| Press release
South Asia: Omicron threatens to overwhelm health systems
Kuala Lumpur/Delhi, 12 January 2022: The Omicron variant is fuelling a rapid surge of COVID-19 across South Asia that threatens to overwhelm health systems still reeling from a deadly wave of the Delta variant last year.
Countries across South Asia from India to Nepal and Bangladesh are reporting alarming increases in COVID-19 infections, with India alone reporting a 2,013 per cent increase in COVID-19 infections in the past month, with cases now topping 179,000 in a day.
The new wave is causing further misery for hundreds of millions of people across South Asia, already living in extreme poverty, exacerbated by COVID-19 over the past two years.
Udaya Regmi, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Head of Delegation, South Asia, said:
“This latest surge of COVID-19 spells immense danger for millions of people and health systems across South Asia. Omicron is spreading fast and while vaccination rates have been soaring, after such tragic loss of life last year, fear is mounting of record infection rates.
“People everywhere want this pandemic to end but we must boost efforts to keep people safe with the basics, by wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and getting fully vaccinated where possible.”
Last year, health systems were boosted by IFRC with increased supplies of oxygen equipment across South Asia, helping health authorities to be prepared for this latest COVID-19 surge.
Several million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are working hard to provide people most at risk with access to lifesaving medical care, testing and vaccinations.
In South Asia, a majority of countries have vaccinated less than 50 per cent of their population, putting people at greater risk of developing severe illness and requiring hospitalisation. India has fully vaccinated 45 per cent of its population, while Pakistan has 32.8 per cent and Bangladesh 33 per cent who have received two jabs, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data.
Dr Abhishek Rimal, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Emergency Health Coordinator, said:
“The Omicron variant appears to have milder symptoms than the Delta variant, but it is more infectious, so high case numbers are still leading to thousands of people being hospitalised and hundreds are dying.
“We must accelerate efforts to get everyone vaccinated, and it’s critical to wear masks and avoid crowds, to keep families, friends and people most vulnerable safe.
“To avoid endless waves of this deadly virus, we need vaccines to be available to everyone, in every country, especially for people who have not yet had their first dose and those most at risk, including older people and healthcare workers.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Asia Pacific Office:
Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451,
South Asia Delegation:
Arabella Seebaluck, +12349000801,
Asia Pacific Office:
Courtney Wilson, +61 481 150 973,
Bangladesh: Population movement
Several years since the mass displacement of people from Rakhine, Myanmar into Bangladesh began, the vast majority of those displaced (an estimated 896,879 people) are completely reliant on humanitarian aid to meet their everyday needs. The IFRC and Bangladesh Red Crescent (BDRCS) have been supporting both displaced people and host communities since the very start of this protracted crisis. Our revised appeal marks a new phase of our support to the BDRCS to help them provide wide-ranging assistance to people in Cox's Bazar and on Bhashan Char island.
| Press release
Bangladesh: Greater efforts needed to keep people safe on Bhashan Char
Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka/Geneva, 23 November 2021: Urgent action is being taken to keep people safe from cyclones and the COVID-19 pandemic on Bhashan Char Island.
COVID-19 vaccinations have been underway for people aged over 55 on the island, and more doses are due for the remaining adults.
Around 18,000 people displaced from Rakhine, Myanmar, have been relocated by authorities from camps in Cox’s Bazar to sturdier homes on Bhashan Char.
Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working directly with displaced people so that lifesaving measures are in place ahead of the next big cyclone, as big storms regularly threaten the area from September until December.
Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said:
“Every effort is being made on Bhashan Char Island to improve living conditions and support people to be well prepared to take early lifesaving action ahead of any super cyclones. Volunteer teams have been trained in early warning action drills, first aid, search and rescue, and managing cyclone shelters.
“Our teams have been helping with COVID-19 vaccinations for older people most at risk of the disease while helping everyone to stay safe and healthy with clean water, food relief packs, hygiene kits, and access to healthcare.”
The IFRC is appealing for 86 million Swiss Francs to provide critical immediate and longer-term humanitarian support for the nearly one million displaced people living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar and those on Bhashan Char Island, including safer shelter, healthcare, improved access to clean water and sanitation and protecting people from the growing risks of climate disasters.
In recent weeks, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers have helped vaccinate more than 1,000 people aged over 55, and more vaccinations are planned as soon as vaccines become available.
Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, international Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said:
“Everyone living on Bhashan Char Island needs to feel safe and every effort needs to be made to enable Bangladesh to have a fair share of COVID-19 vaccines. This is a critical part of enabling Bangladesh to manage the responsibility of hosting such a large number of displaced people.”
“The IFRC has revised its Emergency Appeal for the next three years, to help meet the growing humanitarian needs in Cox's Bazaar and Bhashan Char, including risks from climate disasters. There is a critical 75 million Swiss Francs funding gap.
After meeting the Bangladesh State Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, Alexander Matheou said: "Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, it is clear that we must work together to support safety, livelihoods, recreation and overall well-being of people experiencing such a long and traumatic displacement.”
Alexander Matheou is visiting Bhashan Char with the leadership of Bangladesh Red Crescent today.
Read and download the revised Emergency Appeal here.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Sajid Hasan, +880 1673 019617, [email protected]
Mahmudul Hasan, +880 1716 103333, [email protected]
In Kuala Lumpur:
Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]
| Press release
More than 139 million people hit by climate crisis and COVID-19, new IFRC analysis reveals
New York, Geneva, 16 September 2021 – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters have affected the lives of at least 139.2 million people and killed more than 17,242.
This is the finding of a new analysis published today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, on the compound impacts of extreme-weather events and COVID-19. A further estimated 658.1 million vulnerable people have been exposed to extreme temperatures. Through new data and specific case studies, the report shows how people across the world are facing multiple crises and coping with overlapping vulnerabilities.
The paper also highlights the need of addressing both crises simultaneously as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected livelihoods across the world and has made communities more vulnerable to climate risks.
The IFRC President, Francesco Rocca, who today presented the new report at a press conference in New York, said: “The world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis where the climate change and COVID-19 are pushing communities to their limits. In the lead up to COP26, we urge world leaders to take immediate action not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to address the existent and imminent humanitarian impacts of climate change”.
The report comes a year after an initial analysisof the overlapping risks of extreme-weather events that have occurred during the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc, with direct health impacts for millions of people around the world, but also a massive indirect impact, in part due to the response measures implemented to contain the pandemic. Food insecurity caused by weather extremes has been aggravated by COVID-19. Health systems are pushed to their limits and the most vulnerable have been the most exposed to overlapping shocks.
In Afghanistan, the impacts of the extreme drought are compounded by conflict and COVID-19. The drought has crippled agricultural food production and diminished livestock, leaving millions of people hungry and malnourished. The Afghan Red Crescent Society has ramped up relief, including food and cash assistance for people to buy food supplies, plant drought-resistant food crops and protect their livestock.
In Honduras, responding to hurricanes Eta and Iota during the pandemic, also meant additional challenges. Thousands of people became homeless in temporary shelters. Anti-COVID-19 measures in those shelters required physical distancing and other protective measures, which limited capacity.
