5 top tips on maintaining mental health from Red Cross first-responder volunteers
We all know that mental well-being is as important as physical health. But how often do we actively take care of our mental health? What can we do to support ourselves and others?
Why not ask some experts? People whose job is to take care of others during and after crises and emergencies.
We decided to ask volunteers from a Honduran Red Cross team that provides medical and mental health services to migrants at a mobile Humanitarian Service Point in Danlí, 92 km southeast of Tegucigalpa.
To do their job, they must take care of themselves. After all, how can you support others if you’re not processing your own emotions in a productive, healthy way?
Here are 5 tips they offered that can help everyone - even if you are not a volunteer - to take care of your mental health, anywhere, at any time:
1. A little help from close ones: Individual and team care.
In emotionally intense situations, it is important to rely on work teams, friends and family. You don't have to face it alone. Sharing experiences and reflecting together helps us deal with the emotional impact of daily work.
"In the team, we are always trying to fill ourselves with good energy and good attitude towards difficult situations. We always try to take care of ourselves physically, and above all to take care of our mental health.
Because we see many cases, aggressive people, without self-control. In childhood care, we can handle a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, and we try to understand but also to take care of ourselves."
Honduran Red Cross
It is necessary to allow yourself to feel and validate all emotions in order to heal, even if they make you feel uncomfortable.
Engaging in self-care practices that involve physical activity and moments of relaxation, as well as resting and spending time in nature, or with people you love, can also help you through painful situations.
2. Someone to lean on: Seek professional support.
Access to information and psychosocial support resources can save lives. Despite the fact that close to one billion people in the world suffer from a mental disorder, stigma and social difficulties make it difficult to promptly seek help and mental health care.
"We rely on our own team, we reflect and share the experiences we have lived through, and that helps us to provide emotional support. But beyond that, there is also a team of mental health professionals that we can rely on."
Honduran Red Cross
Talking about your emotions is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. You may be struggling with what you feel is part of the human condition and there is no shame in doing so. You are just a person going through a difficult time and doing the best you can.
There will always be someone who understands what is happening to you.You can always ask for help.
3. I hear you: Practice active listening
Just as sharing your feelings is beneficial to your mental health. Listening to others in an attentive and respectful way, validating their experiences and emotions, can strengthen your relationships and bonds. It can also provide valuable emotional support, and even more so during crisis and emergencies.
"For me, this time I have being a volunteer has been very eye-opening. Gettingclose todifferent realities and learning what people live through along the migratory route, helped me grow as a mental health professional."
Honduran Red Cross
By practicing active listening, you develop empathy and open yourself to know realities different from your own.
When you see that someone is suffering and having a hard time, let's listen, validate, support and, if possible, accompany them to seek professional help.
4. Keep learning: Look for useful resources.
Training is a powerful tool for understanding and addressing mental health challenges and identifying symptoms and situations that can lead to stress and anxiety.
"In the Red Cross, I was trained from the basics. I learned what the Red Cross was, safety measures for field work, the meaning of our uniforms. I also received training in Psychological First Aid, Restoring Family Links and Protection, Gender and Inclusion.
"We know that in the field we need this knowledge to provide adequate care and to protect ourselves, which is part of the Red Cross training."
Honduran Red Cross
Don't miss the opportunity to strengthen your mental health knowledge and learn how to help yourself and people around you.
Visit our mental health page to find more resources.
5. Support others - support yourself: Volunteer service
By supporting others in times of crisis and emergencies, you not only provide support to those in need, you can also find meaning and satisfaction in your life.
"You see on the news what the people who pass through the Darien go through, they come with their complications, there are people who have even died on the way....
And to see the joy of the adults, when we take care of their children, when they have their medicines and the possibility of healing their wounds, is the most valuable thing. People always leave grateful, giving you blessings".
Honduran Red Cross
The advice and practices shared by Scarlet, Angel, Yaritza and Leonardo show that taking care of our mental health is essential to facing life's challenges and providing effective supportto those in need.
Access to mental health services must go hand-in-hand with actions that guarantee basic needs for all people, whoever they are and wherever they are.
There is no health without mental health.
