Menstrual Hygiene Day: #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination
Around the world, millions of women and girls* face stigma, exclusion and discrimination simply because of one perfectly natural bodily function: their periods.
Negative attitudes and misinformation about periods limit women and girls’ potential. Too often they miss out on education and employment—either due to a lack of hygiene facilities and products to easily go about their daily lives while menstruating, or because they are weighed down by fear of shame and embarrassment from their communities.
Women and girls’ safety is also at risk. Without proper hygiene facilities, women can be forced to go into the open to deal with their period needs—leaving them exposed to physical danger and psychological harm. And in extreme cases, period stigma has tragically claimed women and girls’ lives.
At the IFRC, #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination and to improving the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) knowledge, skills and programming of our National Societies.
We’re working to raise MHM standards across our network—both as part of our long-term water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes, but also during emergency response. Because periods don’t stop in an emergency!
We focus on three main areas:
Providing pads and menstrual health items as part of our relief assistance
Community engagement to demystify periods, educate women and girls on how to manage them safely, and challenge negative attitudes—especially among men and boys. This also involves advocating for more and better MHM activities with governments.
Setting up WASH facilities designed with the additional needs of menstruating women and girls in mind.
Many of our National Societies are already doing fantastic work in this area. Let’s look at some of them!
With support from Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund, the Lebanese Red Cross has partnered with the IFRC, British Red Cross and consulting firm ARUP to develop inclusive and MHM-friendly latrines and bathing/laundering facilities. They focused on women living in informal tented settlements near the Syrian border.
Speaking to women in the settlements, Lebanese Red Cross teams learned that women mainly use disposable pads during their periods, or a cloth in an emergency, which they burn after a single use. Women explained if they had a safe, accessible and private space to use that was separated from men’s facilities and had discrete disposal methods, they would put their used pads in the bin.
Based on this feedback, the Lebanese Red Cross piloted technical designs for emergency WASH facilities that took these women’s needs into account. They developed a manual that can be adapted and used by other National Societies and partners—which includes recommendations of how to best engage with women and girls about their period needs in a sensitive and effective way. Click here to read more about the project.
Although menstruation is considered natural and a sign of maturity for women in Pakistan, it’s also seen as dirty, shameful and something to be dealt with in silence. Men are generally responsible for deciding on the menstrual health facilities and services offered to women and girls, but rarely involve or consult them on their needs.
The Swiss Red Cross worked with Aga Khan University in Pakistan to set up special MHM corners within hospitals—safe spaces in which women and girls could receive information and counselling about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health. They ran pad-making sessions with men and women to raise awareness of good hygiene practices. And they identified influential ‘MHM champions’ who are now spreading this knowledge and tackling period stigma within their communities.
For many girls in Malawi, managing their periods continues to be a challenge due to a lack of access to information, sanitary products, and adequate WASH facilities—particularly in schools.
The Malawi Red Cross Society, with support from the Swiss Red Cross, conducted mixed-method research with more than 500 school students to understand girls’ and boys’ knowledge, attitudes and practices around periods.
They discovered that:
More than half of the girls they spoke to had never heard about menstruation before it started
Girls with increased knowledge used better MHM practices and skipped school less
Interestingly, boys’ increased knowledge about MHM was associated with higher levels of teasing, and with more absenteeism of girls during their periods
The Malawi Red Cross Society has since used this research to inform their work in MHM so it better meets girls’ needs. They’ve constructed female-friendly toilets in schools, produced reusable menstrual hygiene products, delivered training to teachers and parents’ groups and advocated for more menstrual health activities at the community and district level.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, transgender people in Argentina were found to be having difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene items. In close coordination with two local specialist organizations which support and advocate for transgender people, the Argentine Red Cross distributed hygiene kits which included sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups.
Transgender men provided recommendations and selected appropriate menstrual items for the kits. Distribution of the kits was accompanied with virtual workshops on sexual health and correct use of menstrual cups. The Argentine Red Cross also set up a health advisory line to offer psychosocial support to anyone who needed it.
