| Press release
#PowerToBe campaign launches to help shift perceptions of refugees
Ankara/Berlin, 18 January 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a campaign to tackle negative perceptions of refugees at an increasingly critical time across Europe.
The #PowerToBe campaign follows four passionate Syrians living in Turkey – Hiba, a musician, Eslam, an illustrator, Ibrahim, a swimmer and Mohammed, a coffee lover – who are regaining control of their lives through the help of monthly cash assistance funded by the EU, ultimately giving them more power to be themselves.
The four protagonists each meet digitally with influential people from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports and coffee. The campaign shows how people from all walks of life can connect with one another at eye-level despite differences in language or backgrounds.
In the #PowerToBe campaign, fifteen-year-old drawer Eslam speaks to well-known German illustrator Steffen Kraft, Italian street artist and painter Alice Pasquini and Swedish street artist Johan Karlgren about her passion for illustration. “Drawing a lot helped me to show the world, even if only a little, what happened in Syria,” Eslam said.
Ibrahim, who became paralyzed during the conflict in Syria, connects with Polish professional high diver, Kris Kolanus about the freedom and boundlessness they both feel in the ocean. “Even though many things can hinder me, I am trying to do something. For next year, I’m preparing myself to swim the competition across the Bosporus.”
Mohammed, a father of two, talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee. “When we came to Turkey to an empty house, we had nothing at all. Some Turkish brothers helped us, gave us some furniture.” They tasted his coffee and told him it was “the best they’ve ever had”.
Hiba, who now attends a music school in Istanbul, connected with Portuguese singer-songwriter April Ivy, whom she wrote and sang a song with. “I like to give people hope because whatever struggles we go through, there are actually nice things happening as well,” Hiba says.
Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population with almost four million who are trying to rebuild their lives. About 3.7 million of those are Syrians who fled the conflict that has devastated their country.
Funded by the European Union, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The ESSN is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC in coordination with the Government of Turkey.
The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year where many are facing deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19. Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy.
This year we have seen vulnerable refugee communities slip further into hardships, but we also see their hope and strength. Through this campaign, we wanted to highlight the contributions and resilience they have despite all the challenges. When given the right support, refugees’ potential is endless.
IFRC Secretary General
Hiba, Eslam, Ibrahim and Mohammed were forced to leave everything behind, but have held on to their dreams and continued to pursue them with passion. The ESSN programme offers a critical lifeline to them and 1.5 million other vulnerable refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to see the tangible difference it makes by giving them the opportunity to make choices for their lives.
EU Commissioner for Crisis Management
Click here to download more information about the #PowerToBe campaign, including short backgrounds on each of the people receiving ESSN assistance and the influencers taking part.
You can also visit the #PowerToBe website and learn more about the ESSN on our website here.
To arrange interviews, please contact:
In Berlin: Samantha Hendricks (Social Social), +49 1577 495 8901, [email protected]
In Turkey: Nisa Çetin (Turkish Red Crescent), +90 554 830 31 14, [email protected]
In Turkey: Corrie Butler (IFRC), +90 539 857 51 98, [email protected]
In Turkey: Lisa Hastert (ECHO), +90 533 412 56 63. [email protected]
COVID-19: Scaling up testing and strengthening national health systems with EU support
Since the beginning of the pandemic, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe have been supporting their countries’ health authorities in the fight against COVID-19 through a wide range of services to help curb the spread of the virus and ensure nobody is left behind.
In Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, National Societies expanded mobile testing capacities thanks to a EUR 35.5 million partnership between the European Commission and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The European Commission financed this project as part of its Emergency Support Instrument to boost testing capacities and provide immediate support to Member States. The project’s success – it trained and equipped more testing teams as initially targeted – shows the value of a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic amongst European Red Cross National Societies.
From September 2020 to September 2021, this initiative has been a vital part of the COVID-19 response, making RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing available for more people. Local Red Cross teams performed more than 1.2 million tests within the scope of the project. Moreover, 6,800 Red Cross staff and volunteers were trained for testing and 1,428 mobile teams were set up and equipped to provide COVID-19 testing services.
The outreach role of National Red Cross Societies and their capacity to reach vulnerable groups has been particularly important in countries like Greece and Malta, where the Red Cross provided health and care services to migrants and refugees. Set up in camps and remote areas, these testing facilities aimed to help contain the spread of COVID-19 where access to health services was often limited.
“Testing is essential to help contain the pandemic. With all its initial targets surpassed, the project has proven that National Societies can play a key role in supporting national health systems in Europe and has opened new possibilities for further collaboration with health authorities,” said IFRC project coordinator Francisco Fong.
Local Red Cross teams also set up testing stations at transport hubs where a large number of people pass by every day. In Italy, staff and volunteers offered rapid antigen tests free of charge at 10 train stations across the country for travellers and commuters. In countries like Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, the Red Cross mobile testing teams have been invaluable in reaching out to marginalised communities in the countryside, where many people don’t have health insurance.
As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge across Europe, collective efforts are more important than ever to disrupt transmission chains and save lives. The partnership between the European Commission and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been instrumental in providing support to health authorities and curbing the spread of COVID-19.
| Press release
COVID-19: IFRC calls for urgent action to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Europe amid increase in violent incidents
Budapest/Geneva, 30 September 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for urgent action to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Europe, where there has been a worrying increase in violent incidents against COVID-19 related health infrastructure and personnel.
