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11/04/2023 | Article

Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2023

The Empress Shôken Fund (ESF) is named after Her Majesty Empress Shôken of Japan who – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – proposed the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. The fund is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which maintains close contact with the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute in Japan. 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 evidenced by the regularity of their contributions to it. The Fund has a total value of more than 14 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that benefit the communities they serve in many different ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921 to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, more than15 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 171 National Societies. The grants are announced every year on 11April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken. Increasingly, the Fund encourages new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit our International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. 2023 selection process The Fund received 51 applications in 2022 for the 102nd distribution of income, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies globally. The applications submitted featured more innovative proposals than in previous years, further confirming the need for the ESF to support innovation and experimentation within National Societies. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 367,187 Swiss francs to 13 projects in Albania, Belgium, Burundi, Eswatini, Fiji, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Paraguay, Sudan, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay. The world’s current crises have impacted the performance of the fund, and ESF Joint Commission members have adjusted the process accordingly. This year the projects selected cover a variety of topics, including first aid and rescue, youth, disaster preparedness, health, and National Society development (NSD). The 2023 grants by theme The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches, and this is clearly reflected in the selection of proposals to receive funding. Some National Societies are incubating and testing their innovative solutions and experimenting with a host of ideas and approaches. With their pilot methodology, they could potentially scale up and implement their initiatives with the support of other funding sources.In this category, the selected grantees are as follows: Pilot methodology The Honduran Red Cross has taken an innovative approach to volunteer empowerment and engagement. The goal of its project is to establish a fund that supports innovative micro-projects developed and led by local volunteers. This will help forge stronger links between the National Society and the communities it serves. It has designed a pilot with 12 micro-projects, responding to an identified need to grow activity at the branch level. The Uruguayan Red Cross is focusing efforts on improving mental health resilience among young people by providing training in schools, creating psychosocial support mechanisms and forming youth brigades. There is a growing need for youth mental health support, and this pilot in two schools will give the team an opportunity to learn and adapt their approach. The Indonesian Red Cross Society will pilot a community-based approach to environmental awareness and food security. A renovated community learning centre will be used to launch the pilot, which will engage over 100 stay-at-home spouses and 30 children. The project aims to tackle emerging issues, such as climate change, while building stronger community connections. Many National Societies have prioritized innovative solutions to combat the challenges of climate change. In this category, the selected beneficiaries, in addition to the Indonesian Red Cross Society, are as follows. Climate change Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards. The Belgian Red Cross will engage and empower young people impacted by floods to express and share their feelings on climate change through digital story telling. Simple to replicate and scalable, this initiative has the potential to give us tremendous insight and allow for powerful messages to be shared. As a means of addressing the challenges of climate change, the Burundi Red Cross will engage in implementing activities such as tree planting and promoting improved city waste management. The project is a youth volunteer-led initiative that will reduce youth unemployment. This comprehensive approach will result in significant learning opportunities. The Paraguayan Red Cross will develop a mobile app that will serve as an early warning system and educate communities on how they can respond to flooding in seven community districts. This solution is scalable, innovative and a sustainable approach to addressing community needs. Finally, the last group of beneficiaries will use their grants to address issues related to disaster preparedness, health and youth. In this category, the selected grantees are as follows. Disaster preparedness The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society will improve data management processes for effective decision-making during emergencies in Eswatini by 2025. The main idea is to integrate and mainstream a mobile phone app dashboard into the existing National Society information management system and increase community participation (affected communities) in information sharing and management. Thailand is prone to natural hazards, which often cause devastating damage and loss of lives. Therefore, the Thai Red Cross Society aims to improve disaster readiness, mainly for earthquakes, by training children and young people using virtual reality simulation. The Sudanese Red Crescent will use the funds to support flood-affected women, providing them with cash, grants and livelihood tools to allow them to start their own business. The aim is to build resilience and longer-term recovery contexts for current and future crises by empowering the most vulnerable in a self-sustaining way. Health The Red Cross Society of Guinea will focus on developing a mobile health app to comprehensively improve the quality of basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care, especially for complex deliveries, with a view to reducing maternal and newborn mortality. Youth According to figures on human trafficking, Albania is a primary source country and the non-EU European country with the second highest number of victims. To address this threat, the Albanian Red Cross will use the grant to train staff and volunteers, with a view to activating peer-to-peer prevention in high schools. The National Society will reach out to other sister National Societies to build a strong network of certified trainers who will raise awareness through peer-to-peer activities. The Fiji Red Cross Society aims to overhaul its current volunteer programme, using the grant to implement end-to-end digitization to enhance the onboarding experience and increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of volunteer management. The idea is to also include community-level training that will generate meaningful learning and be easily replicable elsewhere. At present, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has more than 18,000 staff and volunteers across its local branches who support it in carrying out its humanitarian mission. With a view to scaling up branch development by complementing other initiatives, the National Society will use the grant to digitize its policies for online courses that can be freely accessed at any time, making training more convenient for its network of staff and volunteers. ESF and learning The Fund constantly strives to generate insights from the projects implemented for the benefit of the whole Movement and to diversify its learning materials. Later this year, the Fund will join with the stakeholders of the other NSD funding mechanisms, namely the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and the National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA),for a learning event, with the aim of sharing lessons learned and experiences from grantees across the different funds. It is important to recognize the diversity of National Societies within the network and the wide range of NSD support that is needed. The ESF and the other funding mechanisms (which focus more on NSD) operate in a complementary way, and togethertheyhave the capacity to meet this array of NSD and learning needs and support a broader transformation in our network.

