From Sierra Leone to the Darien: migrants cross continents for a better future
Francis Icabba left his home country ofSierra Leone, West Africa, in search of security and new opportunities. Little did he know back then that he would end up crossing entire continents and one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world to find a better life.
His first stop was neighbouring Guinea, after which he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil. There, he found it difficult to settle in due to the language barrier, so he decided to continue his journey and head north.
It took Francistwo months from the time he left Brazilto reach the Darien Gap: thethick, dense, and notoriously dangerousjungle separating Colombia from Panama.
Once there, he embarked upon a six-day trek, prepared with cans of sardines, a small gas stove and some instant noodles to see him through.
He was accompaniedby two pregnant women, on a journey he describes as ''one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life”.
They walked for twelve hours each day without food, as his supplies quickly ran out. The extreme humidity, suffocating heat and constant crossing of rivers and streams forced them to abandon their suitcases along the way.
''The pregnant women we were with had given up. On the way we avoided snakes, rushing rivers and dangerously steep mountains. Everything is green. You have no sense ofdirection and no mobile signal. You just walk and walk. All the people there takethe risk for a better life, but it is a road where hope is lost. I wouldn't advise anyone to go through the Darien Gap.''
The Darien Gap is one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world. Sadly, it is not uncommon for people to die on the route due to the treacherous environmental conditions.There is also a highrisk of violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking and extortion by criminal gangs.
Despite this, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people will cross the Darien by the end of 2023, based on current trends.
People ofmore than 50 different nationalities have been recorded travelling through the Darien. The majority are from Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador, but some come from as far away as India, Somalia, Cameroon and Sierra Leone.
People like Francis who make it through the Darien often arrive in very fragile physical and mental states. To help them recover, the Panamanian Red Cross runs reception centres where they providefirst aid and essentials such as food, safe water, hygiene kits and clothes.
''Arriving in Panama was one of the happiest moments of my life, it is very hard because I had to fight for it. The Red Cross was the first to help us and for me it was a blessing. In pursuit of our dream for a better life, we lost everything. So three meals a day, soap, a towel, a bath, being able to talk to someone or be cared for, that means everything.''
Red Cross volunteersalso offer psychosocial support, as well as maternal and child health services to those who need them. And they can provide Restoring Family Links (RFL) services and WiFi, so migrants can let their families know where they are and that they are safe.
For most migrants, the Darien isn’t the end of their journey, but rather the start of a 5,470 kilometre journey northwards through sixcountries in Central and North America.
But no matter who they are, or where they come from, people on the move in this regionare not alone: they can continue to access similar support from Red Cross Societies, in the form of Humanitarian Service Points, every step of the way.
Nearly 60,000 migrants like Francis received humanitarian assistance and protection from the IFRC network in 2022 thanks to ourProgrammatic Partnership with the European Union.
Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas, the Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies. This includes protecting the safety, dignity and rights of people on the move.
More photos on this topic are available to view and download here.
Darien new record: As migration increases, so must support
According to data from Panama's National Migration Service, 127,168 migrants crossed Darien National Park between January and April 2023, equivalent to more than 1,000 people per day.
In response to this announcement,Verónica Martínez, head of the IFRC's humanitarian response in Darien, said:
"The number of migrants arriving in Panama via Darien is growing exponentially. In the last few weeks, we have seen between 2,000 to 3,000 people arriving per day, a figure which is overwhelming the Humanitarian Service Points through which the Red Cross provides assistance."
"The majority arrive in a devastating and inhumane condition. They are injured, dehydrated, with severe allergic reactions, and complications from pregnancies or chronic illnesses. Many have been victims of abuse and violence. The Red Cross provides them with first aid, basic healthcare, and access to water. They also provide information, internet connectivity, and referrals to specialized institutions."
"But these record numbers also strain the basic services in the communities that host the migrant people after their journey through the jungle. In Bajo Chiquito, the number of walkers is sometimes five times greater than the number of local inhabitants, which leads to the collapse of water supply, for example. The water treatment plants installed by the Red Cross there are insufficient."
"Despite all efforts to meet the growing needs, the aid in Darien is becoming insufficient. Migrants, local communities, and humanitarian agencies all need humanitarian assistance to grow exponentially. We need sustained help over time that can adapt to changes in the context and is aimed at saving lives and protecting dignity, like the one provided by the Red Cross thanks to humanitarian aid funding and the continuous support of the European Union, Spanish Cooperation, and other actors*."