The pandemic is far from over in Europe, where an average of 2,000 people die of COVID-19 every day. More than one million people get infected every week, and hospitalisations are going up in half of the EU/EEA countries, including among young people and children, but particularly among unvaccinated adults. Intensive Care Units are getting dangerously filled up in Bulgaria and Romania, for example, which have low immunisation rates.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently projected 236,000 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 by 1 December across Europe,[i] and there are growing concerns about soaring infections and deaths in some parts of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.
In addition, disinformation about vaccines’ side effects and potential risks, coupled with the introduction of ‘vaccine passes’, is sparking anger and violence, which have led to concerning incidents against medical services, media and the general public in countries including Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Poland, Slovenia and France.
Vaccination saves lives, but there is still a deadly gap in the distribution and uptake of vaccines in the region: almost 70 per cent of people in high-income countries have received at least one dose, whereas in the poorest ones barely 20 per cent have been partially vaccinated.
Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, said:
“We are facing a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19 in Europe.
“Access to COVID-19 vaccination remains a challenge due to the shortage of supply in some countries. In addition, low acceptance and barriers for particularly vulnerable individuals are critical elements as well.
“Increased community engagement is needed to tackle vaccine hesitancy, myths and disinformation. Without addressing people’s concerns and fears, vaccines may not find their way into the arms of those most at risk, even where doses are available,” Ebbesen warned.
With support from the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are working to build trust. Local teams have reached out to more than 300,000 people on the importance of getting vaccinated and have helped immunise 31 million people, actively engaging communities to ensure they have accurate information and can protect themselves.
According to a survey conducted by the Collective Service for Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), of which the IFRC is a part, at least three quarters of people in most countries worldwide would agree to be vaccinated, if it was available and recommended.[ii] The data also suggests that in areas where there were high levels of hesitancy initially, increases in vaccinations overall may have impacted acceptance.
More support is needed to address vaccine hesitancy and speed up immunization campaigns across the region, though. “If we don’t step up collective efforts to strengthen community trust and make vaccines widely available, it will be too late,” stressed Ebbesen.
At the moment, IFRC’s COVID-19 Emergency Appeal[iii] is only 60 per cent funded.
For more information, please contact:
In Budapest: Ainhoa Larrea, +36 705 070 131, [email protected]
In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
www.ifrc.org - Facebook - Twitter - YouTube
| Press release
Hundreds of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers responding to wildfires across Europe
Ankara/Budapest/Geneva, 2 August 2021 – Volunteers from Greece, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Turkey are responding to several wildfires raging across Europe. Scorching temperatures, high winds and tinder dry conditions have forced rescues by sea and land, with thousands of people fleeing for their lives with just the clothes on their backs.
In southern Turkey eight people have died and scores are injured. Hundreds of animals have been killed and countless homes lost in the worst hit areas of Antalya and Bodrum. More than 2,000 Turkish Red Crescent staff and volunteers are on the ground.
Shafiquzzaman Rabbani, Acting Head of Turkey delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“We are very concerned at this week’s weather forecast, with temperatures tipped to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Antalya today. Teams of Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and staff are doing everything they can to assist those affected.”
Turkish Red Crescent is providing food through its mobile kitchens, distributing water and hygiene kits, and providing shelter and psychosocial support to firefighters and affected communities.
In Greece, Hellenic Red Cross rescuers and lifeguards have been evacuating trapped people by boat from the settlements of Kamares, Longos and Platiri. Earlier in the week they were helping the fire brigade quell a fire in Patras. Extreme temperatures forecast for this week have teams on high alert.
Italian Red Cross has been assisting with evacuations in Sardinia and distributing water and food. They have delivered animal feed to farmers as fires continued over the weekend. More than 800 flare-ups were recorded this weekend, mainly in the south, and firefighters continue to flight blazes in Sicily.
Spanish Red Cross volunteers have also been busy this weekend assisting at a fire at San Juan reservoir, 70km from Madrid, and 25 Russian Red Cross volunteers are still at the scene of a fire in Karelia, distributing food, water, bedding, hygiene kits and personal protective equipment to people affected.
IFRC Europe’s acting head of Disaster, Climate and Crises Antoine Belair said the increasing number of wildfires year on year across the Mediterranean is linked to climate change causing more extreme weather conditions, including lower rainfall and higher temperatures.
“Extreme weather conditions exacerbate risks of these events. Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies remain on high alert, providing support to affected populations, in close coordination with national authorities and firefighter teams,” he said.
Footnote: Advice on how to prepare for a forest fire can be viewed here.
For more information, please contact:
In Ankara: Elif Isik, +90 539 857 5197, [email protected]
In Budapest: Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected]
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
| Press release
Red Cross Red Crescent warns of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people in Europe
Budapest/Geneva, 7 June 2021 – The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching impacts for entire generations, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Several studies by Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across Europe show an alarming pattern, which requires increased efforts to tackle inequity and assist those most in need.
Antónia de Barros Mota, head of Mental Health/Psychosocial Support for IFRC Europe, said:
“The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are like invisible scars or hidden wounds. Young people and children are suffering stress, bereavement and loneliness, which can worsen as time passes. Their parents may have lost their jobs. Lockdowns and other restrictions continue to hamper their access to education, training and work.”
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a critical point recently.
Four university students took their own lives in a campus in southern France in the last quarter of 2020. French Red Cross set up a 24/7 rapid intervention team[i] to support those at risk. During the first six months they dealt with 11 students including eight who required immediate hospitalisation.
“With end of school year exams approaching, staff and volunteers are on high alert,” explained Sara Salinas, coordinator of the French Red Cross emergency service in the county.
