Sri Lanka: Complex emergency
An economic crisis and a ban on synthetic fertiliser in Sri Lanka have sparked civil unrest and food insecurity across the country.Severe food shortages are expected within the coming months, along with shortages of fuel, cooking gas and medicines. Many people are resorting to emergency coping strategies, such as withdrawing their children from school or selling their assets. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to provide livelihoods and basic needs assistance, as well as safe drinking water and hygiene services, to 500,000 of the most vulnerable people
| Press release
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis spiralling into food crisis
Kuala Lumpur/Colombo, 8 June 2022 – The economic crisis in Sri Lanka is spiralling into a humanitarian emergency as millions of people face acute shortages of food, fuel, cooking gas and medicine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) warned today.
Responding to the unfolding emergency, the IFRC has launched an Emergency Appeal for 28 million Swiss francs to provide immediate critical relief and for longer recovery efforts for an estimated 500,000 people.
Sri Lanka Red Cross Secretary General, Mahesh Gunasekara, said:
“The situation has taken a devastating turn for people already struggling to put food on the table during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s even worse for single parent households, those without steady work and those already suffering a loss of income.
“We need international support now to help hundreds of thousands of people pull their lives back together. It’s going to be a long, tough road for people to rebuild and get their lives back on track.”
The civil unrest and food shortages gripping the country were sparked by an economic crisis that has been developing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharp declines in agriculture production have resulted in rapid price increase for staple food items like rice and vegetable, which directly impact the household economy and food security of the most vulnerable.
IFRC Head of South Asia Delegation, Udaya Regmi, said:
“We hold grave concerns for the most vulnerable communities across the country – some 2.4 million people already living below the poverty line who are most affected by the loss of livelihoods, food shortages, and the spiraling cost of essential items.
“The emergency appeal that we have launched in support of Sri Lanka Red Cross will protect the livelihoods and safety of thousands of households in need of support.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Rachel Punitha, +60-19-791-3830,
Joe Cropp,+61 (0) 491 743 089,
| Press release
Sri Lanka on brink of humanitarian crisis
Colombo/Kuala Lumpur, 21 July 2022 – The economic crisis in Sri Lanka is tipping into one of the country’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, with 6.7 million people now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Millions of families are facing shortages of food, fuel, cooking gas, essential supplies, and medicines as the humanitarian impacts of the economic crisis continue to multiply.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) holds particularly grave concerns for 2.4 million people already living below the poverty line who are among the most affected by the loss of livelihoods, food shortages and spiraling cost of essential items.
Sri Lanka Red Cross Secretary General, Mahesh Gunasekara, said:
“The situation has taken a devastating turn for people already struggling to put food on the table during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s even worse for single parent households, and millions who cannot work or send their children to school because of the fuel crisis.
“We need international support now to help millions of people pull their lives back together and avoid the worse. We need to act early to ensure lives can be saved.”
The IFRC is supporting the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) as the main national humanitarian actor. The SLRCS is a neutral and impartial organization which has been providing humanitarian assistance since the country’s independence.
Over 10,000 dry ration food packs and 4000 cash grants have so far been distributed in 25 districts of the county, 5000 school packs have been given out in 10 districts. Clean water is being provided to those queuing for days for fuel and food parcels for 10,000 families in four districts. SLRCS is working closely with Ministry of Health to provide essential medicines that are currently in short supply to hospitals.
First aiders and the Red Cross ambulances been providing emergency medical response to over 20,000 people injured during recent protests, including demonstrators and security forces. SLRCS has provided Ambulance services to over 1000 people and transported them to hospitals for further treatments.
Speaking from Colombo, IFRC’s Special advisor for Humanitarian Crises and Emergencies Maryann Horne said:
“The effects of the economic crisis are being felt in every single sector. The economic crisis is plunging those most vulnerable – some 2.4 million people already living below the poverty line into despair. With no income, people are barely able to cope, and are now selling their assets, getting into debt, being forced to cut down on food while many children are not able to go to school.
“The emergency appeal will allow the most urgent humanitarian needs to be met. It will help prevent those most vulnerable at a time people have no cash, no jobs, and no fuel."
The IFRC has launched an Emergency Appeal in support of Sri Lanka Red Cross for 28 million Swiss francs for urgent humanitarian assistance.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Rachel Punitha, +60-19-791-3830,
Maryann Horne, +44-7912-477-045,
| Press release
Sri Lanka’s vulnerable forced to risk “a pathway to destitution"
Colombo/Kuala Lumpur, 14 October 2022 – The deepening economic crisis is forcing people to make heartbreaking choices between going hungry, buying life-saving medicine, or finding the money to send children to school.
A needs assessment conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in 11 of the country’s 25 districts has found that 96% of the more than 2,900 households surveyed have been affected by the current crisis in some way—with food insecurity, health, livelihoods, and nutrition among the top concerns. Deteriorating physical safety and security, as well as violence against women and children, stood out.
The report uncovered worryingly high problems of access to food, either because of high cost, income stress or lack of availability. Runaway inflation and loss of livelihoods have doubly impacted people’s ability to cope with the record cost of living. Income loss is causing significant food insecurity, while inflation is driving up the cost of medicine and fuel costs are preventing access to essential healthcare.
The report gravely warns that without immediate humanitarian interventions, the impact on communities is likely to be long-lasting and cumulative.
Director General of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, Dr Mahesh Gunasekara, said:
“We work on the ground and at the heart of communities. We hear the most heart-wrenching stories of loss of hope and gripping fear for the future. Life for them is like losing the battle for survival; for single women with children, people living with disabilities, the elderly, casual labourers, and fishermen.
