Geneva/Panama City/Buenos Aires – 31st January 2024Governments need to prepare for the next pandemic by establishing an international ‘vaccine bank’ which ensures the availability and distribution of vaccines equitably in all regions of the world.That’s the central recommendation of a new report following a huge study into the impact of COVID-19 and authorities’ reactions to it. The report is being released exactly four years on from the IFRC’s first Global COVID emergency appeal, on 31st January 2020.The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) commissioned researchers from the Humanitarian Observatory, an IFRC reference centre hosted by the Argentine Red Cross, to carry out a major research project. For it, they’d carried out interviews with 16,027 people, working in collaboration with 90 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.People from different sectors were asked about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategic partners from the private sector and trade unions also collaborated in conducting the surveys.Participants were chosen to represent people working or active in six societal sectors - healthcare, academia/education, transport, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the corporate sector and the media. The study looked for both common trends and contrasts across geographies and sectors. Its aim was to develop recommendations so that the next pandemic can be handled better than the last.The study – ‘Insights Gained by Strategic Sectors During the Pandemic’ – found:Nearly 70% of people in all sectors and regions had a high fear of catching COVID-19. People in the Americas and/or working in healthcare had the highest fear.More than half of all respondents said their personal finances were affected by the pandemic.54% of participants interviewed said their government handled the pandemic well. The percentage was highest across Africa and lowest across the Americas.Almost half of all respondents working in healthcare and the media felt ‘discriminated against’ for the role they played during the pandemic.The vast majority of interviewees said they received no priority for vaccinations despite the important roles they played during the pandemic.The main recommendations of the report include:Creating a global vaccine and antidote bank to ensure the availability and distribution of supplies equitably in all regions.Establishing priorities for vaccination or delivery of medicines to those who enable the world's citizens to receive food, medical care, news and education.Carrying out a communication campaign from a supranational body that values the actions of the essential sectors to legitimise their tasks and recognize their work.José Scioli, Director of the Humanitarian Observatory of the Argentine Red Cross said:"Some of the answers to the main challenges require establishing efficient processes on a global scale. That is why it is so central to take these global lessons to ensure that we can all – as humanity as a whole - learn from our experience and emerge stronger. We are convinced that we are capable of learning from our past to improve the present and future. With the insights from the Humanitarian Observatory’s study, we can promote the exchange of information to improve our societies."Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General said:“The COVID-19 pandemic led to the biggest worldwide disruption to normal life in a generation. But its impacts were disproportionate. Often, for example, vaccines were distributed on the basis of money, not need. Those who contributed most to helping the vulnerable through the pandemic were too often treated the worst. This important study offers a path to handling the next pandemic better. Its ambition and scale means its recommendations carry weight. “The full report can be downloaded in English here, and from here via the ‘Descargar Informe’ link in Spanish, French and Arabic.There are downloadable graphics and animations to add to coverage hereFor more information or to set up an interview: [email protected] Geneva: Andrew Thomas +41 76 367 65 87In Buenos Aires: Jose Scioli +54 911 64551193In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes +507 6999 3199
Disasters and crises happen all the time around the world. Some make international headlines – like the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria or the international armed conflict in Ukraine – but others go unheard of to people outside the countries where they strike.
These smaller, lesser-known disasters still claim lives, destroy livelihoods, and set entire communities back.
The Americas region alone has faced many small and medium-sized disasters so far this year. But while these disasters may have gone unnoticed to the wider world, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the region have been there – right by the side of communities.
The IFRC has supported – getting money to our National Societies quickly through our Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) so they can prepare and respond effectively.
Let’s take a look at seven disasters in the Americas you may not have heard about from the first half of 2023, and how the IFRC network has supported the people affected.
1. Chile - forest fires:
In Febuary 2023, strong winds and high temperatures caused dozens of forest fires across central and southern Chile, leading to casualties and widespread damage. They followed earlier, destructive forest fires in December 2022 that spread rapidly around the city of Viña del Mar.
With DREF funding, the Chilean Red Cross provided support to more than 5,000 people affected by the fires over the following months. Staff and volunteer teams provided medical support to communities and distributed cash so that people could buy the things they needed to recover.
2. Uruguay - drought:
Uruguay is currently experiencing widespread drought due to a lack of rainfall since September 2022 and increasingly high temperatures in the summer seasons—prompting the Uruguayan government to declare a state of emergency.