In Kenya, the impacts of COVID-19 are colliding with floods in one year and droughts in the next, as well as a locust infestation. Over 2.1 million people are facing acute food insecurity in rural and urban areas. In the country and across East Africa, the COVID-19 restrictions slowed down the flood response and outreach to affected populations increasing their vulnerabilities.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the globe are not only responding to those overlapping crises but also helping communities to prepare and anticipate climate risks.
In Bangladesh for instance, the Red Crescent Society has used IFRC’s designated funds for anticipatory action to disseminate flood related Early Warning Messages through loudspeakers in vulnerable areas so people can take the necessary measures or evacuate if necessary.
Julie Arrighi, associate director at the RCRC Climate Center said: “Hazards do not need to become disasters. We can counter the trend of rising risks and save lives if we change how we anticipate crises, fund early action and risk reduction at the local level. Finally, we need to help communities become more resilient, especially in the most vulnerable contexts.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on climate risks. Governments need to commit to investing in community adaptation, anticipation systems and local actors.
“The massive spending in COVID-19 recovery proves that governments can act fast and drastically in the face of global threats. It is time to turn words into action and devote the same energy to the climate crisis. Every day, we are witnessing the impact of human-made climate change. The climate crisis is here, and we need to act now,” Rocca said.
Download the paper:The compound impact of extreme weather events and COVID-19
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 43 67, [email protected]
Marie Claudet, +33 786 89 50 89 , [email protected]
| Press release
Mass COVID-19 vaccinations kick off in Bangladesh camps
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 10 August 2021:Vaccinations have begun for people in the camps for displaced people, amid a record COVID-19 surge in Bangladesh and a widening global vaccine divide.
The vaccination campaign begins on 10 August with priority for people aged 55 and over covering 48,000 camp residents. About 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent staff and volunteers are working under the Population Movement Operation (PMO) and the Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation (MRRO), in collaboration with UNHCR and health authorities, in the urgent rollout all over the 34 camps.
There are more than 900,000 people living in the densely populated camps. Many people face ongoing health issues, limited access to hygiene facilities and safe water. Existing health clinics were already stretched to the limit, even before the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Delta variant has driven surging infections across the country, with around 20,000 infections and 200 deaths recorded in the Cox’s Bazar district so far. A national positivity rate of around 30 per cent indicates the spread of COVID-19 is much higher, especially with cramped conditions and the risks faced by many people living in the camps.
M.A. Halim, Head of Operations, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said:
“This pandemic is inflicting a terrible toll on every aspect of people’s lives and has been compounded by recent floods and fires that have swept through the camps. Vaccinating is more important than ever to prevent illness and more loss of life in Cox’s Bazar.
“Thousands of trained Red Crescent volunteers are playing a key role supporting vaccinations in the camps and all over the country including at our health clinics and door to door to encourage people to get vaccinated.”
Hrusikesh Harichandan, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Cox’s Bazar sub-office, said:
“People in these camps are living in the shadow of the global vaccine divide. Widespread vaccinations are critical to contain this deadly virus. We need united efforts by national agencies and international organisations to help vaccinate all adults in the camps.
“Vaccinations are vital for families to live with dignity because staying home is so tough for people in these cramped camps and most still have limited access to water and sanitation facilities, escalating risks from COVID-19.”
Less than 3 per cent of the population in Bangladesh has been fully vaccinated and Bangladesh Red Crescent is working alongside health authorities to help vaccinate millions of people across the country over the next week.
As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 14 healthcare facilities, helping to meet health needs of people living in the Cox’s Bazar camps.
As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operation which began in 2017 and the MRRO which began in 1992, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross Red Crescent partners and UNHCR, is providing both camp residents and host communities living on the periphery of the camps with healthcare, improved access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation services, shelter, livelihoods and other essential needs, along with reducing risks in disasters and protection support for women and those most at risk. In total, from the start of operations in 2017, Bangladesh Red Crescent has supported over 1 million people.
For more information, please contact:
In Cox’s Bazar:
Ibrahim Mollik, +880 16 74 330863, [email protected]
Sabrina Idris, +8801 763777999, [email protected]
In Asia Pacific Office:
Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]
Ellie van Baaren, +64 21 774 831, [email protected]
Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]
| Press release
Bangladesh: Delta fuels deadly COVID-19 surge amid crippling vaccine shortfalls
Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka/Geneva, 06 July 2021:Urgent action is needed to increase COVID-19 vaccine supplies for Bangladesh as hospitals reach capacity and oxygen supplies run short across the country.
The deadly Delta COVID-19 variant is spreading fast in urban and rural areas across Bangladesh stretching the entire health sector beyond its limits. Hospitals in areas of Bangladesh bordering India are experiencing a sharp rise in infections and deaths.
In the capital Dhaka, around 78 per cent of infections have been identified as caused by the Delta strain according to the Government of Bangladesh. Nearly one in three people (29%) tested is positive with COVID-19 pointing to much higher infection rates across the country.
After a promising start earlier this year, Bangladesh was forced to halt all vaccinations due to a shortage in supply. Around 3 per cent of the Bangladesh population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 compared with half the population of countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, according to Oxford University'sOur World in Data.
Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said:
“The recent spike of COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh is deeply alarming and it is being fuelled by the more infectious and deadly Delta strain, with hundreds of people dying a week.
“Bangladesh Red Crescent has ramped up ambulance services and efforts to help reduce death and suffering due to this dangerous virus. Our volunteers are working alongside health authorities to accelerate vaccinations, but a crippling shortage in supply is hurting progress.”
Bangladesh Red Crescent teams are helping people with free ambulance services 24 hours a day, in 10 high-risk districts and providing oxygen cylinders across the country. Cooked food and other relief are also being provided to people who have lost their jobs or income.
More than 13,500 Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are working across the country to help with vaccinations, medical care, providing masks and running public information campaigns on the importance of staying safe from COVID-19.
Sanjeev Kafely, Head of IFRC Bangladesh Delegation said:
“It’s critical that richer countries share more vaccines with Bangladesh in the coming days and weeks to help avoid the horrors caused by COVID-19 in India.
“COVID-19 is having devastating impacts on millions of people in Bangladesh, with many losing their incomes and livelihoods. Mass vaccination is the key to ending the spiralling deaths, infections and hardships caused by this virus in Bangladesh and everywhere around the world.”
The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with around 55% of the appeal covered so far. The funds are crucial to support the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world.
| Press release
Refugees are paying the highest price in the COVID-19 pandemic
Geneva, 18 June 2021 – Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) raises the alarm about the situation of refugees who are facing severe humanitarian hardships, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said:
“Vulnerable groups, such as refugees, are paying the highest price in the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing alarming trends that show many refugees around the world are unable to pay for food or rent and are struggling to access health care and education.
“Refugees have been disproportionately affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and have often been left out of socio-economic support policies. A large number of refugees have lost their sources of income or depleted their savings and are now adopting negative strategies to survive.”