A Spanish Red Cross study[ii] among families with young children revealed the majority now live in extreme poverty. Nearly 40 per cent are unemployed and three quarters cannot afford expenses such as glasses or hearing aids for their children. Most parents reported feeling worried or stressed, impacting their ability to emotionally support their children.
Research by Austrian Red Cross[iii] found sleep and eating disturbances among children had doubled, and that after the second lockdown in 2020, 16 per cent of children interviewed in North Tyrol (Austria) and South Tyrol (Italy) were likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Refugees and migrant children are also significantly affected by the pandemic. A Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC study[iv] found a third were unable to access online school lessons. Another study with German Red Cross in Turkey showed that when forced to stay home children displayed more behavioural problems, and traumatic memories were triggered for some.
Europe has had more than 54.6 million COVID-19 cases and 1.1 million deaths to date[v] – a third of infections and fatalities worldwide. Declining trends are promising, but the pandemic’s effects could be long-lasting.
“Authorities and civil society organizations must scale up programmes and resources to help vulnerable youth and children – including basic livelihoods assistance and tailored mental health and psychosocial support. It is crucial to promote resilience at the individual level and within society as a whole,” de Barros Mota concluded.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, IFRC and Red Cross Red Crescent societies throughout Europe have provided mental health and psychosocial support to 1.8 million people.
[iii] Silvia Exenberger; Anna Wenter; Christina Taferner; Nina Haid-Stecher; Maximilian Schickl; Barbara Juen; Kathrin Sevecke; Heidi Siller. "The experience of threat through Covid-19 in children: Gender as moderating factor" has been received by European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The submission id is: ECAP-D-21-00298, May 2021
| Press release
COVID-19: IFRC warns Europe’s poorest countries are being left behind, as deaths hit grim milestone
Budapest/Geneva, 21 April 2020 – As Europe reaches the grim milestone of 50 million infections and 1 million lives lost to COVID-19, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls for more equitable access to vaccination to counter disparities across countries and ensure no one is left behind.
More than a year into the pandemic, the situation continues to worsen despite vaccination rollout. The Europe region accounts for one third of cases and deaths worldwide, and the socio-economic crisis is deepening as newly vulnerable people seek help to meet their basic needs.
Dr Davron Mukhamadiev, IFRC Regional Health and Care Coordinator for Europe, said: “Vaccine inequity is both concerning and dangerous. COVID-19 does not stop at borders, and our safety relies on widespread immunization. However, some of the poorest countries in Europe are struggling to move forward.”
As of 6 April, just 12.3 per cent of the population in Europe had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the lack of equitable access to immunization is still worrying: in low income countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, only 0.4 per cent of total inhabitants had been vaccinated, on average, while in the richest countries that figure stood at 17.7 per cent.
The IFRC is seeking funding for its immunization plan, targeting 500 million of the most vulnerable people around the world, as part of the organization's emergency appeal to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, at present this is only 51 per cent covered. Without more funding, IFRC will be unable to make a meaningful difference for those in need.
Dr Mukhamadiev said it is crucial for governments to step up their commitments towards ensuring that everyone has equal and timely access to the vaccine.
“Equity is both a moral and public health imperative. None of us is safe, until we are all safe. At the national level, it is essential to guarantee that homeless, migrants – irrespective of their status – and other vulnerable groups are included in vaccination plans.”
Hopes of Europe returning to normality are fading, as health systems in many countries continue to be overburdened and intensive care units reach a critical point.
“Worryingly, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe are still witnessing the far-reaching impacts of the pandemic every day, everywhere,” warned Dr Mukhamadiev.
“Volunteers who run ambulance services or support nursing homes and hospitals are directly confronted with illness and death, while those providing other types of assistance now deal with increased human suffering and people in need, including the newly vulnerable: including those who have lost their jobs and can’t make ends meet and those who cannot deal with difficulties such as isolation,” he said.
In Spain, for example, 52 per cent of the people who asked for psychosocial support through the Spanish Red Cross’ ‘Cruz Roja Te Escucha’ service in the last months had never sought help from the organization before. Two thirds of the total reported having emotional distress most or all the time – including depression and anxiety.
Dr Mukhamadiev said the key to successfully combatting successive waves of COVID-19 is vaccination and testing, together with improved treatments and preventative measures. People should continue to routinely wearmasks, wash hands and keep physical distance, as those measures play a major role in mitigating the spread of the virus.
Note to editors:
National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe have reached nearly 100 million people with health and hygiene promotion activities since the beginning of the pandemic. They have also provided food and other material aid to more than 14.4 million, cash or voucher assistance to 2.9 million, and psychosocial support to 1.8 million.
Local teams are working tirelessly to help the most vulnerable, and continue stepping up vaccination, testing and awareness-raising interventions. Here are some examples:
In Spain, staff and volunteers have assisted more than 3.5 million people through the ‘Cruz Roja Responde’ multisectoral plan, which includes emergency services and the set-up of temporary hospitals and shelters together with other types of support; they are also testing migrants rescued from the sea, and supporting vaccination in nursing homes and for persons with disabilities.
In Italy, staff and volunteers are running one of the largest vaccination centres in the country, in Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Furthermore, volunteers are sharing information on a web radio station run by young migrants, and running podcasts on COVID-19; they are translating materials into migrants’ own languages, and circulating them in reception centres while operating a toll-free 24/7 hotline.
In Greece, staff and volunteers in the islands, Athens and Thessaloniki are giving a hand with the health screening for migrants, they are responding to thousands of daily calls to their multi-language hotline, and they are disseminating preventative messaging. They have also supported the routine vaccination of migrants, and stand ready to assist in COVID-19 immunization.
