Mexico & Central American migration crisis
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a massive increase in the number of refugees, migrants, and returnees in transit by land northwards through Central America. People are mostly moving through irregular channels, and along the way face bureaucratic barriers, suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence or disappear and are separated from their families. Tragically, others are killed or die from diseases or the harsh environmental conditions. This Emergency Appeal supports the Red Cross Societies of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to scale up humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people along migratory routes.
National Society Investment Alliance: Funding announcement 2022
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
It provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies—particularly those in complex emergencies and protracted crisis—so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services.
The NSIA can award up to one million CHF of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 CHF over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from elsewhere.
This year, the NSIA is pleased to announce that the following six National Societies have been selected for accelerator funding in 2022:
Burundi Red Cross
Kenya Red Cross Society
Malawi Red Cross Society
Russian Red Cross Society
Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Zambia Red Cross Society
These National Societies will receive a significant investment of up to one million CHF, to be used over a maximum of five years, to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability. Three of these National Societies (Syria, Malawi and Zambia) previously received NSIA bridge awards, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach towards sustainable development.
In addition, 14 other National Societies will receive up to 50,000 CHF in bridge funding: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Sierra Leone.
In total, the NSIA will allocate 5.4 million CHF to 20 different National Societies this year. This is more than double the funds allocated in 2021 and represents the largest annual allocation since the NSIA’s launch in 2019.
This landmark allocation is made possible thanks to the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ National Societies. Both the ICRC and IFRC have also strongly reinforced their commitment, by allocating 10 million CHF and 2 million CHF respectively over the coming years.
The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination, and Olivier Ray, ICRC Director for Mobilization, Movement and Partnership, said:
“We are pleased to have been able to select 20 National Societies’ initiatives for funding by the NSIA in 2022. Our vision and plans are becoming a reality. We see Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies operating in fragile contexts accessing funds for sustainably developing to deliver and scale up their humanitarian services. This is localization in action and at scale.
It is particularly encouraging to see that the NSIA’s two-stage approach, with initial funds providing a springboard to help National Societies prepare for increased investment aimed at achieving sustained impact on the organization and vulnerable communities, is working. We hope to see many more National Societies planning and following this journey.
2022 will be remembered as a milestone for the NSIA. Our ambition is to maintain this momentum and continue to grow in the years to come. We see this mechanism as a valuable and strategic lever to support National Societies in fragile and crisis settings to undertake their journey towards sustainable development.”
For more information, please click here to visit the NSIA webpage.
| Press release
Communities affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota are threatened by food insecurity, displacement and the climate crisis
Panama City, 11 November, 2021 - One year after Hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America, affecting more than 7.5 million people, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls for urgent action and investment to protect millions of vulnerable people in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua who are facing the combined impact of COVID-19, poverty, and climate-related disasters.
In Honduras alone, over 3 million people are now suffering from food insecurity, and 2.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, over double the previous estimate issued in early 2020. Other communities in the region are facing the destruction of livelihoods such as fishing and farming has forced the most vulnerable families to choose between selling their assets to ensure their food security or reducing the number of daily meals.
Roger Alonso, IFRC’s Head of the Disaster, Climate and Crises Unit, said:
“In the last 12 months, the Red Cross teams in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have worked tirelessly to address the needs of more than 620,000 people affected by Eta and Iota. We have provided shelter, health care, psychosocial support, access to food, clean water, sanitation, and cash transfer services. However, the disaster is not over. Urgent action is needed now to protect people’s livelihoods, prevent diseases, and ramp up the recovery from the social and economic impact of the hurricanes, which have severely affected women, migrants and displaced people.”
In 2020, at least 1.5 million people were displaced in Central America as a consequence of disasters, including Hurricanes Eta and Iota: 937,000 in Honduras, 339,000 in Guatemala, and 232,000 in Nicaragua.
Eta and Iota have wiped out livestock and destroyed over 700,000 hectares of crops which are a critical source of livelihood and food security for many families already facing social exclusion and economic difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and pre-existent poverty levels. These adverse impacts have contributed to people’s decision to leave their homes or join ‘migrant caravans’ headed towards North America.
