| Press release
IFRC and C40 Cities urge cities to prepare for more dangerous and deadly heat waves
14 June 2022, Geneva, New York—Heat waves are becoming more frequent, longer, hotter and deadlier, especially in urban areas, but the threats they pose are preventable if cities and residents are prepared for extreme heat and take steps to save lives.
The past seven years, from 2015 to 2021, have been the hottest on record and this year is already a punishing one. The life-threatening temperature spikes seen in recent months across India, Pakistan, East Asia and southern Europe and this week’s unusually intense, early-season heat wave gripping parts of the United States are an ominous sign of what is to come as the world gets warmer.
Every year, increasingly scorching temperatures put millions of people at risk of heat-related illnesses and claim the lives of thousands of others. People living in cities are hardest hit because urban areas are warmer than the surrounding countryside and are getting hotter due to climate change. Those most at risk are already vulnerable—the elderly and isolated, infants, pregnant women, those with pre-existing ailments and the urban poor, who often work outdoors or live and work in buildings without air conditioning or adequate ventilation.
But deaths from heat waves are not inevitable. Five billion people live in places that are prone to heat waves and where early warning systems can predict them before they happen.
“Heat waves are the silent killers of climate change, but they don’t have to be,” says Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Most heat waves are forecast days or weeks in advance, giving ample time to act early and inform and protect the most vulnerable. The good news is that there are simple and low-cost actions authorities can take to prevent unnecessary deaths from heat.”
Ahead of the summer season in many parts of the world, IFRC is launching its first global Heat Action Day, today, 14 June—mobilizing branches and partners in over 50 cities to hold awareness-raising events about ways to reduce severe impacts of extreme heat.
The IFRC is also partnering with C40 Cities to call on city officials, urban planners, and city residents in every region of the world to prepare for more dangerous and deadly heat waves.
“Cities that are used to hot weather need to prepare for even longer periods of sweltering heat and cooler cities need to prepare for levels of extreme heat that they are not accustomed to,” says Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities. “From Miami to Mumbai and Athens to Abidjan, mayors in our network are increasing green spaces, expanding cool roof programmes and collaborating on heat actions to improve resilience to rising urban heat. But far more work is needed to reduce andmanage risks as the climate crisis worsens.”
TheC40 Cool Cities Networksupports cities to embed heat risk and management in their climate action plans, develop heat resilience studies, and develop, fine-tune and measure impacts of heat mitigation action, including cooling, greening and emergency management.The network has held intensive workshops on urban heat and equity, developed resources to guide heat action plans and, over the past two years, supported cities in managing the compound crises of extreme heat alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on outreach to vulnerable populations.
Across the globe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are rising to the extreme heat challenge—supporting and improving local and national heat action plans, spreading messages to the public on heat safety, checking in on the most vulnerable, distributing water, supporting medical services, identifying and setting up cooling centres, and even helping people retrofit their homes to improve shade and reduce heat. They’re also expanding research on heat to parts of Africa, Asia and South America that have been overlooked in the past.
“The climate crisis is driving and intensifying humanitarian crisis in every region of the world,” says Rocca. “But when cities and communities are better prepared, extreme weather doesn’t have to become a disaster or a tragedy.”
Note to Editors:
IFRC’s “Heat Wave Guide for Cities” and “Urban Action Kit” are resources for city officials, urban planners and community organizations to anticipate and plan for extreme urban heat and reduce deadly risks.
C40’s “Urban Cooling Toolbox” provides approaches to lower urban temperatures and reduce the impact of the urban heat effect; the “Heat Resilient Cities Benefit Tool” helps city planners and decision-makers quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of adaptation actions.
A heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures and often high humidity. Extreme heat can cause shock, dehydration and other acute illnesses, and worsen cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
There is now a mountain of evidence that climate change is increasing the occurrence of deadly heat waves. Scientists have concluded that climate change has made the 2022 heat wave in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely, the 2019 heat wave in western Europe 100 times more likely and the 2019-20 heat wave in Australia 10 times more likely.