From north to south: Honduran Red Cross accompanies thousands of migrants on their return home
Máximo and George are two brothers from Honduras who, faced with unemployment and a lack of opportunities, took the difficult decision to migrate northwards in search of a better future.
Their journey towards their dream life, however, did not go as planned.
"We were stranded, with no money, with nothing, but we kept walking. We had no money for the bus, nothing, but we decided to take the risk. On the way we were assaulted and we were extorted, we almost lost our lives. They pointed a gun at us and told us ‘you pay us, or else we’ll put you in a body bag'," explains George.
Stories like this are sadly all too common along the Central American migratory route. Violence from criminal gangs, rising unemployment and cost of living, among other reasons, are all encouraging people to migrate—not only from south to north, but also from north to south.
Honduras is a territory of origin, return and transit for migrants. Every day, hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, leave the country. Many others cross it on their way to North America, and many others return to the country when they encounter the same problems abroad that they were trying to flee at home.
From January to July 2023, more than 33,000 Honduran migrants like Maximo and George returned to their country, equivalent to almost 160 people per day.
"One of the reasons people return, according to the interviews we have conducted, is to be reunited with their families,” explains Nicol Palacios, Protection Assistant at the Centre for Attention to Returned Migrants (CAMR) in Omoa, north-west Honduras.
“The challenges they face on the migration route have a great influence: suffering violence, the long distances they have to walk, spending the night in the street, not having food or at least not the food they are used to in their country. Tiredness is also another reason why they stop; and if they feel dejected, they decide to turn themselves in to the authorities so that they can be returned to Honduras,” she adds.
From the Corinto border between Honduras and Guatemala, the Honduran Red Cross (HRC) transports migrants and returnees to the CAMR in Omoa, where they receive support from staff and volunteers from the Red Cross and National Migration Institute.
"This Centre gives returnees the opportunity to feel a warm embrace when they return to their country", says Mario Alberto Ávila, Director of the CAMR.
Meanwhile, further south in the small town of Belen, the Honduran Red Cross partners with the local government to run a care centre for unaccompanied migrant children and families returning home.
"All the cases in the centre are tough to listen to, all of them. People come in frustrated and upset because they did not achieve their objective of reaching their destination,” says Gabriela Oviedo from the Honduran Red Cross who runs the care centre.
“What has had the greatest impact on us is looking after babies who are only days or months old; children who don't even know how to speak. We welcome them at the centre and give them the loving treatment they deserve until we can hand them over to their waiting family members," she adds.
Saving lives and addressing the needs of migrants along the Central America migratory route is becoming increasingly urgent. The IFRC's priority in the region is to provide people on the move with quality assistance tailored to the specific needs of the most vulnerable groups—regardless of people’s migration status or the reasons why they’re on the move.
For Marilyn, a young mother from Honduras, it was losing her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then losing her home in floods caused by Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2021 that pushed her to seek a better life elsewhere.
But being separated from her two children, who she left with her mother, was not easy. Marilyn attempted to head to North America several times, but never made it to her destination. During her migration attempts she experienced muggings, hunger, breaking her feet, and a boat capsizing.
"My dream is in about 5 years to have my own house. To set up my own business and for my children to be well, to put them to school. I want them to have better opportunities than I had", says Marilyn.
The IFRC network strives to provide assistance and protection to returnees like Marilyn, Máximo and George who are looking for a better future.
From July 2022 to May 2023, our emergency appeal addressing the migration crisis in Mexico and Central America has enabled the Honduran Red Cross to provide health services, psychosocial support, water and sanitation services, and cash assistance to more than 59,000 people.
As the number of people on the move through Central America continues to rise, the challenge is daunting.But we will continue to defend migrants’ rights and dignity and provide them with vital humanitarian services—whoever and wherever they are.
Learn more about the IFRC's work supporting people on the move.
Flooding around the world: Red Cross and Red Crescent teams responding
In recent weeks, floods have been hitting communities and making headlines around the world.
Let’s take a look at some of the countries dealing with flooding and see how Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are helping people who have been affected.
Torrential rains over the past couple of weeks have affected two-thirds of Slovenia, prompting the country’s Prime Minister to declare it the ‘biggest natural disaster’ in the country’s history.