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23/02/2023 | Press release

Pacific: Urgent call for collective action to reduce the impact of climate change and disasters

Suva, 23 February 2023 – The escalating impact from climate hazards will destroy decades of development progress in the Pacific if there is not a major shift from disaster response to anticipatory action, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) concluded during this week’s Red Cross Pacific Leaders Meeting in Suva, Fiji. Pacific island states make up the majority of countries that suffer the highest relative losses – between 1 percent and 9 percent of their GDP – from the impact of natural hazards. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “We have a lot of humanitarian challenges in the Pacific which we need to address together as a region and not only as the Red Cross in each country. Climate change and disasters are all constantly affecting our region in some shape or form. We need to ensure resources, financing, and knowledge to address the challenges of climate change are available to be able to better anticipate how we can prepare and respond. To effectively manage the risks of disasters, we need to focus on investing in disaster response as well as resilience building actions ahead of disasters which also supports risk-informed development. As a result, we can minimise the human and economic losses that can set back a country’s development progress." Climate change is exacerbating underlying vulnerabilities which will continue to degrade livelihoods and resilience as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods are set to increase in the coming decades. Further compounded with longer term, severe events such as droughts, sea level rise, king tides and saltwater intrusion, the Red Cross must lead, with their communities across the Pacific, on anticipation and preparedness for the changing nature of disaster impact. “More must be done in terms of anticipatory action, adaptation, and preparedness, to save lives and livelihoods.” The Red Cross in the Pacific are Australian Red Cross, Cook Islands Red Cross, Fiji Red Cross, Kiribati Red Cross, Marshall Islands Red Cross, Micronesia Red Cross, New Zealand Red Cross, Palau Red Cross, Papua New Guinea Red Cross, Samoa Red Cross, Solomon Islands Red Cross, Tonga Red Cross, Tuvalu Red Cross and Vanuatu Red Cross. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected]

