Migration: Ecuador Red Cross goes out on the streets to provide critical services for Venezuelan migrants — every step of the way
Cristia, Winston, Yender and Belkis are four very different people, from various walks of life. But they have one thing in common. They are all Venezuelans who have traveled thousands of kilometers first through Colombia, on their way south into Ecuador.
Their realities are very different, and their needs vary throughout their journey. At some points, they need information and a phone call; and at another point along the route, they seek medical attention, or someone to talk to who they can trust.
The movement of people from Venezuela to Ecuador is just one of the many routes that migrants cross throughout the Americas as they search for a better future. The IFRC network is present in 22 countries in the region, and is constantly assessing the needs of migrants to identify the best way to support those who need it most. As in many other places, along other migration routes, the Ecuador Red Cross endeavors to meet the migrants when they are most in need, wherever they are, to ensure they are safe and healthy, physically and emotionally.
1. Crossing borders to an unknown path
Walking with the help of two crutches, Cristia is followed by her husband Winston after crossing the Rumichaca border bridge that separates Colombia from Ecuador. Pregnant women, children, elderly or people who are injured or disabled like Cristia cross this border to an uncertain future, without knowing where they will sleep and eat along the way. It is estimated that nearly 475,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees live in Ecuador.
On the way, they may face many risks: xenophobic harassment, hunger, the danger of climbing on and off of cargo trucks, spending nights in the street regardless of the weather, as well as sexual violence, robbery and extortion.
2.Information is critical
On the side of the road, Cristia waits next to the passing of noisy and fleeting tractors, while Winston looks for information on how to get to Peru. There, family members who took the same route months ago are waiting for them.
Cristia and Winston get much of the information they need through massive WhatsApp groups, administered by other people who have migrated before. When crossing from one country to another, the couple lost access to mobile data, the currency changed and they do not know how to continue their journey.
In response to these kinds of needs, the Ecuadorian Red Cross provides basic information and guidance to families; so they know where to receive support such as food kits, resting points and personal hygiene. They also share with them the location of the Mobile Health Units on the roads, where they can receive psychological first aid and primary medical assistance.
This service is possible thanks to the Programmatic Partnership between the IFRC network and the European Union, which provides strategic, flexible, long-term and predictable funding, so that National Societies that are part of this program can provide more efficient and effective humanitarian support.
3. Connected at every step
Those who still have a cell phone can keep in touch with their loved ones. But often times, phones and address books may be lost or stolen and they may have no way to call their relatives to inform them that they are still alive.
To address this problem, the Ecuadorian Red Cross offers the Restoring Family Links service, which allows migrants to communicate with people close to them to tell them how they are doing.
Red Cross volunteer Mateo Rios offers national and international calls, internet connection and access to social networks to 130 people per month.
“Restoring Family Links is very emotional.Some people carry a great uncertainty as they have not been in contact with their families for weeks, and carry the weight of the dangers they have experienced. This is how we volunteers work to maintain people's confidence, so that they can move forward”, says Mateo.
4. Recovering to move forward
While Cristia and Winston stop to receive more information, there are those who, like 19-year-old Yender, walk down the road with companions they met on the road. Here, Yender and his group wait their turn to enter the Mobile Health Unit, where around 40 people are attended every day.
“I have been cold, rejected and mistreated,” says Yender. “Food is not ensured on the route and in some places they don't even give us a glass of water, even though we are dehydrated. The food kit given to us by the Red Cross gives us strength, and soon when the doctor sees me, I want him to tell me how my health is''.
After receiving medical and psychological assistance, Yender and his friends recharge their energies, say goodbye to the humanitarian team and continue their journey south.
5. Settling in a new home, a new country
In addition to the transit cities and towns where people spend brief hours on their way to their final destination, there are places where people settle down and start a new life from scratch. Ibarra is one of those cities, surrounded by the Andean mountains.