Martha Keays, IFRC’s Regional Director in the Americas, said:
“We need to act globally and locally before communities are displaced, and invest in climate adaptation and early action to combat the effect of disasters such as Eta and Iota. Guatemala, Honduras and, Nicaragua are classified as countries in high-risk of facing climate-related threats and, at the same time, are in the group of countries that lack investment to fund preparedness and adaptation measures. Humanitarian organizations, governments, civil society, donors, and climate experts should work together to revert that pattern and promote climate financing measures that save lives and empower communities, particularly those with the highest risks and the lowest capacities.”
In response to hurricanes Eta and Iota in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, the IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for 20 million Swiss francs to save lives, deliver humanitarian aid, and put in place preparedness plans and climate change adaptation measures that build community resilience and minimize the impact of future disasters.
In November 2020, the IFRC also activated its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to deliver fast and effective humanitarian aid for over 26,000 people affected by Eta or Iota in Belice, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama.
For more information:
Susana Arroyo Barrantes, [email protected] + 506 8416 1771
María Victoria Langman, [email protected] +507 65501090
Empress Shôken fund 100th distribution announcement
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 16 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, 169 National Societies have received 14 million Swiss francs. To mark the Fund’s 100th year of awarding grants, a short video was developed to highlight what the Fund stands for and showcase how it has supported National Societies through the years.
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 evident in the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier due to the weekend.
The selection process
The Fund received 28 applications in 2021 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 475,997 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Argentina, the Bahamas, Benin, Costa Rica, Estonia, Georgia, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam.
The projects to be supported in 2021 cover a number of themes, including youth engagement, disaster preparedness, National Society development and health, especially the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit the Movement as a whole.
The 2021 grants
The Argentine Red Cross is taking an innovative approach to talent management using new technologies. It will use the grant to develop a talent-management module to be implemented in 65 branches, enabling the National Society to attract and retain employees and volunteers.
The Bahamas Red Cross Society will put the grant towards building staff and volunteers’ capacities and expanding its network on five islands, with a view to implementing community- and ecosystem-based approaches to reducing disaster risk and increasing climate resilience.
The Red Cross of Benin seek to help vulnerable women become more autonomous. The grant will support them in developing income-generating activities and building their professional skills.
The Costa Rica Red Cross will use the grant to enable communities in the remote Cabécar and Bribri indigenous territories to better manage emergencies, holding workshops on first aid, risk prevention and emergency health care in connection with climate events and health emergencies, including COVID-19.
The Estonia Red Cross is working to build competencies in four key areas, including in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers. The funds will support the development of a volunteer database to help effectively manage information, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With widespread COVID-19 transmission in Georgia, the Georgia Red Cross Society is working to help national authorities limit the impact of the pandemic. It will put the grant towards promoting good hygiene and raising awareness of the importance of vaccination.
The Red Crescent Society of Islamic Republic of Iran is focused on building local capacity with youth volunteers by boosting small businesses in outreach areas. The grant will be used for training, capacity-building and development in local partner institutions, generating income for community members.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have affected how the Kenya Red Cross Society does its humanitarian work. The grant will be used to launch an online volunteer platform to encourage and facilitate youth volunteering.
The Malawi Red Cross Society must be ready to respond to disasters due to climate variability and climate change. The funds will allow the National Society to establish a pool of trained emergency responders who can swing into action within 72 hours of a disaster.
The Nicaraguan Red Cross is working to protect the elderly from COVID-19. The grant will be used in three care homes located in the municipalities of Somoto, Sébaco and Jinotepe to provide medical assistance, prevent and control infections, and promote mental health as a basic element of self-care through training and support sessions and other activities.
The Pakistan Red Crescent seeks to improve how it manages blood donations. The funds will enable the National Society to increase the capacity of its blood donor centre and raise awareness of voluntary unpaid blood donation by holding World Blood Donor Day in 2021.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for All project of the Philippine Red Cross aims to develop WASH guidelines and promote them in the community. The grant will be used for training and capacity-building around providing health services in emergencies.
In Romania, teenagers in residential centres are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence for a number of reasons, including a lack of both psychosocial education and staff trained in dealing with this kind of violence through trauma-informed care. The grant will enable the Red Cross of Romania to reduce the vulnerability of 60 teenagers in residential centres by increasing knowledge and aiding the development of safe relationships.
The South Sudan Red Cross is working to encourage young people to adapt to climate change by planting fruit trees. The grant will support this initiative, which aims to reduce the impact of climate change and increase food production.