In Bangladesh, latest analysis carried out in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society – with support from the IFRC – reveals that communities are struggling to cover their essential needs, particularly due to COVID-19 related movement restrictions, health issues, restricted access to markets, and a recent major fire in the camps.
Price hikes in local markets and further displacement caused by camp fires have pushed many families further into food insecurity. During April and May, around 30,000 refugees in the Cox's Bazar camps raised questions and concerns, with 63% seeking services, including urgent food relief and shelter. Just over one third (37%) requested health or medical care.
In the past year, reduced presence of humanitarian organizations in the camps due to COVID-19 restrictions also led to an increase in child labour, sexual and gender-based violence and heightened risk of human trafficking. In addition, an increase in child marriage has been observed since the start of the pandemic, often seen as an alternative to education or work.
In Colombia, border closures, movement restrictions and loss of livelihoods led to limited
access to food and accommodation, with many refugees and migrants – most of whom are from Venezuela - eating only once per day. 18% of those surveyed by the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab cited food security and malnutrition as the biggest risks for children during the pandemic.
In Turkey, a recent study – conducted by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC – indicates that, among the 4,500 refugee households surveyed, debt levels have increased by nearly 50% over the last year. Even more alarming is the fact that many families are unable or can barely afford to pay for what they need most, such as food (72%) and rent (66%). However, cash assistance provided by the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is helping refugees to cover some of these costs.
In order to cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, refugees are increasingly relying on survival strategies, such as reducing food consumption, buying cheaper and less nutritious food, buying food on credit and borrowing money from relatives and friends. These strategies have negative consequences on health and well-being and contribute to worrying levels of food insecurity and skyrocketing debts for refugees.
“Nobody should be forced to choose between giving their family food or paying their rent; nor face hunger or forced evictions,” said Jagan Chapagain. “Governments should work together with donors, international and multilateral organizations, private sector and civil society to effectively mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups, such as refugees and migrants. It's our shared responsibility to ensure that everyone can meet their most essential needs”.
 Households receiving cash assistance from the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) are identified as “eligible” in the Intersectoral Vulnerability Study, while those not receiving support are “ineligible”. In Turkey, refugees are officially recognized as “foreigners who are under international protection or temporary protection”.
| Press release
Record COVID surge crashes into South Asia
Kuala Lumpur/Delhi, 16 April 2021–A humanitarian calamity is engulfing South Asia as COVID-19 skyrockets across several countries setting new records, with more than 200,000 people infected per day.
South Asia is fast becoming the new global epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic. This deadlier and more infectious new wave is overwhelming hospitals and social systems, heaping more distress on hundreds of millions of people already experiencing poverty and hardship.
On 15 April 2021 India recorded more than 200,700 cases in a day, more than double the country’s previous peak and the highest of any country in the world right now. Bangladesh is recording almost 50 per cent more deaths per day than its previous peak in June 2020. Pakistan’s daily cases are spiking, with the highest ever COVID-19 daily death rate.
Udaya Regmi, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Head of Delegation, South Asia, said:
“The speed with which the virus is spreading in our region is truly frightening. Over 1.5 million people are sick with COVID-19 in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan combined and that’s 50 times how many were sick one month ago.
“Thousands of lives are being lost, this is a tragic warning to all countries, that every effort must be maintained and we cannot afford to relax in containing this deadly Coronavirus.
“The impact on frontline workers is catastrophic. Thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have stepped-up efforts to help the elderly and those most at risk with access to lifesaving medical care, testing and vaccinations. Millions already face extreme poverty and we’re helping with food, water and other relief.”
There is growing evidence from health authorities that more virulent COVID-19 variants are fuelling this current surge in South Asia.
Dr Abhishek Rimal, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Coordinator for Emergency Health, said:
“Several countries in South Asia have already reported the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants of concern from the UK and South Africa, which are more infectious and are increasing hospitalisation, putting a massive burden on the health system.
“As we enter the second year dealing with the pandemic it’s understandable that many people are sick of the restrictions and want to resume normal life. We must redouble our efforts to contain this disease as too many lives are at stake.
“We must place every effort to resource health workers and hospitals so people who are suffering receive the healthcare they need. This is a wakeup call to the world. Vaccines must be available to everyone, everywhere, rich and poor to overcome this terrible pandemic.”
| Press release
Bangladesh: International relief needed on Bhasan Char Island
Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka, 29 March 2021 – International support is needed to maintain humanitarian services for more than 13,000 people who have been relocated to Bhasan Char island from Cox’s Bazar.
This appeal follows an independent visit by representatives from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to Bhasan Char.
The visit team found that the Government of Bangladesh has made progress on Bhasan Char in terms of the development of infrastructure. However, it also found urgent investment is needed to ensure that women and children are adequately protected, and that food security, health care and schooling is assured both in the short and longer-term.
Furthermore, while evacuation centres are in place to keep people safe from disasters, there remain concerns that the island could be exposed during the upcoming cyclone season and that systems are further strengthened to manage the potential isolation caused by storms.
Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General, Bangladesh Red Crescent said:
“After nearly four years living in precarious camps in cramped conditions, many people are relocating to the island of Bhasan Char and we are providing a range of relief services at this critical time.
“Bangladesh Red Crescent is working with authorities to deliver food packages, hygiene items, sanitation and health services to thousands of people on the island for the coming months.”
The IFRC urges the Government of Bangladesh, humanitarian agencies and international donors to do everything possible to keep people displaced from Rakhine State safe and able to live with dignity, wherever they are located, including on Bhasan Char.
Sanjeev Kafley, Bangladesh Head of Delegation, IFRC, said:
“With the cyclone season fast approaching, people on Bhasan Char could become stranded with a shortage of food when major storms strike, leaving the sea passage impassable, in turn denying the delivery of relief, medicines and other vital supplies.
“Everyone relocating must have access to all of the essentials for a healthy life, including nutritious food, hygiene items such as soap, along with health and medical care. Women and children must be afforded protection from violence and other risks.
“People who are now living on Bhasan Char have been through so many hardships and they deserve opportunities for a fulfilling life, with opportunities to start new livelihoods and access to education and other activities,” Mr Kafley said.
| Press release
Huge rescue and relief effort as fire razes Bangladesh camps
Kuala Lumpur/Cox’s Bazar/Geneva, 23 March 2021 – The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has launched one of its biggest ever rescue and relief efforts in the camp settlement in Cox’s Bazar after a deadly fire razed several thousand camp houses.
More than 1,000 Red Crescent staff and volunteers worked through the night with fire fighters, camp residents and other agencies to rescue people and douse the fire that has left thousands of people homeless. An estimated 123,000 people live in the camps affected by the huge blaze.
M. A. Halim, Head of Operation in Cox’s Bazar for the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said:
“It is heart breaking to see how destructive a fire can be in such a short time. As soon as this terrible blaze started, our teams rushed to the area to help fight the fire, rescue people in danger, evacuate thousands to safety and provide immediate relief.”
“We are providing relief through food and water, and erecting emergency shelters for people who have lost their homes. These devastating fires will require even greater efforts by all agencies in the coming weeks, particularly as the cyclone season approaches.”