Those who have just arrived do not have the means to buy food, basic goods or pay rent. There, the Ecuadorian Red Cross provides cash assistance and support to migrant and host population small businesses.
This is the case of Belkis Colmenares. She has been living in Ecuador for two years, left Venezuela three years ago and lives in a three-room apartment with twelve other people, seven of whom are children.
“Two months ago we found out about the help being offered,” says Belkis. “A girl from the Red Cross accompanied us to the ATM and they gave us the money with which I bought food, paid part of the rent and medicines for my husband, who suffers from a mobility disability. Even though the money is gone as soon as it arrives, I felt happy because it took a great weight off my shoulders.”
National Society Investment Alliance funding announcement 2023
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The NSIA provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services. It focuses on supporting National Societies operating in complex emergencies, protracted crises and fragile contexts.
The NSIA can award up to one million Swiss francs of Accelerator funding to National Societies in fragile contexts over a maximum of five years. In addition, Bridge grants of up to 50,000 Swiss francs over 12 months can help National Societies lay the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from other National Societies Development (NSD) support initiatives.
In 2023, the NSIA Office received 27 eligible proposals: 14 for Accelerator funding and 13 for Bridge grants. Having reviewed all applications and following up the decision of the Steering Committee, the NSIA Office is pleased to announce that the following four National Societies have been selected for Accelerator funding in 2023:
Ecuadorian Red Cross
Myanmar Red Cross Society
Red Cross Society of Niger
The Palestine Red Crescent Society
These National Societies will receive a significant investment to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability.
Three of these National Societies (Myanmar, Niger and Palestine) previously received NSIA Bridge grants, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach.
The Myanmar Red Cross Society will proceed with the decentralization of its commercial first aid program after designing a strategy and a business model with the bridge grant.
The Red Cross Society of Niger plans to develop the resource mobilization capacities of its branches after a pilot phase and to boost their volunteer base.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society, having developed an investment strategy with a previous bridge grant, will improve access to healthcare services by implementing a health management information system.
The Ecuadorian Red Cross plans to develop a new internal system to better manage important parts of their work - including HR, volunteer, financial management and logistics. The NSIA will fund the first phase of implementation of this system.
15 other National Societies will receive Bridge grants (up to 50,000 Swiss francs): Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Central Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Honduras, Liberia, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Most Bridge initiatives will focus on developing business plans and strategies for resource mobilization (57 per cent) followed by branch development (21%). The National Societies’ projects will also focus on other themes such as volunteer development, youth engagement, digital transformation and governance are also identified.
In total, the NSIA will allocate 3.2 million Swiss francs to the 19 different National Societies this year.
The NSIA Office also takes this opportunity to thank the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ Red Cross Societies, as well as the ICRC and IFRC, for their continuous commitment and contribution to the fund.
The NSIA remains a strategic instrument for National Societies in fragile settings. The Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) has been implementing a NSIA accelerator initiative since 2021. Mr. Abubakar Kende, NRCS Secretary General explains:
“The NSIA has played a pivotal role in the success and expansion of the Nigerian Red Cross Society's commercial first aid training program. The financial and technical support and resources provided have significantly improved the overall impact, reach and quality of our Workplace First Aid training by developing advanced training products to bring us up-to-date with international best practices.
The NSIA Accelerator Grant has been an invaluable asset for the development of the Nigerian Red Cross Society through strategic investments, expert guidance, and the introduction of additional revenue-generating streams that contribute to its long-term financial sustainability. This enables the National Society to fulfil its humanitarian mission and positively impact the lives of vulnerable communities across Nigeria.
We are immensely grateful for the partnership so far with NSIA and look forward to continuing our shared mission of building a more prepared and resilient Nigeria. This cooperation and support has enabled NRCS to establish a solid foundation for growth and financial sustainability at both National Headquarters and the Branches, which we intend to scale up over the next coming years.”
For more information, pleasevisit the NSIA webpage.