Learning resources and more information about MHM:
Discover even more case studies from our National Societies’ MHM activities in this collection
Explore our wealth of practical guidance, tools and advocacy resources on menstrual hygiene on our dedicated WASH site here
Visit the dedicated WASH page on the IFRC website
Visit the global Menstrual Hygiene Day campaign page for more information about this year’s theme
Contact our Senior Officer for WASH in Public Health, Alexandra Machado, for any MHM-related questions: [email protected]
*We recognize that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman, and that not all women menstruate.
| 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
Urgent call for international aid as Pakistan battles floods
Kuala Lumpur/ Islamabad, 1 September 2022: Millions of people struggling in the face of devastating floods across Pakistan need urgent global support, the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said today.
An excess of one million homes have been damaged or destroyed by the massive floods, leaving 3.1 million people displaced and in severe danger. Over half a million people are reported putting up in relief camps around the country.
The worst flood in more than a decade has also swept away livestock and wiped out an estimated two million acres of food crops, with dire consequences for millions of people across the country.
The Chairman of Pakistan Red Crescent, Abrar ul Haq, said:
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of so many lives, and the misery and hardship these floods have brought to people across Pakistan who are now trying to seek safety on what high ground they can find.
“Everywhere we look, homes, farmland, and critical infrastructure has been submerged. We are doing all they can to take people to safety and provide critical relief, but much more assistance is needed.”
In response to the flooding, and in anticipation of further impacts, the IFRC has launched an Emergency Appeal for 25 million Swiss Francs to fund relief and recovery efforts for an estimated 324,000 people. IFRC has already provided 481,000 Swiss francs to support local emergency efforts.
Asia Pacific Regional Director of IFRC Alexander Matheou said:
"I visited house after house drenched in mud and water. Everything inside was destroyed. Mosquitos were everywhere. Some have managed to get their loved ones and livestock to higher ground. Many were not so lucky.
“Everyone we met said that most of all they need were food and water to survive, and then help to clean and repair their homes.
“This abnormal monsoon rainfall, nearly three times higher than usual, is yet another example of the devastating impact of climate change on some of the world’s poorest communities.”
The monsoon season, which runs from May to September, has hit the region particularly hard this year, with countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh also experiencing heavy rainfall and flooding.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Kuala Lumpur:
Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830,
Sher Zaman, +92 51 9250404-6,
Jenelle Eli, +1 202-603-6803,
| Press release
Sea-like flood waters ravage Pakistan; affecting millions of people
Note: Since publishing this press release on 27 August, the IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for the Pakistan monsoon floods crisis. Find out more here.
Kuala Lumpur/ Islamabad, 27 Aug 2022: More than a thousand dead including children, as ravaging floods displace millions of people while damaging more than one million homes in multiple districts across the country.*
More than 33 million people are estimated to be affected, with more than 500,000 people living in relief camps around the country.**
In addition, almost 710,000 livestock are lost, and thousands of kilometres of roads and bridges destroyed. The floods are causing an earthquake-like destruction.
The Chairman of Pakistan Red Crescent, Abrar ul Haq said:
“The situation is worsening by the day. These torrential floods have severely restricted transportation and mobility. The threat of COVID-19 and damage to vehicles, infrastructure and connectivity are further making our emergency relief works almost impossible. Most of those affected are also immobile or marooned making us hard to reach them.
“Pakistan Red Crescent is currently providing relief assistance in 23 of the most affected districts. We have also started mobilizing help from International Committee of the Red Cross, partner National Societies and local and international donors to support in relief and recovery activities. We have also deployed more 500 staff and volunteers to flood-affected districts.
“We fear the worst is yet to come as these kinds of waters could mean the risk of water-borne diseases are looming over the heads of our people."
The current rain spell and floods has impacted the already thousands of vulnerable and deprived communities, where many are yet to recover from the effects of COVID-19. They are now in an even worse situation after these floods. Compounding effects from the pandemic are making it difficult for humanitarian organisations to immediately address and respond to the needs of those affected.
The IFRC Head of Delegation in Pakistan, Peter Ophoff said:
“The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is assisting the Pakistan Red Crescent in its response to the worst floods in a decade which have destroyed homes, crops, livelihoods and infrastructure and leaving millions vulnerable.
“Pakistan is experiencing abnormal monsoon rainfall nearly ten times higher than usual, resulting in uncontrollable urban and flash floods, landslides, across the country. Gaining a full picture of the scale of the disaster is difficult as many affected areas remain inaccessible due to inundated and damaged road networks.