The government officially requested the support of the Uruguayan Red Cross to conduct a needs assessment of the drought, so it could understand how it was impacting people and agricultural industries.
With funding from the DREF, Uruguayan Red Cross teams headed out into the most-affected areas to speak to more than 1,300 familiesabout the drought’s impact on their health, livelihoods and access to water.
Their findings are helping the government to make better-informed decisions on how to address the drought, taking into account the real needs of those affected.
This is the first time DREF funding has been used to support a damage assessment in this way.
3. Paraguay - floods:
In February and March 2023, heavy rains in northern Paraguay caused severe flooding—forcing many families to abandon their homes and paralyzing key infrastructure and industries.
The Paraguayan Red Cross responded, providing first aid and psychosocial support to people in temporary shelters. Volunteers also shared information with communities on how to protect themselves from water-borne diseases and from the increase in mosquitoes.
4. Ecuador - floods, earthquake, and landslides:
In the first quarter of 2023, Ecuador was struck by several, simultaneous disasters—floods, landslides, building collapses, hailstorms and an earthquake—that put the Ecuadorian Red Cross to the test.
Their volunteers deployed quickly provided wide-ranging support to people affected--including shelter, health care, water, sanitation and cash assistance. They also conducted surveys to understand exactly how people had been affected, and what they most needed to recover.
5. Argentina - floods:
In June, heavy rains caused flash flooding in the municipality of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, affecting an estimated 4,000 families. The flooding caused power outages, road closures and a contamination of water supplies—prompting the local authorities to request the support of the Argentine Red Cross.
Volunteer teams quickly mobilized to provide first aid and psychosocial support to people who had moved to evacuation centres in the area.
In the coming weeks and months, the Argentine Red Cross – with DREF funding – will provide shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene support to 500 of the most vulnerable families affected by the floods.
6. Haiti floods:
Flash floods also struck Haiti in early June following an exceptionally heavy rainstorm that swept the entire country. Though not classified as a cyclone or tropical downpour, the rainstorm nonetheless affected thousands of families, claimed more than 50 lives and submerged entire houses.
The Haitian Red Cross quicklydeployed rescue workers to provide first aid and assist with evacuations. Working alongside Movement partners, and with DREF support, they’ve also been distributing mattresses, shovels, rakes, hygiene kits, water treatment kits and plastic sheeting.
In a country already experiencing a cholera epidemic, Haitian Red Cross volunteers continue to share important information with communities about how to stay healthy and adopt good hygiene practices—especially important due to the increased risk from flood waters.
7. Dominican Republic - floods:
This same rainstorm in Haiti also affected communities across the border in the Dominican Republic, causing flash flooding in the country’s west.
The Dominican Red Cross has been providing humanitarian assistance in the form of search and rescue, evacuation, health and hygiene services, psychological first aid and restoring family links (RFL) services.
These are just a few examples of the many disasters that have hit the Americas so far this year.
With DREF support, Red Cross Societies across the region have been able to respond quickly to these disasters—providing effective and local humanitarian assistance directly to those who need it.
If you would like to help our network to continue responding to smaller disasters like these, please consider donating to our Disaster Response Emergency Fund today.
Around the world, millions of women and girls* face stigma, exclusion and discrimination simply because of one perfectly natural bodily function: their periods.
Negative attitudes and misinformation about periods limit women and girls’ potential. Too often they miss out on education and employment—either due to a lack of hygiene facilities and products to easily go about their daily lives while menstruating, or because they are weighed down by fear of shame and embarrassment from their communities.
Women and girls’ safety is also at risk. Without proper hygiene facilities, women can be forced to go into the open to deal with their period needs—leaving them exposed to physical danger and psychological harm. And in extreme cases, period stigma has tragically claimed women and girls’ lives.
At the IFRC, #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination and to improving the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) knowledge, skills and programming of our National Societies.
We’re working to raise MHM standards across our network—both as part of our long-term water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes, but also during emergency response. Because periods don’t stop in an emergency!
We focus on three main areas:
Providing pads and menstrual health items as part of our relief assistance
Community engagement to demystify periods, educate women and girls on how to manage them safely, and challenge negative attitudes—especially among men and boys. This also involves advocating for more and better MHM activities with governments.
Setting up WASH facilities designed with the additional needs of menstruating women and girls in mind.
Many of our National Societies are already doing fantastic work in this area. Let’s look at some of them!