In Serbia, staff and volunteers are involved in the nation-wide vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and have assisted some 447,750 people – from phone calls for vaccination appointments to distributing leaflets, transporting vulnerable people, helping at the immunization points with temperature checks and paperwork – and, in some places, organizing vaccination in Red Cross premises.
National Societies in seven countries (Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain) are additionally scaling up COVID-19 testing thanks to a €35.5 million partnership with the European Commission.
 Data from the World Health Organization (WHO)
Italian Red Cross
| Press release
Red Cross expands COVID-19 testing in seven countries with €35.5 million EU support
Budapest/Geneva, 19 November 2020 – As Europe continues to experience a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, the Red Cross will scale up COVID-19 testing with the announcement of a €35.5 million European Commission partnership.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has signed an agreement with the European Commission, financed by the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), which will see COVID-19 testing carried out by National Red Cross Societies in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are scaling up their support to embattled national health systems. The European Commission’s funding will support staff training and allow access to equipment, lab items and reagents to take samples and perform PCR and rapid antigen tests in support of national health authorities’ work.
IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Ebbesen, said that hundreds of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers in Europe and Central Asia are working tirelessly to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“We are truly grateful for this contribution, which allows an even stronger European Red Cross and Red Crescent engagement. Our volunteers are already working around the clock to keep their local communities safe and healthy.
“Besides COVID-19 testing, they are also assisting with transporting patients, volunteering in hospitals and health centres where medical personnel are sick or isolating and providing home care services and psychosocial support for vulnerable people. We are deeply grateful for their dedication and selfless work.”
Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said: “Testing tells us what the extent of the spread is, where it is, and how it develops. It is a decisive tool to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“Being efficient on testing also requires having the necessary resources, which is why we are stepping up our support to increase Member States’ testing capacity. Support and solidarity are key to overcome this pandemic,” she added.
| Press release
COVID-19: Red Cross Red Crescent steps up European response, urges Governments to strengthen testing, tracing and isolation measures
Budapest/Geneva, 11 November 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging Governments to strengthen their “test-trace-quarantine” systems to help prevent future surges of COVID-19.
This call comes as multiple European countries put in place new restrictions to stop community transmission and to avoid the collapse of health systems.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC President, said:
“The recent restrictions across Europe signal that more must be done, and we see ourselves as a critical piece of that puzzle. We understand that these measures are difficult for many people, but they are needed to both flatten the curve and provide an opportunity to fix what hasn’t been working.
“In many countries, we have been supporting local authorities in testing, contact tracing and isolation measures. This system can be effective only when it can be carried out fully and in a coordinated way. We are scaling up these critical activities across more countries. No one wants this second wave to be followed by a third or a fourth.”
Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are supporting embattled health systems by conducting COVID-19 testing, transporting patients and providing psychosocial support. They are also offering a range of services designed to ensure that highly vulnerable people can complete everyday tasks, including grocery shopping and picking up medicines, while still fully complying with restrictions.
However, with the situation worsening in many countries, the Red Cross and Red Crescent stands ready to do more, said IFRC President Rocca:
“Our collective effort to prevent transmission will pay dividends going forward. We offer our help to ensure the worst can be behind us and lockdowns won’t be necessary in the future. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are already supporting their own local authorities to flatten the curve, stop the spread of the virus and save lives – and we stand ready to do more.”
In France, Red Cross volunteers are supporting walk-in COVID testing units at railway stations across Paris. In Monaco, Red Cross volunteers are helping rapidly escalate the country’s testing regime. In the Netherlands, Red Cross volunteers are on hand to assist scaled-up testing and crowd control at numerous testing sites. And in Georgia, the local Red Cross is training medical students in testing for COVID-19 to supplement its ramped-up response to the pandemic, an effort that now involves tens of thousands of volunteers.
Red Cross teams in Slovakia are helping authorities test every person in the country. In the Czech Republic, Red Cross volunteers are training thousands of people to support health care workers in hospitals and in Italy, the Red Cross has deployed several field hospitals and has strengthened its ambulance services to support local health systems, as well as providing psychosocial support.
“Our volunteers have been doing all they can to ensure peoples’ needs are met in a safe manner with as many COVID-19 precautions in place as possible – and we will need to do more. Above all, we want to thank all people who have been helping for months on end to serve their communities. It will be a long path, but together, I know we can succeed,” Francesco Rocca said.
More than 300,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Europe, and in the past week the region has registered more than half of all new infections reported globally.
| Press release
Red Cross raises the alarm across Europe: “Your best defence against this virus is you”
Budapest/Geneva, 14 October 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging European governments and its citizens to simultaneously exercise leadership and remain vigilant as COVID-19 ravages the region.
More than seven million people have tested positive for COVID-19 across Europe, and 41 of 54 European countries have recorded a more than 10 per cent increase in positive cases compared to two weeks ago. In 23 of those countries, the increase in cases reached more than 50 per cent.
“Almost 250,000 people in Europe have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Every death is a tragedy, and we must all work together to try and stop further deaths. We need to take collective action and make the right choices now. Keep physical distance, avoid crowds and parties, wear a mask, wash your hands, and isolate yourself if ill. Hard choices now will pay off in the coming weeks. Protect yourself to protect others. Until this storm passes – and it will – your best defence against this virus is you,” said Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, Head of the IFRC for Europe.