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01/02/2022 | Press release

Pacific: COVID-19 endangers fragile health systems

Kuala Lumpur/Suva 1 February 2022 – A record surge of COVID-19 is threatening to overwhelm hospitals and fragile health systems in Pacific countries as the virus is running rampant in several countries for the first time. Solomon Islands is experiencing its first-ever community outbreak, with more than 780 reported cases and its first five COVID-19 related deaths. Fiji is experiencing its third wave of COVID-19 infections, fuelled by the Omicron variant, while previously COVID-free countries Kiribati and Palau have also recorded community infections. Katie Greenwood Pacific Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “For nearly two years most Pacific countries have done an incredible job holding COVID-19 at bay. These new outbreaks in small Pacific countries threaten health systems that are fragile and struggling to cope with needs of Pacific Islanders. Every effort must be made to prevent and contain the virus. “While vaccination rates are remarkable in some Pacific countries, others are still far too low. It’s critical that vaccines doses reach the last mile to everyone across the Pacific, with trusted information about how vaccinations provide protection from severe illness and death. “Building vaccine confidence is vital in the Pacific to make sure we reach a critical mass of people vaccinated in all countries. Although we know physical distancing and isolation within households can be very difficult in many places, with the huge surge of the Omicron variant around the world, these measures, along with wearing masks, are critical for slowing infection rates.” Some countries in the Pacific have high vaccination rates, such as Palau, where 96 per cent of the population has received two doses and Fiji with 68 per cent. Other countries have much lower numbers of people vaccinated, such as Solomon Islands with 10 per cent, Vanuatu with 22 per cent, and Kiribati has just one in three people fully vaccinated. Healthcare systems in many Pacific countries suffer from lack of resources and have limited equipment and infrastructure. This is compounded by challenging logistics and communities spread across remote islands, making the provision of healthcare difficult. Pacific countries also face cyclones and floods in the coming weeks, while responding to other disasters such as the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga. “Many people around the Pacific are currently dealing with a bitter double whammy of severe disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. "In Fiji, Cyclone Cody has affected tens of thousands of people as the latest COVID surge skyrockets in the country. Providing support to people affected by these floods and the tsunami and volcanic eruption in Tonga is critical, though harder than ever. “We must not swap one disaster for another. It is vital that every measure is taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Pacific.” For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Courtney Wilson, +61 481 150 973, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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12/08/2021 | Press release

Pacific: Young people encouraged to join the fight against the pandemic

Suva, 12 August 2021 – As global preparations take place this week to mark the celebration of International Youth Day, young people in the Pacific are urged to follow the example of Red Cross volunteers and join the battle against COVID-19, as the global pandemic continues to have significant health, social and economic impacts in all countries across the region. The call comes after more than 700 young people recently participated in a Youth Forum as part of the second Pacific Resilience Meeting, which highlighted the critical role they have been playing – leading action on climate change, responding to disasters and thinking through a green, low-carbon recovery from COVID-19. While young people are often referred to as the leaders of tomorrow, Fiji Red Cross volunteers are demonstrating the capacity young people have to lead right now, when given the opportunity. Fiji is experiencing extremely high levels of community transmission of COVID-19 cases, as the Delta variant of the virus continues to spread across the country. Young people make up 75 per cent of all Fiji Red Cross volunteers, working alongside the Ministry of Health on activities such as the vaccination roll out. Young people are leading the way on the COVID-19 response, with vaccination registrations, data entry and most importantly, helping to tackle vaccine hesitancy and the spread of misinformation about the virus. On International Youth Day, Pacific Red Cross National Societies are recognising the dedication and hard work of youth volunteers within and outside the Red Cross. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “We celebrate the remarkable contribution of young people in the Pacific as they play an integral role in making our communities stronger and safer. Young people are leading the way, using their diversity and energy to get targeted messages around community safety and resilience heard in every corner of the Pacific and beyond. We continue to strongly advocate for the recognition of the critical roles played by young people in shaping our future in the Pacific; working together to tackle the growing threats from climate change and disasters. We strongly urge that young people are given the space, the platforms and the resources to lead from the front on issues such as COVID-19, green recovery and community resilience.” Every year, International Youth Day is held on 12 August. This year’s theme is, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, with the aim of highlighting that young people are critical to achieve success of such global efforts. To mark this event, five Pacific Red Cross Societies from the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Fiji will celebrate the day through a number of activities such as online quiz competitions, wellness campaigns, and planting food crops. Tonga Red Cross will also be launching a National Youth Policy as part of their event. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “We know that everyone will celebrate International Youth Day in their own special way, and it is very pleasing to see our Pacific nations showcasing this event despite the challenges we face. It is definitely worth celebrating the hard work of our young people- many of whom will be doing what they do every day- leading from the front.” About IFRC 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.–Facebook–Twitter–YouTube

