Gladis Gómez wears a purple Huipil, a traditional outfit worn by people from the mountainous, western part of Guatemala. The colour represents mourning, as she sadly lost a distant relative a few days earlier.
Despite this, a smile lights up her face—a smile that so many people in her community recognise.
Gladis is the President of a local health committee in her small village of Xecaracoj. The committee brings together a dozen rural women who have been trained in key health issues by the Guatemalan Red Cross so they can help promote healthy practices in their community.
Together, the women go door to door around their village, sharing knowledge on how people can prevent common diseases and deaths, especially among children.
This work is vital. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world, and more than half the population live below the poverty line. The COVID-19 pandemic also took a heavy toll on the country – with 20,000 people dying from the disease within 3 years.
‘’We have spread the new knowledge given to us by the Guatemalan Red Cross to inform men, boys and girls about things as simple as hand washing, cleaning our homes and our streets, and the importance of breastfeeding and nutrition.”
“We now know that healthy habits make the difference between having a strong and healthy community or continuing to take our babies to the hospital,'' says Gladis.
Juan Poyón, Epidemic and Pandemic Control Technician for the Guatemalan Red Cross, says he’s learned a lot from the health committees, like the one run by Gladis, and has used the women’s local knowledge to guide and improve their support.
“We identified key issues, for example, that their priorities were the prevention of COVID-19 or malnutrition. Today, with the committees already trained, we identified that the women wanted to reach more people, in fact, they prioritised radio, information kiosks or messages via WhatsApp as the best channels to share their knowledge more widely,” explains Juan.
To share these valuable community insights even further, the Guatemalan Red Cross connected the women-led health committees with the country's Ministry of Health—which has proved to be an eye opener for the national authorities. They’re now working together to improve community health across the country.
Ana Gómez, Epidemiologist at the Guatemalan Ministry of Health, explained:
“We have worked with the Guatemalan Red Cross to identify people’s needs, respecting the diversity of the population. We learned about, and welcomed, women's points of view to strengthen community health, and along the way we confirmed that their role is key.”
“Women are the main users of health services. They also play a fundamental role in the education of the next generation who will be in charge of the country. Involving women ensures positive behavioural change in families and communities, and therefore contributes to improving Guatemala's health,” says Ana.
Spending time with Gladis, it’s clear to see that she takes a lot of pride in her work, and that she and her fellow health committee members are happy their voices are being heard.
As she sits and weaves herself a new corte – a traditional Mayan skirt – she points to the yellow stripes that represent hope.
“Tomorrow I will wear a yellow Huipil to represent the colour of life, the rays of the sun, and corn,” says Gladis.
“The women of this community are special, very special, because today we have the knowledge to protect life.”
The promotion of these local health committees in Guatemala is part of the epidemic and pandemic preparedness pillar of our Programmatic Partnership with the European Union.
So far, 1250 families in the rural area of Quetzaltenango, western Guatemala, have received valuable and trusted health advice provided by the local health committees.
Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas, the Programmatic Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies.
The IFRC will continue to strengthen the capacities of communities in Guatemala to prevent pandemics and epidemics; and to encourage more women to take leadership positions so they can have a profound, positive impact on the future of their communities.
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a massive increase in the number of refugees, migrants, and returnees in transit by land northwards through Central America. People are mostly moving through irregular channels, and along the way face bureaucratic barriers, suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence or disappear and are separated from their families. Tragically, others are killed or die from diseases or the harsh environmental conditions. This Emergency Appeal supports the Red Cross Societies of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to scale up humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people along migratory routes.
Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector.
In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation.
The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said:
“I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.”
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.”
The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components.
Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU.
Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies.
The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross.
For more information
In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
The Programmatic Partnership is an innovative and ambitious three-year partnership between the IFRC, many of our member National Societies, and the European Union. Together, we support communities worldwide to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies.
Panama City, 11 November, 2021 - One year after Hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America, affecting more than 7.5 million people, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls for urgent action and investment to protect millions of vulnerable people in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua who are facing the combined impact of COVID-19, poverty, and climate-related disasters.
In Honduras alone, over 3 million people are now suffering from food insecurity, and 2.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, over double the previous estimate issued in early 2020. Other communities in the region are facing the destruction of livelihoods such as fishing and farming has forced the most vulnerable families to choose between selling their assets to ensure their food security or reducing the number of daily meals.
Roger Alonso, IFRC’s Head of the Disaster, Climate and Crises Unit, said:
“In the last 12 months, the Red Cross teams in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have worked tirelessly to address the needs of more than 620,000 people affected by Eta and Iota. We have provided shelter, health care, psychosocial support, access to food, clean water, sanitation, and cash transfer services. However, the disaster is not over. Urgent action is needed now to protect people’s livelihoods, prevent diseases, and ramp up the recovery from the social and economic impact of the hurricanes, which have severely affected women, migrants and displaced people.”