In 2020 the Timor-Leste Red Cross launched an education programme aimed at increasing young people’s knowledge about reproductive health. The funds will be used to expand the programme – already active in five of the National Society’s branches – to the remaining eight branches.
The Viet Nam Red Cross aims to further engage with authorities and become more self-sufficient through fundraising. It will use the grant to build its personnel’s capacities by providing training courses on proposal writing, project management and social welfare.
Nicaraguan Red Cross
| Press release
Humanitarian response to hurricanes Eta and Iota one of the most challenging faced by Central America in decades
Panama/Geneva, 14 December 2020– One month after hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America and Colombia, affecting more than 7.5 million people, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that millions are still in need of immediate humanitarian support in what has become one of the most challenging disasters faced by the region in recent history.
The IFRC and National Red Cross Societies are currently addressing the most urgent needs of over 100,000 people through seven simultaneous humanitarian operations in Colombia, Belize, Costa Rica, Panamá, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. The situation is especially severe in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, where more than 6 million people have been affected by heavy rains, floods, and landslides. In-depth damage and needs assessments are ongoing but results from all rapid assessments conducted so far paint a bleak humanitarian picture in both the short and medium term.
Felipe del Cid, Head of the IFRC’s Disaster Response Unit in the Americas, said: “Millions of people still need immediate humanitarian support: shelter, health care, psychosocial support, access to food, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. We are talking about a huge disaster, exacerbating an already ruinous combination of COVID-19, poverty and inequality in the region.These overlapping crises are making our operation one of the most complex we have ever mounted. The support of the international community is urgent to protect lives and livelihoods”.
On 8 November, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for 20 million Swiss Francs to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua for at least 18 months. Currently only 58% funded, the appeal focuses on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, addressing health needs, including COVID-19 prevention measures, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address the mid-term consequences, such as the hurricanes’ impact on livelihoods and displacement.
“Eta and Iota have wiped out livestock, destroyedtools,harvests and farming areas, and impacted popular tourist spotsacross a region that was already facing an economic crisis related to COVID-19 and where the incomes of thousands of families had already been severely depleted. People are at risk of resorting to coping strategiessuch as selling their animals and properties,eating less food, andabandoning their homes to look for new ways of generating income”, added del Cid.
History has shown that hurricanes can cause displacement influxes as the loss of housing and livelihoods fuel unemployment and lead to increased movement of people to urban centres. Eta and Iota also represent a challenge for returned populations. InGuatemala and Honduras,some of the areas hit hardest have also welcomed large groups of returned people whose journeys have not ended in the way they expected. Figures on unemployment, poverty, and vulnerability were already high due to COVID-19 and will very likely deteriorate due to Eta and Iota.
Audiovisual materials including high quality B-roll and images available to download and use here.
| Press release
Red Cross launches massive, multi-country operation as horror of Hurricane Eta emerges
Panama/Geneva, 10 November 2020 – The national, regional, and global resources of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are being mobilized as the full, destructive picture of Eta begins to emerge across Central America.
According to Red Cross assessments, more than 2.5 million people from Panama to Belize have been affected in some way, although the impacts are most severe in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Felipe del Cid, IFRC's Operations Manager for the Americas, said:
"Eta has been a devastating disaster. In Honduras alone, 1.7 million people have been affected. Many of them are women, children and members of indigenous communities that have lost everything and have no access to water and food. In several communities, families are drinking contaminated water and are in urgent need of support."
A plane and two trucks carrying a combined 98 tons of humanitarian aid are departing from the IFRC’s Humanitarian Logistics Hub in Panama to Nicaragua and Honduras. Aid items include mosquito nets, kitchen kits, hygiene kits, tarpaulins, jerrycans, cleaning kits, tool kits and COVID protection equipment.
The IFRC has launched a 20 million Swiss franc Emergency Appeal to support and dramatically expand local Red Cross efforts in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
This operation aims to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people for at least 18 months. It will focus on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, addressing health care needs, including COVID-19 prevention needs, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address issues related to gender and inclusion, as well as displacement. Historically, disasters in the region have led to increased movement of people towards urban centres.
IFRC is also deploying a series of Emergency Response Units from its global network as part of the multi-country operation.