7 disasters in the Americas in 2023 that you may not have heard about
Disasters and crises happen all the time around the world. Some make international headlines – like the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria or the international armed conflict in Ukraine – but others go unheard of to people outside the countries where they strike.
These smaller, lesser-known disasters still claim lives, destroy livelihoods, and set entire communities back.
The Americas region alone has faced many small and medium-sized disasters so far this year. But while these disasters may have gone unnoticed to the wider world, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the region have been there – right by the side of communities.
The IFRC has supported – getting money to our National Societies quickly through our Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) so they can prepare and respond effectively.
Let’s take a look at seven disasters in the Americas you may not have heard about from the first half of 2023, and how the IFRC network has supported the people affected.
1. Chile - forest fires:
In Febuary 2023, strong winds and high temperatures caused dozens of forest fires across central and southern Chile, leading to casualties and widespread damage. They followed earlier, destructive forest fires in December 2022 that spread rapidly around the city of Viña del Mar.
With DREF funding, the Chilean Red Cross provided support to more than 5,000 people affected by the fires over the following months. Staff and volunteer teams provided medical support to communities and distributed cash so that people could buy the things they needed to recover.
2. Uruguay - drought:
Uruguay is currently experiencing widespread drought due to a lack of rainfall since September 2022 and increasingly high temperatures in the summer seasons—prompting the Uruguayan government to declare a state of emergency.
The government officially requested the support of the Uruguayan Red Cross to conduct a needs assessment of the drought, so it could understand how it was impacting people and agricultural industries.
With funding from the DREF, Uruguayan Red Cross teams headed out into the most-affected areas to speak to more than 1,300 familiesabout the drought’s impact on their health, livelihoods and access to water.
Their findings are helping the government to make better-informed decisions on how to address the drought, taking into account the real needs of those affected.
This is the first time DREF funding has been used to support a damage assessment in this way.
3. Paraguay - floods:
In February and March 2023, heavy rains in northern Paraguay caused severe flooding—forcing many families to abandon their homes and paralyzing key infrastructure and industries.
The Paraguayan Red Cross responded, providing first aid and psychosocial support to people in temporary shelters. Volunteers also shared information with communities on how to protect themselves from water-borne diseases and from the increase in mosquitoes.
4. Ecuador - floods, earthquake, and landslides:
In the first quarter of 2023, Ecuador was struck by several, simultaneous disasters—floods, landslides, building collapses, hailstorms and an earthquake—that put the Ecuadorian Red Cross to the test.
Their volunteers deployed quickly provided wide-ranging support to people affected--including shelter, health care, water, sanitation and cash assistance. They also conducted surveys to understand exactly how people had been affected, and what they most needed to recover.
5. Argentina - floods:
In June, heavy rains caused flash flooding in the municipality of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, affecting an estimated 4,000 families. The flooding caused power outages, road closures and a contamination of water supplies—prompting the local authorities to request the support of the Argentine Red Cross.
Volunteer teams quickly mobilized to provide first aid and psychosocial support to people who had moved to evacuation centres in the area.
In the coming weeks and months, the Argentine Red Cross – with DREF funding – will provide shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene support to 500 of the most vulnerable families affected by the floods.
6. Haiti floods:
Flash floods also struck Haiti in early June following an exceptionally heavy rainstorm that swept the entire country. Though not classified as a cyclone or tropical downpour, the rainstorm nonetheless affected thousands of families, claimed more than 50 lives and submerged entire houses.
The Haitian Red Cross quicklydeployed rescue workers to provide first aid and assist with evacuations. Working alongside Movement partners, and with DREF support, they’ve also been distributing mattresses, shovels, rakes, hygiene kits, water treatment kits and plastic sheeting.
In a country already experiencing a cholera epidemic, Haitian Red Cross volunteers continue to share important information with communities about how to stay healthy and adopt good hygiene practices—especially important due to the increased risk from flood waters.