“The devastation seen is giving frightening flashbacks of the devastating mega floods in 2010 which affected 20 million people."
The South Asia region is facing unprecedented rainfall this monsoon season causing flash floods and landslides wreaking havoc in Bangladesh, India and Nepal as well.
The Federation has released around 500,000 USD from its emergency funds to immediately assist close to 31,000 affected people. In country partner, Turkish Red Crescent, German Red Cross and Norwegian Red Cross are equally aiding in the response operation.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Kuala Lumpur:Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830,[email protected]
Islamabad:Sher Zaman, +92 51 9250404-6,[email protected]
Geneva:Jenelle Eli,+1 202-603-6803,[email protected]
*These figures were updated on 30 August. The sentence previously read "Almost a thousand dead including children, as ravaging floods displace over 3.1 million people while damaging more than half a million homes in multiple districts across the country." when this press release was published on 27 August.
**These figures were added on 30 August.
| Press release
Water-borne diseases and food insecurity threaten Pakistan as Red Cross ramps up efforts
Islamabad / Kuala Lumpur, 7 October 2022 – As widespread flash floods in Pakistan continue to trigger waves of displacement, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Pakistan Red Crescent are scaling up their humanitarian assistance.
In a revised emergency appeal, the IFRC is asking for CHF 55 million to assist three times more people than initially targeted. The increased ask was prompted by the worsening situation, where a surge of flood-borne diseases and food inaccessibility is on the rise. In the areas where floods are receding, health and hygiene concerns, such as cholera, dengue and malaria, pose severe threats to people’s wellbeing.
Pakistan has experienced an unusual amount of rainfall, three times higher than the last three decades, which affected 33 million people, killing 1,700 others and displacing nearly 8 million from their homes. Hundreds of staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly since the onset of this disaster to assist those in need.
A new study from the World Weather Attribution—a group of international scientists including those from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre—found climate change likely intensified the rainfall that left huge swathes of Pakistan underwater and turned lives upside down.
More than two months into the floods, the IFRC and Pakistan Red Crescent have reached around 270,000 people in the most affected areas—delivering critical life-saving assistance including tents, food, clean water and medical support. The revised appeal will strengthen the ongoing response, with a focus on food, water, medical care, and shelter assistance—all delivered by volunteers who are from the very communities they serve.
The Chairman of Pakistan Red Crescent, Sardar Shahid Ahmed Laghari, who has been visiting affected areas with emergency response teams over the past weeks says:
“The needs remain massive and keep on growing, and they are different for men, women, boys and girls. Our staff and volunteers are listening to and working with these different groups to raise awareness and deliver our interventions. It’s critical that families’ needs are met or these tragic floods will impact them in the long-term—just as people are suffering from the ongoing inflation and economic crisis."
Through the strength of its staff and volunteers, the Pakistan Red Crescent has managed to access hard-to-reach communities in dire need of assistance.
The IFRC, and its partners such as German Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross and Turkish Red Crescent, have been collaborating with the government and humanitarian groups to cater to the most vulnerable people, with a special focus on displaced families, women, and children.
Peter Ophoff, IFRC’s Head of Delegation in Pakistan, remarks:
“This revised appeal will enable us to help the most vulnerable get back on their feet, especially those who live in the hard-to-reach areas. Before the lingering effects of this disaster turns into a catastrophe, the IFRC is acting now to scale up preventative public health interventions, including improving access to sanitation and increasing hygiene awareness around the emerging health crisis. Parallel interventions will also be made on shelter, livelihoods and cash assistance.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Kuala Lumpur:
Afrhill Rances, +60 19 271 3641
Sher Zaman, +92 51 9250404-6,
Jenelle Eli, +1 202-603-6803,
AV materials for use by the media are available here:
Pakistan: Monsoon floods
Pakistan is experiencing abnormal monsoon rainfall nearly three times higher than the past 30-year average, causing uncontrollable flash floods and landslides across the country—affecting more than 33 million people. More than 1,000 people have died due to the flooding since mid-June, including more than 300 children. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to scale up its immediate humanitarian assistance to people affected—and to support people in the longer term to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
| Press release
Crisis fatigue not an option as global hunger crisis deepens, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement warns
Geneva, 13 September 2022 (ICRC/IFRC) – The warning lights are flashing on high: armed conflict, climate-related emergencies, economic hardship and political obstacles are leading to a growing wave of hunger in countries around the world. The misery for millions will deepen without immediate urgent action.