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23/06/2021 | Press release

Pacific: Vaccination uptake critical as COVID-19 variants spread

Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 23 June 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) urges all adults to get vaccinated in Pacific countries including Fiji as it sets grim national records for COVID-19 infections. Fiji is struggling to contain the more virulent Delta variant and COVID-19 infections are doubling every 10 days in the country, the second fastest rate in the world, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data. Most Pacific countries have COVID-19 vaccinations underway, however, misinformation and rumours, often spread via social media, are stoking fear in many communities and undermining efforts to speed up immunisations. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “In the Pacific, it’s a critical time to ramp up vaccinations while dispelling myths and rumours to help people understand the importance of being protected. We know vaccines prevent people from getting sick, help stretched health systems cope and crippled economies get back on track. “Closing the borders has protected Pacific countries from the worst of the health impacts of COVID-19 but millions of people are suffering terrible social and economic impacts. Many have lost jobs and income while the cost of food and other basics continues to climb.” Red Cross National Societies across the Pacific are working alongside authorities to help people be vaccinated in urban vaccine centres and in remote communities. While some countries in the Pacific including Fiji and Marshall Islands have vaccinated around a quarter of their populations with one dose, rates of full vaccination in areas of the South Pacific remain very low. The Solomon Islands and Fiji have fully vaccinated less than 1% of their populations, and Tonga has fully vaccinated 1.3% according to Our World in Data. “Protecting the whole population with vaccinations is a crucial step to prevent further suffering. The current COVID-19 surge in Fiji, is a serious wake-up call for the Pacific. Accurate and timely information saves lives. We cannot afford to let our guards down. “Red Cross volunteers have reached more than half a million people across the Pacific with activities to promote improved hygiene and information campaigns on keeping people safe from COVID-19. Each of us will only be safe when everyone is safe,” Ms Greenwood said.

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21/06/2021 | Press release

Fiji TC Yasa: Six months on COVID-19 slows recovery efforts

Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 21 June 2021 –Six months after Cyclone Yasa tore through Fiji, leaving thousands of people homeless, essential movement restrictions to contain the dangerous spread of COVID-19 have delayed recovery efforts. Restrictions, while necessary to contain the spread of the virus, have prevented Red Cross from moving crucial items such as water tanks and construction materials to hard-hit communities on the island of Vanua Levu which is closed to travel. Thousands of people are stuck in temporary shelters without safe drinking water and hygiene requirements to stop the spread of the virus. Prior to the movement restrictions, Red Cross supported nearly 12,000 people with emergency relief, including food packs, kitchen sets and tools to start rebuilding, but longer-term assistance is needed to help the communities rebuild and recover. Fiji Red Cross Director General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau said: “We understand and support the importance of movement restrictions around Fiji to contain further spread of COVID-19, yet this virus has struck a double blow for those who were severely affected by the cyclone as it is almost impossible to transport relief items across to Vanua Levu. “We made significant progress supporting communities as they started rebuilding in the first three months of the year, however, there is still much more that needs to be done to help people rebuild their homes, make sure there’s clean drinking water so communities can thrive again. “Equipment and supplies have been flown in from overseas and we are ready to get them from the warehouses to the villages, the moment movement restrictions are eased.” Fiji Red Cross volunteers and relief teams have provided around 15,000 relief items such as tarpaulins, shelter tool kits, blankets, mosquito nets and water containers to affected families in the worst affected areas on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s largest island. Supporting people to rebuild their homes and building water tanks remains a priority for Red Cross teams. As soon as relief activities are allowed to resume, Red Cross will be supporting more than 1,000 families with shelter support kits and building 143 water tanks for communities in Lekutu and Dreketi. Supplies are short and around 1,500 families will also be supported with hygiene kits which includes soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, family kits with clothing and bedsheets, disability kits and baby kits which includes diapers, baby wipes and napkins. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said: “It’s critical that we continue to provide support for people who are rebuilding after having their homes torn apart, as families are managing the hardships caused by this pandemic on top of a devastating cyclone. We’re ready to provide further cash assistance for 500 families to help them recover as soon as movement restrictions are eased, while keeping everyone safe during this challenging times. When the movement restrictions are eased, we stand ready to continue our recovery efforts.”