"The region is facing a triple crisis: Eta, COVID-19 and the one caused by the pre-existing conditions of vulnerability that have been affecting Central American countries. We are talking about millions of people affected in seven countries. The need for humanitarian aid is dramatic," Felipe del Cid added.
National Red Cross Societies across Central America were active before Eta made landfall. They coordinated with authorities to prepare for Eta’s impact and assisted in the evacuation of communities lying in its path. Since the storm made landfall, they have been involved in search and rescue efforts, offered support to people in shelters, provided prehospital care to the injured, and offered psychosocial support and COVID-19 prevention information to survivors.
In addition to mounting this operation, IFRC is also closely monitoring potential new storm systems that could develop and threaten Eta-affected communities in the coming days.
IFRC concerned about impact of Hurricane Eta on coronavirus transmission
The Red Cross, working in every country in the region, is supporting thousands of people affected by the heavy rains and floods caused by Hurricane Eta.
Eta tore across parts of Central America after in made landfall in Nicaragua on 3 November as a category 4 Hurricane. Though it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved towards Honduras and Guatemala, constant rains and powerful winds have caused flooding and devastation across the region, including dozens of deadly landslides. Belize, Cost Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua have all been significantly affected.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes with flooding and landslides causing severe damage across the region. It is thought the storm has claimed the lives of more than 200 people, though the true figure could be much higher as many people remain missing.
[caption id="attachment_70233" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Honduran Red Cross search and rescue volunteers have been deployed to areas affected by landslides. (Credit Honduran Red Cross)[/caption]
As families struggle to come to terms with what has happened, concerns are mounting about the impact this disaster will have on coronavirus transmissions.
COVID-19 prevention measures, such as regular hand washing and social distancing, will almost certainly be made more difficult in evacuation shelters, in overcrowded family homes or other safe places people have moved to.
“There are thousands of homeless people, in temporary refuges or shelters facing many vulnerabilities. Right now, preventing the spread of COVID-19 is essential despite the enormous challenges of the emergency. It is not unlikely that we will witness a significant increase in cases in the coming weeks, due to the difficulty of applying public health measures in such a complex context,” Dr María Tallarico, IFRC Health Coordinator in the Americas, warns.
[caption id="attachment_70209" align="aligncenter" width="947"] Evacuation efforts continued over the weekend as heavy rains continued to wreak havoc. (Credit: Honduran Red Cross)[/caption]
Thousands of Red Cross volunteers across the region are assisting families affected by floods, supporting evacuations and search and rescue, providing first aid and psychosocial support, as well as transporting people safely to hospital. These same volunteers have been supporting communities to stay safe during the pandemic.
“Red Cross National Societies face the difficult task of responding to these deadly rains and floods as well as COVID-19. Volunteers are being provided with the necessary personal protection equipment and will continue to support communities with prevention and protection measures. It is important now that these measures are not only maintained but increased in order to reduce possible transmissions”, Dr Maria continues.
[caption id="attachment_70229" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Volunteers from the Guatemalan Red Cross are supporting children affected by the storm with psychosocial support in evacuation shelters across the country. Across the region, volunteers are already distributing hygiene kits across to help people to stay safe. (Credit: Guatemalan Red Cross)[/caption]
Red Cross National Societies, with the support of the IFRC in the region, are already distributing hygiene kits to displaced people, these include masks and hand sanitizer. Volunteers are also talking to families about how to stay safe during this time.
The IFRC is recommending that all response must consider the need for heightened prevention measures against the virus, as well as other communicable diseases, such as Zika, that commonly increase during and after floods.
“We urge people to ensure that they continue to follow health advice, wear masks and wash or disinfect their hands as regularly as possible, use safe water to avoid diarrhea and other infections due to contaminated water, protect girls and boys and monitor the emergence of respiratory or skin diseases. Our Red Cross staff and volunteers are on the ground helping and supporting these tasks,” Dr Maria says.
[caption id="attachment_70225" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Volunteers from the Nicaraguan Red Cross clear a road obstructed by debris and trees dragged by the flood currents. (Credit: Nicaraguan Red Cross)[/caption]
The Red Cross is also urging people to continue to consider personal protection measures such as wearing masks and washing their hands as often as possible. Assessments are underway to evaluate the damage caused by the storm. The immediate concerns are ensuring people have access to clean water, food and safe shelter.
