A new nightmare for African migrants with an American dream
Aisha sits in front of a drab green tent in a camp set up for migrants near the Costa Rican border with Nicaragua. It is the rainy season, just as it would be 9,200 kilometers away inAisha’s home in West Africa. Her journey has been full of tragedy, even before the moment two-years ago, when she decided out of sheer panic to flee her country. She’s passed through Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and now here to this little outpost.
Smugglers, drug traffickers, seemingly impassible jungles –the journey would be hard enough under normal circumstances. Add to that the coronavirus.Migrants like Aisha travel through some of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic – Colombia, Brazil, Panama and Mexico among others – in order to reach the US, which has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world.
But thebiggest impact of Covid-19 on the lives of migrants has been their ability to move at all. They can no longer transit through government checkpoints. In critical passage areas, migrants are told to stay put until the crisis passes. In Panama, they generally congregate informally in small towns, while in Costa Rica, they often live in government provided temporary shelters where groups such as theRed Crossprovide services. Those who choose to avoid official checkpoints and shelters run the risk of even more abuse.
In places like these, the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations make an effort to keep people in the present. There are multiple activities: volleyball, football, calls to home, as well ascritical services such as food and hygiene kits, psychological support and health and hygiene promotion.
In the absence of movement, memory takes over. Aisha thinks of home. It is the place where, until only a month or so before she fled, she had no plans beyond her work as a sociologist, her relationship with her husband in the military and raising her daughter. Now she is so afraid of what might happen to her if she returns to her country, she asks that her real name not be revealed.
A summer of fear
In the summer of 2018, Aisha’s husband told her that he was fed up with his military life. One day he was sent on a mission, but his unit deserted instead. “They knew that by refusing an order, they were running the risk of being killed,” Aisha says.
The husband (Aisha asked that his name be withheld for his safety) calculated that he would be arrested at the airport if he tried to flee by air. And so, in September 2018, he reached out to the smugglers’ networks and left on a one-month journeyby boat to Colombia.
Men came to visit Aisha with increasing frequency. She didn’t know the visitors who said they were her husband’s “friends,” enquiring as to his whereabouts. “I understood that they were military personnel in civilian clothes,” she says. “I feared for my life and my daughter’s life.”
The plan was to go to Brazil with her 2-year-old daughter Leila and then move onwards to Colombia to meet her husband. “In my country, the Brazilian visa is the fastest you can get,” she said. “My request was easily granted. Since I am a sociologist, I told the authorities that I was going to Brazil to deepen my knowledge of Brazilian culture.”
An American dream
United Nations officials say that Europe’s crackdown on migrant crossing through its borders, along with reports of enslavement in Libya, left smugglers searching for other routes into the West’s most developed countries. Since 2015,smuggling networks outside of the Americasbegan to explore the long and extremely dangerous route through Latin America to the US and Canada.
For many African migrants, that means they first have to cross an ocean. Samuel, 45, is a barber from Northern Nigeria who had a dream to cut hair in America. He was willing to pay any price, even tempt death in order to live his dream.
In 2016, he made his way from Lake Chad to the Nigerian coast where he was smuggled aboard a ship bound for Colombia. When he boarded, the smuggler told him that he had a50 percent chance of survival. During the three-month journey he found himself alternatively seasick and starving. That was until the captain of the ship found Samuel in the hold and threatened to throw him into the ocean. It took a concerted intervention by several crewmembers to save his life.
After he landed in Colombia, Samuel (he has asked that his full name not be used) had to confront smugglers, drug traffickers, seemingly impassible jungles – the journey was hard enough until he got to the U.S. border. There, he was apprehended and placed in detention for seven months before being deported back to Nigeria.
But Samuel’s dream was not extinguished. By 2019, after saving up enough moneyto make the journey again, he was back in Latin America, attempting to make his way northward. Forced by circumstance to remain in Costa Rica, Samuel began again to re-dream his existence. He remembered a talk he had with a border official four years earlier in Costa Rica. “All migrants dream of the United States,” the immigration agent said. “Why can’t you stay in Costa Rica and live your American dream here?”
Migration in pandemic
Meanwhile, other groups of migrants,predominately from Haiti and Cuba also attempt to move upward through Latin America to the U.S.The journey is remarkably long. There are often children born during the crossing and so the infants generally take on the citizenship of their place of birth. Chilean, Ecuadorian, Panamanian and Costa Rican infants move along the famished road with their families.
Red Cross officials in Central America go to great pains to teach migrants about Covid-19 – the importance of social distancing, hygiene and wearing masks among other things.
“Imagine a migrant who does not have the opportunity to isolate, maintain social distance, earn income to buy food, or have resources to buy masks, disinfectant gel or have running water,” says Jono Anzalone, head of disaster and crisis response for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “How can a migrant protect herself in the middle of this pandemic? “
Moreover, it is a real challenge to get people,whose entire future is predicated on movement from one country to anotherto accept the dangers of coronavirus.
“They don’t believe that Covid-19 exists,” says Jose Felix Rodriguez, the migration regional coordinator for the IFRC. “They are frustrated because they can’t continue north.”
Underlying drivers of migration still strong
Many believe that Covid-related quarantines and border closures have dramatically slowed the flow of migrants. But they doubt that it has stopped it altogether.Migration flows have continued despite the pandemic. The underlying conditions that have driven people to migrate are still present. “The pandemic has not deterred them,” says Anzalone.
The closure of borders has increased the vulnerabilities of migrants transiting through Central Americaas controls became more rigorous and many were forced to stay in shelters that were unprepared for large groups staying for long periods of time.
Crowding in these shelters, combined with the lack of permanent access to clean water, masks or other protective equipment, as well as the lack of food or other resources, have put many people throughout the region in a very critical situation.
Perhaps the most treacherous part of their journey, however, is through theDarien Gap– a jungled portion of land separating Colombia from Central America.
Those seeking a way northward through Darien travel in groups of about 400 people. Aisha said that each person pays between 20 and 40 dollars for the journey. In the forest, if you can’t walk, you are left behind. In a short period of time, the large group separates into smaller ones of about 100 people – the fastest to the stragglers. “We’ve seen people abandon their families there,” says Aisha. “In the forest, you don’t wait and there are no friends. Everyone is trying to save their lives.”
The perils of the Darien Gap
Inside the Darien, Aisha and her family met a couple from Guinea. The woman was 6-months pregnant. The pair had been left behind by their group. She had vomited blood and lost her child. When Aisha found her, the couple had already spent some six or seven days in the forest alone. “We tried to give them biscuits to eat. But the woman had her feet and face swollen, she couldn’t eat,” Aisha says. The couple made it through the jungle but just barely.
On the fourth day, Aisha saw – with her own eyes – vultures descending into a river. In the water, there was a corpse of a man with black-and-white shoes. “The vultures began to tear the body into pieces.”
To be sure,while the journeys are perilous they are also journeys of hope. If they could cross the myriad borders of South and Central America and make it to the US, Aisha and her family could settle with her uncle who lives in Colorado. “My goal was to get to my uncle’s house in the US and start a new life so that I could continue studying my career as a sociologist,” she says.
“What gives me hope is the life I have right now,” she says. “I have survived in Peru, Ecuador, and the deadly forest so far. If I have survived all this, I know I can make my dream come true by the grace of God.”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
Secretary General speech at the Inter American Conference 2023
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It’s so good to be here in the beautiful Bahamas.
Bahamas —thank you for hosting this conference. I take this occasion to congratulate the Bahamas on 50 years of your Independence.
President Terez Curry, IFRC Vice President Miguel Villarroel, Dr Judith Carvajal, Vice Chair of CORI, GB members and Commission and Committee chairs of the IFRC, George Weber Vice Chair of Standing Commission, Giles Carbonier VP of ICRC, National Society leaders, staff and volunteers and my amazing IFRC secretariat team led by Martha Keys —I pay tribute to all of you who have shown incredible leadership these past few years--through the COVID-19 pandemic and so many other compounding crises.
I thank you all for your focus on doing what is right for the people we serve, and for your unwavering commitment to your communities.
The Americas region is vibrant, teeming with diverse communities and extraordinary resilience.
It is also one of the most unequal regions in the world, hit by a complex web of crises that is driving up humanitarian needs and negatively impacting communities’ lives, livelihoods, and dignity.
The climate crisis with rising temperatures, extreme weather events and environmental degradation are wreaking havoc on communities and their livelihoods, across the region.
Endemic violence has shattered communities leaving scars that last for generations.
It has widened inequality and worsened socio-economic conditions.
It is pushing people to flee their homes and has directly contributed to the most severe migration crisis the Americas region faces in recent history.