"The region is on the brink of a new rainy and hurricane season, which makes it even more urgent for support to arrive as soon as possible. From June to November, the risks faced by migrants on the migration route from Panama to Mexico will also include river floods and storms. The IFRC and the Red Cross network are preparing to face this scenario, but as they warned last March, we need allies. Providing humanitarian assistance remains urgent and is a team effort."
In August 2022, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appealrequesting international support of 18 million Swiss francs (USD 20.3 million) to provide humanitarian assistance to 210,000 people along the migration routes of Central America and Mexico. However, the amount raised so far is around five percent of the total requested.
Click here to access rights-free B-roll and photos from this crisis on the IFRC Newsroom.
*Contributors include the British Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Monaco Red Cross, Dutch Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Simón Bolivar Foundation, and UNICEF.
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.
Mexico & Central American migration crisis
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a massive increase in the number of refugees, migrants, and returnees in transit by land northwards through Central America. People are mostly moving through irregular channels, and along the way face bureaucratic barriers, suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence or disappear and are separated from their families. Tragically, others are killed or die from diseases or the harsh environmental conditions. This Emergency Appeal supports the Red Cross Societies of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to scale up humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people along migratory routes.
| Press release
Americas: IFRC urges governments to save migrants' lives at High Level Regional Meeting on Migration
There are nearly 73.5 million migrants across the American continent - over a quarter of the migrants worldwide - and we continue to see unprecedented migration flows in the region. In 2020 alone, approximately 4.7 million people were displaced on the continent due to disasters - the highest level seen in 10 years. In Panama, just last year, some 134,000 people crossed through the perilous Darien Gap – over 22,000 of whom were children.
Within the framework of the High-level Meeting on Migration called by the Panamanian authorities on April 20, 2022, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, Martha Keays, said:
''States, humanitarian organizations, international agencies and civil society in the Americas face an enormous challenge: protect the dignity and address the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized migrants who continue to face trafficking, discrimination, violence, and limited access to essential services and protection mechanisms.
The IFRC and its membership, the Red Cross National Societies of the continent, as auxiliaries to the public authorities, call upon the governments of all countries across the Americas to facilitate the work of the Red Cross to address the needs of migrants and people on the move in the Americas, irrespective of status, in keeping with our mandate as the world’s largest humanitarian network.
Over the past few years, thousands of Red Cross volunteers have provided millions of migrants in 17 countries across the Americas with essential services, including emergency and maternal healthcare, psychosocial support, water, hygiene and sanitation, access to information, and COVID-19 prevention and treatment.
However, our experience and local reach tell us that the work is not over and there is still a titanic challenge ahead of us. Push factors such as the devastating socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, continuing political crises, and disasters such as the recent hurricanes Eta and Iota and the earthquake in Haiti, all have increased and will continue to increase population movements while exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.
''We urge governments to save lives, ensure access for migrants to essential services, scale up support to persons at risk of displacement related to disasters and the climate crisis, and include migrants and refugees in all aspects of society. It is a humanitarian imperative and a shared regional responsibility to ensure that no one is left behind.”
| Press release
Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector
Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector.
In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation.
The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said:
“I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.”
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.”
The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components.
Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU.
Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies.
The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross.
For more information
In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
Programmatic Partnership / IFRC
The Programmatic Partnership is an innovative and ambitious three-year partnership between the IFRC, many of our member National Societies, and the European Union. Together, we support communities worldwide to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies.
| Press release
IFRC ramps up humanitarian assistance as record number of migrants cross the perilous Darién Gap
Panama City/Geneva, 20 September 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up efforts to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to migrants travelling through the Darién Gap, one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world. Between January and August of 2021, 70,376 migrants (including 13,655 children) have crossed the Panamanian jungle, an amount in par with the total number of migrants over the last five years.
In the past few years, the Darién Gap has become a common transit point for migrants headed north, but the latest figure vastly surpasses the high numbers of 2016, when 30,000 people made the crossing throughout the whole year. In comparison, in August 2021 alone, 25,361 people have used this route.
Martha Keays, Regional Director for the Americas at IFRC, said:
“As the pandemic and its impacts persist, the number of migrants crossing the Darién Gap has hit all-time highs this year. In Panama, we have seen between 600 and 1,300 people entering the country every day. They face many risks during their journey through the jungle, often showing signs of physical and mental trauma. The Red Cross is there to support them to meet their basic needs, such as safe water, sanitation, healthcare, protection, information and psychological support.”
In response to the growing number of people crossing the Darien Gap, the IFRC has activated its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to scale up support to migrants in collaboration with the Panamanian Red Cross. The humanitarian response is focused on the distribution of clean water; promotion of community and personal hygiene; and distribution of essential items, such as mosquito nets. It also includes provision of healthcare and protection services; and the increase of capacities to deliver psychological support. In addition, the DREF supports the Costa Rican Red Cross to prepare for a possible increase in the number of migrants transiting through Costa Rica.
