Building Trust programme
Building Trust during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Humanitarian Settings is our global programme supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to build trust in public health responses and in the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
| 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.
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Nepal Red Cross Society
| 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.
Nepal Red Cross: In This Together
Geneva/Kathmandu--The five-year anniversary of the devastating earthquakes of 2015 is an opportunity to grieve for the thousands of lives that were lost, and to reflect on the progress we have made in helping communities recover. And today, as Nepal works to halt the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, this anniversary is also a stark reminder of the wide range of risks that communities face.
The morning of 25 April 2015 changed Nepal forever. The statistics are shocking: more than 8,800 people were killed; more than 1.1 million families were affected; more than 880,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. But the true scale of the tragedy can only be appreciated by remembering that every one of those numbers represents a human being: their lives, the people they loved, the roof over their heads, their livelihoods, their hopes and their dreams.
When this disaster happened, I was working as the Asia Pacific Regional Director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). I had extensive experience in responding to disasters, and in managing large-scale early recovery operations. But I am also Nepali. I was overwhelmed with shock and grief. Yet, I immediately had to focus on how to help the people who had survived—not only right then, in their desperate pain within the rubble of their communities, but for however long it would take for them to recover and rebuild a safer life.
Who was best placed to help them? This was obviously the Nepal Red Cross Society and its highly trained volunteers, many of whom were living in the very communities that had been destroyed or damaged by the earthquake.
These community-based volunteers and staff were on the ground, providing life-saving support from the outset of the disaster. In all, more than 8,000 volunteers and staff moved straight into action, delivering first aid and distributing relief items to those who needed it most. It became Nepal Red Cross’ largest ever humanitarian operation, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with the support of the IFRC and other International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners.
Now the people of Nepal are facing a new threat: Covid-19. And the volunteers and staff of the Nepal Red Cross Society and other local community-based organisations will be the key to halting the spread of this pandemic.
Disease outbreaks begin and end inside local communities. Every volunteer plays an important role in connecting directly with their communities, in supporting the most vulnerable people, and in providing the information they need to keep themselves and each other safe and healthy.
In Nepal, the past five years have taught us different ways to adapt our response to community needs. These lessons are strengthening our Covid-19 operation, and the same innovative spirit will be critical as we prepare for other complex emergencies, none of which will stop for the pandemic.
The annual monsoon season is fast approaching, bringing with it the threat of flooding, landslides, dengue fever and other health and natural hazards.
Last year more than a hundred people were killed, tens of thousands were forced to leave their homes and many others lost their livelihoods. Red Cross volunteers quickly swung into action, helping people evacuate, distributing essential relief items and assisting with search and rescue.
This year, by necessity, Covid-19 is changing the way we work. But it does not change our focus on helping people who are most vulnerable, regardless of nationality, race, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions. Whether it is an earthquake or a coronavirus, crises do not affect all of us in the same way. In many situations, having a roof over your head or the possibility for physical distancing is a privilege.
This is why we will continue to work from within the communities who need us most, to reduce risks where possible, to be prepared to respond to emergencies and to support long-term recovery. We are incredibly proud of and grateful for, the dedication and compassion shown by all humanitarian volunteers during the 2015 earthquake response and recovery efforts and other crises in Nepal, and the trust that they have built with their communities. In these extraordinary times, they are needed more than ever.
By Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General
View the opinion piece in the Kathmandu Post
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.”