Today, 3 out of every 10 migrants or asylum seekers leave their country of origin because of threats of violence.
Sadly, women and children bear the brutal brunt of this terrible crisis.
The tragic and horrifying stories of the people I met who were making the perilous journey across the Darien Gap last August will stay with me forever.
Every day, around 1000 people take this dangerous path in Darien Gap, in search of safety, hope, and new opportunities.
With no political solutions in sight and less resources available, the global humanitarian system is buckling under pressure to meet assistance, and protection needs of people in these circumstances.
But, 35 National Societies in this region, sadly only 34 now, have shown that we can confront these challenges by providing a wide range of services that address the core needs of communities.
From managing blood banks, clinics, hospitals, and ambulances to leading search and rescue operations, supporting people on the move, running nursing institutions, and developing solutions to tackle the climate crisis and violence, National Societies play crucial role.
IFRC is proud to support these efforts through the Disaster Response Emergency Fund, Capacity Building Fund, Emergency Appeals and our annual unified plans.
To address increasing migration needs, we are expanding our Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs) to provide life-saving and inclusive services across migratory routes.
Collectively, we have reached millions:
Over a million people through programmes for migrants and host communities
A further one million people through disaster response,
More than 3.5 million people through health and well-being programmes.
And the millions reached during the COVID-19 response and related immunization efforts.
But we cannot rest on our laurels.
Today we face serious challenges, both in our ability to meet growing humanitarian needs but also in our ability to safeguard our fundamental principles.
In this context, today we gather at this 22nd Inter-American Conference recognizing the responsibility we bear, the solidarity we must foster, and the impact we can create together.
Firstly--The responsibility we bear is our opportunity to contribute to something greater than ourselves.
Our IFRC network is like no other.
We are part of the communities we serve.
And we are the largest, most connected, global humanitarian network.
This sum of local action and global reach makes National Societies effective auxiliaries to their public authorities in humanitarian field.
Our responsibility is to deliver quality humanitarian action that makes a positive difference in people’s lives, that reduces their risks and vulnerabilities, and that enhances their capacities and potential.
We can only succeed if we remain true to our Fundamental Principles.
They are the foundations of just and inclusive humanitarian action.
They are the building blocks of unity, trust, and cooperation in our Movement.
They are our moral compass.
Without them, our credibility is called into question and our ability to deliver neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action is threatened.
We must reassert our Fundamental Principles.
Let’s practise them in our work, speak to them in our discussions, live by them, teach them, help communities, partners and donors understand them.
Secondly, solidarity is at the heart of everything we do across the IFRC network.
Solidarity and commitment to our Strategy 2030 and Agenda for Renewal has enabled us to respond to the multiple crises and disasters in this region, to provide relief to those in need, and to support communities as they recover and rebuild.
Solidarity also means that we stand together as one.
It means that we put the needs of those we serve before our own, and that we work to alleviate their suffering.
Solidarity enables us to leverage our collective resources, expertise, and influence, to reach more people in need, to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and to amplify their voices.
Solidarity is not an option. It is a moral duty. We need this now, more than ever.
Our success is measured by the outcomes we achieve for the people we serve.
In this era of fast paced change and shifting political divides, our focus must be on accountability, agility, engagement, and innovation—which are important elements of our Agenda for Renewal.
For this, the IFRC is working for and with National Societies.
We have invested in scaling up digitalization, risk management, new funding models for greater agility, accountability, and impact to reach to the communities we serve.
We use these resources to foster learning and strengthen National Society capacities, so they are leaders in the humanitarian field, not just in response but in resilience building, data, influence, collaboration, and innovation.
This brings me to our volunteers—the lifeline and heartbeat of our network.
More than 50 percent of our volunteers today are people under 30.
Young people bring with them energy, technological know-how, and innovative solutions.
Let’s harness their skills today, give them opportunities to lead us to a more just and equitable future.
Colleagues, our impact must be about scaling up our delivery, while ensuring the quality, relevance, and sustainability of our actions.
None of the obstacles we face today are insurmountable.
We have the knowledge, the resources, the expertise and the skills to bring about the change.
As Mother Teresa once said – “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”.
Colleagues- just like Mother Teresa, let us all dare to cast a stone across the water that will collectively create millions of ripples to make this world a better place for everyone. Not just for the few but for everyone.
| Press release
IFRC: 210,000 migrants need urgent life-saving assistance and protection in Central America and Mexico
Panama City, 1 August 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up its response to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people on the move by land northwards through Central America and Mexico.
Along migratory routes, many people suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence, or disappear and are separated from their families. Others are killed or die from disease or environmental conditions.
According to official data, since January 2022, there is a concerning increase in the number of migrants and refugees in Central America and Mexico compared to previous years. Irregular migration has increased an 85% in Panama, 689% in Honduras, and 108% in Mexico. If this upward trend continues in the coming months, an estimated 500,000people* would require humanitarian assistance.
Roger Alonso, IFRC Head of Disaster, Crises and Climate Unit, said:
“Local Red Cross teams, from Panama to Mexico, confirm that dramatic spike in the number of migrants moving northwards. We are especially concerned for women, children, the disabled, older people, and LGBTQI migrants. They are at extreme risk and need medical and mental health assistance, access to food and water, information, connectivity, and resources to cover vital expenses such as paying for safe places to sleep.”
Most of the migrants and refugees in transit through the region are from Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti. Nationals from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico also continue heading north. The main reasons for migrating include improving their income, escaping violence, reuniting with family members, and recovering from the impact of recurring disasters and extreme weather events.
In Panama, in June 2022 alone, 15,000 migrants crossed the perilous Darien Gap – 500 people per day. Out of every 100 of them, 16 are children. In Costa Rica, 441 persons a day entered from Panama in May 2022, an increase of 158% compared to April 2022. Nearly 24,000 Cubans arrived in Nicaragua from January to May 2022, while in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico there is a significant increase in the number of returnees.
In this challenging context, the IFRC has launched a 28 million CHF** Emergency Appeal to support 210,000 people on the move during the next 12 months. Red Cross Societies in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico will provide migrants, refugees, and returnees with health care, mental health support, access to water and sanitation services, and cash for them to cover essential needs, such as accommodation or food.
Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, said:
It is unacceptable that migrating continues to cost people their dignity and their lives. This is why we are scaling up our current response and standing up our vital emergency support along migratory routes. We call on governments, our partners, and donors to join this humanitarian action. Protecting people migrating in a desperate situation and defending their rights, disregarding their status is a humanitarian imperative and a collective duty. The devastating socioeconomic effects in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, continuing political crises, and disasters will continue to ramp up exponentially population movements. The challenge ahead of us is titanic.”
The Red Cross’ response will prioritize attention along the routes where most migrants and displaced persons face bureaucratic barriers, hostile climates, stigma, discrimination, violence, insecurity, and even loss of life. The support will be provided through the Red Cross network of 20 Humanitarian Service Points*** in Central America and Mexico. These are neutral, safe spaces—whether fixed or mobile—where people on the move can access health care, psychosocial support, and information, among other services.
In Panama, for instance, the Humanitarian Service Point provides migrants crossing the Darien Gap with first aid, health care for pregnant women and children, psychosocial support, clean water, access to mobile phones, and information about the risks and services they may find along their journey. People who require specialized health support are referred to public services. With migration flows increasingin the region, this model will continue to save lives and reduce suffering.
The IFRC and its network will also work with origin, transit, and host communities to address environmental-, climate-, and livelihood-related issues that may trigger population movements.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, [email protected]
In Panama: Maria Langman, [email protected],+507 6550 1090
In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, [email protected],+1 202 603 6803
*The 500,000 people possibly affected have been estimated taking into account irregular crossing entries and reports from July to December 2021, considering a 45% increase scenario (most countries are above 100% increase ) and at least one aggregate of 173,176 from January to June 2022.
***Six in Guatemala, eight in Mexico, five in Honduras and one in Panama.
| Press release
IFRC urges governments and humanitarian partners to protect lives ahead of an active hurricane season in the Americas
Panama/Geneva, 31 May 2022 —The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up preparedness actions ahead of another above-average active Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean. The IFRC urges governments and humanitarian stakeholders to protect lives by investing in early warning systems, forecast-based solutions, and coordinated disaster response plans.
From 1 June to 30 November 2022, North America, Central America, and the Caribbean expect between 14 to 21 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six hurricanes of category three or higher. The IFRC and its network are working to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with the effects of heavy rains, landslides, and floods that these weather events may cause during the next six months.
Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, said:
“The region may face up to six major hurricanes, but it takes just one single storm to destroy communities that are already grappling with poverty, inequality, and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, hundreds of local Red Cross teams in more than 20 countries are sharing early warning messages and coordinating preparedness measures with local governments and community leaders.