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18/12/2020 | Press release

Extensive destruction reported as Cyclone Yasa slams into Fiji

Suva/Kuala Lumpur, 18 December 2020 – Cyclone Yasa has slammed into Fiji, with initial reports showing extensive destruction across the island nation with tens of thousands of people affected. Packing wind gusts of up to 345 kilometres per hour, the Category 5 storm is one of the strongest to ever hit any country in the Pacific. Fiji Red Cross Society Director-General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau said: “We are very concerned for the safety of thousands of people who have experienced the brunt of this monster storm. Initial reports from volunteers are revealing destruction in Bua, a province on the island of Vanua Levu. The coastal areas of many islands have been impacted by storm surges and flooding at the height of the storm. “Our teams report that houses and community buildings have been destroyed and crops flattened. There are widespread power outages in affected areas. “Trained Red Cross volunteers who live in these same communities are responding to provide first aid and relief and updating the National Office Emergency Centre on needs.”  Fiji Red Cross teams were mobilised as the storm formed, supporting evacuation efforts, securing buildings, and ensuring pre-positioned relief supplies were ready for distribution.  Red Cross volunteers are currently deployed to provide first aid and relief such as tarpaulins for shelter, hygiene kits, safe water, backed by pre-positioned emergency supplies.  Fiji Red Cross teams are working with the National Disaster Management Office and other agencies to work towards meeting immediate needs as quickly and effectively as possible.   To support these relief efforts, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released initial early emergency relief funds of 86,000 Swiss Francs ($97,000 USD), to provide urgent assistance including first aid, tarpaulins and shelter materials, safe water, household items and hygiene kits for 17,700 people over the next month. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Kathryn Clarkson, said: "It's devastating to see another big cyclone affect Fiji so soon after Cyclone Harold and so close to Christmas. With communities that are already facing challenges because of COVID-19 this will only add to the hardships. We have a full team of people supporting the Fiji Red Cross Society operations and will be looking to increase our financial support once we get the full picture of the damages.” 

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16/12/2020 | Press release

Pacific nations brace for first major cyclones of the season

Suva, 16 December 2020 – Two tropical cyclones have formed in the Pacific, signaling the beginning of what is forecast to be a busy season for emergency responders across the region. Tropical Cyclone Yasa has been building strength between Fiji and Vanuatu and is tracking towards Fiji as a severe category 5 storm. Communities in Tonga have also been on high alert for Tropical Cyclone Zazu, which passed over the country bringing strong winds and heavy rain. The sudden simultaneous storms reinforce predictions that tropical cyclones will be more frequent and there is more risk of floods this season due to the changing climate and La Niña weather conditions. Red Cross societies across the Pacific prepare for the cyclone season all year, pre-positioning relief supplies, training volunteers and staff in everything from first aid to relief goods, and ensuring that communities know what to do when cyclones strike. This year these efforts have incorporated COVID-19 prevention. Vanuatu Red Cross Society Secretary General Jacqueline de Gaillande said: "We already have experience managing multiple disasters, following Tropical Cyclone Harold earlier this year, while dealing with the risks the COVID-19 pandemic posed to our communities. Our emergency response teams have all been trained on COVID-19 procedures and are ready to respond as needed.” The Fiji Red Cross Society Director-General Ilisapeci Rokotunidau reiterates the importance of getting ready early. “Disasters can strike at any time and we know that knowledge and preparation are critical for communities as they prepare for disasters. Our volunteers are, and will be, at the core of helping their communities to be ready and provide relief during this cyclone season.” The 12 Pacific countries have an extensive network of more than 5,000 trained Red Cross volunteers working everywhere from the urban capitals to remote outer islands. When Tropical Cyclone Harold hit Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands in April this year, more than 1,000 Red Cross volunteers were mobilized to support evacuation efforts and provide relief. Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Cluster Coordination and Support Team in Suva, Kathryn Clarkson, said: "Some of the same communities have been hit by five big cyclones in as many years and Red Cross will be there to provide assistance, as they prepare for another cyclone. Working in partnership with governments, Red Cross societies across the Pacific will provide vital support and information to help communities affected by cyclones maintain access to basic social services, and reduce the economic, social and psychological impact." About IFRC 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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21/10/2020 | Article