Dr Emanuele Capobianco, Head of Health and Care of IFRC, said: “We would not be fulfilling our humanitarian obligation if we did not sound the alarm in this dire moment of the pandemic’s trajectory. We ask governments to act with speed, courage and inclusiveness: to step up protective measures without delay, follow scientific evidence and recommendations and support the most vulnerable who are being affected by both the virus and its heavy socio-economic impact. We know it is a very difficult moment which requires difficult decisions: solving the health crisis will help solve the economic and social one.
“We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of front-line workers and citizens who are confronting this pandemic with great commitment and spirit of sacrifice. We can still turn this tide if we act courageously in this moment,” continued Dr Capobianco.
Across the continent, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams continue to play their part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and meeting the evolving needs of vulnerable communities:
In the UK, British Red Cross volunteers are responding to a shift in the type of calls to their free COVID-19 support line – with the public increasingly seeking emotional support and help with complex needs.
The situation is similar for the Italian Red Cross, where psychologists taking calls from the public via their toll-free number say common themes are loneliness, fear and shame of asking for help. Youth volunteers with the Italian Red Cross are also reaching out to young people in the country to explain the importance of personal protective measures and offering peer support.
The Netherlands Red Cross is supporting thousands of people who no longer have enough money to buy groceries through the provision of food vouchers, which will cover one meal per day over the coming months.
In Spain there’s been a huge response from young Red Cross volunteers, where more than 21,000 young people are helping the most vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19 by distributing food to people at home, accompanying the elderly, transferring patients and supporting families with educational help and resources for children
And in south-east France, which has been hit by recent severe flooding, in a partnership between the city of Arras and the Red Cross of Pas-de-Calais rescuers have taken to the streets of the city centre to remind people of the importance of COVID-19 safety measures. French Red Cross first aid workers have also been in primary and nursery schools talking to children about the importance of COVID-19 protections.
“Months into this pandemic, we know communities across Europe are craving a return to normality. But the figures confirm we are not out of the woods yet, and as we head towards winter it is more important than ever that we remain socially close while staying physically distant,” Ms Ebbesen ended.
 Source: World Health Organization
| Press release
World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day: IFRC President visits Italy’s first “red zone” to thank COVID-19 response volunteers
Geneva/Rome, 7 May 2020 – This Friday, 8 May, on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), will visit Italy’s first COVID-19 “red zone” in Codogno (Lodi province) to meet with Red Cross volunteers who provided medical care and support to people affected by the pandemic.
Codogno is in the first area which went in lockdown for the virus at the end of February: Italian Red Cross local branch never stopped its support to the population.
President Rocca will hold a press briefing to speak about the COVID-19 response and to thank all the Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers working to support people across the globe.
He said: “This 8th of May is dedicated to celebrating and paying tribute to all our volunteers and staff who are relentlessly fighting against COVID-19 and supporting people through other major crises in every part of the world.
“It is a true honor for me to spend World Red Cross and Red Crescent day with our Italian frontline to show solidarity and thank all our women and men in the field.”
When: Friday, 8 May 2020, 3.30pm (Italian time)
Where: Italian Red Cross local branch of Codogno – via dei Mulini 10 – Codogno (LO)
Every day is heartbreaking. Too many still aren't taking COVID-19 seriously
ROME — Intensive care beds full of people. Of every age. Women and men dying alone, unable to say goodbye to their loved ones. Funerals with no mourners. A line of military trucks transporting bodies away from the city because there is no more space to bury them in town.These heartbreaking images are now part of daily life in Italy.A few weeks ago, these scenes — the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic — would have seemed unthinkable here in Italy.As a Red Cross and Red Crescent worker, I try to be optimistic, but it is hard to keep a hopeful outlook when I see communities around the world not taking this virus seriously.In Italy, as in many countries, I still notice individuals who don’t understand the importance of following simple rules on physical distancing. I witness bogus or racist rumors about the virus on social media. I hear people saying that “this is only a flu” or “will only affect the elderly” — as if the latter would be acceptable.Each of these deeds affects how far this virus will spread.Local volunteers, local communities, families, groups of friends and individuals have a great responsibility to stop COVID-19: And this is the moment. Take it from me. Take it from my country.Practice physical distancing, be kind, check on your neighbors, run essential errands for older adults and people with compromised immune systems. Stay at home as much as possible, buy only what you need, cancel your party and yes — wash your hands.Whether or not you have symptoms, your actions are critical to “flattening the curve” and keeping your neighbors alive. Recognize that people over 65 are not the only ones contracting the virus. And do your part by staying healthy so that hospitals, doctors and nurses can continue to do their lifesaving jobs as time and resources dwindle.Step up by donating blood. Like leaving your home occasionally for medical care and groceries, going to a blood drive is an essential act.A blood shortage could be fatal for patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer. One of the most important things you can do to ensure we don’t have another health care crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood — not just now but throughout this pandemic.Physical distancing combined with social solidarity is crucial to stopping this disease.In northern Italy, the most affected area of our country, hospitals are full of people who need medical treatment.How would you feel if doctors in your country had to choose between intubating a younger person with children or an older adult with high blood pressure, because they don't have enough beds for everyone? This could happen soon in Italy — a country with a robust health care system — if the epidemic curve doesn’t flatten.One day when this is over, we will spend time together and start hugging again. But right now there is no time to waste. Here in Italy we are suffering, and we know that COVID-19 is a more devastating disease than any we’ve seen in recent history.Do your part to protect vulnerable people — those who have underlying health conditions, poor immune systems and those who are in an at-risk age category.Do it for yourself. Do it for the others. Do it now.Francesco Rocca is the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and president of the Italian Red Cross.View the article on USA today
Refugee footballers score integration goals with Italian Red Cross
By Mark Richard South, IFRCCapitalising on the global popularity of football, the Italian Red Cross are using the sport as a vehicle to support the integration of asylum seekers and refugees.Founding a team as part of the AVAIL project, the scheme has seen a squad of 25 asylum seekers hosted at the Bresso reception centre, training together and entering tournaments and leagues alongside local teams in their host community.“Football is so popular here in Italy, and in many of the countries refugees are coming from, so it was a natural fit when we were looking for activities that could bring refugees and people from host communities together,” said Monica D’Alò, AVAIL project manager with the Italian Red Cross.“It provides some normality and a bit of an escape from everyday life for the refugee players, but is also an opportunity for them to get to know people from the local community, and for the local community to get to know them, see their skills, and realise they are not so different from each other - they all love football.”Alongside organising and equipping the team, an information campaign has also been rolled out to raise awareness about the squad and their goal of building relationships between refugee and host communities.The team has also joined up with local footballers with learning difficulties, joining a recent tournament together and forming mixed teams so everyone could play, creating a positive narrative around diversity and promoting mutual respect.“So far the team is going really well, everyone’s enjoying playing, local teams have been really welcoming, and we have more games and tournaments planned for next year,” added D’Alò.