With support from Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund, the Lebanese Red Cross has partnered with the IFRC, British Red Cross and consulting firm ARUP to develop inclusive and MHM-friendly latrines and bathing/laundering facilities. They focused on women living in informal tented settlements near the Syrian border.
Speaking to women in the settlements, Lebanese Red Cross teams learned that women mainly use disposable pads during their periods, or a cloth in an emergency, which they burn after a single use. Women explained if they had a safe, accessible and private space to use that was separated from men’s facilities and had discrete disposal methods, they would put their used pads in the bin.
Based on this feedback, the Lebanese Red Cross piloted technical designs for emergency WASH facilities that took these women’s needs into account. They developed a manual that can be adapted and used by other National Societies and partners—which includes recommendations of how to best engage with women and girls about their period needs in a sensitive and effective way. Click here to read more about the project.
Although menstruation is considered natural and a sign of maturity for women in Pakistan, it’s also seen as dirty, shameful and something to be dealt with in silence. Men are generally responsible for deciding on the menstrual health facilities and services offered to women and girls, but rarely involve or consult them on their needs.
The Swiss Red Cross worked with Aga Khan University in Pakistan to set up special MHM corners within hospitals—safe spaces in which women and girls could receive information and counselling about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health. They ran pad-making sessions with men and women to raise awareness of good hygiene practices. And they identified influential ‘MHM champions’ who are now spreading this knowledge and tackling period stigma within their communities.
For many girls in Malawi, managing their periods continues to be a challenge due to a lack of access to information, sanitary products, and adequate WASH facilities—particularly in schools.
The Malawi Red Cross Society, with support from the Swiss Red Cross, conducted mixed-method research with more than 500 school students to understand girls’ and boys’ knowledge, attitudes and practices around periods.
They discovered that:
More than half of the girls they spoke to had never heard about menstruation before it started
Girls with increased knowledge used better MHM practices and skipped school less
Interestingly, boys’ increased knowledge about MHM was associated with higher levels of teasing, and with more absenteeism of girls during their periods
The Malawi Red Cross Society has since used this research to inform their work in MHM so it better meets girls’ needs. They’ve constructed female-friendly toilets in schools, produced reusable menstrual hygiene products, delivered training to teachers and parents’ groups and advocated for more menstrual health activities at the community and district level.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, transgender people in Argentina were found to be having difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene items. In close coordination with two local specialist organizations which support and advocate for transgender people, the Argentine Red Cross distributed hygiene kits which included sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups.
Transgender men provided recommendations and selected appropriate menstrual items for the kits. Distribution of the kits was accompanied with virtual workshops on sexual health and correct use of menstrual cups. The Argentine Red Cross also set up a health advisory line to offer psychosocial support to anyone who needed it.
Learning resources and more information about MHM:
Discover even more case studies from our National Societies’ MHM activities in this collection
Explore our wealth of practical guidance, tools and advocacy resources on menstrual hygiene on our dedicated WASH site here
Visit the dedicated WASH page on the IFRC website
Visit the global Menstrual Hygiene Day campaign page for more information about this year’s theme
Contact our Senior Officer for WASH in Public Health, Alexandra Machado, for any MHM-related questions: [email protected]
*We recognize that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman, and that not all women menstruate.
Buenos Aires, 8 October, 2021 - The Argentine Red Cross (ARC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) will launch a Humanitarian Logistics Hub to expand the Red Cross humanitarian response across Southern Cone countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The Humanitarian Hub will have the capacity to pre-position sufficient humanitarian aid to address the needs of up to 10,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters. The Humanitarian Hub is located at Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires. It will operate with support from the Cargo Terminal of Argentina, a logistics unit for international trade led by Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 (AA2000), the country’s largest private airport operator.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: "This Hub allows us to deliver humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable communities, faster and more efficiently. Argentina will be the point from which we will mobilize immediate assistance in water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and food security to support people affected by crises and disasters in Southern Cone countries. This strategic and innovative space joins our global network of humanitarian logistics centres and strengthen our collaboration with national authorities, the private sector, and other stakeholders.”
The services provided by the Hub include procurement and transportation, warehousing and handling, contingency stock, specialized logistics support, and training and capacity building of the neighbouring National Red Cross Societies and other institutions. The Hub will also host the Humanitarian Innovation Laboratory, aimed at providing innovative solutions to the most urgent social, economic and development problems in the region.