7. Dominican Republic - floods:
This same rainstorm in Haiti also affected communities across the border in the Dominican Republic, causing flash flooding in the country’s west.
The Dominican Red Cross has been providing humanitarian assistance in the form of search and rescue, evacuation, health and hygiene services, psychological first aid and restoring family links (RFL) services.
These are just a few examples of the many disasters that have hit the Americas so far this year.
With DREF support, Red Cross Societies across the region have been able to respond quickly to these disasters—providing effective and local humanitarian assistance directly to those who need it.
If you would like to help our network to continue responding to smaller disasters like these, please consider donating to our Disaster Response Emergency Fund today.
Building Trust programme
Building Trust during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Humanitarian Settings is our global programme supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to build trust in public health responses and in the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2022
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty The Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 17 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways.
The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, over 14 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 170 National Societies.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insight that will benefit the Movement as a whole. An innovation campaign was launched in December 2021 to further increase awareness of the Fund and what it stands for.
The campaign resulted in 52 proposals being submitted versus only 28 in 2021, and more innovative proposals compared to previous years, further strengthening the Fund’s positioning as supporting innovation.
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 shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
The selection process
The Fund received 52 applications in 2022, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 471,712 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jordan, Libya, Mongolia, Niger, Portugal, Serbia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Yemen.
The projects to be supported in 2022 cover a number of themes, including first aid and rescue, support for young people, disaster preparedness, health, social welfare and National Society development. The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate new insight and learning that will benefit the Movement as a whole. Reports from the National Societies whose projects were funded and implemented in 2020 generated insights in the areas listed below.
Top 10 key learnings from project implemented in 2020
Adaptability and agility
Taking a pilot approach
The 2022 grants
The Burkinabe Red Cross Society plans to strengthen psychosocial care and the capacities of community volunteers and first-aiders in communities affected by the crisis. The grant will allow the National Society to assist victims of attacks by armed groups in areas where security is a challenge.
In 2017, over 43.8% of Ivorians were illiterate, and the disparities between men and women and by places of residence were enormous. The Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire will use the grant to help improve the education and increase the autonomy of young women in the Bounkani Region who have not attended school.
The Croatian Red Cross will use the grant funds to spread awareness of the humanitarian ideals and educate children from an early age, through the Humanity Corner.
The Dominica Red Cross Society will provide support for and help introduce farming techniques and other solutions for managing climate change and other risks. The funds will be used to train 15 farmers as Agri First Responders in their community.
The Dominican Red Cross will help build young people’s capacity to carry out local social support activities. The grant will be used to develop a virtual introductory course on planning and coordinating social support activities that is adapted to the young people’s local reality, so that they are equipped with the techniques and tools to address the needs of their community.
The Ecuadorean Red Cross aims to identify and provide primary care for the negative feelings and emotions in young people from age 15 to 30 years in the city of Quito. The grant funds will provide immersion technologies to addresses the heightened need in the community owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jordan National Red Crescent Society has recognized young people and volunteers as the beating heart of the National Society, especially during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which they served local communities across the country, when mobility was restricted. This grant will help them improve the management system for recruiting, developing, promoting and retaining volunteers to support humanitarian operations.
Libya is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, given its arid climate. This grant will help the Libyan Red Crescent raise awareness of the risks associated with climate change and highlight personal behaviours that could help mitigate these risks for communities.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society wants to use digital communication tools funded by the grant in order to help ensure there is meaningful community participation across all programmes and operations, improve its public relations management and strengthen its transparency and accountability to communities.
In the event of an accident, smartphones can provide information that is essential for providing effective first aid. Thanks to the grant, the Red Cross Society of Niger will educate and inform the public about how to store useful information in the “emergency call” section of their phones.
The Portuguese Red Cross will address young people's social exclusion and the lack of space and opportunities to develop relevant skills and digital literacy, through the Platforms of Change, funded by the grant.