The floods have killed three people and destroyed bridges, roads and houses - causing an estimated 500 million euros of damage.
Volunteers from the Slovenian Red Cross have been delivering food, water and medicine to people affected by the floods – often on foot, since it’s the only way to reach many isolated communities. They’re also accompanying people staying in temporary shelters.
The Czech Red Cross, Croatian Red Cross, Hungarian Red Cross and Polish Red Cross have all shown solidarity by sending additional food, water and hygiene items into the country to help with the response.
In Norway, Norwegian Red Cross volunteers are helping people affected Storm Hans, which is causing havoc across the south of the country – bringing extreme rain, landslides and floods.
Volunteers are assisting with evacuations, running emergency ambulances, delivering food to isolated people and building sandbag flood defences. Many local branches remain on high alert, with more volunteers standing by to support as the situation develops.
With millions reeling from the ongoing conflict in Sudan, communities across White Nile state have also now been impacted by heavy rains and flash floods.
Torrents of water swept away and destroyed everything in their path. Families have lost homes and belongings, and many are resorting to sleeping outside in the open air.
Shelter and clean water are needed urgently. Sudanese Red Crescent Society volunteers, who have already been responding to people’s needs during the conflict, are assessing the situation closely to provide additional support.
Torrential rains and floods have hit East Asia severely this summer, including areas of north, northeast and southern China. Beijing has seen the largest rainfall experienced in the city in the past 140 years.
Disaster relief teams from the Red Cross Society of China are helping people in flood-stricken areas – supporting with clean-up and recovery, as well as distributing household items, quilts, waterproof jackets and more.
In the Philippines, Typhoons Doksuri and Khanun (known locally as Egay and Falcon) have brought devastating floods.
An estimated 313,000 people have been displaced by Doksuri alone, and more than 25 people have sadly lost their lives.
Philippine Red Cross volunteers have been bringing relief supplies, meals, medical assistance and psychosocial support to affected communities.
Flash floods and heavy rainfall have caused loss of life, injuries and severe damage to hundreds of households in Afghanistan – a country already experiencing complex humanitarian crises.
Afghan Red Crescent and IFRC emergency teams are providing urgent relief – including blankets, jerry cans, tarpaulins and shelter kits. And mobile health teams are bringing medical services to remote communities.
In Iran, Iranian Red Crescent Society teams have been responding to flooding in Sistan Balochistan, North Khorasan and West Azerbaijan provinces – deploying 35 response teams and providing support to hundreds of people.
Volunteer teams have been rescuing people stranded in the flood waters, setting up temporary shelters, and providing essential items.
In western Honduras, localized flooding caused by rainstorms hit the town of Copan Ruinas – damaging homes and local businesses.
The local Honduran Red Cross branch responded quickly to distribute relief items to local people and help clear up debris and fallen trees.
Thank you to all our National Societies for supporting communities affected by floods in recent weeks.
If you'd like to learn more about floods and how you can prepare, click here.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2023
The Empress Shôken Fund (ESF) is named after Her Majesty Empress Shôken of Japan who – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – proposed the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
The fund is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which maintains close contact with the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute in Japan.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evidenced by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The Fund has a total value of more than 14 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that benefit the communities they serve in many different ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921 to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, more than15 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 171 National Societies. The grants are announced every year on 11April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
Increasingly, the Fund encourages new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit our International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
2023 selection process
The Fund received 51 applications in 2022 for the 102nd distribution of income, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies globally. The applications submitted featured more innovative proposals than in previous years, further confirming the need for the ESF to support innovation and experimentation within National Societies.
This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 367,187 Swiss francs to 13 projects in Albania, Belgium, Burundi, Eswatini, Fiji, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Paraguay, Sudan, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay. The world’s current crises have impacted the performance of the fund, and ESF Joint Commission members have adjusted the process accordingly.
This year the projects selected cover a variety of topics, including first aid and rescue, youth, disaster preparedness, health, and National Society development (NSD).