Diego Tipping, President of the Argentine Red Cross, said: "This space strengthens the role that Argentina is playing as a leader in the humanitarian field and fosters the bilateral and multilateral cooperation among national governments, regional mechanisms, and the United Nations system. Based on the multiple alliances that the Argentine Red Cross has with national companies and corporations, the Hub will also pay special attention to the local purchase of supplies, encouraging local production, which is crucial to support the economic growth of the country".
The Presidency of Argentina has sponsored the agreement between AA2000, the IFRC and Argentine Red Cross. The Secretary General of the IFRC, Jagan Chapagain was in Argentina on Friday 8 October, to sign the agreement and visit the site of the new Hub.
Since April 2020, AA2000 has provided a warehouse space to the Argentine Red Cross,for the storage of humanitarian supplies used by the National Society in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
In Buenos Aires: Santiago Ramayo, [email protected] +54 9 11 4937 3134
In Panama: Susana Arroyo, [email protected] +507 69993199
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.
By Olivia Acosta
Maximiliano is 24 years old, a senior nursing student at the Argentine Red Cross Superior Institute in Salta, a province located in the northwest of Argentina that borders Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay. He is also responsible for the humanitarian camp of the Argentine Red Cross in Salta, where he and his colleagues support 800 indigenous families of Wichis, Toba and Chorote ethnicities every day. The project started at the beginning of the year due to the declaration of an emergency following the death of 10 indigenous children from malnutrition and lack of access to water.
According to Maximiliano, "it was at this time when the Argentine Red Cross decided to implement a humanitarian camp to provide health care, food and drinking water to indigenous families affected by malnutrition and drought, and to support the development of their capacities".
The camp is located in the heart of the communities, in the middle of nowhere, and through its 10 tanks and a water treatment plant it is able to provide between 45,000 and 60,000 liters of water daily to the indigenous families of the area. Survival in Salta is very difficult, the temperature can reach 45º, the area is very arid and deserted.
"Access to the communities is very complicated, there are no roads, we had to create them ourselves in order to be able to get there with our vehicles and bring water every two or three days. The children are waiting for us very excited, with the little cups ready... I have learned to value water very much, you realize how important it is when you don’t have it. Since we brought them the water, we have managed to reduce diarrhea and improve the children's size, because before they took water from contaminated rivers, putting their health at risk."
Given the scarcity of medical care in the area, the camp also has a first aid tent and a mobile team to be able to move patients from the most remote villages. All camp volunteers are trained in first aid and provide support to families with a protection, gender and inclusion perspective.
When COVID-19 arrived in the area, Maximiliano thought that if there were a high number of infections, the pandemic could wreak havoc, because it would be very difficult to control it. Indigenous families are very vulnerable and their houses, which are barely 8 square meters, with mud walls and plastic roofs, are home to families of more than 8 people, in conditions of great poverty and overcrowding.
"The first thing I thought was: how are we going to teach them to wash their hands to avoid infection, if they barely have water?"
With the arrival of the pandemic, the volunteers of the camp had to work to adapt to the isolated conditions and decided to increase the distribution of drinking water, with the intention of generating more hygienic habits in the families. Besides that, they started to collaborate with the San Victoria Hospital in the "Plan Detectar". Their work consists of visiting the communities to evaluate symptoms and respiratory problems, with the objective of verifying the need for PCR tests if the established criteria are met. For severe cases they coordinate the transfer to the hospital and for mild ones, they follow up on their health status at home and distribute masks and hygienic disinfection kits.
According to Maximiliano, "the use of masks has been complicated for them, because they had never worn any before. We had to hold workshops and give guidelines through community radio to advise, for example, to avoid crowds. Now, almost 75% wear masks and follow the prevention measures, which has been a success and has compensated for all the effort. So far, we have had 18 positive cases and 16 are already recovered," he says proudly.
According to Maximiliano, these are nomadic communities that are deeply rooted in their culture, religion, and language, and it is not easy to establish relationships. "I have been in the camp for 250 days and now everyone knows us, several volunteers are learning their language, some even speak it already, and wichi language is very complicated! For the children of the indigenous families, the camp is a fun place with trailers, motorcycles, lights, vehicles... they find it very appealing and love to come visit us".
