Mexico & Central American migration crisis
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, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to scale up humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people along migratory routes.
Mexican Red Cross
A volunteer on wheels in the fight against the pandemic
By Olivia Acosta.
Gina Mejia is 27 years old, an architect by profession, and has been a volunteer with the Mexican Red Cross for three years in Mexico City, the country's capital, a city with a population of nearly nine million.
According to Gina, she has always felt the impulse to support those who need it most: "I have always had the spark to help and on many occasions, when I was working as an architect on construction sites, I thought: if I have an accident, I really wouldn't know how to act to help the injured person". And that is how she decided to join the Red Cross and started first aid training. She has even given courses in her company and always makes her colleagues and friends aware of the importance of first aid. Later, she joined "Volunteers on Wheels", a solidarity programme that she carries out together with other 20 volunteer colleagues, travelling all over the city by motorbike. "I have my own bike and the programme consists of going around different areas of the city, together with other volunteers, to support the people who need it most. For example, we distribute bread and coffee in the hospitals and slums, or we distribute toys to children from poor families.
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything changed, including the "Volunteers on Wheels" programme in which Gina participates: "At the Red Cross, we quickly identified the need to provide information and protective measures to the population, especially to people with few resources who spend a lot of time on the street, such as street food vendors". And so she and her colleagues began to ride their motorcycles around the city, this time to take the temperature in the markets, distribute masks (or "mouth covers" as they say in Mexico) and hydroalcoholic gels, as well as offer truthful information and advice on how to protect themselves against the virus.
Initially, many people didn't wear masks because they didn't really know how important it was to protect themselves against the pandemic. According to Gina: "We realized that a lot of awareness raising was needed to explain to people the importance of protecting themselves against COVID-19 and to offer protective measures. The Mexican Red Cross is a reference organization in the country and we noticed that if we were the ones who advised them to wear a mask or respect distances, they would listen to us," she says proudly.
The volunteers of the Mexican Red Cross protect themselves with all the protective measures they need to carry out their work safely. And they know where to go to help those who need it most. In addition to crowded areas such as hospitals and markets, one of the points on her route is the "Glorieta de Insurgentes". There are palapas that offer access to wifi and it is an area where many people with few resources gather, which means a high risk of contagion. Many of these people live on the streets. According to Gina: "It's very nice to see how homeless people come to us to ask for masks and ask us about how to protect themselves against the pandemic. Many of them ask us for more than one, because at the beginning there was a shortage and also they cannot buy them, and they are very grateful when we give them the masks and they can put them on".
"For me, being able to help at this time, even if it seems like a small thing, is very important, and now I know that the work of Red Cross volunteers is crucial in a situation like this," concludes Gina. Now more than ever, she says, it is clear to her that she will stay with the Red Cross forever.
Mexico: violence and attacks against health workers are on the rise in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
By Fernando Gandarillas.
In Mexico, Red Cross paramedics are used to dealing with cases of violence. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health workers are increasingly faced with personal attacks.
"Sometimes we've had to treat people with gunshot wounds. We have to learn to manage risks in this context because these are very tense situations in which people become very aggressive. I have never had a gun pointed at me, but I have been attacked," said Alejandro, a 21-year-old paramedic from the Huixquilucan branch of the Mexican Red Cross. "The effects of the pandemic have made the job more difficult. People are desperate. The lockdown and the fact that people are becoming infected is creating a lot of unrest", he explains.
A few months ago, Alejandro faced an incident while attending to a patient who was over 60 years of age and had COVID-19. "When we arrived at his home, the person was in a critical state, with severe breathing complications. His symptoms also showed other health problems that had been dragging on for weeks, making his condition worse". Because of the man's condition, Alejandro suggested that his family move him to the nearest hospital. They resisted and began to get upset, wanting him to be taken to a hospital they knew, but which was located much farther away. Finally, they agreed to have him moved to the nearest hospital. Along the way, the patient died, despite all the efforts made by the paramedics to keep him stable. Upon arrival at the hospital, family members became aware of the event and exploded into rage. They attacked Alejandro and another doctor at the hospital, claiming that he died because of them. "Attacks on medical personnel are becoming very common. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is getting worse," explains Alejandro.
Social isolation is another reality that paramedics have to deal with. Many must move away from their families. "We're handling it. However, it's hard not being able to see your loved ones and being away from your friends. The demands of work and isolation damaged my relationship," says Alejandro. The Mexican Red Cross has invested a great deal of effort to provide emotional support to people like Alejandro, who must work directly on the streets and in areas where the virus is ravaging. In addition, the National Society has worked hard to train its staff in safe access and handling of biosecurity protocols. "We are not going to stop, we are going to continue working to help, but we are going to do it in a safer way," he says.