The Disaster Law Programme: Ten years in the Pacific

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Disaster Law Programme has worked in the Pacific since 2010, starting with the review of Vanuatu’s legal and policy framework for disasters in partnership with the Government of Vanuatu and Vanuatu Red Cross. When Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu in 2014, shortly after the review was finalised, Vanuatu issued its first-ever request for international assistance, to which the response was beyond expectation, and the country was flooded with uncoordinated aid and assistance. Described as a ‘wakeup call’ by the Government of Vanuatu for international disaster law legal reform, it was a catalyst for Vanuatu and the rest of the Pacific. An IFRC disaster law advisor was quickly deployed to support the government with regulatory barriers arising from the response, and in the weeks, months and years that followed, the journey to review, reform and operationalise laws and policy relating to disaster management began in Vanuatu. Since then, IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme has reached across the Pacific Ocean to work in fifteen Pacific countries. Today, we near the completion of the review of Fiji’s National Disaster Management Act in partnership with the Government of Fiji and Fiji Red Cross. This is a significant piece of work that will support the national disaster risk management system to be proactive and focused on disaster risk reduction, a shift from a traditional reactive, response-based model. The review includes theadoption of a cluster system, establishment of subnational administration, regulation of international aid, the strengthened role of a disaster service liaison officer and legal facilities for recognised NGOs and humanitarian organisation. Consultations for the review have been with diverse groups from across Fiji, ensuring that no one is left behind in legislation and in the decision-making process. IFRC’s Disaster Law Programme in the Pacific brings technical experience and expertise, but equally important is the unique way in which we work – long term programming, support that is localised and contextualised and coordination that brings everyone together. For countries like Vanuatu, where significant disaster law reform has been carried out, humanitarian responses are coordinated, effective, and locally-led, with aid getting to those that need it most – a must for the number one ranked disaster risk country in the world. As the only international organisation mandated to provide disaster law technical advice, there is an increasing demand for our support and a widened scope that includes protection and inclusion, displacement, climate change, holistic support to governments on risk governance, and now, COVID-19. Pacific communities are at the frontline of disasters and climate change, and with the arrival of COVID-19 to their shores, supporting governments to have effective disaster laws and well-functioning disaster risk management systems in place which can respond to a multitude of hazards, is crucial for a humanitarian structure that can save lives. 15 Pacific countries working with the Disaster Law Programme 15 disaster law research projects 14 countries with disaster law Influenced or in the process of influencing 10 Pacific governments currently engaging in disaster law processes

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19/05/2020 | Article

Dengue fever another blow for the Pacific Islands

As the Pacific Islands battle to keep Covid-19 out, and continues to reel from the aftermath of the Tropical Cyclone Harold, they are fighting another battle; Dengue Fever. More than 4,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported in both Fiji and the Marshall Islands, but several more islands are at risk. There are now 700 confirmed cases of dengue fever in areas of Fiji that were most affected by Tropical Cyclone Harold. The majority of new cases are children under the age of 18. As of 12 May, the Marshall Islands has reported more than 3,388 cases of dengue-like illness, of which more than 1,576 have been laboratory confirmed. Dr. Dewindra Widiamurti, Red Cross Pacific Health Manager, says: “In Fiji, the destruction by the cyclone resulted in water sources being contaminated, and increased challenges with wastewater removal. People who lost their homes are now living in evacuation centres, where social distancing is difficult, if not impossible, potentially making it easier for mosquitos to spread the virus.” This situation is coupled with a shortage of safe water, which increases the health risks to displaced people, not only from dengue fever but also from other waterborne and mosquito-spread diseases. If COVID-19 entered these evacuation centres, it could also create an increased risk of spread, as lack of hygiene also facilitates the transmission of COVID-19. Following the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Fiji, the Government responded immediately by isolating the person and carrying out thorough contact tracing, as well as tightening its national and international travel. Although Fiji has not reported a new COVID-19 case since 20 April 2020, the Government is advising the community to remain vigilant and international travel restriction continues. Tropical Cyclone Harold hit the country in early April, at the same time as the COVID-19 response was rolling out. The dengue outbreak has further complicated the health situation. TheMarshall Islands dengue feveroutbreak began in July 2019 and is considered the worst outbreak in the country’s history. Dr Widiamurti says: “We hope the outbreak is declining, as dengue fever is unpleasant and possibly life threatening. Two people have died of the fever since the outbreak started. We are concerned that COVID-19 might become a double burden to the affected communities. Hygiene advice, shared by the Red Cross volunteers is vital in the effort to prevent the spread of these diseases and limit mosquito breeding sites and the risk of being bitten.” Since the outbreak was first reported, the Marshall Islands Red Cross Society has been actively visiting villages and communities to build awareness and promote measures to reduce the risk of mosquito bite. The Fiji Red Cross have now also mobilised trained volunteers to conduct health education and hygiene promotion. They visit villages throughout the high-risk areas to build awareness and knowledge, simultaneously sharing COVID-19 hygiene precaution measures. Since the outbreak was first reported, The Marshall Islands Red Cross has been actively visiting villages and communities to build awareness and promote measures to reduce the risk of mosquito bite. The Fiji Red Cross have now also mobilized trained volunteers to conduct health education and hygiene promotion. They visit villages throughout the high-risk areas to build awareness and knowledge, simultaneously sharing COVID-19 hygiene precaution measures.