“The most vulnerable need our help now so they can get through the worst of the economic crisis. We need to act to ensure lives are saved and restored.”
Speaking on a visit to Colombo to meet affected communities, the Government and the diplomatic community, the Regional Director, Asia Pacific of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Alexander Matheou, said:
“The report provides first-hand evidence of how the most vulnerable people, who are already under the poverty line, are being driven further towards despair. As a result, people are resorting to borrowing heavily, eating less food and fewer times per day, pawning valuables and assets, and using other survival strategies just to scrape by.
“Our main priorities remain meeting humanitarian needs at its worst. Unless this is done effectively and quickly, people who are struggling now will find themselves on a demeaning pathway to destitution from which there is no escape. The time to act is now.”
To meet the country’s spiralling needs, the IFRC has launched an Emergency Appeal for urgent humanitarian assistance for 28 million Swiss francs in support of Sri Lanka Red Cross.
In line with the IFRC appeal, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) supports the Sri Lanka Red Cross to respond to the humanitarian issues arising from the economic crisis with a focus on providing medical equipment to the healthcare system and economic assistance to vulnerable people.
To arrange an interview, get access to audio-visuals, or for more information, contact:
Kate Marshall, +94 77357 6408,
In Kuala Lumpur:
Rachel Punitha, +60-197-913-830,
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2022
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 17 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, over 14 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 170 National Societies.
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insight that will benefit the Movement as a whole. An innovation campaign was launched in December 2021 to further increase awareness of the Fund and what it stands for.
The campaign resulted in 52 proposals being submitted versus only 28 in 2021, and more innovative proposals compared to previous years, further strengthening the Fund’s positioning as supporting innovation.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
The selection process
The Fund received 52 applications in 2022, 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 471,712 Swiss francs to 16 projects in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jordan, Libya, Mongolia, Niger, Portugal, Serbia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Yemen.
The projects to be supported in 2022 cover a number of themes, including first aid and rescue, support for young people, disaster preparedness, health, social welfare and National Society development. The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate new insight and learning that will benefit the Movement as a whole. Reports from the National Societies whose projects were funded and implemented in 2020 generated insights in the areas listed below.
Top 10 key learnings from project implemented in 2020
Adaptability and agility
Taking a pilot approach
The 2022 grants
The Burkinabe Red Cross Society plans to strengthen psychosocial care and the capacities of community volunteers and first-aiders in communities affected by the crisis. The grant will allow the National Society to assist victims of attacks by armed groups in areas where security is a challenge.
In 2017, over 43.8% of Ivorians were illiterate, and the disparities between men and women and by places of residence were enormous. The Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire will use the grant to help improve the education and increase the autonomy of young women in the Bounkani Region who have not attended school.
The Croatian Red Cross will use the grant funds to spread awareness of the humanitarian ideals and educate children from an early age, through the Humanity Corner.
The Dominica Red Cross Society will provide support for and help introduce farming techniques and other solutions for managing climate change and other risks. The funds will be used to train 15 farmers as Agri First Responders in their community.
The Dominican Red Cross will help build young people’s capacity to carry out local social support activities. The grant will be used to develop a virtual introductory course on planning and coordinating social support activities that is adapted to the young people’s local reality, so that they are equipped with the techniques and tools to address the needs of their community.
The Ecuadorean Red Cross aims to identify and provide primary care for the negative feelings and emotions in young people from age 15 to 30 years in the city of Quito. The grant funds will provide immersion technologies to addresses the heightened need in the community owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jordan National Red Crescent Society has recognized young people and volunteers as the beating heart of the National Society, especially during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which they served local communities across the country, when mobility was restricted. This grant will help them improve the management system for recruiting, developing, promoting and retaining volunteers to support humanitarian operations.
Libya is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, given its arid climate. This grant will help the Libyan Red Crescent raise awareness of the risks associated with climate change and highlight personal behaviours that could help mitigate these risks for communities.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society wants to use digital communication tools funded by the grant in order to help ensure there is meaningful community participation across all programmes and operations, improve its public relations management and strengthen its transparency and accountability to communities.
In the event of an accident, smartphones can provide information that is essential for providing effective first aid. Thanks to the grant, the Red Cross Society of Niger will educate and inform the public about how to store useful information in the “emergency call” section of their phones.
The Portuguese Red Cross will address young people's social exclusion and the lack of space and opportunities to develop relevant skills and digital literacy, through the Platforms of Change, funded by the grant.
Through the “Their life is in your hands” digital marketing campaign, funded by the grant, the Red Cross of Serbia will raise the general public’s awareness of the value of CPR skills and AED use and provide the related training.
The Republic of Korea National Red Cross will focus on supporting disaster risk reduction in many countries in the Asia Pacific Region. The grant will fund development of virtual reality training content by the Asia Pacific Disaster Resilience Centre, provide sets of virtual reality devices to seven National Societies and provide virtual reality training on disaster risk reduction.
The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society is aiming for better nutrition and improved water, sanitation and hygiene in vulnerable communities that are drought-prone. The grant will introduce groundwater recharging practices into the catchment and tank ecosystem areas, to facilitate groundwater retention.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, communities face challenges in gaining access to reliable, up-to-date information and in overcoming the rumours, myths and misconceptions around the vaccine. Supported by the grant, the Tanzania Red Cross Society will develop a mobile application, “UJANJA KUCHANJA”, to enhance information-sharing, build trust and increase information access and reach.
In a mountainous district of Yemen, frequent rockslides often injure people and domestic animals, disrupt transport networks and cut people off from their livelihood activities. Thanks to the grant, the Yemen Red Crescent Society will take measures to prevent rockslides and help reduce the number of victims and the damage caused.
Sri Lanka Red Cross Society
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.