Images and Video for use by media outlets:
Follow thisTwitter thread to access videos and photos of global Heat Action Day events. Heat emergency response images can be accessedhere
For more information or 1:1 interviews, contact:
IFRC: Melissa Winkler, [email protected], +41 76 2400 324
IFRC: Tommaso Della Longa, [email protected], +41 79 708 43 67
C40 Cities: Rolf Rosenkranz, [email protected]
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives, build community resilience, strengthen localization and promote dignity around the world.www.ifrc.org - Facebook-Twitter-YouTube
C40 Citiesis a network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities who are working to deliver the urgent action needed right now to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone, everywhere can thrive. Mayors of C40 cities are committed to using a science-based and people-focused approach to help the world limit global heating to 1.5°C and build healthy, equitable and resilient communities.www.C40.org-Twitter-Instagram-Facebook-LinkedIn
| 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,
| Press release
Red Cross rushes relief as severe floods and landslides hit Nepal, India
Kuala Lumpur/Kathmandu/Delhi/Geneva, 21 October 2021 – Red Cross teams in Nepal and India are urgently rescuing survivors and providing relief as devastating floods and landslides have swept away homes and entire villages.
More than 150 people have died across the two countries and dozens are missing according to government authorities, after some the heaviest rains in more than a century was dumped on provinces in Nepal and northern India.
Azmat Ulla, Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Nepal, said:
“Red Cross relief teams are working non-stop to evacuate survivors and provide critical relief to thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside down, with homes destroyed and livelihoods devasted by this unseasonal and massive deluge.
“Infrastructure has been damaged, including roads and bridges, making access difficult. It’s critical every effort is made to rush more food, safe water and shelter supplies to people who have been left with nothing.
“Crops and homes have been wiped out, which is a severe blow to families already grappling with the devastating fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The people of Nepal and India are sandwiched between the pandemic and worsening climate disasters, heavily impacting millions of lives and livelihoods.”
Heavy rainfall is unusual in India and Nepal during October, which is traditionally outside the monsoon season, however authorities in both countries have warned that more rain is likely in the coming days, sparking fears of more floods and landslides.
As well as delivering relief, Nepal Red Cross is working with local authorities to warn thousands of people of further threats from rising floodwaters and landslides.
“With further storms and heavy rain forecast, we need to quickly access remote and worst-affected communities to provide essential relief items, while helping people to prevent further deaths by preparing for further floods and landslides,” Mr Azmat said.
Last month, the IFRC released around 321,000 Swiss Francs from its Disaster Relief and Emergency Fund to support people in Nepal with relief and other assistance including, clean water, hygiene, health services and access to shelter, with winter fast approaching.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Kuala Lumpur:
Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
www.ifrc.org - Facebook - Twitter - YouTube
| 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.”
Indian Red Cross 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).
| 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
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 almost760,000 Swiss francsfor 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 includesmore than 134,000 Swiss francs (139,000 US dollars) fromIFRC's Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fundwhich will support20,000 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 vulnerablecommunities at a dual risk during the COVID19 pandemic,”said Jess Letch, Manager of Emergency Operationsat IFRC’s Regional Office for Asia Pacific.
“The COVID-19 crisishas the potential tohamper 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.
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.
| Press release
Bangladesh: Floods put 7.6 million at risk, IFRC announces tenfold increase in assistance
Dhaka/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 31 July 2019 – Continued heavy rainfalls in Bangladesh combined with severe flooding in neighbouring countries have led to the highest river water levels in a century putting 7.6 million people at risk of hunger and disease.
Floods have left hundreds of thousands stranded in northern and north-eastern parts of the country and damaged more than 600,000 homes. Families are forced to live in unsanitary conditions and lack safe drinking water and adequate shelter, raising fears of wide-spread disease outbreaks. Communities are also reporting food shortages as more than 160,000 hectares of farmland have been damaged.
Azmat Ulla, the Head of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Bangladesh Office said: “When I was in Bogura district this week, families who lost their homes and are now camping on road embankments told me they desperately need food, water and healthcare. Others said they have two crops a year. With the loss of one, they worry about feeding their families in the coming months. More floods are expected, so the situation is dire.”
IFRC has launched anemergency appeal for nearly 7 million Swiss francs (7 million US dollars / 6.4 million euros) to support the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in reaching 150,000 people affected by the floods in the worst-hit districts with food, clean water, hygiene items, tarpaulins and tools, and health care services. Families will also be supported in rebuilding their livelihoods.
Md. Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said: “More than 775 of our volunteers and staff are already in the flood-affected communities providing critical relief supplies to thousands of people but we urgently need to reach many more. Every day we hear of more families being at risk -- sleeping out in the open or in makeshift shelter, not having enough food and drinking water, and contracting diseases such as pneumonia and skin infections.”