Close to 900,000 people displaced from Rakhine State, Myanmar, live in the crowded camp settlement, supported by the Government of Bangladesh and humanitarian agencies including Bangladesh Red Crescent and the IFRC.
Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of Delegation in Bangladesh for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“This is a terrible blow to some of the most resilient people on earth. Many people fled to Bangladesh after having their homes burnt to the ground. After setting up a new life, thousands now face more hardship and uncertainty.
“The volunteers and fire-fighters who have put out these fires and evacuated people to safety are real heroes as they have saved countless lives. These fires are a brutal blow for camp residents, compounding frightful hardship caused by COVID-19.”
Among the first responders were some 600 camp residents trained under the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, a joint effort of the Bangladesh government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent to prepare and respond to cyclones as well as other emergencies. The 600 are part of a total of 3,400 trained volunteers living in all 34 of the Cox’s Bazaar camps.
As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operation which started in 2017 and Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation, which started in 1992, the Bangladesh Red Crescent with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross and Red Crescent partners and UNHCR, is providing both camp residents and host communities living on the periphery of the camps with healthcare, access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, safer shelter, livelihoods and along with protection support for women and those most at risk. In total, from the start of operations in 2017, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has supported about 1 million people.
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society
Early action key as South Asia copes with four crises in one year
In South Asia, more than 25 million people have been battling four crises in one year. Floods came as COVID-19 and climate change worsened poverty and loss of livelihoods. Thousands of villages have been submerged for months. In north Bangladesh, homes and crops have been destroyed four times. Some of the worst floods in decades followed a cyclone that already caused widespread devastation.Ahead of these disasters, Red Cross and Red Crescent has twice provided early action emergency cash, helping more than 35,000 people most at risk to evacuate safely and recover quicker. This forecast-based action is also being embraced by the United Nations and other agencies as a critical step to address the growing needs of millions of people at the mercy of climate disasters.Millions have been living in tarpaulin shelters on road sides and any high ground available, as their homes have been under water for months. At one point more than half of Bangladesh was submerged. The floods have also affected millions of farmers, destroying crops and threatening to push millions of people, already badly impacted by COVID-19, further into poverty and food insecurity.These floods are testing the resilience of some of the world’s most fragile communities, who have long been trying to escape poverty. Having borrowed money to build a home for his young family only four months ago, 35-year-old Sumon is now faced with a repair bill he can little afford, and ongoing unemployment due to the floods and COVID-19.Khadiza, 19, was forced to leave her house with her two sons – three-months and two-and-a-half years old – when the floodwaters submerged their village in northern Bangladesh. The country has seen three devastating monsoon flood seasons in the past four years. In 2019, more than seven million people were swamped while in 2017 over eight million people were severely affected, losing homes and livelihoods.These floods and water-borne diseases that follow in their wake are putting increased pressure on health-care systems stretched to the limit and struggling to cope with COVID-19. Red Cross and Red Crescent health teams are supporting the most at risk communities to have access to basic healthcare.Janina Begum, 60, came back from her roadside tarpaulin shelter to check on her home that had been submerged for two months. While some people are looking to rebuild, Bangladesh’s monsoon season is far from over and the threat of new flooding hangs in the air. These threats have multiplied with climate disasters happening more often in Asia, the most disaster-prone area in the world.Asharam, 60 unpacks relief items after returning to his home that had been completely submerged in Mahangu Pure village, Uttar Pradesh, northern India. More than 20 million people have been devastated by the floods in India, mainly in Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with many already poorer communities losing their homes and livelihoods.Indian Red Cross and Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are doing all they can to provide relief in the most difficult circumstances they have ever faced. The volunteers say they have a duty to support people, who are tackling growing hardships caused by the floods, poverty, COVID-19 and the increasing effects of climate change.Mossamet Sahera, 60, had her home washed away. Sahera was living in a small hut next door to her sister. Her husband left her when she was young because she had a physical disability. Sahera and her sister face an uncertain future.Photos: AJ Ghani (Bangladesh), Rohan Chakravarty (India) and Emon Arafin, (Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers).
Dreams, hopes and fears in the Bangladesh camps
By Farid Alam, 21-year-old resident of Kutupalong camp, whose parents fled Rakhine, Myanmar nearly 30 years ago. Farid is a Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteer working alongside international Red Cross operations.
When I was born in Kutupalong camp, Bangladesh, it was a very different place. I remember laughing and flying kites as a child with my friends. Kites are not flying around our camps anymore. There is little laughter.
Just months ago, we lived in a different world. We used to go outside a lot, seeking freedom from our little bamboo and plastic homes. But now, due to COVID we cannot. Often we are told to stay inside. It’s hot and cramped as I have a big family, with nine of us living in one room.
Physical distance is just not possible in our homes. It’s the same for most living here. We have hardly any masks and other protective equipment in the camps. We have no idea how we are surviving.
Most people in the camps do not seem to care about much, certainly not COVID-19. Our main worries are our dignity, our safety and having hope for our future. We are not only fighting with the coronavirus here. We are fighting much more. I know about COVID-19 but most people in the camps have not heard of it. Many don’t know what a virus is.
We have seen many organizations using loudspeakers to make people aware of coronavirus. It doesn’t work. They speak so fast and move past too quickly. Our community Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are doing a great job going door to door. I’m seeing people understand now. It helps a lot.
I see this place full of suffering. From dawn to dusk, we endure challenges: finding food, repairing our homes, keeping safe or seeking water. Our lives are filled with limitations. Most of us do not have the opportunity to read and write.
When I can, I pass the time reading. I love history and English literature. Ever since my childhood, I wanted to be a teacher. I studied up to my eighth year as we were not allowed more education than that. It was very difficult to accept. Since then I have been studying by myself. It would be my dream to become a teacher.
But my life has become very difficult lately as my father is sick. For many years, my 48-year-old father volunteered with Bangladesh Red Crescent operations in the camps. Our whole family was dependent on his allowance and aid we received. He has developed heart problems and other health complications.
Since I was 14, I have been volunteering with Red Crescent. I have been working as much as possible, around two weeks a month and I am paid a small allowance. This money is all we have. I want to support my family with all my heart.
I am trying to protect my family from COVID-19. My parents came here after fleeing from Rakhine in Myanmar nearly 30 years ago. Every day I worry for my mother, who suffers from chronic kidney disease.
Our shelters are getting old. The bamboo frames, plastic and tarpaulins are wearing out. When it rains, water often pours into our homes. It’s the monsoon season now and it’s raining a lot so it is very hard to sleep.
We often wait in a queue to access a toilet and bathing area. It’s shared with 25-30 people. My mother and sister fear going out at night to use the toilet. There is no lighting and they must go in complete darkness. Often I go for support. Things are worse in the mud of the monsoon rains.
Staring at the roof of our shelter, I hear the sound of people speaking nonstop. We have no personal space. No privacy whatsoever.
As if life is not hard enough, there are mice and rats as big as cats. They often make more holes in our tarpaulins.
