccine manufacturers to pull out all the stops to ensure that everyone has access to COVID-19 vaccines without any further delay.”
For more information or to request interviews:
Dr Herilinda Temba (CHWs program): [email protected]
Gweh Nekerwon (Communication & media engagement): [email protected]
Chrys P. Kaniki (Media engagement): [email protected]
In Addis: Betelehem Tsedeke, +251 935 987 286, [email protected]
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613, [email protected]
In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]
USAU: Kelly McCaleb, +251-93-742-9668, [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
CDC Africa CDC is a specialized technical institution of the African Union which supports Member States in their efforts to strengthen health systems and improve surveillance, emergency response, prevention and control of diseases. Learn more at: http://www.africacdc.org
The goal of the United States Mission to the African Union (USAU) is to partner with the African Union in ways that will strengthen democratic institutions, promote peace and stability, support sustainable economic development through increased trade and investment, and improve the lives and health of all Africans. https://www.usau.usmission.gov/
| 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]
| Press release
Africa CDC and IFRC ramp up COVID-19 response in Africa
Addis Ababa, 25 August 2021 - The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today launched a new collaboration to strengthen community resilience and response to public health emergencies at community level. The two institutions have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ramp up pandemic response—including testing support to countries; community mobilization; advocacy and scaling up of contact tracing. In addition to COVID-19, the collaboration includes other areas of public health.
Africa CDC and IFRC will strengthen investments in locally-led action—for prevention and response purposes—while working with governments to ensure they intensify efforts to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, Africa CDC and IFRC will scale up advocacy against vaccine wastage.
This new initiative comes at a time Africa continues to face major vaccine shortages, amid a high level of community transmission in countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said: “Africa is facing a double-edged challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with health response gaps, and also trying to ensure that the continent prepares efficiently for future pandemics, using lessons from current challenges”.
Africa CDC has been implementing various public health responses to control COVID-19. These include the engagement of community health workers in risk communication and community sensitization; surveillance activities for early case identification; contact tracing and in facilitating referrals for testing and continuum of care.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: “What the IFRC and its network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies bring to this partnership with Africa CDC is our unparalleled access to local communities. Our community-based volunteers have the access and trust that are needed to address vaccine hesitancy and sensitize communities about adherence to preventive measures”.
The Africa CDC has been working to support African Union Member States to build a wide network of 2 million community health workers (CHWs) in line with the July 2017 African Union Assembly Decision. The collaboration with the IFRC network, which includes 1.2 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers across the continent is expected to strengthen community level interventions and consolidate gains in tackling the spread of the virus, while increasing awareness about vaccine benefits.
National Red Cross Red and Crescent Societies across Africa remain on the frontline of the response to COVID-19. They are providing ambulance services; conducting contact tracing and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation and provide emotional comfort and psychological support to people in need.
Urgent action needed to protect children against climate related disasters in Africa
This article has been prepared by IFRC's Protection, Gender and Inclusion (PGI) unit.
Nairobi/Geneva, 5 July 2021 - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Africa Region is calling on its partners to do more to protect children amid increasing vulnerabilities due to climate related disasters. This call comes ahead of the upcoming Africa Dialogue/Anticipatory Action event.
MohammedMukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“As drought and food insecurity take hold, we see again that Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to the effects of climate change and its related disasters. IFRC is deeply concerned about the disproportionate level of protection risks against children across Africa posed by climate related disasters. Anticipating need and taking effective action is essential.”
IFRC is calling on all humanitarian actors to do a better job at preventing children from increased violence, abuse and exploitation. IFRC’s study, “We Need To Do Better” shows that climate related disasters puts pressure on protective systems, leaving families in desperate situations, and reducing children’s chances of shaping their own futures.
Mukhier added: “Climate change related extreme weather and rising temperatures have increased the frequency of droughts and floods in Africa and around the world, leading to knock-on effects such as economic hardship, child labour, severe malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and WASH facilities, child marriage and lower school attendance. The consequences of these are felt today and will continue to undermine children’s protection for years to come. We need to invest more in preventative action including anticipatory action with a specific lens on child protection.”
Presently, the menace of floods, COVID-19, conflict, and locusts in parts of the African region, linked to the warming climate, is a key example of the risks. Yet, this may worsen in the coming months, especially between June and August 2021, with the exacerbation of food insecurity.
Furthermore, climate related displacement is a significant concern. Rapid and slow onset environmental degradation diminishes living conditions, forcing families to leave their homes and often separate from their children. Many children are also forced to reside in unsafe refugee and IDP camps in countries across the continent where they are at risk of trafficking, recruitment into armed groups and sexual violence.
Climate related disasters in the region also threaten children’s access to school including through forcing schools to close, intensifying dropouts, families having to choose between school and livelihoods, and making transport and access to school hard for the poorest. This is already happening in Eastern and Southern Africa, where around 28 per cent of the children are unable to attend school. The lowest attendance rates are observed in the Horn, where climate related disasters are particularly prevalent.