In parallel, the IFRC is combining weather forecasts with risk analysis to take early actions ahead of hurricanes rather than simply responding to events. This approach allows us to anticipate disasters, decrease their impact as much as possible, and prevent suffering and the loss of lives and livelihoods.”
The IFRC is paying special attention to the needs of women, children, migrants, and returnees, who are suffering from overlapping crises in Central America. This region is still recovering from the pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota, which left 1.5 million people displaced in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala alone.
In Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti, vulnerable communities exposed to hurricanes and storms are also at highest risk of food insecurity due to the current global food shortage crisis.
In this challenging scenario, the IFRC is advocating for regulatory frameworks that favor the agile delivery of humanitarian aid to areas affected by disasters. It has also prepositioned humanitarian goods in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and across the Caribbean to provide immediate response to the humanitarian needs for up to 60,000 people in both the Pacific and Atlantic coastal zones.
According to the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, the 2022 hurricane season in the Atlantic, and the Caribbean Sea is predicted to be more active than normal due to the influence of the La Niña climate pattern. This phenomenon is active for the third consecutive year and causes sea temperatures in this basin to be above average. This condition allows for more active development of hurricanes, as seen in 2020 and 2021.
For more information, please contact:
Susana Arroyo Barrantes - Comms Manager Americas,[email protected]
María Victoria Langman - Senior Comms Officer Americas,[email protected]
Trevesa Da Silva - Comms Officer English & Dutch Caribbean, [email protected]
| Press release
Americas: IFRC launches regional plan to provide 2.2 million migrants and displaced people with humanitarian assistance and protection
Panama City, 23 May 2022 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched today a four-year plan to extend its assistance and protection to migrants and displaced people along the migratory routes of greatest complexity, risk and humanitarian concern in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This new plan brings together Red Cross Societies in 22* countries across the Americas that will work with the IFRC to support over 2.2 million people in Central America, the Caribbean and the Andean and Southern Cone regionsbetween 2022 and 2025. The Red Cross network will continue to focus its response on women, children, the elderly, the disabled and LGBTQI migrants regardless of their legal status. This plan will also support returnees and host communities.
Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, said:
“In recent years, we have supported people on the move all across the Americas, and we have witnessed the marks left by migration and displacement on the bodies, minds, and lives of millions of people. The response to their needs, which continue to be unmet despite the efforts of multiple stakeholders, must be agile, effective, innovative, and, above all, humane and dignified. This is what the Red Cross does, all while prioritizing attention along the routes where migrants and displaced persons face bureaucratic barriers, hostile climates, stigma, discrimination, violence, insecurity, and even loss of life.”
At the core of IFRC’s route-based approach is its network of Humanitarian Service Points.These are neutral, safe spaces—whether fixed or mobile—where the Red Cross provides health care, psychosocial support, and information, among other services. With migration flows increasing due to the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, continuing political crises, disasters, and pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities in the region, this model continues to save lives and reduce suffering along migratory pathways.
The main areas of intervention include providing first aid, primary health, nutrition, water and sanitation services, and implementing cash and voucher assistance for health, food, rent and other essential needs. Campaigning for inclusion and against xenophobia, establishing safe referral systems for migrants and victims, and improving the information management supporting migrant needs and migratory flows will also be priority activities.
The plan aims to improve the preparedness system in cross-border areas, promote educational services in host communities, increase participatory processes at local levels and foster livelihoods through capacities development in sync with market needs.
The IFRC is appealing for 99.7 million Swiss francs (USD 100.99 million) to implement this four-year plan that will complement the millions of humanitarian services the organization has provided for migrants in the Americas since 2018.
The American continent is home to nearly 73 million migrants and displaced persons from different origins and backgrounds. In 2021 in Panama alone, migrants from more than 40 countries crossed the perilous Darién Gap. They arrived mainly from Haiti, Cuba, Chile, Brazil and Venezuela, from where more than six million people have left since 2017. Others came from Asian and African nations such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
*IFRC's 2022-2025 plan on migration and displacement will be implemented inGuatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa RicaPanama, Argentina,Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Venezuela,Haiti,DominicanRepublic, Cuba, Guayana, Jamaica,Suriname,Belizeand Trinidad & Tobago.
For more information and to set up interviews, contact:
In Latin America and the Caribbean:
Susana Arroyo Barrantes [email protected] +507 69993199
Anna Tuson [email protected] +41 79 8956924
| Press release
Americas: IFRC urges governments to save migrants' lives at High Level Regional Meeting on Migration
There are nearly 73.5 million migrants across the American continent - over a quarter of the migrants worldwide - and we continue to see unprecedented migration flows in the region. In 2020 alone, approximately 4.7 million people were displaced on the continent due to disasters - the highest level seen in 10 years. In Panama, just last year, some 134,000 people crossed through the perilous Darien Gap – over 22,000 of whom were children.
Within the framework of the High-level Meeting on Migration called by the Panamanian authorities on April 20, 2022, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, Martha Keays, said:
''States, humanitarian organizations, international agencies and civil society in the Americas face an enormous challenge: protect the dignity and address the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized migrants who continue to face trafficking, discrimination, violence, and limited access to essential services and protection mechanisms.
The IFRC and its membership, the Red Cross National Societies of the continent, as auxiliaries to the public authorities, call upon the governments of all countries across the Americas to facilitate the work of the Red Cross to address the needs of migrants and people on the move in the Americas, irrespective of status, in keeping with our mandate as the world’s largest humanitarian network.
Over the past few years, thousands of Red Cross volunteers have provided millions of migrants in 17 countries across the Americas with essential services, including emergency and maternal healthcare, psychosocial support, water, hygiene and sanitation, access to information, and COVID-19 prevention and treatment.
However, our experience and local reach tell us that the work is not over and there is still a titanic challenge ahead of us. Push factors such as the devastating socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, continuing political crises, and disasters such as the recent hurricanes Eta and Iota and the earthquake in Haiti, all have increased and will continue to increase population movements while exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.
''We urge governments to save lives, ensure access for migrants to essential services, scale up support to persons at risk of displacement related to disasters and the climate crisis, and include migrants and refugees in all aspects of society. It is a humanitarian imperative and a shared regional responsibility to ensure that no one is left behind.”
| Press release
Americas: Restoring trust of vulnerable communities key to fair and inclusive recovery after two years of pandemic, says IFRC
Panama, March 23, 2022 – Migrants, host communities and indigenous populations’ trust in local authorities and decision-makers on COVID-19 related issues has dropped to a third, compared to the beginning of the pandemic. This is one of the key findings of "COVID-19 in the Americas: listening to the most vulnerable", a study carried out by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, which analysed the perceptions of COVID-19 in the most vulnerable communities.
The report finds that humanitarians are the second most trusted group after scientists. It also shows that high or moderate trust in government leaders is associated with greater trust in vaccines’ safety and efficacy.
Diana Medina, Manager of Community Engagement and Accountability for the IFRC in the Americas, said:
''Listening to communities, using data to design interventions adjusted to the changing contexts of the pandemic and locally led response approaches are key to strengthening confidence around vaccines and to protect people against COVID-19. If people don’t trust vaccines or can’t have access to it, vaccination rates will remain low, and this pandemic will not end. We trust that the report’s findings and recommendations will serve as a basis for redefining the strategies on the ground and the advocacy processes necessary to ensure that immunization campaigns reach the last mile''
The study also finds that despite their willingness to get vaccinated, migrants and indigenous communities face great difficulties in accessing the vaccine, such as long distances, long waiting lines or registration issues. In fact, indigenous populations expressed having received less information than the rest of the population consulted and a higher level of reluctance to adopt all the protection measures for COVID-19.
Maria Franca Tallarico, IFRC Regional Manager for Health and Care for the Americas, said: ''Even though there are significant advances in controlling the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic is not over yet. Many people remain unvaccinated or with incomplete vaccination schemes. Understanding what these groups think about the virus and vaccination is essential to maintain dialogue, approach communities in a contextualized way to facilitate the implementation of healthy behaviours and habits, favour a fair and inclusive recovery and increase vaccination rates, thus reducing the risk of proliferation of new variants.''
Most interviewees said they found COVID-19 health messages useful and effective. However, it is key to consider the differences that exist within the same communities. Decision-makers and local authorities need to strengthen the dialogue with vulnerable communities to implement differentiated, contextualized and needs-based COVID-19 response strategies for specific groups such as indigenous communities, migrants and refugees.
