| Press release
KwaZulu-Natal floods: Red Cross steps up response amid mounting humanitarian needs
Pretoria/Nairobi/Geneva, 26 April 2022—The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an 8 million Swiss franc emergency appeal to support the South African Red Cross Society (SARCS) to expand the scope of their assistance as humanitarian needs continue to outpace available resources.
eThekwini municipality in the east coast of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) was pummelled by rains on the weekend of 10 April. The meteorological department has stated that this is one of the heaviest floods recorded in a day in 60 years and has left a trail of destruction on human life, private property and infrastructure. The devastating floods have claimed over 400 lives so far. Over 50 people are unaccounted for, as search and rescue efforts continue. Damage to property and infrastructure is estimated to amount to billions of rands. Once the water subsided, thousands have been left without livelihoods and homes.
Ruth van Rooyen, Senior Disaster Management Officer, IFRC Country Cluster Delegation for Southern Africa said:
“The communities affected by the floods were already vulnerable due to the recent civil unrest and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had left many households without a source of income. Just as they were trying to rebuild, another disaster hit. Humanitarian aid is stretched, and partnerships are greatly needed as we support communities in their rebuilding process. This appeal aims to help communities build back better and regain the hope lost as they watched their lives washed away by the torrents of water.”
According to national authorities, 123,808 people were affected, 448 people have died and over 30,000 are displaced, mostly in collective evacuation centers. Several dozens of people remain missing and unaccounted for. Rescue teams, including South Africa Red Cross Society volunteers, have been mobilized to the affected areas to search for the missing and bring others to safety.
In the immediate aftermath of the floods, the IFRC released 330,000 Swiss francs (R5 351 866) from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) to help SARCS rapidly respond and provide immediate assistance to more than 7,500 people (over 1,500 households). To respond to the greater needs, the emergency appeal will allow SARCS to support a total of 30,000 people (6,000 households) with various relief activities in evacuation centres to enable early recovery in affected communities. Families with severely damaged homes and those who are economically vulnerable having lost their livelihoods and lacking alternative coping mechanisms to meet their basic needs will be the main targeted groups. Particular attention will be given to homeless women and children.
SARCS staff and volunteers have been mobilized and continue to respond to communities after floods hit. They have provided hot meals, psychosocial support, and the protection of family links to affected individuals. Red Cross teams have also distributed mattresses and provided first aid to displacement centres.
Some initial images from the field can be accessed on this link: https://shared.ifrc.org/c/1586
For more information, or to request an interview please contact:
In Pretoria: Robyn Lee Doyle, [email protected]
In Nairobi: Susan Mbalu, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected]
South Africa: Floods and landslides
Deadly floods and landslides have devastated South Africa following three days of pounding rain in April 2022, prompting the country to declare a National State of Disaster. More than 100,000 people have been affected, thousands of homes have been destroyed and hundreds of people have tragically lost their lives. The worst affected areas are in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces. Through this emergency appeal, the IFRC is supporting the South African Red Cross Society to provide relief activities to 30,000 of the most affected people to meet their immediate needs and help them recover.
The South African Red Cross Society
| Press release
South Africa: Lessons of HIV/AIDS key to halting COVID-19 slide, says Red Cross
Johannesburg/Geneva, 7 August 2020 – A senior Red Cross official has warned that South Africa needed to learn lessons from the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS to help curb the rise in the number of people testing positive for COVID-19, as the number crossed the half a million mark on 1 August 2020.
South Africa is the worst affected nation on the African continent, and currently has the fifth highest number of people testing positive worldwide, after the United States, Brazil, India and Russia.
Dr Michael Charles, the Head of the Southern Africa Country Cluster office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“This is a time to look back and look at the experiences of the past. South Africa was really the epicentre for HIV/AIDS, and we learnt so much from it. Yes it took a while before we could get it up and running in terms of our prevention methods, in terms of stigma, and these are the examples and the lessons learnt that we can bring to the fight against COVID.”