[caption id="attachment_70221" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] The Costa Rican Red Cross is supporting evacuations in areas affected by the storm. (Credit: Costa Rican Red Cross)[/caption]
It may be days or even week before the true extent of the damage is known, but constant rains even after the storm has passed, means that strong currents and landslides continue to destroy homes, farmland and sadly, to take lives.
[caption id="attachment_70217" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] A Guatemalan Red Cross volunteer speaks with a person affected by the floods. Many families face economic uncertainty caused by coronavirus restrictions. These floods bring a further bow to those already struggling to cope. (Credit: Guatemalan Red Cross)[/caption]
This devastation comes at a time when many communities in the region are already deeply affected by the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The long-term effects of this disaster threatens to push communities already struggling to cope, over the edge.
“The long-term effects of this climate disaster will push communities already struggling to cope with the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, over the edge. The IFRC has launched and appeal and will continue to work alongside the National Societies responding, to ensure that no one is left behind.”
The IFRC has launched a regional emergency appeal to cover three countries, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The IFRC is seeking 20m CHF to support 75,000 people cross these three countries for the next 18 months. It also continues to support other countries affected, including Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama, working closely with the National Societies responding. The IFRC in the region continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
| Press release
Central America: Hurricane Eta “one of the biggest threats since Hurricane Mitch”
Panama/Geneva, 6 November 2020 — The Red Cross is supporting thousands of people affected by the heavy rains and floods caused by now-Tropical Storm Eta. The devastating storm has claimed more than 50 lives, forced the evacuation of thousands of people, and caused significant damage to infrastructure and homes throughout Central America.
The situation is especially critical in Honduras where authorities have issued a red alert for the entire country, as well as in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Felipe del Cid is the Head of Operations in the Americas for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He said:
“In Honduras, already about 400,000 people have been directly affected by the storm, but that number could even double in the coming hours. Our teams on the ground are seeing widespread damage: communities are flooded, homes are destroyed, and people have been forced to leave their homes.
“Red Cross teams will continue surveying damage, completing needs assessments, and providing comfort and emergency support to those in need. This is probably one of the biggest threats the country has faced since the passage of Hurricane Mitch in 1998.”
The Red Cross is working in close coordination with national and local authorities in all affected countries. Red Cross volunteers and staff are supporting evacuation efforts, rescuing people trapped by the floods and monitoring rivers as water levels rise. They are also providing emergency first aid and psychosocial support.
The IFRC has already released about 440,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to bolster efforts in Nicaragua. Additional allocations for other affected countries are in the pipeline.
The IFRC’s logistics unit at the Humanitarian Hub in Panama is preparing to dispatch emergency supplies such as tarps, blankets, and other items to areas of greatest need. IFRC also anticipates launching emergency appeals for Honduras and Nicaragua.
| Press release
Red Cross bracing for Hurricane Eta’s winds, flooding, and storm surge
Panama/Geneva,3November 2020 —Red Cross volunteers and staff in Nicaragua and Honduras have been preparing to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance ahead of Hurricane Eta’s imminent landfall.
The Honduran and Nicaraguan Red Cross have placed trained volunteers on high alert and have pre-positioned emergency supplies, including fuel, tarpaulins and other relief items. In both countries, the Red Cross has been urging people to have food, water, and other necessities available, and to consider personal protection measures, such as masks and hand sanitizer, for emergency go bags.
Oscar Gutiérrez Somarriba, President of the Nicaraguan Red Cross’ National Council said:
“We are monitoring the hurricane as it moves towards the coast Nicaragua and working with our teams in the areas on the storm’s predicted path to determine the best course of action in response to the conditions and to continue to support vulnerable communities.”
Carlos Montes, Programme Director of the Honduran Red Cross said:
“The Red Cross is working with communities to ensure they are ready to face hurricane conditions during this COVID-19 pandemic by sharing information about how to be ready for a disaster, along with the latest information about the storm.”
Hurricane Eta is the 28thnamed storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, tying the record for the most named storms, previously set in 2005. In addition to supporting communities threatened or affected by disasters like Eta, IFRC advocates for measures designed to mitigate the humanitarian impact of these catastrophic events. Effective preparedness and early action saves lives and livelihoods.