I find time to help my neighbour’s children reading and writing. I teach them maths, Arabic and English. I love teaching them. I don’t want children in my community to lose their future. Since official teaching activities have been halted, I think the children will forget the lessons they have been taught by their teachers in the past. I also speak to them about the risks we face with COVID-19.
If I were a citizen of any country, I could finish my education. I would love to pursue a higher education. If I could become a teacher and work, I would love to better support my family. But I am not that lucky person. I am stuck here. I do not know what will happen to me and my family in the coming days. Whatever happens, we will face it together.
All I want is to forget everything and start a new life. Earn a little to survive and live a very simple life with my family.
Tackling fear, mistrust and COVID in Bangladesh camps
I’m an emergency doctor with years of experience yet dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak in the Bangladesh camps is by far the biggest challenge I have ever faced.
I live and work in the heart of the biggest camp for displaced people in the world. Where many live 10 to a cramped room, I sleep in a big tent with one other doctor. Where most homes leak in the heavy rain, mine is watertight. When I rise at dawn, I see morning mists on the hills of Myanmar.
A seven-month-old baby girl tests positive for COVID-19 and becomes one of our first cases. Her family lives among the jigsaw puzzle of bamboo and tarpaulin homes cramped across the hillsides. Our community health volunteers have trekked along muddy tracks to counsel the family.
The baby and extended family are all at risk. It is a difficult conversation involving many family members and finally the parents agree to take the child to our COVID treatment centre.
On arrival, the father is upset and changes his mind about allowing the baby to be admitted. The mother is also distraught as she reveals that she has lost two babies in the past year. She does not want to take any risks with her baby girl. It is heartbreaking to see her pain.
Our health workers counsel the father and it becomes clear that he also fears for himself and despairs for what he will do with no food and no one to cook for him at home. We offer to support him with food as well as providing for the baby and her mother.
Finally, the father agrees that he will isolate at home for two weeks after being in close contact with his COVID-positive child.
The fear about this dangerous disease hangs thick in the air. There is little understanding about the way it is spread. Gaining trust of everyone is a major challenge and is key to tackling the spread of diseases in the camps.
The next day, the father and the baby’s grandfather arrive at our treatment centre and threaten to leave with the mother and their baby. We urgently involve local camp and religious leaders, including the Head Majhi. The meeting is fruitful and again we agree that the baby can receive medical treatment.
Minutes later, a young sick woman arrives for treatment. In the first instance, we diagnose the woman as suffering from a severe depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. The woman’s husband was killed in front of her in Myanmar and she fled with her two-year-old child. Every day she feels dull and lethargic, and doesn’t feel like doing anything. We arrange longer-term support for the young woman at our larger field hospital.
This woman is almost 10 years younger than me. I cannot imagine what such a young person has been through in such a short life. Her blank stare is void of emotion and it still haunts me when I think about the pain behind her eyes.
Nothing prepared me for these camps. I have been living in a tent for two months. It’s the first time that I have ever lived in a tent and it still feels unreal. But it’s a world apart from the tiny makeshift homes that seem stacked on top of each other along steep hilly slopes.
Privacy that we take for granted is unthinkable. Physical distance is near impossible. Every day our teams stream out along the maze of muddy paths investigating cases and encouraging people to stay safe, particularly contacts of COVID-positive people.
So far, there have been just 78 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Tragically 6 lives have been lost due to this coronavirus, yet it’s a far cry from earlier projections that thousands of lives would be lost.
Life here is harder than most can imagine. Yet I am struck by the strength and sheer resilience of people who get on with making the best of life for their children and those who are frail. I see proud people working hard to make their homes as comfortable as possible. Reinforcing flimsy houses. Making them safer from storms and monsoon rains.
Community volunteers from the camps work alongside aid agencies to build their toilets and water wells. I am struck by the limited number of toilets often far from houses. There is no electricity except for on a few main streets, so women and children face harassment when they use a toilet in the dark nights.
Life here seems unfair for everyone. Young children fetch water from wells. Pumping the wells and trekking with heavy water containers is hard work for the strongest of adults.
In front of our field hospital, I notice two girls around 8-years-old, playing just outside the gate. I am amazed by the house they build out of sand and mud. The house has four separate rooms. I am sure any architect would be impressed with the perfect, straight walls. This model home is a dream for these children. Everyone here deserves to fulfill their dreams of a safer, better life.
Dr Mumtaz Mohammed Hussain, is Acting Chief Medical Officer, COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centres, Bangladesh Red Crescent in the Cox’s Bazar camps, bordering Myanmar.
| Press release
Cox’s Bazar: Almost 1 in 5 people in treatment have lung disease as COVID-19 spreads
Kuala Lumpur, Cox’s Bazar, Geneva, 24 August 2020: New data reveals that nearly one in five (17.9%) people being treated for medical conditions in displacement camps in Cox’s Bazar are already experiencing some form of lung disease as COVID-19 spreads in one of the most densely populated places on earth.
Three years on from a mass exodus triggered by violence on 25 August 2017, close to 1 million people displaced from Rakhine, Myanmar, also face many other chronic health conditions, including malnutrition and diarrhea, in overcrowded camps.
Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Operation of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in the Population Movement Operation in Cox’s Bazar, said: “My greatest fear is that high and unacceptable rates of acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malnutrition, all make families more at risk of COVID-19.”
To date, there have only been 82 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths reported among the population of displaced people living in the camps. But concerns remain high, and these figures may not tell the whole story.
“The true extent of the COVID-19 outbreak is unclear due to some challenges with the testing capacity and participation by people in the services and health facilities available in the camps. Red Crescent volunteers are going door to door to provide people with lifesaving information and protective equipment to stay safe from the disease,” Mr Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman said.
Despite the serious health concerns, there have been hard fought gains in the past three years. as chronic health conditions including unexplained fever, diarrhoea and other infectious diseases have reduced, according to World Health Organization figures, despite some of the harshest living conditions in the world.
The figures show that intense public health measures and boosted access to limited medical care have succeeded in containing many serious diseases including diphtheria and measles.
The rate of unexplained fever reported in health clinics is nine times less than three years ago at the height of the mass movement of people fleeing violence.
Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) sub-office in Cox’s Bazar said: “Every day we see the remarkable strength and resilience of people who live in these camps. It doesn’t ring true that there have only been around 82 identified cases of COVID-19. We are very concerned that there may be many more people sick and infected.”
“We have two new COVID-19 isolation and treatment centers treating people along with 11 existing health facilities, all helping to close the gap in critical medical care,” Mr Kafley said.