In Colombia, at the end of August 2021, more than 10,000 migrants were waiting in the village of Necoclí at the border between Colombia and Panama, an entry point into the Darién Gap. The Colombian Red Cross is providing them with information about their journey; distributing personal protective equipment against COVID-19; and providing health and protection services to assist vulnerable communities.
According to the Panamanian authorities, migrants of around 40 nationalities have crossed the Darién Gap this year. They come from Asian and African nations, such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, but also from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many people are Haitian and Cuban, and there has also been an increase in the number of Venezuelan migrants.
“Some of the people currently crossing the Darién Gap have left their home countries years ago to start a new life in South America. But socio-economic disparities, stigma, discrimination, and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused them to lose their jobs or homes, and now they are facing impossible options, such as migrating once again. Access to basic services, such as food, water, sanitation, medical care, housing, essential information, and access to COVID-19 vaccines must be guaranteed to all, regardless of legal status”, added Keays.
The IFRC and its network of Red Cross National Societies have activated a monitoring system to track the population movement from the Southern Cone to Guatemala, including the migratory routes across the Andean countries, the Darién Gap, and Central America. They are also monitoring the evolution of the humanitarian situation in Haiti and Afghanistan, as the increase of humanitarian needs in those countries could lead to further displacement and migration along the Darién route.
In Panama, the IFRC and the Panamanian Red Cross, with support from the European Union, UNICEF and other partners, have been responding to the needs of migrants crossing the Darién for the last three years. Since 2019, they have provided more than 20,000 humanitarian interventions including psychosocial support, health care, access to water, and information on the migratory route.
For more information and to set up interviews, contact:
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, + 506 8416 1771, [email protected]
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
A more effective response is possible
By Olivia Acosta
Last November powerful Hurricane Eta, the second strongest hurricane for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, caused last November in Panama landslides, flooding and strong winds, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. The Panamanian Red Cross deployed an emergency operation to respond in different isolated communities in the western part of the country, through search and rescue activities; distribution of food, blankets and shelter; access to hygiene and drinking water; psychosocial support and reestablishment of family contacts, among others.
According to Nadia de la Cadena, PER (Preparedness for Effective Response) focal point of the Panamanian Red Cross, one of the main obstacles they faced was the distribution of aid, in a disaster context aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which hindered the response due to mobility problems and limited product procurement. The Panamanian Red Cross teams realized that it was necessary to strengthen local logistical capacity in order to provide a better response to the affected communities. "Providing an effective response in this emergency, in which we also had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, was very complex. We found that, if we didn't have sufficient capacity to distribute, a coordination alliance could be established with other actors to be able to do so".
And they were able to realize this, because for the first time they implemented the Preparedness Approach for Effective Response, through the Readiness Check, which allowed them to evaluate and improve their response mechanism of the components that had already been identified in previous assessments last year. The interesting thing about this experience, according to Nadia, is that by detecting weaknesses they were able to adjust and improve their response during the emergency itself, to help more people."We conducted a preparedness check and deleted that we had weaknesses in logistics, communication, and coordination with authorities and other actors on the ground. Immediate solutions were sought and the response was undoubtedly more effective, appropriate to the real needs of those affected."
One of the keys to the response was the coordination with different actors in the field. The Panamanian Red Cross, after assessing needs and adjusting the response (communication, participation in the national operations center, improvement of equipment, etc.), received national and international support to provide additional aid for the affected communities. "We met with authorities, mayors and governors, which made things much easier because they provided us storage space and guards. And they did this because they were very aware of the work we were doing to support the population in the affected communities."
Krystell Santamaria, IFRC Senior Preparedness Officer for Covid-19 and Panamanian Red Cross volunteer, was supporting the identification and improvement of the response. "The improvement in the response in this emergency has been evident, the affected people have also perceived it. A lady from one of the most affected communities, in Corotú Civil area, confirmed to us that during these floods far fewer people had fallen ill than in other similar situations. She was very clear that it was due to the distribution of drinking water, chlorination and cleaning of wells that we carried out”. She said. “The people in the communities we have supported were very grateful and thanked the volunteers by sharing their oranges and bananas with them”.
In addition, according to Nadia, the presence of volunteering at the local level is an added value, because it has been possible to support indigenous communities by volunteers who spoked their same language. "I want to emphasize the total support of the president of the Panamanian Red Cross and the Governing Board to all processes and to the hundreds of volunteers who made this response possible. Volunteers certainly deserve great recognition."