The pandemic is not over
By Olivia Acosta
Alexander Arauz is a 22 year old interior designer. He is also studying Business Administration in Rivas, a city in the South Pacific of Nicaragua, very close to the Costa Rican border. He began his volunteering with the Nicaraguan Red Cross as a lifeguard in the Rivas branch 7 years ago, also he participated in the emergency of Tropical Storm Nate, as well as in Zika prevention projects, and now he is part of the network of communicators in the organization.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Alexander wanted to help in the design and implementation of activities to support the population in the fight against the pandemic, such as the dissemination of prevention measures against the virus and the psychosocial support service, to help manage the stress of people with COVID, or those who have lost their loved ones due to the pandemic.
According to Alexander, "The people we talk to are having a hard time, we even practice self-relaxation exercises with them to try to reduce their stress. There are other people who want to know how they should protect themselves and receive accurate information about COVID-19. We have also set up a Facebook account to spread how to use the masks, what are the mechanisms of transmission of the virus, and how they should protect themselves to avoid infection”.
Alexander has many things to tell, but one of the experiences most impressed him is about the support offered to the hundreds of truck drivers who were blocked in the border with Costa Rica for several weeks, due to movement restrictions imposed by the pandemic. "They were truck drivers from several countries in the region (Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica), who could not access with their trucks across the border to Costa Rica or Panama, to deliver their goods. The situation they found themselves was deplorable, they had to live outdoors with their clothes on and sleep under their trucks, exposed to unhealthy conditions, and even to robberies...".
Nicaraguan Red Cross has been supporting them in this difficult situation and has delivered more than 1,000 food kits to the truck drivers and also reviewed their health status. According to Alexander, "many of them were afraid of getting the virus and we had to take temperatures to check for fever or other symptoms of COVID-19. I remember that, among all of them, there was only one woman. She was very worried about beeing in touch with her children and thanks to the neighbors in the area, she was able to recharge her cell phone several times to be able to talk to them".
All Nicaraguan Red Cross volunteers wear protective equipment with masks, caps and goggles to do their work. According to Alexander, "At first we were all worried about getting the virus and infect our families, especially when we transported by ambulence people who might have coronavirus. But if you follow the established protective measures, you feel safe and realize that the most important thing is the value of the work we do for others. I feel very good and satisfied, we are working to support the population in these hard times, we feel like heroes without a cape helping people we do not know, treating them as if they were our relatives.
According to Alexander, as it is also happening in other countries of the region, the prevention measures against the virus are quite relaxed now and some people do not even wear a mask. "Although in Nicaragua there was never a mandatory confinement, at the beginning people did not go out very much from home, respected physical distances, and almost all wore masks. There were even people who looked like astronauts walking down the street. Now we see a lot of people without protection, in crowds, and even many families are sightseeing and going all together to the beach... we have a hard job ahead of us to continue raising awareness, because the pandemic is not over," he concludes.
Nicaraguan Red Cross. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the actions of the Nicaraguan Red Cross have focused on contributing to the epidemic control of the virus at the national level through the promotion of hygiene, the use of masks and the distribution of hygiene kits to the most vulnerable populations. Likewise, since last March the Nicaraguan Red Cross has been implementing the development of a massive communication campaign focused on the prevention of COVID-19, reaching more than 1.5 million people.
Community action against Dengue
In the courtyard of a health centre in Managua, Nicaragua, a mother and daughter share a supportive smile. Their expressions convey joy and confidence. They have just shared with us a story of survival and empowerment. Having had a very hard personal experience with dengue fever, both are now community volunteers in a Nicaraguan Red Cross vector control operation.
In 2019, the Central American region suffered the most extensive dengue epidemic of the decade. More than one million people have been affected by the outbreak, with the highest numbers of cases reported in Honduras and Nicaragua. The Red Cross is working in these two countries, as well as in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala, to empower local communities to cope with both the current crisis and possible future outbreaks.
With the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), National Societies are working alongside communities in the most affected areas to equip them with the information and materials necessary to control and mitigate the effects of the current outbreak, and prevent future ones. This community-based approach is known as Community-Based Epidemiological Surveillance (CBES), and has been used in the region before with positive results in other epidemic crises, such as zika in 2016. This strategy allows community members themselves to identify risks in their environment and take action to eliminate or mitigate them, empowering them to become active agents of change.