The night begins to fall, and Alejandro goes to the hostel where he is staying as a preventive measure to avoid being in physical contact with his relatives. He has finished his 24-hour shift and now has two days off, which he will use to study. He is pursuing a career in aeronautics and he spends most of his free time studying. "I like to keep busy, I don't like easy stuff," he says. He inherited his vocation as a paramedic from his parents, who have also been involved in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for many years. Faced with the difficult situation, he remains positive. Despite the complications, Alejandro is determined to continue doing his best to cope with the pandemic. "I do my job with love and passion. It is normal to be afraid in the current circumstances, but it is very fulfilling to do what I do. It's great to be able to help people.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2019
About the Fund
The Empress Shôken Fundis named after Her Majesty The Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 15 million Swiss francsand supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 150 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese RedCrossand the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund isevident inthe regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on11April, the anniversary of her death. This yearthe announcement isbeingpublished earlierdue to the weekend.
The selection process
The Fund received 47 applications in 2019, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 395,782 CHF to 14 projects in Bolivia, Cyprus, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Singapore, Slovenia, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine and Vanuatu.
The projects to be supported in 2019 cover a number of themes, including displaced people, disaster preparedness in vulnerable communities, and social cohesion and inclusion. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere.
Going forward, the Joint Commission will continue to focus on innovative projects that are geared towards learning so that the broader Movement canbenefit from project findings.
The 2019 grants
The Bolivian Red Cross is currently working to address the issue of gender-based violence among young people. It will use the grant to set up a permanent programme for schools and youth organizations in order to conduct educational sessions, raise awareness, and provide support and assistance to victims of violence.
Cyprus has become an important destination for trans-Mediterranean migration. Using the grant, the Cyprus Red Cross Society will train refugees and asylum seekers in standard and psychological first aid to enable members of the migrant community to help each other and relieve some of the pressure on the health-care sector.
The Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau will use the grant to strengthen the resilience of coastal communities threatened by extreme weather. The funds will go towards drawing up an emergency action plan, building up stocks of relief items and training at-risk communities so that they can respond rapidly in times of need.
In Iraq, displaced people and those living in remote areas have limited access to water, sanitary facilities and health care, which increases the risk that diseases such as cholera will spread. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society will use the grant to set up a health-education programme to raise children’s awareness of communicable diseases and the importance of personal hygiene.
The conflict in Syria has significantly increased the number of refugees in Lebanon, which has put a strain on blood-related services in the country. The Lebanese Red Cross is a major provider of these services and will use the grant to enhance its ability to deliver them free of charge to all those in need.
Hundreds of schools in Mexico were damaged by a major earthquake in 2017. The grant will help the Mexican Red Cross to set up a programme to prepare school communities for disasters and other emergencies, promote healthy lifestyles and develop skills to facilitate peaceful co-existence.
Young people account for more than 70% of the volunteers of the Mozambique Red Cross. The National Society will therefore use the grant to strengthen its youth-oriented initiatives by running training camps and information campaigns, and setting up Red Cross activities in schools.
In 2004, the Sao Tome and Principe Red Cross opened a social home for the elderly, which plays an important role in reducing this community’s vulnerability. The grant will allow the National Society to renovate the building and improve the services on offer.
The Singapore Red Cross Society runs a large-scale programme to deploy volunteers overseas during disasters. It will use the grant to scale up the training programme for these volunteers, adding more specialized and in-depth training and team-building sessions to ensure the volunteers can work as effectively as possible.
The Slovenian Red Cross plans to take an innovative approach to social cohesion by tackling hate speech and its consequences, with a special emphasis on hate speech against migrants. The grant will go towards a training programme within schools, designed to encourage students to become young cultural ambassadors and further spread the message.
The Suriname Red Cross Society will use the grant to address disaster preparedness in vulnerable schools in Paramaribo. The National Society will help schools and communities to draw up disaster plans, deliver first-aid training to teachers, and set up and train school emergency brigades made up of teachers and students.
The Thai Red Cross Society has a proven track record in conducting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities in emergencies, through its widespread network of registered nurses. It will use the grant to scale up this campaign, as well as to create a WASH manual, together with general and menstrual hygiene kits.
The armed conflict in Ukraine has led to a substantial rise in the number of volunteers working for the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. The grant will go towards a new, more sophisticated system for registering, managing and training the National Society’s growing volunteer base.
People with disabilities are at greater risk during disasters. The Vanuatu Red Cross Society will therefore use the grant to improve and promote disability and gender inclusion in National Society projects and programmes concerning volunteers, recruitment, capacity building, participation and access.
| Press release
IFRC condemns killing of Mexican Red Cross volunteer
Geneva, 19 November 2018 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) strongly condemns the attack on a Mexican Red Cross relief distribution yesterday (18 November) in Guerrero State that claimed the life of one volunteer and injured six others.
According to the Mexican Red Cross, the distribution was taking pace in the town of San Juan Tenería, in the municipality of Taxco when it came under armed attack.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of this incident. This attack on humanitarian personnel is completely unacceptable and we join the Mexican Red Cross in calling for an immediate investigation.
“Above all, we stand in solidarity with our Mexican Red Cross brothers and sisters. We are one global family, and today we all feel their loss deeply.
“National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are neutral and impartial organizations. Their only focus is on serving the most vulnerable. Humanitarian volunteers and staff are not a target.”