Italian Red Cross refugee radio show takes to the web-waves
By Mark Richard South, IFRCTaking their project aim of “amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees” as literally as they could, the Italian Red Cross is doing exactly that with a new web radio show.Written, presented and produced by Gerald Mballe, an Italian Red Cross cultural mediator who has a refugee background himself, the show collects stories from around the country – sharing the voices of asylum seekers and refugees in Italy, but also the experiences and views of people in the host communities they have arrived in to.“We want the radio show to be a place where everyone can share their stories and gain practical information and news,” explained Gerald.Supported by a radio technician with more than 20 years’ experience, Gerald and his team are aiming to have nearly 50 bite-sized episodes available for streaming or download by the time the AVAIL project ends in early 2020, but now they are up and running they aim to continue producing the show beyond the end of AVAIL and into the future.Hosted on the Italian Red Cross website, the Italian-language shows are available to listeners throughout Italy and around the world, giving a glimpse into the lives of asylum seekers and refugees and the communities where they are living - with a particular focus on Red Cross activities bringing people together by supporting both refugee and host communities.“The team have been really dedicated to getting the radio show up and running and it’s something we’re all really proud of,” added Monica D’Alò, AVAIL project manager with the Italian Red Cross.“We’ll be getting stories from people all around the country, including from our staff and volunteers, so this can be a really valuable resource for us as a National Society, not just for AVAIL but into the future as well.”
| Press release
Repatriation of child from al-Hol camp in Syria
Beirut/Geneva, 7 November 2019 – A young Albanian boy will be reunited with his family in Italy later today following a successful repatriation effort involving the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and different authorities.
The young boy had been living in al-Hol camp in northern Syria. He was taken to Syria by his mother in 2014. His mother was later killed during fighting.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC President, accompanied the child from Syria to Lebanon this morning. He said:
“I would like to thank all those involved in securing the safe return from al-Hol camp of this boy to his family in Italy. In particular, I want to thank the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and its President Khaled Hboubati, for the huge efforts that have been made to facilitate this repatriation, and for the tremendous dedication that it has shown and continues to show in its response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.”
According to authorities, more than 100,000 people are living in camps in northern Syria, including 68,000 in al-Hol camp alone. This includes an estimated 28,000 children from more than 60 different countries. Rocca continued:
“This news is positive, but it is barely a drop of relief in an ocean of suffering. We call on the national governments of the foreigners in the camp and all concerned parties to take action in a manner that alleviates the suffering of a very vulnerable group of people. Ideally this approach would allow individuals to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“We appreciate that this situation is complex. There are legitimate concerns that have been raised by governments. But those concerns must be balanced with the need to treat people humanely. Today’s news demonstrates that, with political will, a solution is possible,” said Rocca.
Khaled Hboubati, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said:
“We recognize the importance of our duty to restore family links. We spare no efforts to meet this responsibility today and in the future, in parallel to the other humanitarian responsibilities we shoulder. Our goal is to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable people in Syria, working hand-in-hand with our partners.”
IFRC President Rocca urged the media to ensure that the boy and his family are given time and space to recover from their ordeal
“I appreciate that there is a lot of interest in this story. But now that he is safe, let’s leave this boy and his family alone to heal.”
Italian Red Cross will continue to support the family, including with psychosocial support.