To improve the effectiveness of the information about the virus and vaccines, the IFRC encourages the use of adapted and understandable messages in native languages, using the most trusted actors as spokespersons with communities. It also suggests articulating activities with health staff and humanitarian organizations as key actors to strengthen trust and promote greater adoption of protection and vaccination measures against COVID-19.
Continuing advocacy efforts to guarantee universal and prompt access to vaccines will also remain vital to overcoming the pandemic, as well as promoting the implementation of socioeconomic recovery measures that meet the needs of the most vulnerable households and groups.
This study was conducted between June and October 2021 and is based on a survey of 7,743 individuals in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. In those countries, the local Red Cross teams, which play a key role based on long-lasting relationships with communities, explored the perceptions of especially vulnerable populations, regarding four aspects: access and impact of information on COVID-19, knowledge and perception about vaccination, confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, and the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.
Notes and additional information:
Two years after the first case of COVID-19, the Americas region registers 2.7 million associated deaths, 1.7 billion doses of vaccines administered, and setbacks of nearly 30 years in the levels of extreme poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as an increase in gender inequality and child labour.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Red Cross has contributed to equitable access to vaccines and implemented COVID-19 response programs in the Americas by:
risk communication through adapted and contextualized approaches to communities, as well as community mobilization and hygiene promotion activities for 52 million people; specifically, 10 million have received information about the COVID-19 vaccine
the implementation of sanitation and hygiene activities involving 13 million people
supporting the immunization of 3.4 million individuals providing food or other assistance to 86 million and
assisting 358 thousand people with mental health services and psychosocial support.
For more information or to schedule interviews with specialists on the COVID-19 situation in the Americas region, please contact theAmericas regional office in Panama:
David Quijano, +57 310 559 2559, da[email protected]
Susana Arroyo, [email protected]
| Press release
Americas: Five million more people in extreme poverty and highly exposed to disasters after two years of COVID-19 pandemic
Panama, 11 March 2022.Two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic five million more people are in extreme poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, making them more exposed to the impact of disasters, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). This brings the total number of people in extreme poverty in the region to 86 million, with women, migrants and people in vulnerable urban areas especially impacted.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the IFRC and Red Cross societies network in the Americas have provided water, sanitation and community hygiene services to more than 10 million people. Its teams in the field provided information on COVID-19 and vaccines to more than seven million and supported the vaccination of 1.5 million people. It has also responded in parallel to the humanitarian needs of more than 680,000 people affected by disasters during the pandemic.
Martha Keays, IFRC director for the Americas, said:
"The income, savings and purchasing power of the most vulnerable families have declined, and unless we act in 2022, we will continue to witness these effects in the form of hunger, exclusion and unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines. To avoid this, we urgently need to protect the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, ensure equitable access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, and build trust in communities."
This level of extreme poverty, not seen in 27 years, leaves vulnerable communities highly exposed to the impact of disasters, such as the recent rains and floods in South America and other climate crisis-related events. It also increases their risk of displacement and migration. In 2020 alone, at least 1.5 million people were displaced in Central America due to emergencies, including hurricanes Eta and Iota. Globally, since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 139 million people have suffered the compound effects of COVID-19 and climate-related disasters.
Ghotai Ghazialam, IFRC's COVID-19 operations manager for the Americas, said:
"During the response of the COVID-19 pandemic of the past 24 months we witnessed how communities were pushed further to poverty and inequality, while facing other parallel emergencies related with climate events; this affected people already in a very critical situation. To strengthen their resilience, it is critical to accelerate and support their socioeconomic recovery and ensure their access to vaccines and comprehensive health services, all of which are key to preventing them from falling into irreversible precariousness.’’
In 2022, local Red Cross teams will continue to promote disaster risk reduction, preparedness, equitable access to vaccines, and implement their COVID-19 response programs. These programmes will continue especially in areas where vaccination rates are low, such as in the Caribbean region, through cash transfers, vaccination of isolated populations, ongoing research on the impact of the pandemic on the well-being of populations, and activites to build trust in vaccines.
Notes and additional information:
• New report warns that climate contributes to humanitarian crises in vulnerable contexts and drives displacement in every region of the world.
• The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean report indicates increases in extreme poverty and inequality.
• IFRC warns of the devastating socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the report ''Drowning just below the surface''.
• 2 years of COVID-19 / 11 unprecedented moments: a selection of pictures to never forget of the biennium of the pandemic.
For more information or to schedule interviews with specialists on the COVID-19 situation in the Americas region, please contact:
In Panama, David Quijano, +57 310 559 2559, david.quijan[email protected]
In Panama, Susana Arroyo, [email protected]
| Press release
“We need to do better” – IFRC report reveals gaps in child protection during climate related disasters
Kingston, Jamaica – November 19, 2021. Adolescents overwhelmingly feel that they do not have the information needed to be safe from potential violence, abuse, and exploitation in climate related disasters. This is one of the main findings of “We Need to Do Better: Climate Related Disasters, Child Protection and Localizing Action in the Caribbean,” a recent study conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The report has revealed that even though climate related disasters affect each person in the region, children are particularly at risk. They make up a large portion of the population of the Caribbean and are most vulnerable to encountering violence, abuse, and exploitation in disaster settings, while systems to protect them do not always work. The study also highlights that there are no specific laws in place to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation when disasters happen.
Gurvinder Singh, IFRC’s Child Protection Senior Advisor and one of the authors of the report, said:
“While children potentially have great leadership and innovation capabilities, unfortunately, their voices are rarely being sought out or heard. Furthermore, there is a huge deficit in meaningful opportunities for children to be engaged in decisions that affect them. This is especially prominent in the stages of preparing for and responding to disasters. Adolescents believe that even if they do participate, their opinions may not be taken seriously by adults.”
By putting the voices, perspectives, and ideas of children at the forefront, the report seeks to understand the generally unexplored relationships between climate related disasters and children’s concerns around violence, abuse, exploitation, and mental health challenges. It also sends a warning to governments and civic organisations to play a more active role in the promotion of and respect for the rights of the child, especially with regards to the issue of child abuse and the need for urgent effective prevention programmes.
Ariel Kestens, IFRC’s Head of Delegation for the Dutch-and English-speaking Caribbean, said:
“It is critical that governments enhance domestic laws, invest in child protection systems, improve local coordination, train local responders, include protection and climate change in school curriculum, and collect sex-, age- and disability-disaggregated data in disaster responses. The IFRC Network across the Caribbean stands ready to support them to continue striving to meet the best interests of each child affected by more and more frequent, and destructive climate related disasters.”
The report also recommends practical actions for the humanitarian sector, such as designing child-friendly communications, implementing community feedback mechanisms, including child protection in anticipatory action, integrating child protection across preparedness, assessments and planning, and creating spaces for children and adults to engage, support one another and find viable solutions to protection risks.
The study was based on discussions and an online survey with 198 adolescents ages 14-17 years in the Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago; interviews with 30 adults from different disaster and child protection agencies, and background research. It is part of the campaign “We Need to Do Better” by the IFRC to enhance protection of children in climate related disasters.
The full report may be accessed here. The adolescent summary of the report is available here.
For more information, please contact:
In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva | +876 818-8575 | [email protected]
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes | + 506 8416 1771 | [email protected]
| Press release
Red Cross set to launch a Humanitarian Logistics Hub in the Southern Cone of the Americas
Buenos Aires, 8 October, 2021 - The Argentine Red Cross (ARC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) will launch a Humanitarian Logistics Hub to expand the Red Cross humanitarian response across Southern Cone countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The Humanitarian Hub will have the capacity to pre-position sufficient humanitarian aid to address the needs of up to 10,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters. The Humanitarian Hub is located at Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires. It will operate with support from the Cargo Terminal of Argentina, a logistics unit for international trade led by Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 (AA2000), the country’s largest private airport operator.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: "This Hub allows us to deliver humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable communities, faster and more efficiently. Argentina will be the point from which we will mobilize immediate assistance in water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and food security to support people affected by crises and disasters in Southern Cone countries. This strategic and innovative space joins our global network of humanitarian logistics centres and strengthen our collaboration with national authorities, the private sector, and other stakeholders.”
The services provided by the Hub include procurement and transportation, warehousing and handling, contingency stock, specialized logistics support, and training and capacity building of the neighbouring National Red Cross Societies and other institutions. The Hub will also host the Humanitarian Innovation Laboratory, aimed at providing innovative solutions to the most urgent social, economic and development problems in the region.
Diego Tipping, President of the Argentine Red Cross, said: "This space strengthens the role that Argentina is playing as a leader in the humanitarian field and fosters the bilateral and multilateral cooperation among national governments, regional mechanisms, and the United Nations system. Based on the multiple alliances that the Argentine Red Cross has with national companies and corporations, the Hub will also pay special attention to the local purchase of supplies, encouraging local production, which is crucial to support the economic growth of the country".
