Epidemic

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| Emergency

Nigeria: Diphtheria outbreak

Since December 2022, Nigeria has been dealing with a severe outbreak of Diphtheria, resulting in 471 deaths, over 7,400 confirmed cases and 12,000 suspected cases as of 28 September 2023. The outbreak has risen sharply since July 2023, with over 1,000 new cases identified every week. Kano state is the main center of the outbreak, now spreading across 19 states. Active case finding, contact tracing, and vaccination remain low in these areas. To combat the outbreak, the IFRC and its membership hope to raise CHF 6 million to support the Nigeria Red Cross in scaling up its response in 12 states.

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Stopping a measles outbreak in its tracks in Sierra Leone

Makuma is a remote coastal village nestled in the north-west corner of Sierra Leone, on the border with Guinea. It’s only accessible by one narrow and bumpy dirt track. Its 2,000 or so inhabitants travel by foot or on motorbikes in the drier months. But when waters rise in the rainy season from May to December, the track becomes unusable—cutting people off from their nearest health centre, some 10km away.Its isolated location, coupled with the high risk of infectious diseases in Sierra Leone, means Makuma could be the perfect breeding ground for an epidemic, if it weren’t for one thing: the presence of the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society.Momoh Saio Kamara is Makuma’s local Red Cross volunteer. He grew up in the village and is much loved and trusted, thanks to his work supporting people through the 2014/15 Ebola outbreak.In 2019, Momoh was trained in epidemic control and community-based surveillance through the USAID-funded Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3)—acquiring the skills and tools needed to detect, alert, and respond to disease outbreaks early.So when, in early 2022, people in Makuma started noticing strange symptoms of a mystery illness they’d never seen before, Momoh knew exactly what to do.“One day I was in the village doing house visits. I visited my friend who said there is someone—the nose is red, the mouth is red, the nose runs and there is a rash. I go and look and I thought straight away, it is measles,” explains Momoh.Without hesitating, Momoh alerted his supervisor, Jobel, using a digital community-based surveillance system set up through the CP3 programme. Jobel arrived shortly afterwards on his motorbike to investigate. Seeing the symptoms for himself, he escalated the alert in the system—notifying district health authorities in an instant.“After the alert, I rang the local nurse and called a community meeting to tell the people it is suspected measles,” adds Momoh.A highly contagious viral infection, measles spreads easily among the unvaccinated. It’s a serious illness that can require hospital admission, cause permanent disability, and even kill if not treated properly.Local nurses swiftly arrived and started tracing and registering suspected cases, while Momoh and Jobel went house-to-house to tell people how to stay safe.The following day, a Rapid Response Team from Kambia district hospital arrived to undertake testing, conduct a ring vaccination of nearly 800 children to minimize further infection, and tend to patients.“The Red Cross and District Health Management Team they come. It did not take long. When they arrived, again we called a meeting, we talked to the community. We told them these people have medicine and it is free,” explains Momoh.For N’Mah, a woman from Makuma whose young son caught measles, having Momoh by her side was a huge relief.“My son Morlai fell sick. I had no idea what the illness was and I felt worried and restless. Momoh held a community meeting to let people know he thought it was measles. He told us what he knew about the disease and asked people to tell him if they noticed anyone with the same symptoms. He told us to keep our environment as clean as possible, wash our hands properly, and isolate anyone who showed signs of the illness. I felt really happy because the health services came really quickly,” explains N’Mah.Momoh is one of 250 volunteers in Kambia district trained through the CP3 programme. Together, they are the eyes and ears in hard-to-reach communities, making sure no suspicious health event goes undetected.A total of 124 measles cases were eventually recorded during the outbreak in Makuma. The number could have been significantly higher had it not been for Momoh’s early action, the trust placed in him by his community, and the rapid response from local health authorities.“The successful response which prevented deaths and disability is a result of the early detection and reporting by theRed Cross volunteers, followed by a swift response from the District Health Management Team. It is no exaggeration to say that these volunteers help greatly towards the health care delivery system in Kambia district, especially in public health surveillance,” explains Ishmael Rogers, Kambia District Surveillance Officer.For Makuma village Councillor, Yusif, who has steered his community through difficult times such as Ebola and COVID-19 in recent years, the relief at having Red Cross support in keeping his people healthy is palpable.“I feel happy that Momoh is here. He’s always available for our community – any day, any time. He’s very patient. When our people are sick, he makes sure they are taken to hospital. I feel my community is safe with Momoh. God forbid there is another outbreak, we know Momoh is here for us.”--The rapid outbreak detection and response reported in this article were made possible thanks to the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme supports communities, National Societies, and other partners in seven countries to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more:Sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness NewsletterFollow the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society on X, Facebook and LinkedInTo learn more about community-based surveillance initiatives within the IFRC please visit cbs.ifrc.org