The first step of CBES is to identify social leaders who, working together with National Societies, organize community groups. Once these groups are formed, the Red Cross provides them with information on the outbreak so that they can identify warning signs and know what referral routes to health care are available if a potential dengue case is identified, as well as what hygiene and sanitation measures should be taken to prevent and mitigate outbreaks. Based on this information, communities create risk maps and plans to implement preventive and mitigation measures. The final step of CBES is the implementation of these plans through breeding site identification and elimination campaigns, home visits in which they replicate the information learned about dengue prevention, and outreach activities in schools.
A life-changing disease
At a recent activity with community volunteers in Managua, Karen Rodriguez, a Nicaraguan Red Cross volunteer, shared her experience with dengue fever. Her daughter, Jade Gámez, had suffered from dengue three times, at the age of 11, 12 and 13. The last of those times, Jade had been diagnosed with severe dengue, and the girl suffered kidney and liver damage as well as a preinfarction.
Children under the age of 15 are a particularly vulnerable group. In August 2019, 66% of the deaths reported in Honduras as part of the current outbreak were under 15 years of age, and in Guatemala, 52% of the severe dengue cases reported were also in this age group.
Having survived such a serious illness, mother and daughter are now volunteers with the Nicaraguan Red Cross. As part of the current operation, their work consists on replicating the information received among their neighbors, as well as carrying out clean-up campaigns to eliminate breeding grounds in their community. "We both do the same thing - when one can't go to the clean-up activities, the other one goes," says Karen. For them, this is an opportunity to help their neighbors avoid going through the same experience they went through years ago. "Now that I am supporting the Red Cross and I can help people, I feel calm, I feel happy," says Karen. "More than anything, so that people don’t go through the same experience I went through," adds Jade.
Dengue fever outbreaks are cyclical and peaks occur around the world every year during rainy seasons, with extensive epidemics occurring at a frequency of every four to five years. In 2019, the World Health Organization recognized dengue as one of the top ten threats to global health, with an estimated 40% of the world’s population currently at risk. Epidemics can have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable groups, such as children. That is why it is important for National Societies to work on advocacy and capacity building to continue to empower communities in preparing for and responding to dengue and other vector-borne diseases such as zika and chikungunya.
| Press release
Dengue spreads across Central America, Red Cross scales up response
Panama/Geneva, 27 September 2019–-As dengue spreads rapidly across Central America, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling up emergency assistance to help countries contain the mosquito borne viral disease.
In Honduras, more than 71,200 people have been affected by the disease making it the worst outbreak in the country’s history. Nearly one quarter of the cases reported were classified as severe dengue and more than 65 percent of the 128 deaths so far are children under 15.
Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica are also reporting massive increases in dengue cases compared to previous years.
Dr Maria Franca Tallarico, Head of Health at IFRC’s Regional Office for the Americas said:
“Dengue is endemic across the Americas, but what is very concerning in this outbreak is that the majority of the cases and deaths are occurring in children under 15. This is due to a lack of immunity in young people to the deadliest of the four strains of dengue currently circulating in the region.”
A combination of seasonal rains and warming temperatures are being blamed for dengue’s rapid spread--creating more stagnant pools that are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. There are rising concerns that this will make the outbreak will be harder to contain.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rising global temperatures rainfall patterns linked to climate change could significantly modify vector-borne diseases and their effect on human populations—making epidemics more difficult to predict and control.
Teams of Red Cross volunteers in affected Central American countries have been supporting government efforts to slow the outbreak—providing door to door awareness raising about the disease and how to prevent it. With their unique access to affected communities, the Red Cross volunteers are helping to clean up mosquito breeding sites or accompanying health workers to identify cases.
Dr Tallarico said:
“The size of this outbreak is unprecedented across Central America. Dengue is a disease that affects the most vulnerable--those who live in places where there is poor sanitation and where mosquitoes thrive. But the disease can be contained if governments and communities work together to raise awareness, access medical care and clean up the environment. This is what the Red Cross teams across affected countries are focused on doing.”
The IFRC has launched a regional appeal seeking a total of 2.9 million Swiss francs to support the National Red Cross Societies in Central America to deliver assistance and support to 550,000 people for 12 months. The appeal will focus on community health, water and sanitation and promoting behaviours changes that prevent the decease.
Dengue cases have increased 30-fold over the last 50 years, according to the World Health Organization. As one of the world’s fastest growing diseases, dengue is endemic in 100 countries infecting up to50-100 million people a year.