The Presidency of Argentina has sponsored the agreement between AA2000, the IFRC and Argentine Red Cross. The Secretary General of the IFRC, Jagan Chapagain was in Argentina on Friday 8 October, to sign the agreement and visit the site of the new Hub.
Since April 2020, AA2000 has provided a warehouse space to the Argentine Red Cross,for the storage of humanitarian supplies used by the National Society in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
In Buenos Aires: Santiago Ramayo, [email protected] +54 9 11 4937 3134
In Panama: Susana Arroyo, [email protected] +507 69993199
| Press release
IFRC ramps up humanitarian assistance as record number of migrants cross the perilous Darién Gap
Panama City/Geneva, 20 September 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up efforts to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to migrants travelling through the Darién Gap, one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world. Between January and August of 2021, 70,376 migrants (including 13,655 children) have crossed the Panamanian jungle, an amount in par with the total number of migrants over the last five years.
In the past few years, the Darién Gap has become a common transit point for migrants headed north, but the latest figure vastly surpasses the high numbers of 2016, when 30,000 people made the crossing throughout the whole year. In comparison, in August 2021 alone, 25,361 people have used this route.
Martha Keays, Regional Director for the Americas at IFRC, said:
“As the pandemic and its impacts persist, the number of migrants crossing the Darién Gap has hit all-time highs this year. In Panama, we have seen between 600 and 1,300 people entering the country every day. They face many risks during their journey through the jungle, often showing signs of physical and mental trauma. The Red Cross is there to support them to meet their basic needs, such as safe water, sanitation, healthcare, protection, information and psychological support.”
In response to the growing number of people crossing the Darien Gap, the IFRC has activated its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to scale up support to migrants in collaboration with the Panamanian Red Cross. The humanitarian response is focused on the distribution of clean water; promotion of community and personal hygiene; and distribution of essential items, such as mosquito nets. It also includes provision of healthcare and protection services; and the increase of capacities to deliver psychological support. In addition, the DREF supports the Costa Rican Red Cross to prepare for a possible increase in the number of migrants transiting through Costa Rica.
In Colombia, at the end of August 2021, more than 10,000 migrants were waiting in the village of Necoclí at the border between Colombia and Panama, an entry point into the Darién Gap. The Colombian Red Cross is providing them with information about their journey; distributing personal protective equipment against COVID-19; and providing health and protection services to assist vulnerable communities.
According to the Panamanian authorities, migrants of around 40 nationalities have crossed the Darién Gap this year. They come from Asian and African nations, such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, but also from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many people are Haitian and Cuban, and there has also been an increase in the number of Venezuelan migrants.
“Some of the people currently crossing the Darién Gap have left their home countries years ago to start a new life in South America. But socio-economic disparities, stigma, discrimination, and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused them to lose their jobs or homes, and now they are facing impossible options, such as migrating once again. Access to basic services, such as food, water, sanitation, medical care, housing, essential information, and access to COVID-19 vaccines must be guaranteed to all, regardless of legal status”, added Keays.
The IFRC and its network of Red Cross National Societies have activated a monitoring system to track the population movement from the Southern Cone to Guatemala, including the migratory routes across the Andean countries, the Darién Gap, and Central America. They are also monitoring the evolution of the humanitarian situation in Haiti and Afghanistan, as the increase of humanitarian needs in those countries could lead to further displacement and migration along the Darién route.
In Panama, the IFRC and the Panamanian Red Cross, with support from the European Union, UNICEF and other partners, have been responding to the needs of migrants crossing the Darién for the last three years. Since 2019, they have provided more than 20,000 humanitarian interventions including psychosocial support, health care, access to water, and information on the migratory route.
For more information and to set up interviews, contact:
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, + 506 8416 1771, [email protected]
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
| Press release
Pandemic not over, as transmission increases and health systems are at risk of collapsing in the Americas, IFRC warns
Panama City/Geneva,28May– The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC)iswarningthat the pandemic is far fromover in the Americasas cases continue tosurge.The region has the highest incidence of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 populationglobally andhas hitthe highest peak of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
The American continent currently has one of the highest daily death rates worldwide and in South America alone, more than one million people have lost their lives to COVID-19. This accounts for a third of the deaths worldwide.
Newly confirmed cases in the region continue to rise; ten out of the fifteen countries reportingthe highest number of COVID-19 casesworldwideare in Latin America and the Caribbean. Uruguay, Argentina and Costa Rica lead the list, followed by Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, and Brazil, where the pandemic continues tospiral.
Pedro Porrino, IFRC Emergency Health Coordinator inthe Americas, said:
“Health systems are at real risk of imminent collapsein many countries,such asBrazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, where cases and deathsare at the highestpeaksincethe beginning of the pandemic.Alarm bells are also ringingin Paraguay, Colombia, and Bolivia.
“What makes this situation even more concerning is the possibilityof new, potentially more transmissible, or lethal,variantsof the virusto emerge.The more transmission there is, the greater the risk that the virus will mutate andbecome resistant toexistent vaccines, which should concern us all.”
Thissurgereinforces the needfor publichealthand livelihood protectionmeasuresshould bemaintainedand reinforcedto keep people safe, especially asthe currentavailability of vaccines is insufficient and thepace ofvaccinationinmost ofthe continent remainsdangerously slow.
As the World Health Assemblycomes to a close, theIFRC renews calls for extraordinary measures to increase the production of vaccines and guarantee a better distribution of existing doses globally.
Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director inthe Americas, said:
“Fivemonths after the beginning of the vaccinations worldwide,less than twoout of every thousand vaccines have been administered inthe poorestcountriesinthe Americas.Leaving the most vulnerable behind in vaccination processes is a moral and public health catastrophe. Millions of lives depend on the efforts to tackle the disparities among and within countries.
Allpossible measurestoboost vaccinationsmust be considered. This includes the temporary waiver ofintellectual property protections for thevaccines,improvingthe transfer of technology,andramping up of manufacturingand deliverycapacity.Vaccine equity will not just happen. It needs to be engineered and planned for, starting right now.”
Tostop the transmission andbroader access to vaccines,RedCross NationalSocieties across the region, supported by the IFRC,continue tobe on the frontline of the COVID-19 response,supporting the national vaccination campaigns of their governments, to ensure that no one is left behind.
| Press release
IFRC braces for hurricane season in midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Panama/Geneva, 31 May 2020 —The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is currently mobilizing and ramping up the efforts of hundreds of Red Cross teams across the Americas to prepare for another hurricane season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts predict 13 to 20 named storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean only, six to 10 of those developing into hurricanes, and three to five possibly becoming major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. These storms could bring further devastation to a region that is still heavily affected by last year’s storms and hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the next six months, deadly rains, landslides and floods could further affect communities already grappling with the pandemic, where vaccines are not yet widely available, and where livelihoods have been destroyed.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said:
“In Central America and Colombia, thousands of families are still recovering from damage caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which affected more than 7.5 million people just six months ago. Recovery has been hindered by the pandemic, which has wiped people’s economic resources, strained health systems and caused challenges to the response.
“The pandemic adds another layer of complexity. We are now, once again, facing an extremely challenging scenario, with overlapping crises increasing the vulnerabilities of women, children, migrants and other groups. We are supporting regional efforts to prepare for this hurricane season, including strengthening an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that no one is left behind.”
To mitigate the logistical challenges caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the IFRC has prepositioned humanitarian goods in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and across the Caribbean to provide immediate response to the humanitarian needs of up to 60,00 people. In parallel, Red Cross teams share early warning messages and urge people to have food, water and other basic necessities at hand, as during the pandemic it might take longer for help to arrive.
The IFRC is paying particular attention to the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, where several countries have been affected by La Soufrière’s volcanic eruption and where COVID-19 cases and deaths are currently reaching a record high and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic is particularly severe.
Roger Alonso, IFRC Head of Disasters, Crises and Climate Unit, said:
“These weather events arecyclical andbecoming more frequent and intense.In many cases, we can predict them,so weurgegovernment and donors across the regionto invest inearly warning systems,disaster preparednessefforts and climate change adaptation initiatives that engage vulnerablecommunities and put them at the heart of thehumanitarianresponse. The Red Cross experience shows that being better prepared before a disaster hits can save lives”.
| Press release
IFRC: Urgent life-saving efforts in Haiti underway as preliminary reports confirm earthquake devastation
Port au Prince, Panama, Geneva, 14 August 2021 - On Saturday, 14 August a major 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti. According to Haiti's Office for Civil Protection, 227 have died and the figure is sadly expected to increase in the coming hours. Preliminary reports by Haitian Red Cross volunteers and IFRC staff on the ground confirm that the earthquake has caused severe damage to infrastructure, including hospitals, especially in Jérémie and Les Cayes, at the Northern coast of the Southern peninsula of the country.