The improved emergency response also contributed to increased visibility of the activities of the Panamanian Red Cross, which meant more media impact and greater support from national and foreign donors. An example of this was the donations from the French government for the purchase of vehicles and from other local companies for the transportation and delivery of aid, drinking water and non-perishable foodstuffs, among others.
In 2019 the Panamanian Red Cross started working on the implementation of the PER approach through facilitators' workshops and awareness conferences. "This approach is the result of experience and best practices learned over many years responding to emergencies around the world. It is clear that investing in disaster preparedness in National Societies saves more lives and economic and social recovery is much faster."
In the case of the Panamanian Red Cross, through this approach they have identified the need, among others, to develop a procurement manual to secure supplies during an emergency, and a safe space is being set up to store aid and response equipment.
The Panamanian Red Cross is currently reinforcing fundraising to review and strengthen its response plan and capacity, and the development of the National Society's strategic plan, which will include all areas of improvement identified during the emergency, such as the establishment of processes and the search for new collaborators.
Red Cross Society of Panama
| 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.
The IFRC and the Panamanian Red Cross are working together to support Panama in its response to COVID-19
With the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Panamanian Red Cross has been working on its institutional and operational strengthening in order to expand its service offerings to Panama not only in response to COVID-19 but also in attention to migrant populations, preparation for the rainy season as well as other actions at the community level.
As part of the response to COVID-19, the Panamanian Red Cross initially received 25,000 Swiss francs in cash and more than 15,000 Swiss francs in protection equipment as part of the IFRC's International Appeal. Due to the increase in cases, the Panamanian Red Cross has revised its COVID-19 action plan and the IFRC has agreed to increase support to the National Society to an additional 50,000 Swiss francs to enable it to implement actions in psychosocial support, food vouchers, key messages and community health services to those directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19. In addition, it will soon donate 2 ambulances and will make a new delivery of personal protection equipment for the amount of 40 thousand Swiss francs.
"The IFRC is committed to Panama and the Panamanian Red Cross. The presence of the IFRC in the Humanitarian Hub of Panama obliges us to accompany the strengthening of our local National Society and enhance the strengths of the Hub not only at the logistical level, but fundamentally at the level of cooperation, training and management of timely information that allows evidence-based decision making. We are committed to Panama, which is why we make available to the country the knowledge and experience of the largest humanitarian network in the world, to work on prevention and mitigation, and thus together recover from this pandemic that keeps the country isolated," said Walter Cotte, IFRC Director for the Americas.
Elías Solís, President of the Panamanian Red Cross said, "The Panamanian Red Cross is making the necessary institutional strengthening efforts to offer Panama a diversification of services and quality programmes that will not only allow us to contribute to the national response to the current contingency, but also to continue working on strengthening community resilience. For us it is an advantage to have the Regional office for the Americas of the IFRC in Panama, not only for our institution but for the Republic of Panama in general because we can benefit from the technical knowledge and the capacity of articulation of the IFRC with partners not only from the International Red Cross Movement but from the United Nations system, as well as donors at the global level”.
The IFRC together with the Panamanian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been supporting the efforts of the Panamanian government in the care of migrants who are in a situation of extreme vulnerability in Darién. The IFRC maintains a regional appeal on migration. Through this appeal, the Panamanian Red Cross has requested the extension of funds to make larger purchases of inputs through the Logistics Hub, in order to provide the required humanitarian assistance.
The migration actions and attention to host communities have been expanded thanks to an alliance with UNICEF and other internal and external partners, through which 12,700 people have benefited in health care, more than 38,000 people have been reached with more than 2.4 million liters of safe water, 700 people have been benefited with the supply of materials and tools for the construction of emergency shelters, implementation of a distribution system that serves 1. 600 people who receive daily distributions. In addition, more than 4,300 packages of cleaning and hygiene products and water storage have been distributed, and with ICRC support some 200 people have been assisted by the Restoring Family Links programme. Reliable information on COVID-19 and the legal situation of migrants and on the details of their stay in the shelter has also been distributed, reaching more than 19,000 people.
"The situation of migrants throughout the region is very worrying, and these people generally have little access to health systems and minimum preventive measures for COVID-19 and are exposed to other protection risks that increase their vulnerability, which is why we at the Red Cross in the Americas are making efforts to ensure that migrant populations, as well as other vulnerable populations such as indigenous communities, elderly, LGBTQI people, people living with HIV and people with disabilities, are considered in all plans for responding to the pandemic in the region," said Walter Cotte.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2020
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. The Fund has assisted more than 160 National Societies thus far.