The 2023 grants by theme
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches, and this is clearly reflected in the selection of proposals to receive funding. Some National Societies are incubating and testing their innovative solutions and experimenting with a host of ideas and approaches. With their pilot methodology, they could potentially scale up and implement their initiatives with the support of other funding sources.In this category, the selected grantees are as follows:
The Honduran Red Cross has taken an innovative approach to volunteer empowerment and engagement. The goal of its project is to establish a fund that supports innovative micro-projects developed and led by local volunteers. This will help forge stronger links between the National Society and the communities it serves. It has designed a pilot with 12 micro-projects, responding to an identified need to grow activity at the branch level.
The Uruguayan Red Cross is focusing efforts on improving mental health resilience among young people by providing training in schools, creating psychosocial support mechanisms and forming youth brigades. There is a growing need for youth mental health support, and this pilot in two schools will give the team an opportunity to learn and adapt their approach.
The Indonesian Red Cross Society will pilot a community-based approach to environmental awareness and food security. A renovated community learning centre will be used to launch the pilot, which will engage over 100 stay-at-home spouses and 30 children. The project aims to tackle emerging issues, such as climate change, while building stronger community connections.
Many National Societies have prioritized innovative solutions to combat the challenges of climate change. In this category, the selected beneficiaries, in addition to the Indonesian Red Cross Society, are as follows.
Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards. The Belgian Red Cross will engage and empower young people impacted by floods to express and share their feelings on climate change through digital story telling. Simple to replicate and scalable, this initiative has the potential to give us tremendous insight and allow for powerful messages to be shared.
As a means of addressing the challenges of climate change, the Burundi Red Cross will engage in implementing activities such as tree planting and promoting improved city waste management. The project is a youth volunteer-led initiative that will reduce youth unemployment. This comprehensive approach will result in significant learning opportunities.
The Paraguayan Red Cross will develop a mobile app that will serve as an early warning system and educate communities on how they can respond to flooding in seven community districts. This solution is scalable, innovative and a sustainable approach to addressing community needs.
Finally, the last group of beneficiaries will use their grants to address issues related to disaster preparedness, health and youth. In this category, the selected grantees are as follows.
The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society will improve data management processes for effective decision-making during emergencies in Eswatini by 2025. The main idea is to integrate and mainstream a mobile phone app dashboard into the existing National Society information management system and increase community participation (affected communities) in information sharing and management.
Thailand is prone to natural hazards, which often cause devastating damage and loss of lives. Therefore, the Thai Red Cross Society aims to improve disaster readiness, mainly for earthquakes, by training children and young people using virtual reality simulation.
The Sudanese Red Crescent will use the funds to support flood-affected women, providing them with cash, grants and livelihood tools to allow them to start their own business. The aim is to build resilience and longer-term recovery contexts for current and future crises by empowering the most vulnerable in a self-sustaining way.
The Red Cross Society of Guinea will focus on developing a mobile health app to comprehensively improve the quality of basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care, especially for complex deliveries, with a view to reducing maternal and newborn mortality.
According to figures on human trafficking, Albania is a primary source country and the non-EU European country with the second highest number of victims. To address this threat, the Albanian Red Cross will use the grant to train staff and volunteers, with a view to activating peer-to-peer prevention in high schools. The National Society will reach out to other sister National Societies to build a strong network of certified trainers who will raise awareness through peer-to-peer activities.
The Fiji Red Cross Society aims to overhaul its current volunteer programme, using the grant to implement end-to-end digitization to enhance the onboarding experience and increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of volunteer management. The idea is to also include community-level training that will generate meaningful learning and be easily replicable elsewhere.
At present, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has more than 18,000 staff and volunteers across its local branches who support it in carrying out its humanitarian mission. With a view to scaling up branch development by complementing other initiatives, the National Society will use the grant to digitize its policies for online courses that can be freely accessed at any time, making training more convenient for its network of staff and volunteers.
ESF and learning
The Fund constantly strives to generate insights from the projects implemented for the benefit of the whole Movement and to diversify its learning materials. Later this year, the Fund will join with the stakeholders of the other NSD funding mechanisms, namely the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and the National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA),for a learning event, with the aim of sharing lessons learned and experiences from grantees across the different funds.
It is important to recognize the diversity of National Societies within the network and the wide range of NSD support that is needed. The ESF and the other funding mechanisms (which focus more on NSD) operate in a complementary way, and togethertheyhave the capacity to meet this array of NSD and learning needs and support a broader transformation in our network.