Systems-level improvements must be made to escape a cycle of recurrent crises, including investments in climate-smart food production in conflict-affected areas, and reliable mechanisms to support hard-to-reach communities hit by food shortages and skyrocketing prices, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said ahead of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
The international armed conflict in Ukraine has greatly disrupted global food supply systems as well as future harvests in many countries due to the impact it’s having on the availability of fertilizer. The importance of more shipments by the Black Sea grain initiative reaching vulnerable populations in East Africa cannot be overstated. Too few grain shipments are getting to where they are needed.
As hunger emergencies hit the headlines, the risk of crisis fatigue is high. Yet what’s uniquely frightening about this moment is the breadth and depth of the needs. More than 140 million people face acute food insecurity due to conflict and instability, even as climate change and economic precarity indicate that hunger needs will rise in the coming months.
Political will and resources are needed now. Without them, many lives will be lost, and the suffering will endure for years. An emergency response alone will not end these hunger crises. Concerted action and long-term approaches are the only way to break the cycle.
While addressing urgent needs, it is essential to set the foundation for resilience. More efforts must be made — by governments, private sectors, and humanitarian and development groups — to support long-term food security, livelihoods, and resilience plans.
Measures must include investments in strengthening grassroots food systems and community actors to sustainably achieve food and economic security. One of the approaches to consider is anticipatory action for food security, based on forecasts and risk analysis.
Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC, said:
“Two dozen countries across Africa are grappling with the worst food crisis in decades. Some 22 million people in the Horn of Africa are in the clutches of starvation due to such compounding crises as drought, flooding, COVID-19’s economic effects, conflict – even desert locusts. Behind the staggeringly high numbers are real people – men, women and children battling death-level hunger every day. The situation is expected to deteriorate into 2023. However, with swift action, many lives can be saved. We need urgent and massive action to scale up life-saving assistance to millions of people in dire need of aid, but also to decisively address the root causes of this crisis through longer term commitments.”
The IFRC and its membership—which consists of Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in nearly every corner of the globe—are delivering aid in hard-to-reach communities. Assistance includes getting cash into the hands of families to meet food, health and other urgent needs. In Nigeria, Red Cross volunteers focus on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, whose nutrition is paramount for healthy births and childhoods. In Madagascar, volunteers restore land and water sources through anti-erosion activities, the construction of water points, and a focus on irrigation in addition to traditional ways to fight hunger, like nutrition monitoring.
Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, said:
“Conflict is a huge driver of hunger. We see violence preventing farmers from planting and harvesting. We see sanctions and blockades preventing food delivery to the most vulnerable. My wish is that we build resiliency into the fabric of humanitarian response, so that communities suffer less when violence and climate change upend lives. A cycle of band-aid solutions will not be enough in coming years.”
The ICRC this year has helped nearly 1 million people in south and central Somalia buy a month’s worth of food by distributing cash to more than 150,000 households. A similar programme in Nigeria helped 675,000 people, while more than a quarter million people received climate smart agriculture inputs to restore crop production. The ICRC works to strengthen resilience through seeds, tools and livestock care so that residents can better absorb recurrent shocks. And its medical professionals are running stabilization centres in places like Somalia, where kids are getting specialized nutrition care.
Communities around the world are suffering deep hardship. A short snapshot of some of the regions in need includes:
In Sub-Saharan Africa: One in three children under the age of five is stunted by chronic undernutrition, while two out of five women of childbearing age are anaemic because of poor diets. The majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.90 a day.
In Afghanistan: The combination of three decades of armed conflict and an economic crash resulting in few job opportunities and a massive banking crisis are having a devastating effect on Afghan families’ ability to buy food. More than half the country – 24 million – need assistance. The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement welcomes any measure aimed at easing the effect of economic sanctions. But given the depth of the humanitarian crisis, long-term solutions are also needed, including the resumption of projects and investments by states and development agencies in key infrastructure.