Now begins the second stage of the project for the development of these communities and improvement of their quality of life, through a plan of crops and gardens, training in the use of recycling, waste collection, construction and access to latrines, among others. "Sometimes we get frustrated when we think about all the work we have ahead of us to support the development of these communities, we feel like ants, but then I always think: if we weren't here, how would they be now? And then I see the progress we made together with the families, I realize the great value we bring and how important it is for the communities," concludes Maximiliano.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Argentine Red Cross has been developing articulated actions to support the response to COVID-19 with the aim of reducing infections, alleviating the suffering of affected people and their families, and contributing to reduce the impact of the emergency in the country. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the volunteers of the Argentine Red Cross have carried out more than 9,500 social and health actions in response to the emergency.
The night announces his arrival, and the heat clings to the sand in the last few minutes it has left. And as the sun sets behind the base camp, a Wichi chief, his wife and children are chatting quietly with a couple of Red Cross volunteers who have finished their day and are sitting down to enjoy the moment. The man tells them about his life and what those lands were like decades ago. An area of desert contrasts and an eternal permanence of dry and cold heat always accompanied by the wind. The Wichi community, just like the Toba, Chorote and other ethnic groups in the region, have been the perpetual dwellers of the Province of Salta. In this place, water has always been a concern, but in recent years the situation has become critical.
At the beginning of 2020, the provincial government declared a socio-health emergency. Malnutrition claimed the lives of 8 children, and the lack of vital liquid created serious hygiene complications. According to a study carried out in February by the Humanitarian Observatory of the Argentine Red Cross, 90 per cent of the Wichi populations living in the area have below-normal nutrition, and 84 per cent of the children had diarrhea in the last month.
The Argentine Red Cross has been working in this territory for some years now. It has been a sustained work that has generated a strong link with the members of the community.
"They have been accompanying us for years," said Joaquín, chief of the Quebracho Blanco community. Now we need more people to come and work here. At the beginning of this year, the National Society, with the support of the IFRC, set up a base camp that reaches more than 38 communities. Essentially, primary health care and water and sanitation work has been provided.
A water treatment plant with a capacity of 60,000 litres per day has been installed in this base camp, donated by the Spanish Red Cross. This has significantly helped the population.
"The signs of health have improved, and we can see that people are more hydrated," said Merina Moreno, a volunteer who supports the health in the area and who has been involved in primary care processes for months in Salta. In addition, community filters, jerry cans and 556 family filters have been delivered to 17 communities in the area.
The work has required an enormous effort, even more so with the complications generated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the isolation measures, the mobilization of teams within the country, and bringing in inputs required from abroad, has taken longer, created delays in the project and increased costs. Something similar is happening with the mobilization of volunteers.
"The distances are enormous, for example, moving a volunteer from Buenos Aires to the camp involves more than 20 hours of travel. Consequently, operational planning had to be adjusted to these times as it involves 4 days of travel, 2 days there and 2 days back," says Abel Martinez, Director of Emergency Response at the Argentine Red Cross. "Due to mental health issues in particular, the volunteers have to stay in the camp for a maximum of 15 days and then are relieved.”
However, optimism and the desire to help are stronger than the complications faced. National Society volunteers find this activity rewarding as they connect with people in the area.
The night ends, and the chief's stories mingle with the warm wind that blows across the desert. The volunteers listen attentively and with a deep sense of satisfaction. They know that this has been another day of positive actions in the community, and that tomorrow they will continue to contribute and learn in one of the most forgotten areas of the country, together with people who receive them with warmth and are willing to work for change in their localities.
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.
Buenos Aires/Panama/Geneva, 17 May 2018 – Red Cross leaders from across the Americas and around the world are gathering in Buenos Aires from 21-23 May for the 21st Inter-American Conference of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).The conference will involve leaders and representatives from the 35 Red Cross societies of the Americas, as well as global IFRC figures. Participants will explore a range of issues, including: the rising needs of vulnerable migrants across the region, the increasing impacts of climate change, the Red Cross response to humanitarian crises, the centenary of the founding of IFRC – the world’s largest humanitarian network.Media opportunitiesRed Cross spokespeople are available to speak on all topics related to the conference, as well as on issues of humanitarian concern. Spokespeople include: Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC (Languages: Spanish/English/Italian Diego Tipping: President of the Argentine Red Cross (Languages: Spanish). Miguel Villaroel: IFRC Vice-president for the Americas (Languages: English/Spanish).Other Red Cross experts and leaders are also available on request.