Bangladesh Red Crescent teams, supported by the IFRC and other partners, are providing critical ongoing healthcare, relief supplies including safe water, longer-term support for more secure homes, along with protection and support for women and those most at risk. The relief operations are among the biggest ever in the region.
| Press release
17.5 million affected by floods and threatened by disease in South Asia
Dhaka/Kuala Lumpur, 6 August 2020 – Monsoon floods are robbing millions of people of their homes and livelihoods, with mounting risk of more deadly disease outbreaks when health resources are stretched to breaking point by COVID-19.So far almost 17.5 million people have been affected and more than 630 killed by major floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal according to government figures. Half of Bangladesh’s districts are underwater, leaving nearly 1 million families stranded and cut off in their villages. Flooding and landslides in Nepal have left almost 200 people dead or missing. In India, almost 12 million people are affected by the floods mainly in the northern states of Assam and Bihar.Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General, Bangladesh Red Crescent said: “This is one of the biggest monsoon floods we have faced in many years and the worst may be yet to come as we face growing risks of malaria, dengue, diarrhea as well as this worsening COVID-19 pandemic.”The monsoon season floods mean a high proportion of the population in South Asia is vulnerable to diseases such as dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and cholera. In 2019, Bangladesh experienced its deadliest outbreak of dengue with more than 101,000 cases and almost 180 deaths. India reported 136,000 people were infected with the disease and many were hospitalised.Previous years show how devastating these diseases can be for communities in South Asia, so Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in the region are urgently ramping up their flood response activities, which include distributing mosquito nets and working with communities to reduce their exposure to diseases like malaria and dengue.COVID-19 restrictions have hampered efforts to destroy mosquito-breeding sites and raise awareness in communities of how to prevent the spread of diseases like dengue and malaria, ahead of this year’s monsoon season. At the same time, restrictions on movement of people and increased screening for COVID-19 may be helping to keep other diseases from exploding for now.Dr Abhishek Rimal, Regional Emergency Health Coordinator, Asia Pacific, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “Vast inland seas of stagnant water create an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos, with soaring risk of diseases like dengue and malaria. Millions of people are also gathered in confined spaces or sleeping in temporary shelters with limited access to food, safe water and protection from mosquitos, creating the perfect storm for the spread of mosquito and water-borne diseases.”The majority of limited hospital beds, doctors and health resources have been redirected to focus on COVID-19 response as India deals with more than 50,000 recorded cases a day. Bangladesh and Nepal have surpassed 240,000 and 20,700 confirmed cases respectively. South Asia now has more than 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 cases with fears that the total number of infections is much higher.Dr Rimal, said: “The critical focus on saving lives in this pandemic and preventing the further spread of COVID-19 has diverted their resources from prevention activities such as dengue and malaria are going untreated. We are seeing evidence that people are reluctant to go to health facilities because they fear catching COVID-19 and getting more sick.”
| Press release
South Asia floods: 9.6 million people swamped as humanitarian crisis deepens
Kuala Lumpur/Delhi/Dhaka/Kathmandu/Geneva, 22 July 2020 – A humanitarian crisis is deepening in South Asia as new figures reveal that more than 9.6 million people have been affected by monsoon floods, devastating large areas of India, Bangladesh and Nepal.Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “Millions of people across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have been marooned, their homes damaged and crops destroyed by floods that are the worst in recent years.“Every year there are monsoon floods, but this year is different as it comes at the height of a deadly COVID-19 global pandemic. Tragically, already 550 people have lost their lives and more than 9.6 million people have been swamped across South Asia.”Close to one third of Bangladesh has already been flooded with forecasts of worse flooding in the coming days. More than 2.8 million people have been affected, including close to 1 million who remain isolated and surrounded by floodwaters, according to the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief.In India, more than 6.8 million people have been affected by severe floods, mainly in the northern states of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Meghalaya bordering Bangladesh, according to the Indian National Emergency Response Centre.In Nepal, flooding and landslides have already killed close to 110 people. Across India, Bangladesh and Nepal, 550 have died according to government figures. Millions have been displaced from their homes.Mr Chapagain said: “People in Bangladesh, India and Nepal are sandwiched in a triple disaster of flooding, the coronavirus and an associated socioeconomic crisis of loss of livelihoods and jobs. Flooding of farm lands and destruction of crops can push millions of people, already badly impacted by the COVID-19, further into poverty.”IFRC has released more than 800,000 Swiss francs (850,000 US dollars) to support Bangladesh Red Crescent relief activities, including more than 230,000 Swiss francs released last month when flood forecasts signaled the extent of the potential impact.Volunteers in India, Bangladesh and Nepal are helping with shelter, providing tarpaulins, dry food and hygiene kits, and installing pumps for safe water. In Bangladesh, Red Crescent teams have distributed cash grants to help more than 35,000 people cope with the flooding. In India, over 9,200 tarpaulins have been distributed to most at-risk families. In Nepal, Red Cross teams are airlifting relief supplies to communities that cannot be reached by road.Many communities in Bangladesh and India are still recovering after Cyclone Amphan damaged or destroyed more than 260,000 homes, crops and infrastructure, two months ago.
| Press release
Red Cross Red Crescent braces for COVID spike in South Asia
Kuala Lumpur/Delhi/Islamabad/Dhaka/Geneva, 16 July 2020–South Asia is fast becoming the next COVID-19 epicentre as cases soar in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
John Fleming, Asia Pacific Head of Health, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in South Asia, home to a quarter of humanity.
“While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia. India alone is nearing 1 million infections in coming days.
“We need more focus on the new COVID-19 hotspot in South Asia. Lives of people in India are no less valuable than people in other parts of the world.”
Already India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have reached a combined total of more than 1.35 million cases – over 10 per cent of the world’s total. There have been more than 31,000 deaths across the three countries and the total may be much higher.
According to latest projections from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers, India risks having the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the coming months.
In a grim prognosis for the region, theMIT researchpredicts that by the end of the year there may be hundreds of millions of cases concentrated in a few countries estimated to have insufficient responses given perceived risks, primarily India, but also Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The report, which is still to be peer reviewed, predicts that in six months from now, India will be the worst affected country in the world, with up to 287,000 cases a day.
The immediate forecasts are equally dire for the region. According to figures from theJohn Hopkins Centre collated by the University of Melbourne, active cases in India are expected to rise by 36 per cent over the next 10 days and nearly double in the next 20 days.
“We now need to urgently turn our attention to this region, urgently step up prevention measures and expand our resources to save thousands of lives,”said Mr Fleming.
“In these unprecedented times, we know many countries, including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, have taken extraordinary measures to help slow the spread of this disease.
“Red Cross and Red Crescent health teams including thousands of volunteers have been a key part of that effort, conducting hygiene campaigns to slow the spread of the virus, providing relief to those self-isolating, and support for over-stretched healthcare systems.