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
www.ifrc.org - Facebook - Twitter - YouTube
Genoa bridge collapse: one year on
By Nora Peter, IFRCThis time last year Paola Vicini was keeping vigil at the base of the collapsed Ponte Morandi in Genoa, anxiously waiting for any news of her missing son, Mirko. For five long days, she did not budge from the site, sleeping in a campervan provided by the Italian Red Cross, and being supported by its volunteers.“Mirko was working at a company close to the bridge. As soon as I heard about the disaster, I rushed to the red zone. Even though I knew it was impossible for him to survive under that debris, I did not give up hope,” she remembers.During those days of uncertainty and anguish, Paola was supported by Federica, an Italian Red Cross volunteer, and the two of them formed a strong bond. Federica was holding Paola’s hand when Mirko’s body was retrieved from under the ruins.“I don’t remember much from those days, but I can still recall Federica’s smile. She was my fortress.”On 14 August 2018, a 200-metre section of the four-lane bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed. Vehicles plunged 90 metres onto railway tracks, and buildings below, killing 43 people and injuring 29. 600 people have been displaced.Together with the military and state authorities, Italian Red Cross search and rescue teams searched for survivors for 26 hours. Two Red Cross nurses helped identify bodies at the Genoa morgue, while 15 other volunteers provided psychosocial support to the families of the victims. Altogether 500 Italian Red Cross volunteers took part in the operation that lasted for 35 days.Antonio Cecala was another who was helped by the Red Cross volunteers.“My brother and his family had left for a holiday. When I heard the news about the accident, I tried to call him, but he wouldn’t answer his phone. I got anxious and started making calls to the police and the local hospitals, but nobody had any information. So, I decided to go to Genoa to find out what happened to them,” remembers Antonio.Amid the chaos, he found support and comfort among the Red Cross volunteers who helped him in the search for his missing relatives. Days later his brother’s car was found under the ruins.Antonio was so moved by the work of the volunteers that he decided to become one of them. “Since the Red Cross gave me so much, I wanted to give something back to those in need,” he explains.A video tribute to the rescuers and volunteers, “Ponte Morandi: a year on” can be viewed here.
Enhancing Aid Capacities project presented at Solferino 2019
By Nora Peter, IFRCOver 10,000 volunteers from 140 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies gathered this year in Solferino, the small Italian town where Henry Dunant had founded the world’s largest volunteer-based movement.From 17 – 23 June, a Red Cross Camp was set up in Solferino hosting workshops and in-depth discussions, including a session dedicated to the Enhancing Aid Capacities project and the EU Aid Volunteers initiative.The EU Aid Volunteers workshop took place at the National Research Center - Institute of Environmental Geology and Geoengineering booth. The discussion centered around the topic of online volunteering, an invaluable resource in emergency operations and disaster risk reduction. A recent example for this was the Mozambique operation of the Italian Red Cross in support of the people affected by Cyclone Idai.The event provided a great forum for discussion on the integration of scientific partners in emergency information management, the use of mobile devices for data collection and the need for digital archives in dealing with emergencies.The two-year project EU Aid Volunteers – Enhancing Aid Capacities is implemented by the IFRC in partnership with the Red Cross societies of Austria, Bulgaria, Italy and The Netherlands with the aim to improve the capability of organizations to provide quality support, managing enhanced pools of competent volunteers and staff for emergency response and improving remote support of operations.
| Press release
Thousands of volunteers from 140 countries celebrate 100 years of humanitarian action
Geneva/Solferino, 21 June 2019 – Fifteen thousand Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and more than 250 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders are have gathered this week in the historic Italian town of Solferino to debate pressing humanitarian concerns, and to celebrate the centenary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).The week-long “4th International Solferino Youth Meeting” has featured a series of workshops exploring issues as varied as climate change and violence, digitalization and the opportunities and threats posed by new technologies, protracted crises and the role that young people can play in shaping a safer and more humane world.Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC, said:“Young people are the present and the future of our organizations. We need their strength, passion, vision and commitment to reach more people in need, to scale up our activities and to identify and effectively respond to new humanitarian priorities,” said Mr Rocca.“The remarkable young people who have gathered here this week are a powerful antidote to the often-cynical representation given to millennials around the world. They are inspiring and give me hope that our network will remain as relevant and effective for another hundred years.”Khadijah Ahmed Alwardi, a young Red Crescent volunteer from Bahrain, said:“Meeting my peers from all over the world helped me realize that young people and the communities we live in often face very similar challenges. It was empowering to express my thoughts and the challenges that I face as young woman. I am leaving Italy with enthusiasm and I am committed to advocate fiercely for collaboration, mutual understanding, and for the role of young people in humanitarian action,” said Ms Alwardi.The week-long event is taking place in Solferino where, in 1859 Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organized local people to treat the soldiers' wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.Tomorrow (Saturday 22 June) 15,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers from all around the world will participate to the traditional annual “Fiaccolata” – a candle-lit march between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere.
| Press release
Global youth gathering of thousands to celebrate 100 years of world’s largest humanitarian network
Geneva/Rome, 6 June 2019 – More than 10,000 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders and volunteers from 140 countries will gather in northern Italy from 17-23 June to celebrate the centenary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).The weeklong “4th International Solferino Youth Meeting” will include a series of workshops for hundreds of young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders, focusing on major humanitarian challenges such as climate change, as well as some of the world’s most pressing and protracted crises. They will also contribute to the development of IFRC’s new Strategy 2030 that will guide the organization’s work for the coming decade.The week will culminate on 22 June with the annual Fiaccolata – a candle-lit march involving thousands of volunteers between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere. Solferino is the town where in 1859, Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organized local people to treat the soldiers' wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.Media opportunitiesThe International Youth Meeting offers numerous, compelling media opportunities, including the chance to speak with and profile young volunteers from around the world. These passionate humanitarians are committed to solving the problems they see. They are a powerful antidote to the sometimes-cynical representation given to millennials around the world.Below are some suggestions of how journalists and media outlets can capitalize on the event. Italian Red Cross and IFRC communications staff will be available in the lead up to and during the event to support.The event is highly visual, involving thousands of young people from around the world living in a Red Cross humanitarian base camp. The Fiaccolata march sets off from the medieval centre of Solferino at sunset, with participants carrying candles as they wind their way towards Castiglione delle Stiviere.Interviews/profiles of youth representatives from your countryMore than 10,000 volunteers, including more than 400 young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders representing 140 countries are attending the event. These young and passionate leaders will be taking part in a series of events during their time in Solferino focused on identifying solutions to the world’s most pressing humanitarian problems both now and in the future.Interviews/profiles/discussions with young people on the front lines of today’s major humanitarian crisesAmong the participants are Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers responding to some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian emergencies. These are young women and men who choose to dedicate their time and even risk their lives to help people affected by conflicts and violence, stigma and discrimination, and disasters and health emergencies.The “Fiaccolata” (Saturday 22 June) - a highly visual and emotional march More than 10,000 volunteers will follow the path of Henry Dunant, walking from Solferino to Castiglione delle Stiviere. Setting off at sunset, this candlelit march is highly visual.Senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officialsIn addition to youth representatives, a number of senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officials will participate. The IFRC President, Francesco Rocca, will be present during the Solferino events, together with more than 60 Red Cross Red Crescent leaders.Media facilitiesJournalists are invited to attend the event on 21-22 June. Requests to attend on other dates will be considered.Some logistical support is available for journalists interested in attending the event. Please contact the media contacts below.A media centre is available on site with dedicated internet.Photos and video will be made available to media throughout the event via IFRC’s multimedia newsroom: www.ifrcnewsroom.org.