South Africa’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed on 5 March 2020. When the cases doubled every two days in the following three weeks, the country imposed an early lockdown, slowing the transmission. However, following the decision to ease the lockdown in July, the country has seen an exponential rise in cases, causing worldwide concern as it rapidly rose up the ranks of the world’s COVID-19 tally.
As of yesterday (5 August), South Africa had reported almost 530,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and almost 10,000 deaths. Last week, a record 572 deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours. These figures have confounded analysts who cannot explain the high rise in numbers but relatively low numbers in death. South Africa has a far lower death toll than other countries that have fewer confirmed cases, for example the UK.
Masks are still mandatory, strict government guidelines have been issued for hygiene practices on public transport like taxis, social distancing is promoted in all public spaces, bars and shebeens (informal drinking spots in townships) remain closed and gatherings like funerals prohibit more than 50 people at a time. Despite these measures, however, many South Africans within and outside the hotspots flout government prescriptions, with community feedback indicating that many believe the virus not to be real or not likely to affect them.
Stigma is an ongoing challenge, with humanitarian actors quoting behaviour similar to that seen during the AIDS pandemic, when people would rather not test, than know they have COVID-19 and be stigmatised or ostracised.
The IFRC’s Dr Charles said:
“It is really our responsibility to stop stigmatising people who have COVID, stop harassing people within the communities because of COVID, and it’s time for us to get together and fight the cause together. It is only then that we can say that we are winning the fight. At the moment unfortunately we are not winning it because our numbers are going up and up but am sure that once we change our attitude, once we bring the lessons learnt from the past, that is when we will start to see the numbers go down.”
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the South African Red Cross has partnered with the Department of Health to support in screening, testing and contact tracing in key hotspot areas. Ongoing parallel hygiene promotion and behavior change messaging accompany all Red Cross activities to increase health awareness among the general public and targeted communities. Media Communication and Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) activities have been rolled out to the affected and non-affected communities by Red Cross volunteers. During lockdown, the Red Cross has been providing food to homeless people and other highly affected groups, with a focus on people living in informal settlements.
Urgent action needed for countries in Southern Africa threatened by drought
By Dr. Michael Charles
All countries in the Southern Africa are currently experiencing pockets of dryness. Worryingly for the sub-region, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe have declared state of emergencies due to looming drought. The United Nations Climate Action Summit scheduled for 23 September 2019 in New York, United States of America, presents a timely opportunity for urgent global discussions that will hopefully culminate inconcrete, realistic plans to address thedisproportionate impacts of climate change on developing countries.
[caption id="attachment_57159" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Teresa, 19, holds her baby son in front of her destroyed home in Dondo, Mozambique. IFRC/Corrie Butler[/caption]
Southern Africa is one of the regions most affected by serious impacts of climate-induced natural disasters. This year alone, a succession ofcyclonesandfloodshas already resulted in significant loss of life and assets in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and kept humanitarian organisations busy with emergency responses, as well as recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth were different in that they managed to attract global attention because they caused significant devastation during a short period. Climate change-induced natural disasters in Southern Africa are often invisible in the global media, even though they are protracted and threaten the livelihoods of millions. Even lower-level cyclones can cause devastating floods that are quickly followed by debilitating droughts.
Many national economies in Southern Africa are agriculturally based and as long as climate change mitigation strategies enshrined in existing globalpoliciesare not wholeheartedly implemented, a significant portion of the 340 million inhabitants of Southern Africa could be food-insecure in the long-term because of famine.
The increased mass movement of people from areas affected by climate-induced natural disasters is also more likely. Internal and external migration will necessitate greater coordination among humanitarian organisations to adequately support receiving communities and countries to respond to the added burden introduced by new arrivals.