Hospitals and hotels, as well as ports, bridges and routes are reported to have been damaged in Les Cayes and Jérémie, where churches collapsed while the morning mass was being celebrated. Search and rescue activities are concentrated in that area as there may be people trapped in the rubble.
Tropical Storm Grace is on its way and might affect the same areas that have been hit by the earthquake. In response to these compound crises, also taking into consideration the pre-existing vulnerabilities in the country, the IFRC has activated its global network of humanitarian aid specialists and is working on an emergency appeal to be launched within the next 48 hours with an initial allocation of up to 1 million Swiss francs from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
Roger Alonso, IFRC’s Disaster, Crises and Climate Unit, said:
“Life-saving efforts are the priority at this stage of the emergency. Providing support in search and rescue, first aid, emergency health care and shelter is a priority for the Red Cross.
“Together with the Haitian Red Cross, the IFRC is already working on the assessment of damages and needs in the affected areas, where services might have collapsed and homes have either been heavily damaged or fully destroyed, as well as roads and infrastructure in general. It is very likely that inhabitants have been forced to seek shelter.”
Providing psychological support is urgent as well, as many affected people went through the trauma of the 2010 earthquake. Preventing and controlling the transmission of COVID-19 and guaranteeing access to water, hygiene and sanitation, is also essential.
A humanitarian corridor in the Dominican Republic has been activated and prepositioned non-food items (NFIs) are ready for at leat 4,500 people. In addition, emergency items are prepositioned and available in Panama and the Caribbean.
Red Cross emergency specialists are currently being deployed to Haiti to support the assessment and immediate response in support of those affected, especially those who are most vulnerable, such as women, children, elderly and people with disabilities.
For more information, or to arrange interviews with Red Cross staff on the ground, please contact:
In Panama - Susana Arroyo Barrantes: +50769993199 [email protected]
In Geneva – Ann Vaessen: +41762164878 [email protected]
Americas Regional Office
The IFRC’s Americas Regional Office works in support of 35 National Red Cross. Through its Country Cluster Support Teams and its technical unit, 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 the Americas.
| Press release
People affected by La Soufrière’s eruption are in urgent need of hygiene items, water, and COVID-19 protection kits
Kingston / Panama City, 11 April 2021 — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is working alongside the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross (SVGRC) to provide humanitarian aid to the population affected by the eruption of La Soufrière volcano.
Within 48 hours after the volcanic eruption, people’s most immediate needs include maternal and childcare for those staying in the high-risk areas; shelter, hygiene items, water, and items for COVID-19 prevention for those who have been evacuated.
The SVGRC is assisting the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) with evacuation sites and transport points, working to ensure even the most reluctant are evacuated for their safety. Needs assessment teams have been deployed to 100 shelters and in over ten communities, Red Cross volunteers have responded to assist those impacted.
“In addition to assisting with evacuation and shelter management, we are also doing contact tracing to ensure that family members who are displaced, are reconnected with their families. We are encouraging persons who aren’t in government shelters to register with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross,” said Harvey Farrell, SVGRC Vice President.
At evacuation centres, the Red Cross is also distributing hygiene kits, blankets, mattresses and water; and will continue to deliver messages about how to stay safe and healthy from COVID-19, and to avoid contracting dengue. Since early 2020, a dengue outbreak is hitting all health districts of the island.
IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) will allow the Red Cross network to ensure 700 sheltered families are receiving immediate support, including jerrycans, cleaning kits, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, COVID-19 prevention kits and first aid. Safe spaces for children in shelters will also be enabled in coordination with other organizations. Upon returning to their homes, persons would need support in recovering their livelihoods. The Red Cross will conduct an assessment to adequately determine those in need of this kind of assistance.
“This is a very difficult time to be relocating so many people as the island continues to battle COVID-19 and dengue. Red Cross volunteers and staff, many of whom are from the same affected communities and left their homes behind as well, are working tirelessly in these early days of the eruption,” said Ariel Kestens, IFRC Head of Delegation for the Dutch- and English speaking Caribbean.
Effective preparedness and early action in disaster saves lives and livelihoods. Since before the eruption, SVGRC has worked with communities to ensure they are ready to evacuate and had emergency go-bags packed with key documents and necessary supplies.
| Press release
Red Cross: Providing services and protection to migrants in Central America is a humanitarian imperative
Panama/Geneva, 15 January 2021 – The Red Cross is preparing to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants ready to depart Honduras for Guatemala as part of a 'migrant caravan'. More than 4,000 thousand people are expected to join the caravan that will depart from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula today at 5:00 am local time.
The Honduran Red Cross will support up to 6,000 migrants departing from the northern and southern zones of the country. Humanitarian Service Points will be enabled at the point of departure in the city centre of San Pedro Sula, as well as along the migration route. These spaces will provide access to essential services, such as water, face masks, pre-hospital care, information about safety, security and COVID-19 prevention, as well as means of communication for migrants to keep in touch with their families.
During their journey, people are exposed to dehydration, injuries, and fainting. Often, they also lose contact with family members. Providing support and protection is a humanitarian imperative, especially to vulnerable migrants, such as children, youth, women, indigenous populations, elderly, disable, and LGBTQI people.
At the Guatemalan side of the border, ten Humanitarian Service Points are currently being set up along the border and the migration route. Red Cross volunteers specially trained to work in this context are ready to provide protection and holistic humanitarian assistance to 4,000 people, including psychosocial support, higyene kits, clean water, and information on self-care and COVID-19 prevention.
Martha Keays, Regional Director for the Americas at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “The potential exclusion of migrants from the COVID-19 prevention plans is concerning. It isourduty, as the world’s largest humanitarian network, toensure thattheyare not forgotten. The authorities in the places of origin, transit and destination, as well as international organisations, civil society and the migrants themselves should work hand in hand to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Migrants have been disproportionately affected by the impact of COVID-19. Many of them have been unable to comply with the preventative measures necessary to keep them healthy and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, due to limited access to essential services – such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene - as well as poor and unsafe living and working conditions. They have also been hit the hardest by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The combination of COVID-19, social exclusion, discrimination, violence, and climate-related disasters happening at the same time, with a magnitude rarely seen before in Central America, poses new humanitarian challenges. Eta and Iota have destroyed livelihoodsacross a region that was already facing an economic crisis and where the income of thousands of families had already been severely depleted due to the pandemic. People are at risk of resorting to coping strategiessuch as selling their animals and properties,eating less food, andabandoning their hometowns to look for new ways of generating income.
Volunteers: the cornerstone of the response of the Red Cross in the Americas
In the Americas, Red Cross volunteers have proven to be the cornerstone for responding to communities in the region: carrying out inter-hospital transfers to COVID-19 patients in Mexico, working to rescue people affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and more.
The International Federation has witnessed unprecedented humanity and goodness throughout 2020: Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have signed up to volunteer in their national societies, proving that even in these darkest times, there are incredible stories of hope.
Volunteering in times of COVID-19
In Mexico, more than 6,641 volunteers have worked in the response to the emergency created by COVID-19 in inter-hospital transfers, patient care, health education campaigns, and more in the 32 states of the country. In the relief area, many of the paramedic volunteers have decided to isolate themselves from their families, to continue helping in the emergency response, and avoid infecting their loved ones.
"I've been living in a rental house for three months with other colleagues," says Diego Arcos, head of the motorized section of the Mexican Red Cross. "I think the most complicated thing for us in caring for COVID patients is that you don't see what you're fighting against, and you don't see the end of it."
“I understand the desperation of being at home, the desperation of being locked up, but what we want is to go home, and we are only going to achieve it if people take care of themselves and follow safety protocols: wearing masks, washing hands, using antibacterial gel. If we all follow the instructions that are being put forth by the health sector, not just in Mexico, but also worldwide, we are sure that sooner we will be able to go outside or go home for us working in the response.”
Volunteers like Diego, during this pandemic, have made a selfless, supportive, and humanitarian effort to combat COVID-19: their work has been fundamental in education and prevention tasks, as well as in treating patients suspicious or positive.
Volunteering in Emergencies: Responses to Hurricanes Eta and Iota
Climate-related disasters have not stopped in times of COVID-19: 28 of the 35 countries in the Americas are classified as medium, high, or very high risk in terms of exposure to climate-related disasters according to the latest World Report from Disasters, and hurricanes Eta and Iota that hit Central America and Colombia in November, are an example of the risk in the region. Volunteers from the Americas have been an example of solidarity action in the response to the emergency caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota.