Honduran Red Cross: Kindness shines bright in local communities
It’s 8am on a peaceful Sunday morning in Copán Ruinas, a small, picturesque town in western Honduras that was formerly one of the most powerful cities in the Mayan empire.
Shopkeepers are starting to open their doors. A scattering of women and children play in the main square. And many locals – wearing their signature wide-brimmed hats – are heading out on their morning walks.
But one man stands out in his bright red vest and cap. A large Red Cross emblem and the words Cruz Roja Hondureña proudly emblazoned on the back. I watch for a moment as he chats to people in the village, who all seem to greet him warmly with a handshake or fist bump.
I catch up to him, say a friendly “¡Hola, amigo!” and learn his name is Stanley. A Red Cross volunteer for more than 22 years, he’s on his way to a meeting with fellow volunteers and staff from around their region. He invites me to visit the local branch later that afternoon to learn about what they do.
And so I did! And the welcome couldn’t have been warmer.
Over lunch, I learned that everyone had come together from across the region to share their stories, knowledge, and experiences of supporting their local communities through various crises and day-to-day challenges.
Let me tell you about three of the people I met: Mirian, Napoleón and Loany.
Mirian is the proud President of the Copán branch and has been volunteering for more than 10 years. Her branch runs the only two ambulances in the whole town, meaning that when someone gets into trouble, it’s her team that answers the call.
She oversees far more than emergency health services, though. Her branch does a lot of work helping local people, including indigenous groups living in the surrounding hills and schoolchildren, to be prepared for crises – such as hurricanes and floods.
Her branch is also supporting the growing number of migrants passing through Honduras on their way northwards, including, amongst other things, through Humanitarian Service Points: strategically located spaces where migrants can access safe and reliable support on their journeys.
“I am motivated by humanitarianism, by seeing how the Red Cross is an organization full of love for others. That we are people willing to give everything. For me, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me – being a member of the Red Cross family,” says Mirian.
Napoleón is based in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city. He’s a former cameraman who has been volunteering as a driver for the Honduran Red Cross for five years.
A couple of years ago, Napoleón was one of many Honduran Red Cross volunteers who responded to devastating hurricanes Eta and Iota that ravaged the region.
He describes driving a large rescue truck through flood water so deep his vehicle nearly washed away. Despite treacherous conditions, he was able to reach and help rescue many stranded people, their belongings, and pets. He also assisted with the massive recovery and reconstruction effort, helping to put people’s lives and homes back together again.
The pride Napoleón takes in volunteering is written all over his face. His smile beams from ear to ear as he talks about supporting his fellow volunteers and rallying them together during a crisis.
“I like being a volunteer because you donate part of your life and you share feelings in helping humanity. It makes you feel good, feel satisfied, to be able to help,” says Napoleón.
Loany is also based in San Pedro Sula, but her role is a little different. She’s not a volunteer, instead she’s employed by the Honduran Red Cross to help volunteers.
She works with local branches, like the one in Copán, to improve their governance, financial management, and resource mobilization, so that their volunteers can provide better care and support to their communities.
While it might not sound as impressive as wading through flood waters to rescue survivors, Loany’s work is no less important. Strong local branches are the bedrock of the IFRC network. Without them, we can’t provide the fast, effective and local support that communities in crisis really need.
With one year’s experience, Loany is a relative newcomer to the Red Cross family. I asked her what working for the Red Cross means to her and whether she plans to continue:
“For me it means love, because wanting to do things well, wanting to help other people who are vulnerable or at risk, makes us give the best of ourselves as people. Now that I’ve entered the world of the Red Cross, I don’t know if I’ll ever leave!,” she says.
At the end of the volunteer meeting, the group disbands, bidding each other fond farewells.
I walk back to the main square in Copán, thinking about a word we often use in the humanitarian sector: ‘localization’.
It’s a jargon term. But what does it really mean?
I realise that, to me, it means Mirian, Napoleón and Loany: three people working hard within their local communities to make life better, safer, and brighter for those around them.
And it means Stanley: a man treading the same familiar streets for years in his hometown wearing his Red Cross vest. A man known, trusted, and respected by his local community, there for them through good times and bad.