| Press release
IFRC President statement on Sea-Watch 3 vessel
Geneva, 28 January 2019 – The following can be attributed to Francesco Rocca, the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies:“Even during war – when hate and division are part of the daily fabric of political discourse – castaways are protected, thanks to the Geneva Conventions. There is no war today in the Mediterranean Sea: the European Union is at peace. And yet no one is protecting the lives of people escaping torture and rape in Libya.“How is it possible that 47 people can pose such a threat to the entire European Union? Saving lives must be the priority of all governments. We call on European governments to find a durable solution that prevents further deaths in the Mediterranean. We call on the Italian government to let the Sea-Watch vessel dock, and to allow the people on board to disembark and access the help they need. They are human beings, not numbers.”
| Press release
10,000 Red Cross volunteers take part in Europe’s largest annual volunteer gathering
Solferino, Italy, 24 June 2018 – More than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers representing more than 60 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from around the world have gathered in the northern Italian town of Solferino for an annual tribute to the events that led to the foundation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.The two-day festivities culminated last night in the Fiaccolata, a torch lit march that retraces the steps of the women of the town of Castiglione delle Stiviere in the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Solferino in 1859. These women provided first aid and care to the many wounded left laying on that battlefield, paying no attention to a soldier’s nationality, and laying the foundations for neutral and impartial humanitarian action.Swiss businessman Henry Dunant, inspired by the people he met in Solferino and Castiglione, sought to transform the devastation of the battlefield of Solferino into something positive and innovative – a global humanitarian network with the goal of helping those in need during times of conflict, and to change the nature of warfare.“This is an important weekend for the Red Cross,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “It is a chance to reflect on our history and our humanitarian principles. But more importantly, it is a chance to pause and look ahead, to consider our world, and to think about the kind of organization we will need to be in the future.”On Friday and Saturday morning, leaders from 35 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies took part in a session of the Solferino Academy designed to explore future humanitarian challenges and to consider how a global organization like the IFRC will need to respond.This meeting comes amid rising humanitarian needs around the world, fuelled by conflicts, increasing disasters, and the emergence and spread of new or forgotten diseases. All this is taking place in a world where respect for basic humanitarian norms and for international humanitarian law seems to be on the decline.“Next year, we will adopt a new Strategy 2030. We don’t know what our world will look like in five or ten years. But we can be confident that some of the challenges we face will be different to those we are currently grappling with,” said Mr Rocca.“Our goal isn’t only to anticipate what those challenges will be, but rather to make sure that we are the kind of organization that can adapt to new demands, that can be agile in its thinking, and rapid in its response.“Key to this is the need to invest more in strengthening local capacity.”
| Press release
World Refugee Day: Digital information platform for refugees and migrants launches in Italy
Rome/Geneva, 20 June 2017 – A new digital platform launched on World Refugee Day (20 June) in Italy will put critical and relevant information in the hands of vulnerable migrants and refugees.The “Virtual Volunteer” – a mobile friendly web application developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and IBM – helps people migrating access reliable and practical information and support wherever they are. Virtual Volunteer has already been rolled out in Greece and Sweden where it has been used by 30,000 people.“Virtual Volunteer fills a missing piece in the global response to migration,” said Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Under Secretary General for Programmes and Operations. “People moving are often caught in a fog of poor information. They don’t always know what services are available to them. This is a tool that will help give them a clearer view so that they can make informed decisions.”The platform shows in real time the services provided by the Red Cross and other organizations, including outpatient clinics and maternal health centres, as well as places people can access free legal assistance and psychological support. It uses the geolocation of users to ensure that the information is relevant.Safe pointsIt will also alert people to the three Italian Red Cross Safe Points in Catania, Trapani and Cagliari. Safe points are spaces run by volunteers where migrants can find further information and assistance, and access health and legal services.Users will also find detailed information about Restoring Family Links services that can help them search for and connect with members of their family.“The use of technology is crucial in humanitarian action,” said Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross. “Information saves lives. Ensuring that people can access unbiased, factual information has a big impact.”Thousands of people continue to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Most of those who reach Europe report having been detained in Libya, with many having experienced or seen beatings, abuse, sexual violence and forced labour.IFRC urges authorities at all points along migration routes to ensure that vulnerable people are provided with humanitarian assistance and protection throughout their journeys, irrespective of legal status.