Through the “Their life is in your hands” digital marketing campaign, funded by the grant, the Red Cross of Serbia will raise the general public’s awareness of the value of CPR skills and AED use and provide the related training.
The Republic of Korea National Red Cross will focus on supporting disaster risk reduction in many countries in the Asia Pacific Region. The grant will fund development of virtual reality training content by the Asia Pacific Disaster Resilience Centre, provide sets of virtual reality devices to seven National Societies and provide virtual reality training on disaster risk reduction.
The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society is aiming for better nutrition and improved water, sanitation and hygiene in vulnerable communities that are drought-prone. The grant will introduce groundwater recharging practices into the catchment and tank ecosystem areas, to facilitate groundwater retention.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, communities face challenges in gaining access to reliable, up-to-date information and in overcoming the rumours, myths and misconceptions around the vaccine. Supported by the grant, the Tanzania Red Cross Society will develop a mobile application, “UJANJA KUCHANJA”, to enhance information-sharing, build trust and increase information access and reach.
In a mountainous district of Yemen, frequent rockslides often injure people and domestic animals, disrupt transport networks and cut people off from their livelihood activities. Thanks to the grant, the Yemen Red Crescent Society will take measures to prevent rockslides and help reduce the number of victims and the damage caused.
Ecuadorian Red Cross
Ecuador: help that arrives in time
By Melissa Monzon
“Thanks to the help of the Red Cross we will be able to protect our health, now not only from COVID, but also from volcanic ashfall. We hadn´t received help; we will use the tools to cultivate and for construction. This help is great, these tools will help us a lot”, says Agustin Chicaiza, a resident from the Laime Capulispungo community in Chimborazo, Ecuador.
Like Agustin, many families in the community have been affected with the volcanic ash fall from the Sangay, whose activity increased since early hours of September 20 of this year. Therefore, the Ecuadorian Red Cross activated the Early Action Protocol (EAP), which allow them to immediately assist families in the most affected rural communities in the following days.
“The Forecast-based Financing mechanism has allowed us to activate our first Early Action Protocol for volcanic ashfall. Thanks to the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross, the German Red Cross and the Climate Center, from Ecuadorian Red Cross we have provided humanitarian assistance to a thousand families from the communities of Totorillas, Laime, and Cebadas that have been affected by volcanic ashfall from the Sangay volcano”, complements Maria Fernanda Ayala, specialist in Geographic Information Systems of the National Program of Risk Management of the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
The EAP aims to establish adequate early action, using ash dispersal and deposition forecasts, which benefit the most vulnerable families in the most affected areas. On this occasion, after the increase in Sangay activity, the Ecuadorian Red Cross carried out an analysis where it crossed variables such as response capacity, vulnerability, exposure and ash dispersion and ashfall forecasts from the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School (IGEPN), and decided to activate the EAP on the same day, September 20, at night. This shows how the forecasts allow the Red Cross to respond in advance.
Also, the EAP allowed an economic distribution to be distributed, through the Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) program, where families receive an IFRC card with an amount that will help them cover their basic needs and protect their livelihoods. “Through the CVA program, people have the freedom to buy their materials, they really cover the needs they have due to the damage caused by volcanic ash and they can take early actions. They are given a debit card, and this money is intended as a complementary help. They were told how to withdraw the money from the ATM and where to redirect it (protection of livestock, crops and protection of their health)”, says Luis Alberto Rocano, Zone 3 Coordinator of the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
Through Early Action Protocols, the Red Cross can access funds immediately so that they are prepared and pre-positioned for these types of events. In the case of this EAP, health kits and livelihood protection (tarps and tools) kits were distributed to 142 families from the Laime Capulispungo community and 317 families from the Laime San Carlos community, and debit cards were delivered to 378 families in the communities of Laime Capulispungo and Totorillas, in Chimborazo.