In Pakistan: The recent flooding has led to an estimated $12 billion in losses. Food security in the country was alarming before this latest catastrophe, with 43 percent of the population food insecure. Now the number of acutely hungry people is expected to rise substantially. Some 78,000 square kilometers (21 million acres) of crops are under water. An estimated 65 percent of the country’s food basket – crops like rice and wheat– have been destroyed, with over 733,000 livestock reportedly killed. The floods will also negatively affect food delivery into neighboring Afghanistan.
In Somalia: We have seen a five-fold increase in the number of malnourished children needing care. Last month the Bay Regional Hospital in Baidoa admitted 466 children, up from 82 in August 2021. Children admitted here die without the specialized nutritional care they receive.
In Syria: Food insecurity rates have risen more than 50 percent since 2019. Today, two-thirds of Syria’s population –12.4 million out of 18 million – can’t meet their daily food needs. The compounding effects of more than a decade of conflict, including the consequences of sanctions, have crippled people’s buying power. Food prices have risen five-fold in the last two years.
In Yemen: Most Yemenis survive on one meal a day. Last year 53 percent of Yemen’s population were food insecure. This year it’s 63 percent – or some 19 million people. Aid actors have been forced to cut food assistance due to a lack of funds. Some 5 million people will now receive less than 50 percent of their daily nutritional requirement because of it.
Notes to editors
For more information, please contact:
IFRC:Tommaso Della Longa, [email protected], +41 79 708 43 67
IFRC: Jenelle Eli, [email protected], +41 79 935 97 40
ICRC:Crystal Wells, [email protected], +41 79 642 80 56
ICRC: Jason Straziuso, [email protected], +41 79 949 35 12
Horn of Africa photos and b-roll
Pakistan floods photos and b-roll
Somalia cash programme photos and b-roll
Kenya sees climate shocks b-roll
Afghanistan: Regional population movement
The situation in Afghanistan remains precarious and uncertain following the change of leadership in August 2021, and as multiple political, socio-economic, climate-related and humanitarian shocks reverberate across the country. This Emergency Appeal supports preparedness and priority humanitarian response for population movement from Afghanistan to neighbouring countries, focusing on Tajikistan (and potentially other countries in Central Asia), Iran and Pakistan. This includes a focus on the response capacity and readiness of National Societies and host communities.
| Press release
IFRC launches emergency appeal to prepare for and respond to population movements from Afghanistan
Geneva, 28 September 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has recently launched a multi-country emergency appeal focused on preparedness and response efforts to population movements from Afghanistan into neighbouring countries and the wider region.
Afghanistan faces an alarming humanitarian emergency and a worsening economic crisis, both likely to be further exacerbated by the approaching winter season. Access to banking services has been severely constrained, with cashflow crippled. A rapid deterioration of humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan could result in catastrophic consequences for vulnerable Afghans and could lead to further internal and cross-border displacement.
Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General, National Society Development and Operations Coordination, said:
“Millions of people in Afghanistan are suffering from compounded crises, such as severe drought, food and water shortages, internal displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic, a fractured health system, limited access to banking services, and restrictive social norms. Winter is approaching and we know it can be harsh. Many Afghans could cross international borders in the coming months. We need to prepare to provide them with protection and humanitarian assistance”.
To support Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in preparing for and responding to population movements from Afghanistan, the IFRC is appealing to donors with a funding requirement of more than 24 million Swiss francs. This amount would allow IFRC and its National Societies to continue their preparedness efforts to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to around 160,000 people crossing from Afghanistan into neighbouring countries and the wider region, for an initial period of twelve months.
Priority countries of the emergency appeal include Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. Other countries in Central Asia could also be involved in preparedness efforts.
National Societies in neighbouring countries and the wider region have a long history of providing humanitarian assistance and protection to people from Afghanistan. Building on their technical experience in emergency response, National Societies stand ready to increase support to newly arriving Afghans, including with emergency shelter and essential household items; food; healthcare; water, sanitation, and hygiene; and protection of the most at risk, including women, children, and marginalized groups.
The IFRC operational strategy remains flexible and will be constantly adapted based on the evolving situation, as well as people’s most urgent needs.
The emergency appeal can be accessed from this webpage:Afghanistan – Regional population movement
For more information, contact:
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
| 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.”
Empress Shôken fund 100th distribution announcement
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways.