During the month of November, the tropical phenomena ETA and IOTA made landfall in Nicaragua, and then caused floods, landslides, damage to infrastructure, homes and crops in Central America and Colombia, with great damage especially in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.
In Nicaragua, more than 180 people have been volunteers in Operation Eta and Iota, supporting more than 33,000 people in the North Caribbean areas of the country: Prinzapolka, Bilwi, Waspan, Rivas. As part of the response to the hurricanes, the volunteers carried out tasks for the preparation prior to the impacts of Eta and Iota and humanitarian actions after the passage of both storms, such as: psychosocial support, water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion. In this way, the volunteers of the Nicaraguan Red Cross continue to demonstrate the true commitment of humanity in the movement.
“To help others, it is important to stay united, have a positive mind, be persistent and empathetic. We do everything with love and always committed to health for everyone,” explains one of the psychosocial support volunteers from the Nicaraguan Red Cross.
Volunteers in the Americas, and around the world, have witnessed unprecedented humanity and goodness: they are the engine of humanity, perseverance, and solidarity of the Red Cross movement in every corner of the continent.
For more information, visit the Volunteering Development Platform (VODPLA), where an interactiveVolunteering mapof activities and projects displays the humanitarian initiatives, activities and projects carried out by volunteers in the region.
| Press release
Red Cross launches massive, multi-country operation as horror of Hurricane Eta emerges
Panama/Geneva, 10 November 2020 – The national, regional, and global resources of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are being mobilized as the full, destructive picture of Eta begins to emerge across Central America.
According to Red Cross assessments, more than 2.5 million people from Panama to Belize have been affected in some way, although the impacts are most severe in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Felipe del Cid, IFRC's Operations Manager for the Americas, said:
"Eta has been a devastating disaster. In Honduras alone, 1.7 million people have been affected. Many of them are women, children and members of indigenous communities that have lost everything and have no access to water and food. In several communities, families are drinking contaminated water and are in urgent need of support."
A plane and two trucks carrying a combined 98 tons of humanitarian aid are departing from the IFRC’s Humanitarian Logistics Hub in Panama to Nicaragua and Honduras. Aid items include mosquito nets, kitchen kits, hygiene kits, tarpaulins, jerrycans, cleaning kits, tool kits and COVID protection equipment.
The IFRC has launched a 20 million Swiss franc Emergency Appeal to support and dramatically expand local Red Cross efforts in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
This operation aims to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people for at least 18 months. It will focus on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, addressing health care needs, including COVID-19 prevention needs, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address issues related to gender and inclusion, as well as displacement. Historically, disasters in the region have led to increased movement of people towards urban centres.
IFRC is also deploying a series of Emergency Response Units from its global network as part of the multi-country operation.
"The region is facing a triple crisis: Eta, COVID-19 and the one caused by the pre-existing conditions of vulnerability that have been affecting Central American countries. We are talking about millions of people affected in seven countries. The need for humanitarian aid is dramatic," Felipe del Cid added.
National Red Cross Societies across Central America were active before Eta made landfall. They coordinated with authorities to prepare for Eta’s impact and assisted in the evacuation of communities lying in its path. Since the storm made landfall, they have been involved in search and rescue efforts, offered support to people in shelters, provided prehospital care to the injured, and offered psychosocial support and COVID-19 prevention information to survivors.
In addition to mounting this operation, IFRC is also closely monitoring potential new storm systems that could develop and threaten Eta-affected communities in the coming days.
IFRC concerned about impact of Hurricane Eta on coronavirus transmission
The Red Cross, working in every country in the region, is supporting thousands of people affected by the heavy rains and floods caused by Hurricane Eta.
Eta tore across parts of Central America after in made landfall in Nicaragua on 3 November as a category 4 Hurricane. Though it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved towards Honduras and Guatemala, constant rains and powerful winds have caused flooding and devastation across the region, including dozens of deadly landslides. Belize, Cost Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua have all been significantly affected.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes with flooding and landslides causing severe damage across the region. It is thought the storm has claimed the lives of more than 200 people, though the true figure could be much higher as many people remain missing.
As families struggle to come to terms with what has happened, concerns are mounting about the impact this disaster will have on coronavirus transmissions.
COVID-19 prevention measures, such as regular hand washing and social distancing, will almost certainly be made more difficult in evacuation shelters, in overcrowded family homes or other safe places people have moved to.
“There are thousands of homeless people, in temporary refuges or shelters facing many vulnerabilities. Right now, preventing the spread of COVID-19 is essential despite the enormous challenges of the emergency. It is not unlikely that we will witness a significant increase in cases in the coming weeks, due to the difficulty of applying public health measures in such a complex context,” Dr María Tallarico, IFRC Health Coordinator in the Americas, warns.
Thousands of Red Cross volunteers across the region are assisting families affected by floods, supporting evacuations and search and rescue, providing first aid and psychosocial support, as well as transporting people safely to hospital. These same volunteers have been supporting communities to stay safe during the pandemic.
“Red Cross National Societies face the difficult task of responding to these deadly rains and floods as well as COVID-19. Volunteers are being provided with the necessary personal protection equipment and will continue to support communities with prevention and protection measures. It is important now that these measures are not only maintained but increased in order to reduce possible transmissions”, Dr Maria continues.
Volunteers from the Guatemalan Red Cross are supporting children affected by the storm with psychosocial support in evacuation shelters across the country. Across the region, volunteers are already distributing hygiene kits across to help people to stay safe. (Credit: Guatemalan Red Cross)[/caption]
Red Cross National Societies, with the support of the IFRC in the region, are already distributing hygiene kits to displaced people, these include masks and hand sanitizer. Volunteers are also talking to families about how to stay safe during this time.
The IFRC is recommending that all response must consider the need for heightened prevention measures against the virus, as well as other communicable diseases, such as Zika, that commonly increase during and after floods.
“We urge people to ensure that they continue to follow health advice, wear masks and wash or disinfect their hands as regularly as possible, use safe water to avoid diarrhea and other infections due to contaminated water, protect girls and boys and monitor the emergence of respiratory or skin diseases. Our Red Cross staff and volunteers are on the ground helping and supporting these tasks,” Dr Maria says.
The Red Cross is also urging people to continue to consider personal protection measures such as wearing masks and washing their hands as often as possible. Assessments are underway to evaluate the damage caused by the storm. The immediate concerns are ensuring people have access to clean water, food and safe shelter.
It may be days or even week before the true extent of the damage is known, but constant rains even after the storm has passed, means that strong currents and landslides continue to destroy homes, farmland and sadly, to take lives.
This devastation comes at a time when many communities in the region are already deeply affected by the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The long-term effects of this disaster threatens to push communities already struggling to cope, over the edge.
“The long-term effects of this climate disaster will push communities already struggling to cope with the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, over the edge. The IFRC has launched and appeal and will continue to work alongside the National Societies responding, to ensure that no one is left behind.”
The IFRC has launched a regional emergency appeal to cover three countries, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The IFRC is seeking 20m CHF to support 75,000 people cross these three countries for the next 18 months. It also continues to support other countries affected, including Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama, working closely with the National Societies responding. The IFRC in the region continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
| Press release
Central America: Hurricane Eta “one of the biggest threats since Hurricane Mitch”
Panama/Geneva, 6 November 2020 — The Red Cross is supporting thousands of people affected by the heavy rains and floods caused by now-Tropical Storm Eta. The devastating storm has claimed more than 50 lives, forced the evacuation of thousands of people, and caused significant damage to infrastructure and homes throughout Central America.
The situation is especially critical in Honduras where authorities have issued a red alert for the entire country, as well as in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Felipe del Cid is the Head of Operations in the Americas for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He said:
“In Honduras, already about 400,000 people have been directly affected by the storm, but that number could even double in the coming hours. Our teams on the ground are seeing widespread damage: communities are flooded, homes are destroyed, and people have been forced to leave their homes.
“Red Cross teams will continue surveying damage, completing needs assessments, and providing comfort and emergency support to those in need. This is probably one of the biggest threats the country has faced since the passage of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.”
The Red Cross is working in close coordination with national and local authorities in all affected countries. Red Cross volunteers and staff are supporting evacuation efforts, rescuing people trapped by the floods and monitoring rivers as water levels rise. They are also providing emergency first aid and psychosocial support.
The IFRC has already released about 440,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to bolster efforts in Nicaragua. Additional allocations for other affected countries are in the pipeline.