School attendance is vital for children because—apart from education—learning institutions provide an environment that protects children from abuse, violence and exploitation.
Children’s mental health is also affected by the short and long-term impacts of repeated disasters. Instability and separation from family can exacerbate the stress and trauma of the experience. Psycho-social support is crucial for the emotional wellbeing, mental health and development of children.
Girls are at particular risk in climate related disasters as they experience unequal access to school, resources and decision-making, particularly in areas facing severe poverty. During and after climate related disasters, girls are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Child marriage, for example, may be used as a coping mechanism by families who experience economic hardship induced by environmental disasters. Girls who are married are at risk of physical and sexual abuse, poor nutrition, and increased chance of maternal neonatal death.
Mukhier called for a more proactive approach: “Local humanitarian actors need to take urgent, coordinated, and preventative actions to better protect children from the dire consequences of climate related disasters in the Africa region. We need to better anticipate protection needs and take practical actions. Children have not contributed to the climate crisis and yet they carry its heaviest burdens today and for the decades to come. We need to do better to ensure we work with children as partners and prioritize their protection and education.”
The IFRC urges humanitarian actors to: (1) recognize the impact of climate change related disasters on children; (2) invest in child protection and education systems, including localized coordination mechanisms; (3) include children, both boys and girls, in climate disaster related decision-making processes and the development of local solutions; and (4) prioritize anticipatory action to protect children from the impacts of climate disasters.
| Press release
As COVID-19 cases surge in Africa, Red Cross warns that insufficient funding is impeding the response
Nairobi/Geneva, 2 July 2021 – Halting an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in Africa will require additional funding. This was announced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), amid a worrying surge of cases in Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa.
National Red Cross teams in these seven countries are stepping up surveillance, testing, healthcare and hygiene activities. They have also scaled up their COVID-19 awareness campaigns in public places such as markets and border points.
However, efforts like these ones, aimed at containing the spread of the virus, have been strained by insufficient funding. With a third wave looming large, there are increasing concerns that the impact will be more devastating, especially if the shortage of funds persists.
MohammedMukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“Since the outset of this pandemic, not enough attention has been paid to the evolution of this virus on the African continent. Lower levels of transmission data have created the perception that this region has not been so affected by the pandemic. The upward trend in the number of infections that we are now seeing, is partly as a result of insufficient funding to address several gaps in the response. These include weak surveillance mechanisms; weak testing capacity; insufficient protective gear and medical equipment including hospital beds, oxygen and ambulance services. If these gaps are not addressed, cases will continue tosoar,followed bya peak in fatality rates, which is already being observed.”
IFRC Africa has so far only received about half of the funds it requires to support 48 countries in their response to COVID-19. Crucially, these funds are almost depleted.
Red Cross Red Crescent teams across Africa have been on the frontline of the response to COVID-19 since the outset. They are providing ambulance services, conducting contact tracing, promoting, and ensuring adherence to public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus and supporting in Infection Prevention and Control measures at treatment and isolation facilities and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation by providing educational materials, running radio campaigns and informational hotlines for the community and providing psychosocial support to people in need. To address the secondary impacts of COVID-19, Red Cross Red Crescent teams have been providing cash to vulnerable families. Many of these vital prevention programmes are at risk, if more funding is not urgently secured.
Mukhier said: “Without adequate funding, we are unable to respond to the needs of the communities we serve or address the gaps and challenges of this response. The gains that have been made over the last year are at serious risk of being lost, if funding is not made available to help us continue to reach the most vulnerable and affected communities in Africa.”
The average number of new daily infections reported in Namibia and Zambia has reached a new high with 1,600 and 2,719 daily cases, respectively. This is by far the highest rate of infection (over 100 per cent increase) observed in these countries. Mozambique is recording 400 daily cases, a 10-fold increase in comparison with previous months, Uganda is now detecting over 900 daily infections, and South Africa close to 18,000 daily cases.
In addition to lack of funding, there is the challenge of availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines: just over 1 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. Most of the countries experiencing increasing trends have reported less than 5 per cent of their population receiving at least one vaccine dose.
Furthermore, the response to COVID-19 in Africa is complicated by the existence of other parallel and mutually exacerbating emergency situations.
Rui Alberto Oliveira, IFRC’s Operations Manager for Africa said:
“Responding to COVID-19 in countries facing multiple crises, such as DR Congo, Sahel, Lake Chad, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan or Somalia, is extremely challenging, meaning the disease may continue to circulate unchecked.
“We cannot wait for the situation to deteriorate further before taking action. We must ensure that enough resources are made available, now, to halt the progress of the imminent, and potentially catastrophic, third wave of COVID-19 in Africa.”
Africa Regional Office
The IFRC’s Africa regional office works in support of 49 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in sub-Saharan Africa. 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 Africa.