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World Health Day 2024

Everyone, everywhere should have access to good health care and the basic ingredients to a healthy life. The theme of World Health Day in 2024 is 'My Health, My Right', and we could not agree more. Access to health care is a basic human right. My health, my right also means a healthy environment, safe food and water, and strong community readiness for emergencies and epidemics. Sadly, access to those basic ingredients are under threat, due to conflict, climate events, natural calamity and extreme poverty. We invite you to join our ongoing efforts to help people around the world access this most basic of human rights.

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Joint statement: Millions at risk from cholera due to lack of clean water, soap and toilets, and shortage of cholera vaccine

Geneva/New York, 20 March 2024 – Immediate action is needed to stem an unprecedented multi-year upsurge in cholera cases worldwide, according to the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision. Actions include investing in access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, testing and detecting outbreaks quickly, improving quality of and access to healthcare, and fast-tracking additional production of affordable oral cholera vaccine (OCV) doses to better prevent cases.The ICG manages the global cholera vaccine stockpile.The group includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF and WHO. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, finances the vaccine stockpile and the delivery of OCV. ICG members are calling for governments, donors, vaccine manufacturers, partners and communities to join in an urgent effort to halt and reverse the rise in cholera.Cholera has been surging globally since 2021, with the 473000 cases reported to WHO in 2022, more than double those reported in 2021.Preliminary data for 2023 reveal further increases, with over 700000 cases reported. Several of the outbreaks have high case fatality rates, exceeding the 1% threshold used as an indicator for early and adequate treatment of cholera patients. These trends are tragic given that cholera is a preventable and treatable disease and that cases had been declining in previous years. Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through food and water contaminated with faeces containing the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.The rise in cholera is being driven by persistent gaps in access to safe water and sanitation. Although efforts are being made to close these gaps in places, in many others the gaps are growing, driven by climate-related factors, economic insecurity, conflict, and population displacement.Safely managed water and sanitation are prerequisites for stopping the transmission of cholera.Currently, the most severely impacted countries include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.Now more than ever, countries must adopt a multisectoral response to fight cholera.Members of the ICG call on currently and potentially affected countries to take urgent steps to ensure their populations have access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation services, and the information critical to prevent cholera’s spread. The establishment of these services requires political will and investment at the country level.This includes creating capacity for early detection and response, enhanced disease detection, rapid access to treatment and care, and working closely with communities, including on risk communication and community engagement.The severe gap in the number of available vaccine doses, compared with the level of current need, puts unprecedented pressure on theglobal stockpile of vaccines. Between 2021 and 2023, more doses were requested for outbreak response than the entire previous decade.In October 2022, the ongoing vaccine shortage necessitated the ICG to recommend a single vaccine dose, down from a previous, long-standing two-dose regimen. Approximately 36 million doses were produced last year, while 14 affected countries registered a need for 72 million doses for a one-dose reactive strategy. These requests understate the true need. Preventive vaccination campaigns have had to be delayed to preserve doses for emergency outbreak control efforts, creating a vicious cycle. The change in strategy enabled available vaccines to protect more people and respond to more cholera outbreaks amid the ongoing supply shortfall, but a return to a two-dose regimen and a resumption of preventive vaccination would provide longer protection.Global production capacity in 2024 is forecast to be 37-50 million doses but will likely continue to be inadequate to serve the needs of millions of people directly affected by cholera.Only one manufacturer, EuBiologics, currently produces the vaccine; while the company is doing its utmost to maximize output, more doses are needed. Currently, new manufacturers are not expected to join the market before 2025; they must be fast-tracked. The same urgency and innovation that we saw for COVID-19 must be applied to cholera.Additional manufacturers planning to enter the market need to accelerate their efforts and make doses available at affordable prices.We appeal to vaccine manufacturers, governments, donors and partners to prioritize an urgent scale-up of vaccine production, and to invest in all the efforts needed to prevent and control cholera.About the ICGPress release on dosing strategyGlobal task force on cholera controlIFRC on choleraUNICEF: cholera is endangering children globallyWHO on the cholera upsurge, including monthly situation reportsMedia contactsIFRC Email: [email protected]: Lukas Nef,Mobile: +41792400790Email: [email protected]: Sarah Al Hattab, UNICEF in New YorkTelephone: +1 917-957-6536Email: [email protected] Media TeamEmail: [email protected]