“We need to double this effort, sharing the challenge across all levels of society, in the communities, in organisations, nationally and globally, we need to urgently bring more resources to protect people and to contain the virus.”
| Press release
Early action to save lives in Bangladesh amid severe flood forecast
Dhaka/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 30 June 2020: Urgent early action is being taken to protect lives in Bangladesh as floods threaten 4.1 million people in large areas across the country that are already grappling with COVID-19.The Global Flood Awareness System (GLOFAS) has issued a flood forecast with a more than 50 per cent probability of a severe 1-in-10-year flood submerging some areas of Bangladesh for at least three days.A 5-day forecast by Bangladesh’s Flood Forecast and Warning Centre (FFWC) has also confirmed the severity of the floods. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is implementing early actions with forecast-based funds from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to protect the lives, property and livelihoods of more than 16,500 people most at risk in three districts: Kurigram, Gaibandha and Jamalpur.Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Feroz Salah Uddin said: “The flood water is rising alarmingly and many areas are already inundated. Our volunteers and staff are on the ground to assist the most vulnerable communities before the water reaches the danger level.“This funding will help us accelerate our early actions when time is running out.”The forecast has triggered the release of more than 230,000 Swiss francs (240,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.This funding will help support Bangladesh Red Crescent in evacuating people in the most at risk communities to safe shelters with their valuable assets and livestock; providing unconditional cash grants to those affected; and giving first aid treatment to those who need it. Precautionary measures are also being taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by pre-positioning facemasks and hand sanitisers for distribution.IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said: “As a potentially severe flood continues to threaten millions of people in Bangladesh, we are taking a variety of preparedness measures to save lives and reduce loss. Together with Bangladesh Red Crescent we are reaching out to the communities in need to help them evacuate and to provide them with cash grants that give people in the path of floodwaters the ability to address their most urgent needs.“The compounding effects of COVID-19 and the floods could be devastating and this funding is crucial to reducing the impact as much as possible.”This is the second time in six weeks that IFRC has released forecast-based funds to support early and life-saving action in Bangladesh, after releasing more than 134,000 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) ahead of Cyclone Amphan in May.Early actions and forecast thresholds are pre-defined and agreed in BDRCS’ Early Action Protocol for Floods that has been developed with support of German Red Cross and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
| Press release
Isolation field hospitals open to prevent COVID crisis in Bangladesh camps
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva/Cox’s Bazar, 22 June 2020--Two new isolation field hospitals are opening to treat an alarming and growing number of COVID-19 patients in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh camps and adjacent host communities.
The isolation and treatment centres help address a growing gap in critical medical care needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mass deaths in the world’s biggest camps for displaced people from Rakhine state of Myanmar.
More than 1500 cases of COVID-19 in the Cox’s Bazar region, including 37 confirmed cases and three deaths in the crowded camps, are putting immense pressure on existing government hospitals and health facilities established by international relief agencies.
Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Population Movement Operation, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said that the true extent of the outbreak may not be fully apparent yet due to limited testing and health facilities available in the camp.
“Extremely overcrowded living conditions, the existence of chronic diseases, basic sanitation and hygiene facilities and limited access to healthcare make the displaced communities in Cox’s Bazar extremely vulnerable to the virus,” he said
There are an estimated 1.24 million people in the Cox’s Bazar area, including more than 900,000 people living in the camps, with the existing healthcare system stretched to the limit even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 12 healthcare facilities in the camp and meeting the health needs remains a huge challenge for all aid organisations in Cox’s Bazar.
“The two new field hospitals are a step to closing the gap in crucial medical care, but it is important to remember that COVID-19 is not the only health emergency for the people living in these camps,”saidSanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of IFRC’s sub-office in Cox’s Bazar.
“Whilst the virus is emerging as a massive threat to people living in the camp, there remain high levels of deadly diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and clusters of measles, all placing ongoing demands on the healthcare system in and around the camps.
“These communities now need even more support than ever, which can only be provided through a unified effort between national agencies, humanitarian organisations and the international community.”
| Press release
Isolation field hospitals open to prevent COVID crisis in Bangladesh camps
Kuala Lumpur/Cox’s Bazar, 22 June 2020: Two new isolation field hospitals are opening to treat an alarming and growing number of COVID-19 patients in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh camps and adjacent host communities.The isolation and treatment centres help address a growing gap in critical medical care needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mass deaths in the world’s biggest camps for displaced people from Rakhine state of Myanmar.More than 1500 cases of COVID-19 in the Cox’s Bazar region, including 37 confirmed cases and three deaths in the crowded camps, are putting immense pressure on existing government hospitals and health facilities established by international relief agencies. Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Population Movement Operation, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said that the true extent of the outbreak may not be fully apparent yet due to limited testing and health facilities available in the camp.“Extremely overcrowded living conditions, the existence of chronic diseases, basic sanitation and hygiene facilities and limited access to healthcare make the displaced communities in Cox’s Bazar extremely vulnerable to the virus,” he saidThere are an estimated 1.24 million people in the Cox’s Bazar area, including more than 900,000 people living in the camps, with the existing healthcare system stretched to the limit even before the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 12 healthcare facilities in the camp and meeting the health needs remains a huge challenge for all aid organisations in Cox’s Bazar.“The two new field hospitals are a step to closing the gap in crucial medical care, but it is important to remember that COVID-19 is not the only health emergency for the people living in these camps,” said Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of IFRC’s sub-office in Cox’s Bazar.“Whilst the virus is emerging as a massive threat to people living in the camp, there remain high levels of deadly diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and clusters of measles, all placing ongoing demands on the healthcare system in and around the camps.“These communities now need even more support than ever, which can only be provided through a unified effort between national agencies, humanitarian organisations and the international community.”Available for interviews:Dr Mohsin Ahmed, medical doctor heading field hospitals in the camps.Azmat Ulla, Head of Bangladesh Country Office, IFRC
| Press release
Cyclone Amphan: Thousands in need of humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh
Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka, 02 Jun 2020 – Almost two weeks after cyclone Amphan barreled through Bangladesh, Red Crescent teams have already reached more than 30,000 people, but thousands more are in need of further humanitarian assistance.Cyclone Amphan made landfall in the coasts of West Bengal, India on 20 May 2020, and then entered Bangladesh with wind speeds of up to 150 kmph, heavy rain and tidal surges that caused huge devastation in 26 districts across the country.Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said: “Thousands of people now need humanitarian support as they are living in temporary shelters with limited access to food, safe water and toilets after the cyclone has passed. Their livelihoods are also greatly affected and many of them do not know how to get back on their feet.”More than 350,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, alongside more than 176,000 hectares of farmland including standing crops, vegetable and fruit, thousands of trees have been uprooted and fish farms worth approximately 37 million US dollars have been damaged. Tidal surges caused the collapse of embankments, inundations of salt water causing a scarcity of safe drinking water and putting the lives of thousands at risk of waterborne diseases.More than 70,000 Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers, including 55,000 Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers, have been on the ground since before the cyclone hit, supporting evacuation efforts and distributing relief items.Now that the extent of the urgent humanitarian needs is becoming clearer, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) have launched an emergency appeal of 5 million Swiss francs (5.1 million US dollars) to provide emergency assistance to 50,000 people in Bangladesh severely affected by the cyclone.IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said: “Our early actions have saved many lives before the cyclone and now we are speeding up our response efforts so that these people can have access to basic needs and stay healthy.“With this emergency appeal our aim is not only to provide emergency relief but also to improve the physical, social, environmental and economic conditions to create a more resilient community in an effective and efficient way.”The funding will support Bangladesh Red Crescent in providing food, safe drinking water, shelter and hygiene items, and cash grants, as well as renovating damaged health clinics to benefit some of the most vulnerable people, including thos living in temporary or makeshift shelters.The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also making the emergency situation more complex as people who have been displaced by the cyclone have limited access to handwashing and other hygiene facilities, increasing the risk of spreading the virus further.Mr Ulla said: “The challenge is to help the affected population with emergency relief while we also take necessary steps to halt the spread of COVID-19.”As part of their response activities, Bangladesh Red Crescent teams will be taking preventive measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19 including distributing hygiene information and advice, wearing personal protective equipment, and providing appropriate hygiene materials such as masks and hand sanitiser to people in shelters.The IFRC cyclone Amphan emergency appeal will support Bangladesh Red Crescent response for the next 12 months.