In 2020, at least 1.5 million people were displaced in Central America as a consequence of disasters, including Hurricanes Eta and Iota: 937,000 in Honduras, 339,000 in Guatemala, and 232,000 in Nicaragua.
Eta and Iota have wiped out livestock and destroyed over 700,000 hectares of crops which are a critical source of livelihood and food security for many families already facing social exclusion and economic difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and pre-existent poverty levels. These adverse impacts have contributed to people’s decision to leave their homes or join ‘migrant caravans’ headed towards North America.
Martha Keays, IFRC’s Regional Director in the Americas, said:
“We need to act globally and locally before communities are displaced, and invest in climate adaptation and early action to combat the effect of disasters such as Eta and Iota. Guatemala, Honduras and, Nicaragua are classified as countries in high-risk of facing climate-related threats and, at the same time, are in the group of countries that lack investment to fund preparedness and adaptation measures. Humanitarian organizations, governments, civil society, donors, and climate experts should work together to revert that pattern and promote climate financing measures that save lives and empower communities, particularly those with the highest risks and the lowest capacities.”
In response to hurricanes Eta and Iota in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, the IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for 20 million Swiss francs to save lives, deliver humanitarian aid, and put in place preparedness plans and climate change adaptation measures that build community resilience and minimize the impact of future disasters.
In November 2020, the IFRC also activated its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to deliver fast and effective humanitarian aid for over 26,000 people affected by Eta or Iota in Belice, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama.
For more information:
Susana Arroyo Barrantes, [email protected] + 506 8416 1771
María Victoria Langman, [email protected] +507 65501090
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.
Panama/Geneva, 14 December 2020– One month after hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America and Colombia, affecting more than 7.5 million people, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that millions are still in need of immediate humanitarian support in what has become one of the most challenging disasters faced by the region in recent history.
The IFRC and National Red Cross Societies are currently addressing the most urgent needs of over 100,000 people through seven simultaneous humanitarian operations in Colombia, Belize, Costa Rica, Panamá, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. The situation is especially severe in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, where more than 6 million people have been affected by heavy rains, floods, and landslides. In-depth damage and needs assessments are ongoing but results from all rapid assessments conducted so far paint a bleak humanitarian picture in both the short and medium term.
Felipe del Cid, Head of the IFRC’s Disaster Response Unit in the Americas, said: “Millions of people still need immediate humanitarian support: shelter, health care, psychosocial support, access to food, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. We are talking about a huge disaster, exacerbating an already ruinous combination of COVID-19, poverty and inequality in the region.These overlapping crises are making our operation one of the most complex we have ever mounted. The support of the international community is urgent to protect lives and livelihoods”.
On 8 November, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for 20 million Swiss Francs to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua for at least 18 months. Currently only 58% funded, the appeal focuses on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, addressing health needs, including COVID-19 prevention measures, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address the mid-term consequences, such as the hurricanes’ impact on livelihoods and displacement.
“Eta and Iota have wiped out livestock, destroyedtools,harvests and farming areas, and impacted popular tourist spotsacross a region that was already facing an economic crisis related to COVID-19 and where the incomes of thousands of families had already been severely depleted. People are at risk of resorting to coping strategiessuch as selling their animals and properties,eating less food, andabandoning their homes to look for new ways of generating income”, added del Cid.
History has shown that hurricanes can cause displacement influxes as the loss of housing and livelihoods fuel unemployment and lead to increased movement of people to urban centres. Eta and Iota also represent a challenge for returned populations. InGuatemala and Honduras,some of the areas hit hardest have also welcomed large groups of returned people whose journeys have not ended in the way they expected. Figures on unemployment, poverty, and vulnerability were already high due to COVID-19 and will very likely deteriorate due to Eta and Iota.
Audiovisual materials including high quality B-roll and images available to download and use here.
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.
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.
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.
Geneva/Panama, 2 October 2020 – The Guatemalan and Honduran Red Cross Societies are providing assistance and care to hundreds of migrants who have crossed the border from Honduras to Guatemala.
In Guatemala, Red Cross volunteers have been deployed to Entre Rios in the department of Izabal on the north east border with Honduras to support people as they arrive. In all, more than 2,300 people are believed to have crossed in recent days
María Elena Ajpacaja of the Guatemalan Red Cross said:
“We are seeing many vulnerable people crossing the border and they desperately need assistance. Among the crowd of migrants we are identifying pregnant women, children of different ages and elderly people. Many of the people we are treating are dehydrated or suffering from various injuries after having walked very long distances in recent days.”
Guatemalan Red Cross volunteers are providing a range of services, including pre-hospital care, water, hygiene items, snacks, face masks, and information on COVID-19 prevention.