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, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to scale up humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people along migratory routes.
| Press release
Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector
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
Programmatic Partnership / IFRC
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.
| Press release
Communities affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota are threatened by food insecurity, displacement and the climate crisis
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
| Press release
More than 139 million people hit by climate crisis and COVID-19, new IFRC analysis reveals
New York, Geneva, 16 September 2021 – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters have affected the lives of at least 139.2 million people and killed more than 17,242.
This is the finding of a new analysis published today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, on the compound impacts of extreme-weather events and COVID-19. A further estimated 658.1 million vulnerable people have been exposed to extreme temperatures. Through new data and specific case studies, the report shows how people across the world are facing multiple crises and coping with overlapping vulnerabilities.
The paper also highlights the need of addressing both crises simultaneously as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected livelihoods across the world and has made communities more vulnerable to climate risks.
The IFRC President, Francesco Rocca, who today presented the new report at a press conference in New York, said: “The world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis where the climate change and COVID-19 are pushing communities to their limits. In the lead up to COP26, we urge world leaders to take immediate action not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to address the existent and imminent humanitarian impacts of climate change”.
The report comes a year after an initial analysisof the overlapping risks of extreme-weather events that have occurred during the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc, with direct health impacts for millions of people around the world, but also a massive indirect impact, in part due to the response measures implemented to contain the pandemic. Food insecurity caused by weather extremes has been aggravated by COVID-19. Health systems are pushed to their limits and the most vulnerable have been the most exposed to overlapping shocks.
In Afghanistan, the impacts of the extreme drought are compounded by conflict and COVID-19. The drought has crippled agricultural food production and diminished livestock, leaving millions of people hungry and malnourished. The Afghan Red Crescent Society has ramped up relief, including food and cash assistance for people to buy food supplies, plant drought-resistant food crops and protect their livestock.
In Honduras, responding to hurricanes Eta and Iota during the pandemic, also meant additional challenges. Thousands of people became homeless in temporary shelters. Anti-COVID-19 measures in those shelters required physical distancing and other protective measures, which limited capacity.
In Kenya, the impacts of COVID-19 are colliding with floods in one year and droughts in the next, as well as a locust infestation. Over 2.1 million people are facing acute food insecurity in rural and urban areas. In the country and across East Africa, the COVID-19 restrictions slowed down the flood response and outreach to affected populations increasing their vulnerabilities.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the globe are not only responding to those overlapping crises but also helping communities to prepare and anticipate climate risks.
In Bangladesh for instance, the Red Crescent Society has used IFRC’s designated funds for anticipatory action to disseminate flood related Early Warning Messages through loudspeakers in vulnerable areas so people can take the necessary measures or evacuate if necessary.
Julie Arrighi, associate director at the RCRC Climate Center said: “Hazards do not need to become disasters. We can counter the trend of rising risks and save lives if we change how we anticipate crises, fund early action and risk reduction at the local level. Finally, we need to help communities become more resilient, especially in the most vulnerable contexts.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on climate risks. Governments need to commit to investing in community adaptation, anticipation systems and local actors.
“The massive spending in COVID-19 recovery proves that governments can act fast and drastically in the face of global threats. It is time to turn words into action and devote the same energy to the climate crisis. Every day, we are witnessing the impact of human-made climate change. The climate crisis is here, and we need to act now,” Rocca said.
Download the paper:The compound impact of extreme weather events and COVID-19
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 43 67, [email protected]
Marie Claudet, +33 786 89 50 89 , [email protected]
Honduran Red Cross
Being prepared: Responding to two powerful hurricanes in the midst of a pandemic
The past hurricane season in the Atlantic has been one of the worst for Honduras since Hurricane Mitch, which caused more than 5,000 deaths in 1998.
Hurricanes Eta and Iota, category 4 and 5 respectively, made landfall last November and entered through the Department of Paraíso, the area where Carlos Colindres, National Risk Manager of the Honduran Red Cross, usually lives. "When I confirmed that the situation could become very serious, I began to worry about my family. We were already designing contingency plans for the population, when I remembered that I had to talk to my father to warn him. I explained to him there were going to be days of heavy rain and strong winds and it was necessary to be prepared, to have provisions and to keep warm... he answered me that he had already lived similar situations throughout his life, but now he felt calmer because according to him, they were handled in a more efficient way. That's what it's all about, I told him, be prepared for giving the best response, and try to minimize the impact and save lives”.