Clean-up operation begins after deadly Cyclone Fani hits India and Bangladesh
Powerful Cyclone Fani, at its worst an “extremely severe” storm, brought heavy rainfall and winds of 209 km/h to communities across India and Bangladesh. About 15 deaths have been reported so far, and hundreds of homes are likely to have been damaged.
As a massive clean-up operation gets under way in the affected areas of India and Bangladesh, the Red Cross and Red Crescent are assessing what help people need. Roads are being cleared and communication lines restored, although it might be up to two weeks for full connection to be restored to some remote areas. Staff and volunteers in Bangladesh and India are coordinating with the authorities and partners to support the affected communities.
The approach of the cyclone - one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades - was met with intense disaster preparedness work by the Indian Red Cross Society and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.
Tens of millions of people in the cyclone’s path received warnings. In India, about 1.1 million people were evacuated away from the coast; in Bangladesh, 1.6 million were evacuated. In India and Bangladesh, in coordination with government agencies, staff and volunteers issued warnings to communities at risk. The Indian Red Cross opened 65 shelters in Odisha state, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. More than 15,000 people stayed in Red Cross shelters.
In the hours before Fani hit, final preparations were in full swing to keep people safe. In the Indian state of Odisha in the path of Fani, Indian Red Cross staff and 1,500 volunteers trained in first aid, disaster management and rescue passed on life-saving early warning messages to some of 20 million people in at-risk districts. Among the messages: Try not to panic. Listen to the radio and follow instructions. We will help. The Red Cross is here with you.
Bangladesh’s renowned and life-saving cyclone preparedness system swung into full action. Volunteers in the Red Crescent/government cyclone preparedness programme alerted communities and provided information about the threats, potential impact and dangers through social media, megaphones and loudspeakers, and helped vulnerable people to evacuate. An estimated 50,000 cyclone preparedness community volunteers were involved.
Communities on high alert as Cyclone Fani makes landfall
Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to hit the Indian subcontinent in decades, made landfall near Puri, India, at 8am on Friday 3 May, with winds gusting at more than 190kmh.Tens of millions of people are in the cyclone’s path, and more than a million people were evacuated away from the coast in India alone. Stretches of coastal India and Bangladesh are threatened by storm surges, and heavy rains could cause flooding.The local authorities have set up around 850 shelters and have evacuated 1 million people living along the coast. The Indian Red Cross is operating 65 shelters in Odisha state, with a capacity of 1,000 to 3,000 people in each. They can withstand winds of 400kmh and storm surges of 1.5m.For India, IFRC has allocated 87,700 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for preparedness, initial assessment and, if necessary, emergency assistance.A total of 59 million people in Bangladesh (total population 165 million) could be exposed to cyclone wind or a deep depression. Communities have been advised to listen for evacuation orders related to Fani, which has since been downgraded from a “severe extreme cyclonic storm” to a “very severe storm”.
Cyclone Fani: Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers help communities prepare for landfall
Red Cross volunteers in the Indian state of Odisha are ramping up efforts to warn 20 million people of the imminent and potentially deadly arrival of Cyclone Fani.
Fani is predicted to make landfall on India’s east coast on 3 May. It is expected to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds which could lead to loss of life and injuries, as well as damaging houses, infrastructure and crops. An estimated 1,500 Indian Red Cross volunteers are working within communities to warn people at risk.
The Indian Red Cross is packing emergency kits (with instant rice, tea, sugar, biscuits, candles, matches and water) ready to distribute to people who will seek refuge in the state’s cyclone shelters. Clothing, hygiene kits, buckets, kitchen sets, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting are also being prepared. In the event of a disaster, Red Cross will prioritize support for displaced families, older people, women-headed families, breast-feeding mothers and people living with a disability.
In Bangladesh, an estimated 12.8 million people are at risk given Fani’s current predicted path which takes it across four inland districts on its journey east. Volunteers of the joint Bangladesh Red Crescent/Bangladesh government cyclone preparedness programme are alerting communities about the potential impact of the storm and the possible need to evacuate using megaphones and loudspeakers as well as social media.
In Cox’s Bazar – where an estimated 700,000 people who have fled violence in Rakhine are living in camps – Red Crescent volunteers are going household-to-household to warn people of the risk potentially posed by Fani.