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29/04/2020 | Article

Pacific National Societies respond to Cyclone Harold in the time of COVID-19

Following the recent battering of several Pacific nations by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold, vulnerable communities are still recovering in an increasing complex disaster environment. The storm hit the Solomon Islands on 3 April, before passing through Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, causing significant damage to buildings and communities, destruction of crops, roads and contaminated water supplies. Some areas, such as Luganville, Vanuatu’s second largest city, reported almost 90% destruction. In the days following the Cyclone, more than 1,000 Red Cross volunteers mobilised across Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands to offer physical and emotional support, including delivering essential items. Daniell Cowley, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) COVID-19 Pacific Operations Manager, says: “the challenge in several areas is compounded by the risk of Coronavirus [COVID-19] and the potential impacts on already vulnerable, and often geographically isolated, communities.” “The aim is to help Pacific communities and individuals best prepare, and ultimate reduce their risk of infection,” Mr Cowley says. “We are focused on all Pacific Islanders, but in particular the most at risk and vulnerable groups, including the elderly, people with existing medical conditions or disabilities and other vulnerable groups. There are many challenges, and we are also very aware of the broader social and economic impacts of COVID-19 outbreak.” Pacific Red Cross Societies have been working underneath their Ministry of Health COVID19 incident management structures since March. Their role includes Red Cross volunteers visiting communities across the islands, offering advice and handouts about reducing the risk of infection, promoting correct handwashing practices and giving advice on physical distancing. IFRC is also working closely in partnership with other lead agencies supporting Pacific ministries of health, including WHO, UNICEF and Pacific regional organisations. “Getting simple and accurate information to communities is crucial to prevent rumour mills, and ultimately provide the information that might help save lives,” Mr Cowley says. “We already have Red Cross active networks and trained responders through the National Societies in many islands, who can mobilise quickly to support communities to take early actions prior to the onset of a disaster and to take life-saving actions after an event, like TC Harold.” The distances between islands can mean it can take longer to reach all the communities that need provisions and support. Travel between islands is restricted and any sea freight takes longer to reach the Islands and is required to be fumigated and disinfected and often quarantined for many days. Red Cross staff and volunteers are having to overcome new challenges to access to the people that need them most. For example, where once, five people in one car with kits would have sufficed. Now, because of social distancing, multiple cars are required with fewer people per car, and each car needs to be disinfected before use. “Our strong community volunteer network across Vanuatu is well trained to provide COVID-19 information,” Suzanna Gislapno,Logistics Officer for the Vanuatu Red Cross, says. “We have integrated community awareness on prevention options into the distribution of hygiene and household kits in response to TC Harold to the most affected communities. “Because of COVID-19, the Vanuatu Red Cross has had to apply a new approach, as restrictions have meant fewer support staff being able to get to the Islands. Therefore, we have used the capacity and ground resources we have on the Islands – in a sense applying true localisation, while using technical remote support from other Islands, New Zealand and Australia.” Some aid items are taking longer to arrive because of COVID19 restrictions. “It’s been uplifting to see how communities are finding their own solutions,” Ms Gislapno says. “Although there has also been positive feedback from people about the good work that Vanuatu Red Cross is doing in the community, as we were the first organisation on the ground to offer support and assistance to the affected population by mobilising the community through our volunteer networks.” “Knowing the local context is vital in the fight against COVID19,” Mr Cowley adds. “We are here to support the national authority by reaching communities and preventing the spread of COVID-19, for as long as it is needed.” IFRC’s COVID-19 appeal in the Pacific is being supported by the Japanese Government, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, United States Agency for International Development, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Red Cross and New Zealand Red Cross.