Responding during a pandemic
Colindres, manager since 2014, says the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the response of the institutions to the disaster caused by the two hurricanes, due to mobility problems and limited product procurement, among others.
"The Honduran Red Cross has a lot of experience in facing endemic epidemiological situations in the area, such as dengue or zika, and we are prepared to act in adverse meteorological situations such as hurricanes or floods, but not with a pandemic of such magnitude at the same time... a country is never prepared for a situation like this."
There were challenges to being able to provide quality care in a timely manner, according to Colindres. Many things failed, such as early warning systems, because there is no adequate technology available in the country to make an accurate projection and forecast. "Despite everything, our response was adequate, we arrived at the right time. The volunteers of the Honduran Red Cross, together with the national security forces under the Humanitarian Response Units UHR, were evacuating people and transferring the population to shelters and other safe places from the beginning. The Red Cross saved the lives of more than 4,900 people through water and air rescues. They also provided psychosocial support, first aid, and house cleaning... but the second hurricane, Iota, made everything worse, leaving 1.2 million people exposed to the disaster," he recalls.
Being able to respond in the most effective way to a catastrophe like this it takes many years of hard work and training beforehand. It is essential to be prepared at all levels, from institutional to local level. The key is to have adequate training and resources, as well as ongoing volunteer training.
"Having a clear national response plan, which is part of strengthening our operational capacity, has helped us to plan our response. In addition, volunteers have been trained to deal with emergencies, including epidemics. Many National Societies, with the support of the IFRC, are implementing an approach we call PER (Preparedness for Effective Response) that allows us to improve our disaster response mechanism. This approach is the result of experience and best practices learned from many years responding to emergencies around the world".
The passage of hurricanes Eta and Iota triggered a humanitarian crisis aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more than 100 dead in Honduras, millions displaced, as well as the destruction of homes, bridges, roads, crops and economic losses in the millions, which will take years to recover.
| 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
Humanitarian response to hurricanes Eta and Iota one of the most challenging faced by Central America in decades
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.
| 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
Hundreds receive aid as migrants cross into Guatemala
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.
Honduras: 500 migrants blocked in Choluteca due to movement restrictions
The situation in Choluteca, Honduras, near the border with Nicaragua, is extremely difficult for approximately 500 migrants who are blocked in the country due to movement restrictions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them are from Cuba, Haiti and several African countries (such as Ghana, Kenya, etc.) and travel with their family for months, crossing different borders on their way to the United States. One of their main concerns is to maintain their anonymity and remain "invisible" to the institutions, agencies or governments, in order to avoid being detained and deported during their migration journey to the north.
Each stage of their path poses new challenges depending on the countries they cross. Families grow along the journey with the birth of new members who, sometimes, cannot accompany their parents on their way to the north because of nationality laws of the countries where the children are born.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, these migrants have faced new risks in their migration journey. According to Alexei Gastro, Secretary General of the Honduran Red Cross: "They risk being stranded at the borders of different countries, as is the case in Choluteca, with limited health care infrastructure. They are also exposed to human trafficking, assaults, rapes, and payments to 'coyotes' to guide them on their route".
According to Alexei Gastro, another fundamental challenge for migrants is to conserve their financial resources to complete their migratory journey: "For them it is vital to maintain the budget allocated to this migratory project, so they cannot afford long stays at any point along the route, because they could run out of resources to continue their journey to the north".
The Honduran Red Cross is providing support to the migrants blocked in Choluteca to try to alleviate the basic needs of migrants who hope to be able to follow their route when the restrictions on movement imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.
The Honduran Red Cross is providing support to the migrants blocked in Choluteca in order to meet their basic needs. Those migrants continue to hope to be able to continue their journey up north when the movement restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. The Honduran Red Cross identified the need to set up shelters to accommodate those migrants, who often have to stay with Honduran families, or in hotels in the area. Other services being provided to migrants include health assistance to prevent coronavirus and dengue; distribution of food, hygiene kits, drinking water, and biosecurity supplies; restoration of family contacts; access to the Internet; psychosocial support, etc.