The effects of food insecurity and mass movements are felt most by the vulnerable in our communities, such as the chronically ill and disabled, and women and children. They also place immense pressure on already strained health systems in many countries in the sub-region. With the necessary funds, the Red Cross Movement has the capability and is well placed to address some of the consequences. But urgent action is still needed on the climate change question.
[caption id="attachment_57175" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] In Mwanza district, Malawi, Red Cross has helped communities create gardens with smart irrigation to create greater food security, less reliance on rains and can harvest twice per year, at least doubling productivity. IFRC/Juozas Cernius[/caption]
Climate change is certain and evident. Its effects are being felt more in less developed nations, especially in southern Africa. Efforts for adaptation are essential not only to decrease the negative consequences but also to increase opportunities for communities to be more resilient in the long-term.
Countries in the sub-region are acting to decrease their response times to calamities and improve their communities’ readiness to mitigate impacts of natural disasters. Mozambique is the first country in Africa to have an Early Action Protocol approved; the protocol harnesses the power offorecast-based financingto ensure that humanitarian responses are more responsive and proactive. Malawi’s protocol is under review and Zambia’s is currently in development.
The need for humanitarian assistance in Southern Africa in the latter part of 2019 and into 2020 will be greater with the imminent drought. Notwithstanding ongoing local efforts to improve countries’ and communities’ disaster risk management practices and increase their resilience, global stakeholders have a responsibility to definitively act to reduce the need for climate change-induced disaster mitigation efforts in the most affected developing countries.
Originally published in the Southern Times Newspaper
Dr Michael Charles is the Head of the Southern Africa Cluster of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Women are the agents of change for climate change in southern Africa
By: Dr Michael Charles
Today South Africa marks Women’s Day. Much like the women being commemorated for the march to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, women in southern Africa today may well hold the same flint that lights a “new movement” – climate change.
Southern Africa is one of the regions projected to experience the most serious consequences of global warming and the El Niño effect. In 2019, we experienced one of the worst disasters the region has ever seen - Cyclone Idai ravaged communities in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and continue to rebuild their lives.
Urgent action is needed to increase the region’s preparedness for natural disasters. It is only a matter of time until the next disaster strikes. Being female often automatically means that personal susceptibility to sexual and domestic violence, rape and assault in emergency situations is significantly heightened. Women experience additional difficulties because they are typically responsible for sourcing water and preparing food; caring for children, the injured, sick and elderly; and maintaining family and community cohesion.
Tackling climate change is, undoubtedly, women’s business. They have a vested interest in avoiding and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is time that humanitarian actors and policy and decision-makers mainstream gender in policy and practice. It is not a “nice to do”; it is crucial to making real and sustainable differences in the lives of affected people.
In 1956, 200,000 South African women declared that enough was enough and acted to defend themselves and the unity and integrity of their families from restrictive laws that required them to carry a pass to reside and move freely in urban areas.
Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock! was the rallying cry of that day, used to signify the women’s unshakeable and unbreakable resolve in the face of adversity as they marched to the Union Building in Pretoria, and sparked change in the course of South Africa’s history.
As countries in southern Africa ramp up their disaster risk management and humanitarian organisations work to strengthen community recovery and resilience, women in southern Africa should not just be considered victims and survivors who need special protection and assistance. They are forces for change who can be relied on to represent themselves within their communities and at the highest decision-making levels.
[caption id="attachment_55507" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Photo: Sonia and other Red Cross volunteers speak to Dr. Michael Charles in Beira, Mozambique[/caption]
I am always inspired by the women I meet responding in disasters, most recently in Cyclone Idai. Women like, Sonia, a volunteer who was working long hours to support women in a shelter, displaced by Cyclone Idai or Flora, who was affected herself by flooding but was dedicated to helping her neighbours rebuild their homes and their lives.
Happy Women’s Day, South Africa. May the flame that was lit in 1956 and the fire of women’s empowerment and participation that was built over the decades rage on.
Dr Michael Charles is the Head of the Southern Africa Cluster of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.