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 usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier owing to the Easter holidays.
The selection process
The Empress Shôken Fund received 36 applications in 2020, 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 400,160 Swiss francs to 14 projects in Argentina, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Lithuania, Montenegro, Namibia, Palestine, Panama, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.
The projects to be supported in 2020 cover a number of themes, including first aid, youth engagement and disaster preparedness. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere. The Fund encourages new and innovative approaches that are geared towards learning, so that the broader Movement can benefit from project findings.
The 2020 grants
TheArgentine Red Crosshas launched a generational change in its leadership by promoting volunteers’ access to decision-making bodies. It will use the grant to design and build virtual courses, creating new spaces for dialogue and debate.
For years, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been a major partner of the State in the field of first aid, helping it to respond effectively in a crisis. The National Society will use the grant to reinforce its leadership position by introducing an online first-aid training platform that will facilitate theoretical learning and increase the number of trained first-aiders.
The Hellenic Red Cross seeks to empower local communities in vulnerable or isolated areas. The grant will go towards establishing branch and community disaster teams that will build communities’ resilience through activities and training around disaster risk reduction.
In Iraq, late detection of breast cancer is common and makes the disease much deadlier. To save women’s lives, theIraqi Red Crescent Societywill use the grant to train female volunteers who will raise awareness of early detection methods for breast cancer.
The Lithuanian Red Cross will put the grant towards an innovative digital platform for evaluating the impact of its first-aid courses, issuing and tracking certifications, and connecting with first-aiders after they complete their training.
Young people account for more than 80% of the volunteers of the Red Cross of Montenegro. The National Society will use the grant to improve its activities and services with the aim of strengthening youth participation and raising awareness of volunteer opportunities.
As Namibia’s population grows, first-aid skills and services are more in demand than ever before. The grant will enable the Namibia Red Cross to run intensive first-aid training and certification courses in ten schools.
To better serve the communities it works with, thePalestine Red Crescent Society seeks to build its staff members’ and volunteers’ capacities. It will use the grant to establish a computer lab as a continuing-education unit for all of its staff and volunteers.
In Panama, gang violence has shot up in recent years, and pollution continues to grow owing to a lack of public awareness. The Red Cross Society of Panama will use the grant to develop a series of activities aimed at promoting a culture of peace and environmental responsibility.
Blood transfusion services are an essential component of Sierra Leone’s health-care system. The grant will enable the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to increase access to safe blood products, especially for pregnant woman and infants.
In Timor-Leste, 70% of the population is under 30 years old, but accessing information about reproductive health can be difficult, particularly in rural areas. The Timor Leste Red Cross will use the grant for a public-awareness and education campaign for young people on reproductive health.
The Tonga Red Cross Society will use the grant to improve students' access to health care and physical activity by using safer vehicles for transportation.
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society is exploring novel approaches to teaching disaster preparedness and increasing public awareness on the subject. The grant will enable the National Society to use virtual-reality technology to teach the public about the reality and impact of disasters.
In Uganda, 70% of blood donors are students, so the country faces blood shortages outside term time. The Uganda Red Cross Society will use the grant to develop its online recruitment of adult blood donors so as to counteract any seasonal shortfalls during the holidays.
Delegation from the Spanish Cooperation makes visit to view the humanitarian intervention of Red Cross in Panama
Representatives from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Autonomous Communities of Spain from La Rioja, Canarias, Murcia and Castilla and Leon visited Darien, Panama, to view the humanitarian interventions implemented by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Panama Red Cross Society (PRCS) in the region.
Through an Agreement referring to the humanitarian action subscribed by the decentralized cooperation and AECID, the Spanish Cooperation supports IFRC’s Regional Emergency Appeal for Migration in the Americas.
The delegation went to Metetí, La Peñita and Lajas Blancas, in the Darien Province (near the border between Panama and Colombia), where IFRC and Panama Red Cross Society actively support migrant communities in transit to North America.
As part of the actions developed in La Peñita, both local and migrant community members receive access to water, washing stations, andprimary and basic health services. Additionally, information sessions on hygiene, health, and information about migratory status are provided.
During meetings with host community members, migrants, public officials from the Panamanian government and international organizations working on the area, it became clear that there is a need to strengthen actions on health and protection to limit the extreme vulnerability of migrants in this remote and largely undeveloped zone.
Current estimates indicate that migratory flows through Darien will likely increase in coming months. It is of the utmost importance to reinforce the humanitarian response for this transit community, with coordination between public Panamanian institutions and humanitarian organizations in the area being the key to success.