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| Emergency

Zimbabwe: Cholera Outbreak

Zimbabwe has been grappling with a cholera outbreak since February 2023, with the number of cases increasing across the country. As of 5 November 2023, suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in all 10 provinces of the country and in 41 out of 62 districts, with the most alarming spikes in the south-eastern provinces of Masvingo and Manicaland. A total of 6,686 suspected and 1,127 confirmed cases were reported by early November. More than 6,200 people had recovered while the total number of suspected or confirmed cholera-related deaths had exceeded 175. The IFRC and its members seek CHF 3 million to support the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society to reach 550,455 people with life-saving assistance and help to contain the outbreak. A total of CHF 2 million will be raised by the IFRC secretariat.

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Cholera: Outbreak silences a once vibrant town in southwestern Zimbabwe

Where children would normally be playing, it is now quiet on the streets of Mapanza, a small village in the southwest of Zimbabwe. The communal gatherings for meals have ceased, laughter is absent, and everyday clothing has been replaced by rain boots and protective suits.The village is grappling with a relentless cholera outbreak, starkly highlighting the severity of the disease.On a recent day of heavy rains, puddles surround the three large tents in the middle of the village. Medical personnel with masks and gloves move in and out of the tents. IV drips are carried into the tent where the most critical patients lie.In the other two tents, health workers attend to patients whose conditions have stabilized. Occasionally, a curious child peeks out from the tent. She appears to be about five years old.As we walk further into the village, we encounter Alec. "It likely started at a church service where many people gathered," says Alec, friendly and energetic man who lives in the village and who personally experienced how quickly cholera can strike without mercy. "Shortly after that, people started getting sick."Sources of contaminationIn addition, the community shares one water source, which got contaminated. Since cholera easily spreads through water, nearly half of the village was estimated to have fallen ill. There are no healthcare facilities in the area, exacerbating the situation to a critical level within hours.People were lying on the ground with nowhere to go, Alec recalls. "People started experiencing severe diarrhea and vomiting profusely,” he said. “Almost half of the compound population was down, and a local couple tried to ferry as many people as possible to the hospital in Chiredzi, but it was overwhelming. The worst affected were children and women; people also died." Alec also had to fight for his life. After he fell ill, his wife waited anxiously for news about her husband. She couldn't be with him and didn't know his condition. It was a nerve-wracking period.An immediate responseToday, when visitors come to the village, it's hard to grasp that this nightmare happened just a few weeks ago. While the events still loom large over the community, and things are still far from normal, fewer people are falling ill and very few are dying, thanks to those who mobilized to help.Volunteers from the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) immediately supported the Ministry of Health and Child Care, bringing tents, medical supplies, and "oral rehydration solutions" so that people could be safely treated and no longer had to lie on the ground. Together with the Ministry of Health, they were able to control the outbreak.Even now, volunteers are everywhere in the village. Many of them, such as Alec's wife, are community members who volunteered after experiencing what cholera did to their loved ones. She now participates in door-to-door campaigns, informing people about how to protect themselves so that an outbreak of this magnitude does not happen again.Since the beginning of the outbreak, ZRCS volunteers and staff have been taking action to combat the spread of cholera and provide care for patients. The Red Cross has also been supporting the Ministry of Health in setting up a cholera treatment centre to allow individuals with symptoms of cholera access to appropriate care.Volunteers have also been visiting communities to inform people on how to protect themselves and their loved ones, as well as what to do if they become ill.To jumpstart the initial response, the IFRC's Disaster Response Emergency Fund (IFRC-DREF) allocated CHF 500,000 and soon after, the IFRC launched an emergency appeal seeking CHF 3 million in order to to reach more than 550,000 people with life-saving assistance and help to contain the outbreak.