| Press release
Bay of Bengal: Red Cross Red Crescent on the ground bracing for super cyclone Amphan
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva 20 May 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing for a major humanitarian response as super cyclone Amphan heads across the Bay of Bengal towards Bangladesh, India and Myanmar.Heavy rainfall, high winds and storm surges threaten Bangladesh’s and India’s coastlines. In Bangladesh, 14.2 million people live in the cyclone’s path, two thirds of whom are women and children. India’s Odisha State is making plans to evacuate 1.1 million people along its coastlines. While Myanmar is not in the cyclone’s direct path, heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges are also expected to affect northern parts of the country, including Rakhine state.Early action and effective preparedness can save lives and livelihoods and IFRC is releasing funding to support Bangladesh Red Crescent, India Red Cross and Myanmar Red Cross to scale up preparedness measures to support affected communities in the direct path of cyclone Amphan.IFRC is releasing almost 760,000 Swiss francs for early action to aid needs assessment and support vulnerable families with evacuation, emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment and material assistance. This includes more than 134,000 Swiss francs (139,000 US dollars) from IFRC's Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund which will support 20,000 vulnerable people in Bangladesh with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19.“We are concerned that Cyclone Amphan will put vulnerable communities at a dual risk during the COVID19 pandemic,” said Jess Letch, Manager of Emergency Operations at IFRC’s Regional Office for Asia Pacific.“The COVID-19 crisis has the potential to hamper humanitarian response efforts. Our biggest challenge is going to be ensuring that the millions of people at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods get the relief and shelter they need, while doing all we can to keep them safe from the new coronavirus.”In Bangladesh, authorities have prepared 12,000 shelters, three times as many as in previous years to help ensure physical distancing and other COVID-19 hygiene measures. In India, coronavirus quarantine centres are already being shifted further inland to accommodate the cyclone evacuees.Thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilised across India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to share early warning messages, help communities prepare and support evacuations where needed.
IFRC releases forecast-based funds against impact of super cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh
As super cyclone Amphan heads towards the West Bengal-Bangladesh areas, Bangladesh Red Crescent has triggered the release of forecast-based funds from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to reduce the storm’s impact on vulnerable communities living in the nine coastal districts of Bangladesh.According to the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) in Bangladesh, more than 14.2 million people are in the path of the cyclone, of which 7.2 million are women and 1.4 million are children. This has put these communities at a dual risk amid the existing COVID-19 pandemic.This forecast has triggered the pre-agreed release of 134,317 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).The funding will help support more than 20,000 vulnerable people with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19 through the disinfection of cyclone shelters and provision of personal protective equipment sets.IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said:“In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working tirelessly alongside local authorities, sharing early warning information and pre-positioning relief supplies, as well as having teams to support evacuations as super cyclone Amphan approaches Bangladesh.“With the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, we are enabling communities to take all sorts of preparedness measures to reduce the loss of life and livelihood in the coastal districts including the camps in Cox’s Bazar, where around one million displaced people reside in temporary shelters. Forecast-based actions mean the communities no longer wait for a cyclone to hit, rather anticipate it and act early.”“We have seen many mega cyclones in the past that have brought massive devastation in this region. This funding allows Bangladesh Red Crescent to take actions to reduce the impact of such an event.”Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people take early actions ahead of cyclones rather than only having access to support after they have been hit.The goal of Forecast-based Financing is to anticipate cyclones, decrease their impact as much as possible, and reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is reached. As part of this mechanism, an Early Action Protocol for cyclones outlines which anticipatory measures the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society will implement to reduce the cyclone’s impact. This work is developed by National Societies with the technical support from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said:“We are scaling up our preparedness measures and early actions to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are in the direct path of cyclone Amphan. The current COVID-19 crisis is slowing our efforts down, but our volunteers are not stepping back from reaching out to the most vulnerable communities.”Over the past 10 years cyclones have affected more than a million people in Bangladesh, causing death and injury, destroying homes and undermining livelihoods.The Early Action Protocol for cyclones in Bangladesh has been revised considering the current COVID-19 epidemic. While the priority remains to move people to safe shelters if an evacuation order is issued, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are taking action to help prevent further outbreaks, including sharing hygiene information and items, identifying alternative evacuation spaces to enable physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting cyclone shelters.This is only the second time IFRC’s early action funding mechanism has been used after over 210,000 Swiss francs were released to Mongolia Red Cross in January 2020 based on the forecast of an extreme winter season. The funding provided cash grants to vulnerable herder families to help protect their livestock and livelihoods.German Red Cross is providing technical expertise and funding support to the Forecast-based Financing project and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Head of German Red Cross’ Bangladesh Office Gaurav Ray said:“The impending cyclone, Amphan, is putting the lives of the most poor and vulnerable families at risk. By taking forecast-based early actions well ahead of the cyclone, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is setting a precedent, especially in the face of this dual crisis. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme will play a critical role in alleviating the distress faced by communities at risk.”Notes Read the Bangladesh Cyclone Amphan Early Action Protocol for Cyclones and the early action protocol activation announcement for Cyclone Amphan. The Forecast-based Action by the DREF was established with support from the German Red Cross and the German Government Federal Foreign Office.
South Asia Forum on Preparedness for Regional Disaster Response
There is growing momentum in Asia Pacific towards regional approaches for disaster management and response. Many governments are increasingly seeing the value of working in collaboration and examining the possibility of revising governance frameworks and developing joint mechanisms to better support regional disaster preparedness and response. South Asia is no exception.In order to advance this approach, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat and the IFRC co-hosted the South Asian Forum on Preparedness for Regional Disaster Response from 4th to 6th November 2019 in Nepal. The forum had a specific focus on how states and partners can better work together to implement the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters (SAARND). The SAARC Agreement is a regional treaty outlining arrangements for peer support and collaboration in times of disaster across the region. The agreement was signed in 2011 and ratified in 2016, however as of yet, there have not been any tangible steps to operationalise it. During the Forum, participants from Governments and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from South Asia, representatives from SAARC Secretariat, the UN System and IFRC met to discuss the current status of implementation, challenges and opportunities in implementation of the SAARND in their respective States. As part of this, they considered how to strengthen their domestic governance arrangements to support implementation of their regional commitments.The Forum closed with the adoption of the ‘Call for Action from the South Asia Forum on Preparedness for Regional Disaster Response for the Implementation of the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters’ which outlined key measures to be worked on in partnership. The Red Cross and Red Crescent is committed to work with SAARC, its member states and partners across the region to strengthen regional cooperation for disaster preparedness and response.