“The Red Cross has had a caring heart, is a great help for this disaster that we are experiencing, this help will be of great use to us”, says Armando Daiquelema, resident of the Totorillas community.
| Press release
Ecuadorian Red Cross: a rapid response to the ashfall
September 22, 2020.- Since the activity of Sangay volcano have being increasing from early hours of September 20, the Ecuadorian Red Cross has activated the Early Action Protocol (EAP) with emergency funds from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which will allow it to immediately assist 1,000 families in rural communities that are being most affected.
“The first actions have been for our volunteers in Chimborazo, Bolívar and Guayas to participate in the local Emergency Operations Committees. From the Provincial Branches, teams of volunteers were activated for damage assessment and needs analysis. In Bolivar, one of the most affected provinces, supplies such as masks were delivered, "says Roger Zambrano, National Coordinator of Risk Management and Emergency and Disaster Response of the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
Due to the ash deposit threshold, the Ecuadorian Red Cross will deliver a thousand family health kits, which consist of N95 masks and eye protection glasses for adults and children, and one thousand animal protection kits, consisting of plastic tarps and tools so that communities can protect their animals and / or their crops. Also, the Cash Transfer Program will be activated through the delivery of IFRC debit cards.
Since 2019, the EAP allows the Ecuadorian Red Cross to access funds to be prepared and pre-positioned for an event of this nature and to be able to take early actions immediately. The objective is to establish adequate early actions, using volcanic ash dispersion and deposition forecasts, which allow actions to be taken to protect the most vulnerable families and their livelihoods in the areas most potentially affected by volcanic ash.
With this type of intervention, the aim is to better understand the behavior of disaster risks, prevent their impacts if possible, and reduce suffering and human losses. "We cannot prevent the occurrence of natural hazards, but we can use the information available to anticipate their consequences whenever possible," adds Ines Brill, head of the IFRC Delegation for Andean Countries. "Early action and effective preparedness can save people and their livelihoods."
Ecuadorian Red Cross calls on the population to donate blood in times of pandemic
By Olivia AcostaThe Ecuadorian Red Cross is a key player in the collection and supply of safe blood in the country, covering 70% of the demand for clinics and hospitals in 24 provincial boards. In order to respond to this need, it is essential to involve people in donating blood, which means a great effort to communicate and raise awareness among citizens.Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voluntary blood donation in Ecuador has decreased dramatically putting the country's supply at risk. Now more than ever, the Ecuadorian Red Cross has asked citizens not to stop donating to avoid blood shortages, and has activated a campaign to ensure blood supply.According to Monica Pesantez, Manager of the National Blood Center of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, blood stocks in the country have been greatly reduced due to COVID-19 emergency: the collection fell by 78% in April (from 18,000 donors per month to 4,420). In view of this situation, an awareness campaign was launched encouraging donors to make use of the home service, which offers all the safety guarantees required by the World Health Organization.Marco Herdoiza, Technical Director of the Ecuadorian Red Cross National Blood Centre, states that "The Red Cross wants to provide donors with all the necessary security that this situation requires. For people who prefer not to go to the donation centres, the institution collects the donors from their own homes and then takes them back, with all the necessary security measures ensured throughout the process". In addition, blood donation is also being offered at home with a mobile unit to prevent donors from going out into the street and exposing themselves to the risk of contagion.From March 14 to June 30, 30,000 whole blood donations have been obtained from the processing of different blood products. In the month of June, with the home collection and the communication campaign underway, it was possible to grow by 200% (from 4,420 to 13,384 blood donors)Many people need blood to replace large blood losses in surgery, trauma, gastrointestinal bleeding, childbirth, and cancer treatments, among others. In Ecuador only 1.4% of the population donates blood. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) establishes that in order to meet blood needs, at least 2 to 5% of the population must donate blood.Ecuador is the fourth Latin American country, along with Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, to have a blood center. Thanks to the management and initiative of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, the center was inaugurated on November 5, 2009. The purpose of the Hemocenter is, on the one hand, to centralize blood screening in order to guarantee a unique quality under national and international standards, and on the other hand, to decentralize donation in order to reach 100% of voluntary blood donors and a national coverage of the demand for blood products.