The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, 169 National Societies have received 14 million Swiss francs. To mark the Fund’s 100th year of awarding grants, a short video was developed to highlight what the Fund stands for and showcase how it has supported National Societies through the years.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evident in the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier due to the weekend.
The selection process
The Fund received 28 applications in 2021 covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world.
This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 475,997 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Argentina, the Bahamas, Benin, Costa Rica, Estonia, Georgia, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam.
The projects to be supported in 2021 cover a number of themes, including youth engagement, disaster preparedness, National Society development and health, especially the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit the Movement as a whole.
The 2021 grants
The Argentine Red Cross is taking an innovative approach to talent management using new technologies. It will use the grant to develop a talent-management module to be implemented in 65 branches, enabling the National Society to attract and retain employees and volunteers.
The Bahamas Red Cross Society will put the grant towards building staff and volunteers’ capacities and expanding its network on five islands, with a view to implementing community- and ecosystem-based approaches to reducing disaster risk and increasing climate resilience.
The Red Cross of Benin seek to help vulnerable women become more autonomous. The grant will support them in developing income-generating activities and building their professional skills.
The Costa Rica Red Cross will use the grant to enable communities in the remote Cabécar and Bribri indigenous territories to better manage emergencies, holding workshops on first aid, risk prevention and emergency health care in connection with climate events and health emergencies, including COVID-19.
The Estonia Red Cross is working to build competencies in four key areas, including in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers. The funds will support the development of a volunteer database to help effectively manage information, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With widespread COVID-19 transmission in Georgia, the Georgia Red Cross Society is working to help national authorities limit the impact of the pandemic. It will put the grant towards promoting good hygiene and raising awareness of the importance of vaccination.
The Red Crescent Society of Islamic Republic of Iran is focused on building local capacity with youth volunteers by boosting small businesses in outreach areas. The grant will be used for training, capacity-building and development in local partner institutions, generating income for community members.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have affected how the Kenya Red Cross Society does its humanitarian work. The grant will be used to launch an online volunteer platform to encourage and facilitate youth volunteering.
The Malawi Red Cross Society must be ready to respond to disasters due to climate variability and climate change. The funds will allow the National Society to establish a pool of trained emergency responders who can swing into action within 72 hours of a disaster.
The Nicaraguan Red Cross is working to protect the elderly from COVID-19. The grant will be used in three care homes located in the municipalities of Somoto, Sébaco and Jinotepe to provide medical assistance, prevent and control infections, and promote mental health as a basic element of self-care through training and support sessions and other activities.
The Pakistan Red Crescent seeks to improve how it manages blood donations. The funds will enable the National Society to increase the capacity of its blood donor centre and raise awareness of voluntary unpaid blood donation by holding World Blood Donor Day in 2021.
The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for All project of the Philippine Red Cross aims to develop WASH guidelines and promote them in the community. The grant will be used for training and capacity-building around providing health services in emergencies.
In Romania, teenagers in residential centres are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence for a number of reasons, including a lack of both psychosocial education and staff trained in dealing with this kind of violence through trauma-informed care. The grant will enable the Red Cross of Romania to reduce the vulnerability of 60 teenagers in residential centres by increasing knowledge and aiding the development of safe relationships.
The South Sudan Red Cross is working to encourage young people to adapt to climate change by planting fruit trees. The grant will support this initiative, which aims to reduce the impact of climate change and increase food production.
In 2020 the Timor-Leste Red Cross launched an education programme aimed at increasing young people’s knowledge about reproductive health. The funds will be used to expand the programme – already active in five of the National Society’s branches – to the remaining eight branches.
The Viet Nam Red Cross aims to further engage with authorities and become more self-sufficient through fundraising. It will use the grant to build its personnel’s capacities by providing training courses on proposal writing, project management and social welfare.
Pakistan Red Crescent
| Press release
Asia Survey: 1 in 2 blame foreigners and rule-breakers for COVID-19
Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 17 September 2020 – A major new survey in four Asian countries reveals nearly one in two people blame specific groups for spreading COVID-19.
The survey shows that people are blaming particular groups for spreading the coronavirus including foreigners, people attending religious ceremonies and people who are not following rules such as wearing masks or maintaining physical distance.
The snapshot of people’s attitudes in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Pakistan also reveals nearly four out of five people distrust social media, despite it being one of the leading sources of information about the virus.