Language is an additional issue because most of the migrants barely speak Spanish or English, making it difficult for Red Cross teams to provide, for example, psychosocial support. According to Dunia Varela, Health Officer at the Honduran Red Cross: "The difficulty of language, the masks and the PPE (personal protective equipment) we have to wear during the COVID-19 outbreak, makes it even more difficult to empathize with migrants, because they cannot see our faces or expressions, although in most cases it is very gratifying when we manage to get them to open up to us and share what worries them".
The Red Cross is particularly concerned about the situation of migrants and voluntary returnees to countries of origin in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is working hard to alleviate their suffering and meet their basic needs in transit countries and at the borders.
Community action against Dengue
In the courtyard of a health centre in Managua, Nicaragua, a mother and daughter share a supportive smile. Their expressions convey joy and confidence. They have just shared with us a story of survival and empowerment. Having had a very hard personal experience with dengue fever, both are now community volunteers in a Nicaraguan Red Cross vector control operation.
In 2019, the Central American region suffered the most extensive dengue epidemic of the decade. More than one million people have been affected by the outbreak, with the highest numbers of cases reported in Honduras and Nicaragua. The Red Cross is working in these two countries, as well as in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala, to empower local communities to cope with both the current crisis and possible future outbreaks.
With the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), National Societies are working alongside communities in the most affected areas to equip them with the information and materials necessary to control and mitigate the effects of the current outbreak, and prevent future ones. This community-based approach is known as Community-Based Epidemiological Surveillance (CBES), and has been used in the region before with positive results in other epidemic crises, such as zika in 2016. This strategy allows community members themselves to identify risks in their environment and take action to eliminate or mitigate them, empowering them to become active agents of change.
The first step of CBES is to identify social leaders who, working together with National Societies, organize community groups. Once these groups are formed, the Red Cross provides them with information on the outbreak so that they can identify warning signs and know what referral routes to health care are available if a potential dengue case is identified, as well as what hygiene and sanitation measures should be taken to prevent and mitigate outbreaks. Based on this information, communities create risk maps and plans to implement preventive and mitigation measures. The final step of CBES is the implementation of these plans through breeding site identification and elimination campaigns, home visits in which they replicate the information learned about dengue prevention, and outreach activities in schools.
A life-changing disease
At a recent activity with community volunteers in Managua, Karen Rodriguez, a Nicaraguan Red Cross volunteer, shared her experience with dengue fever. Her daughter, Jade Gámez, had suffered from dengue three times, at the age of 11, 12 and 13. The last of those times, Jade had been diagnosed with severe dengue, and the girl suffered kidney and liver damage as well as a preinfarction.
Children under the age of 15 are a particularly vulnerable group. In August 2019, 66% of the deaths reported in Honduras as part of the current outbreak were under 15 years of age, and in Guatemala, 52% of the severe dengue cases reported were also in this age group.
Having survived such a serious illness, mother and daughter are now volunteers with the Nicaraguan Red Cross. As part of the current operation, their work consists on replicating the information received among their neighbors, as well as carrying out clean-up campaigns to eliminate breeding grounds in their community. "We both do the same thing - when one can't go to the clean-up activities, the other one goes," says Karen. For them, this is an opportunity to help their neighbors avoid going through the same experience they went through years ago. "Now that I am supporting the Red Cross and I can help people, I feel calm, I feel happy," says Karen. "More than anything, so that people don’t go through the same experience I went through," adds Jade.
Dengue fever outbreaks are cyclical and peaks occur around the world every year during rainy seasons, with extensive epidemics occurring at a frequency of every four to five years. In 2019, the World Health Organization recognized dengue as one of the top ten threats to global health, with an estimated 40% of the world’s population currently at risk. Epidemics can have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable groups, such as children. That is why it is important for National Societies to work on advocacy and capacity building to continue to empower communities in preparing for and responding to dengue and other vector-borne diseases such as zika and chikungunya.
| Press release
Dengue spreads across Central America, Red Cross scales up response
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.