Ecuadorian Red Cross supports migrants during COVID-19 emergency
"With what we receive, we don't have enough to eat, or to rent, for anything. We have to sleep in the street and expose ourselves to the virus," says José Gregorio, one of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants living in Ecuador.
José is part of a population that works in the informal market, selling candy on the streets of Quito. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were 330,000 Venezuelans in this country by the end of 2019.
The health emergency caused by COVID-19 has complicated the living conditions of migrant populations. One of the main effects is the reduction of their livelihoods. Many migrants obtained their income from businesses or jobs that have been forced to close temporarily because of the emergency. Others work in the informal sector and find it very difficult to pay for their rent, food, health, and access to basic services.
The Ecuadorian Red Cross has provided humanitarian assistance with the delivery of hygiene kits and food. In the province of Pichincha, the National Society has delivered 4,630 food kits, while in Guayas, 500 were delivered. In addition, 1,000 hygiene kits were distributed between Guayas, Pichincha and five other provinces. This aid was aimed at people in vulnerable situations, including migrants.
"All our actions are coordinated with the state so as not to duplicate efforts and help in the most efficient way. In the case of the Province of Pichincha, we work with the Metropolitan Emergency Operations Centre. Similarly, we have articulated cooperation actions with the private sector, which has been key to mobilizing resources during the emergency," says Roberto Bonilla, technician of the Ecuadorian Red Cross.
One of the serious problems faced by migrants is psychological distress. The distance from their families, the anxiety generated during quarantine, as well as the stigma and discrimination they often suffer, are situations that can create depression. The Ecuadorian Red Cross has been using teleassistance to provide psychosocial support. This is a service that is open to the entire community, including the migrant population and involves mental health volunteers who provide support from different parts of the country.
According to Roger Zambrano, National Coordinator of Risk Management of the Ecuadorian Red Cross, the institution is currently carrying out a process of preparation for its volunteers with a view to extending its actions on the ground, in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"The safety of our volunteers and staff comes first," he says. "We are developing biosecurity protocols and procedures, as well as face-to-face and virtual training. We are also arranging for protective equipment to be sent to our volunteers. The idea is to expand our activities in the country, guaranteeing the well-being of our staff".
Providing safe spaces for child migrants in Ecuador
“It is emotional work. When children arrive they are so exhausted and need time to rest, play and not be seen as migrants,” says William Guerra. He is a volunteer with the Ecuador Red Cross supporting a safe space for children in the town of Lago Agrio, in the Province of Sucumbíos, which is a border point with Colombia.
Many of the migrant children and families who arrive at the border come to Colombia from Venezuela as their country experiences severe political and economic distress. The numbers of children who cross this border point can fluctuate each day. Recently there have been as many as thirty and forty children each day, many with a parent or grandparent, but some also migrating alone.
In response to the needs faced by migrant children, the Ecuador Red Cross implements 14 safe spaces in 11 provinces across the country. It also has additional mobile safe spaces it deploys when the number of migrants increase. The mobile spaces support children as they walk for long distances in hard to access locations.
Marisol Pallo, another volunteer in Lago Agrio explains that each safe space provides an assortment of humanitarian services to children and families that seek to improve psychosocial wellbeing and protection. “We see that children here have many needs so we help with first aid, restoring family links, discussing child rights, play, and just let children be surrounded by normal things. We also provide shoes to replace the broken and worn down ones.” Marisol notes, “We need to work hard because we know this is not normal and childhood should not be this way.”
Priscila Naranjo, a local college student who volunteers at the safe space, tell us, “We see so many bad stories about migrants in the news but the reality is so different. Here you see the humanitarian needs and that these are just children like all other children.”