The survey of 4,993 people was initiated by the Asia Pacific Risk Communication and Community Engagement Working Group to find out what people know about the virus and how it spreads, in order to enable stronger community-based response.
Dr Viviane Fluck, Community Engagement and Accountability Coordinator,International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Asia Pacific,said:“It is alarming that our findings show that almost half of people surveyed believe specific groups are at fault for the spread of COVID-19.”
“We are very concerned that vulnerable groups such as migrants and those who cannot afford protective equipment such as masks may be discriminated against due to stigma and fear rising from these views.
“Many countries in Asia are experiencing triple crises of COVID-19, natural hazard related disasters and socio-economic upheavals. It’s critical that we step upengagement with communities to address harmful misinformation that hinders efforts to contain this pandemic,”Dr Fluck said.
Key data fromthe COVID-19 Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region Report:
Nearly one in two (49%) think a specific group is responsible for the spread of COVID-19
More than two out of three (69%) Malaysians blame others such as people not wearing masks and those attending religious gatherings.
Over half of Indonesians (55%) and close to one third of people in Myanmar (32%) and Pakistan (30%) apportion blame to groups such as foreigners and rule-breakers.
Almost four in five people (79%) in Malaysia think the disease is not dangerous while four out of five people (80%) in Indonesia think it is very dangerous.
Close to nine out of 10 people (87%) across the four countries believe that wearing a mask and handwashing (91%) are ways to protect yourself and family.
Traditional healers remain a source of information is some countries, with nearly one in six (16%) people at least sometimes turning to them for information.
When asked about information channels, most respondents placed a great deal of trust in television (62%), followed by radio (44%) and newspapers (40%). Only 1 in 5 (22%) people placed a great deal of trust in social media.
The full report, titled COVID-19 Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region, can bedownloaded here.
The Asia Pacific Risk Communication and Community Engagement Working Group is an inter-agency coordination platform that provides technical advice to COVID-19 preparedness and response across the region. The survey was conducted by local National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as Kantar in Myanmar in partnership with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and with the support of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The COVID-19 Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region Report data:
In total, 4,993 respondents participated in Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Malaysia. A mixed-method approach for data collection was used, collecting data through phone calls, social media, and some limited face-to-face interactions, where appropriate protective measures were taken.Interviews were conducted from29 May to 20 July 2020 with a two-week collection time frame in each country
Sampling:A random sampling approach was used with the assumptions of a higher number of participants with less margin of error. Convenience sampling was the only possible option due to movement restrictions. These findings cannot be considered to be statistically representative of the perceptions of the population but provide an indication that should be triangulated with further research.
| 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.”
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
Pakistan: “Alarmingly high” rates of disease and malnutrition in drought-affected areas
Islamabad/Geneva, 1 March 2019 – Women and children affected by one of the worst droughts in Pakistan’s recent history are now also at risk from disease and malnutrition, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned today.Communities in the worst-affected areas of the southern Sindh and Balochistan provinces have so little access to nutritional food and safe water that many are forced to drink saline or get water from contaminated sites. As a result, many people – particularly children, and women who are pregnant or lactating – are suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting and fever, which is leading to widespread malnutrition. Women and children are at the highest risk, as men are able to work in towns where there is a wider choice of foods and access to clean drinking water.IFRC’s head of country office Dr Thomas Gurtner described the rates of malnutrition and disease as “alarmingly high” and said the organisation was ramping up its support to the Pakistan Red Crescent Society volunteers and staff on the ground.“IFRC has released 315,000 Swiss francs of emergency funds to enable the Pakistan Red Crescent to meet the needs 15,000 of the most vulnerable people threatened by disease and drought,” he said.“This will allow the Red Crescent to improve access to safe drinking water through solar boreholes, storage facilities, improved water treatment and other services, while the most vulnerable people receive cash transfers that give them full control of providing for their families.”An estimated five million people are affected by the drought, which was caused by unseasonably high temperatures and below average monsoonal rainfall, both of which are influenced by El Niño. The water table has dropped in most valleys and low-lying areas, and food production in the affected areas has dropped by 34 per cent. The Pakistan Meteorological Department forecasts that the situation will continue to deteriorate over the coming four years, in part due to climate change.