The IFRC’s logistics unit at the Humanitarian Hub in Panama is preparing to dispatch emergency supplies such as tarps, blankets, and other items to areas of greatest need. IFRC also anticipates launching emergency appeals for Honduras and Nicaragua.
| Press release
Red Cross bracing for Hurricane Eta’s winds, flooding, and storm surge
Panama/Geneva,3November 2020 —Red Cross volunteers and staff in Nicaragua and Honduras have been preparing to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance ahead of Hurricane Eta’s imminent landfall.
The Honduran and Nicaraguan Red Cross have placed trained volunteers on high alert and have pre-positioned emergency supplies, including fuel, tarpaulins and other relief items. In both countries, the Red Cross has been urging people to have food, water, and other necessities available, and to consider personal protection measures, such as masks and hand sanitizer, for emergency go bags.
Oscar Gutiérrez Somarriba, President of the Nicaraguan Red Cross’ National Council said:
“We are monitoring the hurricane as it moves towards the coast Nicaragua and working with our teams in the areas on the storm’s predicted path to determine the best course of action in response to the conditions and to continue to support vulnerable communities.”
Carlos Montes, Programme Director of the Honduran Red Cross said:
“The Red Cross is working with communities to ensure they are ready to face hurricane conditions during this COVID-19 pandemic by sharing information about how to be ready for a disaster, along with the latest information about the storm.”
Hurricane Eta is the 28thnamed storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, tying the record for the most named storms, previously set in 2005. In addition to supporting communities threatened or affected by disasters like Eta, IFRC advocates for measures designed to mitigate the humanitarian impact of these catastrophic events. Effective preparedness and early action saves lives and livelihoods.
| Press release
Ecuadorian Red Cross: a rapid response to the ashfall
September 22, 2020.- Since the activity of Sangay volcano have being increasing from early hours of September 20, the Ecuadorian Red Cross has activated the Early Action Protocol (EAP) with emergency funds from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which will allow it to immediately assist 1,000 families in rural communities that are being most affected.
“The first actions have been for our volunteers in Chimborazo, Bolívar and Guayas to participate in the local Emergency Operations Committees. From the Provincial Branches, teams of volunteers were activated for damage assessment and needs analysis. In Bolivar, one of the most affected provinces, supplies such as masks were delivered, "says Roger Zambrano, National Coordinator of Risk Management and Emergency and Disaster Response of the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
Due to the ash deposit threshold, the Ecuadorian Red Cross will deliver a thousand family health kits, which consist of N95 masks and eye protection glasses for adults and children, and one thousand animal protection kits, consisting of plastic tarps and tools so that communities can protect their animals and / or their crops. Also, the Cash Transfer Program will be activated through the delivery of IFRC debit cards.
Since 2019, the EAP allows the Ecuadorian Red Cross to access funds to be prepared and pre-positioned for an event of this nature and to be able to take early actions immediately. The objective is to establish adequate early actions, using volcanic ash dispersion and deposition forecasts, which allow actions to be taken to protect the most vulnerable families and their livelihoods in the areas most potentially affected by volcanic ash.
With this type of intervention, the aim is to better understand the behavior of disaster risks, prevent their impacts if possible, and reduce suffering and human losses. "We cannot prevent the occurrence of natural hazards, but we can use the information available to anticipate their consequences whenever possible," adds Ines Brill, head of the IFRC Delegation for Andean Countries. "Early action and effective preparedness can save people and their livelihoods."
Bolivia: crossing the country to save lives
by Melissa Monzon
Santa Cruz, August 10, 10:00am. Magdalena gets ready for the arduous day. The situation room is activated. Today, volunteers and staff from the Bolivian Red Cross – Santa Cruz branch will be starting with the mission: to accompany the transportation of three trucks that will carry oxygen to different hospitals in the departments of Cochabamba, Oruro and La Paz.
In Bolivia, cases of COVID-19 have been increasing in the last weeks, and in many hospitals, there is a shortage of oxygen. This is why this mission is so important. But it won’t be an easy one, there have been blockades in different parts of the country for days, so getting the caravan to its destination requires great coordination efforts.
“The role that each volunteer has played in the operation has been very important, in dialogue with communities. Demonstrating the impartiality and neutrality of the organization and giving the population that confidence that the Red Cross was in a humanitarian mission.”, says Magdalena Choque, head of the team for the humanitarian convoy of the Bolivian Red Cross – Santa Cruz branch.
“From the planning area we begun to develop the action plan, the security plan, the risk analysis, in accordance with the operation. A monitoring and logistics teams was activated, and a suitable and trained team was formed for this operation. Also, the monitoring area coordinated with the Cochabamba branch to give continuity to the humanitarian convoy”, she adds.
Cochabamba, August 12, 04:00 am. Karla Vogt is awake early, monitoring that the transfer occurs withing security parameters. As the focal point of Safer Access, she ensures that the mission is carried out correctly, taking care of the safety of those who participate in it.
It is already 17:00hrs., and the Santa Cruz branch is about to arrive at the meeting point to make the change with the Cochabamba branch; here, other volunteers and staff will take over to continue the journey until the oxygen is delivered to where it is needed.
“One of the biggest challenges that we had was to maintain a constant coordination and monitoring; coordination with different organizations and government entities, to avoid subsequent risks. Demonstrating our humanitarian mission, and above all, respect for our fundamental principles, which allowed us to start dialogues and conversations at points of blockage.”, says Karla. “The branches and volunteers in the field have been able to adapt to the different changes, to a tense and difficult situation, and have been able to apply all the principles already instilled. The Bolivian Red Cross has been able to enhance these virtues in the volunteers and that is something very remarkable.”
In total, there were more than 28 people, including volunteers and staff, who accompanied the caravan, throughout the six days since it left the city of Santa Cruz until it reached La Paz. The caravan transported 66 tons of oxygen, which supplied hospitals in different parts of the country. Coordination between five branches of the Bolivian Red Cross – Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, Oruro and La Paz – allowed that this to be achieved. It wasn’t an easy job, but everyone was convinced of the importance of the operation. “The volunteers and staff were the guardians of that key element to save lives at this time. I think we all had this in mind and put all the efforts, and all our hearts and all our knowledge and skills to achieve the goal”, concludes Karla.
Fighting Dengue fever in the time of COVID-19
By Fernando Gandarillas.
Paraguay has the third highest incidence of dengue fever in the region. This is the third year in a row where there has been an intense outbreak of the disease. In 2020, the country has had the highest number of cases in its history (over 220,000 cases) and 73 people have died. The cities most affected are Asunción, Mariano, Limpio and Capiatá. The Paraguayan Red Cross has been working since the beginning of the year to support to the emergency in these locations; with the support of the IFRC they implemented dengue response projects reaching 1,280 families. The actions focused on generating educational activities for prevention, hygiene and sanitation, as well as the delivery of protection and hygiene kits. These activities suffered serious complications for their implementation with the appearance of the COVID-19 in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the dengue work.
"Due to mobility restrictions and social distancing measures, we were unable to continue with the activities we were carrying out in the communities," said Magali Paredes, Health Officer for Dengue and COVID-19 of the Paraguayan Red Cross.
Much of the work with the community was done through community meetings, where workshops were used to share information. One of the most important tasks was the creation of community brigades to work on the prevention and response to dengue outbreaks at the local level.
Some of the families living in affected areas work in garbage recycling. Many of the recycled items are stored by people in their backyards or in places close to where they live. This is where rainwater collects and where mosquito breeding takes place. Because of this direct link to people's ability to have income, the Red Cross projects were aimed at informing and training community members on how to prevent the spread of mosquito larvae without affecting economic activity.
"We felt that there was always an important involvement and interest from community members because they knew that we are aware of this and that we want to work with them to find solutions," said Magali.
Another piece of the work that the Paraguayan Red Cross has been doing focused on 12 schools in these cities. They work with children to teach them about dengue prevention measures. But, when the isolation measures were adopted, the children stopped going to school. Due to these circumstances the Red Cross is working to generate a process of training teachers.
The Red Cross included a COVID-19 component in community actions since the outbreak of the virus. The creation of community brigades has been key to disseminating information and promoting prevention actions for both dengue and the new coronavirus. In addition, community surveillance mechanisms were created that involve coordinated work between community members and the local Family Health Unit (local public health care point) so that people can report, without fear of being discriminated against, if they have been in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or if they have been seriously exposed to the virus.
"Many times people do not want to report their health condition, if they are showing symptoms or if they have been in contact with people with COVID-19 because they feel observed," said Magali.
The Red Cross has worked as an intermediary between the community and this state entity to facilitate conditions that create security for informants.
The National Society is working to share information around COVID-19 and dengue fever at the same time.
The work carried out by the Paraguayan Red Cross has been sustained with the active participation of dozens of volunteers. One of the most important results of the project has been to achieve empowerment of the people in the affected communities.