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08/04/2020 | Press release

Pacific Islands: Widespread damage reported as Cyclone Harold hammers Vanuatu and Fiji

Geneva/Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 8 April2020– AsCyclone Harold hammers Vanuatu and Fiji, initial reports show extensive damage across both island nations as the storm continues to sweep through the Pacific. Cyclone Harold hit Vanuatu on Monday night as a powerful category 5 storm - the strongest to hit the country since 2015’s devastating Cyclone Pam - bringing heavy rain, damaging storm surges and winds of up to 235 km/h. It then moved on to Fiji on Wednesday morning as a category 4, forcing more than 1,000 people to take shelter in evacuation centres. Ms Jacqueline de Gaillande, Vanuatu Red Cross Society Secretary General, says while there have been no reports of fatalities, information is beginning to trickle out. “It appears that many buildings and crops have been destroyed and some people in the most affected areas have lost everything,” she said. “Our teams have already been out doing assessments where they can, and feel a real responsibility to help as many people as possible.” Phone networks are still down in many of the worst affected islands in Vanuatu. However, initial reports from Santo’s main town Luganville, where the storm first made landfall on 6 April, suggest that 50 to 70 per cent of buildings in the town were damaged and hundreds of people are sheltering in evacuation centres. As many as 1,000 trained Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers - 120 of whom are Emergency Response Team members - have been on the ground since Friday, prepositioning essential relief items, and helping communities prepare by sharing life-saving information and helping people get to evacuation centres. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) released more than 50,000 Swiss francs (more than 51,500 US dollars) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support Vanuatu Red Cross’ work, and is ready to provide further support as the full picture of the storm’s impact emerges. The ongoing work to protect Vanuatu from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some challenges for teams helping to prepare communities for the cyclone, and may also complicate the response to the disaster. While Vanuatu currently has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the country has been in a State of Emergency since 26 March, with border restrictions and a ban on inter-island travel in place to help keep the disease out for as long as possible. Over the weekend, disaster authorities had to lift bans on public gatherings of more than five people to ensure people made their way to evacuation centres, and further decisions are expected to be made to make sure that affected communities get the support they need as quickly as possible. “Cyclone Harold will have a big effect on our COVID-19 activities,” Ms de Gaillande said. “We cannot afford to have any confirmed cases in Vanuatu so we must really take care in the coming time.” Parts of Fiji are still experiencing the worst of Cyclone Harold's impact, with reports of widespread flooding and damage. People living in coastal areas are being warned of powerful storm surges and Fiji Red Cross teams have been helping people move to higher ground. Photos are availablehere.

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13/02/2019 | Press release

Red Cross ready as South Pacific cyclone season gets under way

Suva/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 13 February 2019 – With the South Pacific cyclone season under way and Cyclone Oma headed for Vanuatu, Red Cross societies are prepared and ready to respond. The cyclone season runs in the South Pacific from November to April, with tropical cyclones bringing the risk of huge damage and destruction to communities, livelihoods and infrastructure. Kathryn Clarkson, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Pacific, says that while cyclone season can be unpredictable, the Red Cross is prepared. “Good emergency response starts with good preparedness. Pacific Red Cross societies prepare for cyclone season throughout the year and work with local authorities to ensure communities know how to get prepared and what to do when disasters occur," Ms Clarkson said. “Local preparedness and response are crucial in the Pacific where people live in remote island communities scattered across vast distances. Essential services like healthcare can be hard to access, which makes it essential that local people are trained in first aid, have emergency plans in place and are able to be first responders in their community.” Red Cross Societies in 12 Pacific countries have an extensive network of more than 5,000 volunteers trained in first aid, emergency preparedness and response, both across urban and remote outer island communities. Communities are supported to understand weather warnings, develop emergency plans and kits, and to identify a safe place to evacuate. These simple steps can save lives. Emergency relief items including tools to help repair damaged houses or build temporary shelters, essential cooking items, water containers, sleeping mats, blankets water purification tablets are prepositioned across the islands, ready for immediate distribution. Pacific Red Cross staff and volunteers are experienced disaster responders. Their preparedness and response activities helped communities to withstand Cyclone Gita, a category five cyclone, as it moved through Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in February last year. This year, Pacific Red Cross teams have already responded to storms in Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. IFRC and Red Cross societies also work closely with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to ensure seasonal weather outlooks are used to guide Red Cross societies with their early preparedness activities. Meteorologists have forecast a higher cyclone risk for Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji this cyclone season. While a relatively normal season is predicted, meteorologists cannot rule out a category 5 storm and expect three to four cyclones to be severe.

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