In Honduras, three Red Cross humanitarian service points have been operational since the morning of 30 September, providing water and face masks, as well as information about safety, security and virus prevention.
by Olivia Acosta
It has been more than five months since the borders were closed in Guatemala and a considerable number of people in transit have been blocked inside the country. The situation is a challenge for Guatemala since many of the migrants must resort to finding jobs or generating economic activities in the country, in order to survive. In most cases, migrants are forced to live in local villages near border points, which is also a challenge in terms of harmonious coexistence between local people and migrants.
Most of them have economic difficulties and they take risk by leaving their countries looking for a better life. Their transit through Central America is always very complex, but now with the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, everything has become even more difficult and they rely on the support from organizations such as the Red Cross to solve some of their needs. This is the case of Hosni Contreras, a Nicaraguan who was trapped in Petén, Guatemala, after the borders were closed, and two months ago was hit by a vehicle. "The Guatemalan Red Cross helped me in my recovery process. Now I feel much better, I can walk without crutches," says Hosni.
As part of the response to support people like Hosni, one of the main projects implemented by the Guatemalan Red Cross since 2014 takes place at the departments of Petén, Chiquimula and San Marcos. The project is carried out in coordination with UNHCR and seeks to generate actions to strengthen capacities at institutional level related to assistance and protection for migrants; referral actions to relevant institutions for protection cases; development of communications (Restoration of Family Links, RFL); and activation of awareness and protection processes in transit communities. So far, more than 47,000 people have been assisted.
Thirty volunteers work on the project. The Guatemalan Red Cross has been carrying out permanent training activities for volunteers to respond in the context of COVID-19. “We want our volunteers to be safe, without the risk of getting infected, and to know how to work better to support migrants," says Hector.
The Guatemalan Red Cross is doing an important work to inform this population about the virus and to promote prevention measures. "We do this work in the communities, and produce didactic material to share something attractive for them to become familiar with the messages. Also, we have done an important work from communication with social networks and other channels to reach them with messages in an efficient way," says Hector.
The work that the National Society has been undertaking has focused primarily on generating sustainable processes, which has involved the active participation of communities. "It is a very intense work that we have been developing over the years. We have generated mechanisms that have changed behaviors. We have seen that the perception of the local people has been transformed, and they are even helping migrants on their own".
In this sense, the Guatemalan Red Cross works to develop sustained processes to identify the needs of migrants. "We do this in three ways: one is through direct assistance: since migrants enter Guatemala we establish communication with them. The second one is through dialogue with key actors in the communities. By spending more time in the communities, we have more time to talk with them, to generate trust, and people tell us about their concerns. And also, we are working with the government to generate a systematic record from the feedback we get from them.”
With the arrival of the pandemic, the Guatemalan Red Cross has been adapting its processes according to the evolution of different scenarios. The project has been developed during three years and will continue to be executed towards 2021. "We don't really know exactly how we will be working in two months since the situation is constantly changing, but we will continue with all our efforts to support the migrants," says Hector.
Panama/Geneva, 27 September 2019–-As dengue spreads rapidly across Central America, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling up emergency assistance to help countries contain the mosquito borne viral disease.
In Honduras, more than 71,200 people have been affected by the disease making it the worst outbreak in the country’s history. Nearly one quarter of the cases reported were classified as severe dengue and more than 65 percent of the 128 deaths so far are children under 15.
Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica are also reporting massive increases in dengue cases compared to previous years.
Dr Maria Franca Tallarico, Head of Health at IFRC’s Regional Office for the Americas said:
“Dengue is endemic across the Americas, but what is very concerning in this outbreak is that the majority of the cases and deaths are occurring in children under 15. This is due to a lack of immunity in young people to the deadliest of the four strains of dengue currently circulating in the region.”
A combination of seasonal rains and warming temperatures are being blamed for dengue’s rapid spread--creating more stagnant pools that are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. There are rising concerns that this will make the outbreak will be harder to contain.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rising global temperatures rainfall patterns linked to climate change could significantly modify vector-borne diseases and their effect on human populations—making epidemics more difficult to predict and control.
Teams of Red Cross volunteers in affected Central American countries have been supporting government efforts to slow the outbreak—providing door to door awareness raising about the disease and how to prevent it. With their unique access to affected communities, the Red Cross volunteers are helping to clean up mosquito breeding sites or accompanying health workers to identify cases.
Dr Tallarico said:
“The size of this outbreak is unprecedented across Central America. Dengue is a disease that affects the most vulnerable--those who live in places where there is poor sanitation and where mosquitoes thrive. But the disease can be contained if governments and communities work together to raise awareness, access medical care and clean up the environment. This is what the Red Cross teams across affected countries are focused on doing.”
The IFRC has launched a regional appeal seeking a total of 2.9 million Swiss francs to support the National Red Cross Societies in Central America to deliver assistance and support to 550,000 people for 12 months. The appeal will focus on community health, water and sanitation and promoting behaviours changes that prevent the decease.
Dengue cases have increased 30-fold over the last 50 years, according to the World Health Organization. As one of the world’s fastest growing diseases, dengue is endemic in 100 countries infecting up to50-100 million people a year.