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World Radio Day: How radio helps keep communities healthy and safe

Though we’re living in an increasingly digital world, radio remains an important source of information, entertainment, and connection in countries across the globe.This is especially true among rural communities, for whom radio is often the most trusted—or sometimes only—source of news and information for miles around.Imagine you’re living in one of these communities, far from the nearest health centre. You notice people are falling sick and you don’t know why. Seeking answers, you tune into your local radio station.The presenter is talking about the ‘mystery illness’ in a panicked way, saying how gruesome the symptoms are, how many people have died, and how you should avoid infected people at all costs. He’s heard the illness could be some kind of curse, and that apparently drinking salty water can protect you.Hearing this report, and with no other sources to turn to, you’d probably feel scared and unsure of what to do.But imagine you tuned in and heard a totally different show. The presenter calmly offers practical information about the disease—its name, symptoms, how it spreads, and measures you can take to protect yourself. He interviews a local doctor you know and trust who responds to common questions and concerns.You’d feel reassured and have the information you need to keep you and your family safe.In several countries, the IFRC and our National Societies are partnering with local media to do exactly this: provide life-saving information before, during, and after health outbreaks.As part of the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), we’ve been working with the charity BBC Media Action to train journalists and Red Cross Societies from seven countries in Lifeline Programming: special media programming that provides accurate, practical, and timely information in a health or humanitarian crisis.National Societies regularly partner with media outlets to broadcast helpful information that keeps communities healthy and safe from a wide range of diseases. Let’s look at some examples.KenyaIn Bomet and Tharaka Nithi counties, Kenya Red Cross teams up with local radio stations and county health services, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with useful health messages on how to prevent diseases such as anthrax, rabies and cholera.Information is shared in simple language. And listeners can call in to ask questions or suggest health topics for discussion.“At first, media was known for reporting two things, maybe: politics, and bad things that have happened in society. But the Red Cross helped us […] use the media in educating the people about disease,” explains Sylvester Rono, a journalist with Kass FM trained in Lifeline programming.“I am now proud to say that this has really helped our communities. Our people are now appreciating why we should vaccinate our pets, why we should go to the hospital when we have a bite, why we should report any [health] incident, and when you see any sign of diseases, be it rabies, be it anthrax, be it cholera […] the importance of reporting it earlier,” he adds.CameroonIn late 2021, a cholera outbreak threatened the lives of communities in the North region of Cameroon—a rural part of the country where communities are widely dispersed.As part of its response, the Cameroon Red Cross teamed up with local radio stations—launching a series of community radio programmes to share information on how people could protect themselves, what symptoms to look out for, and where to access help if they fell sick.Themes for the programmes were selected in partnership with community leaders. And after the shows broadcast, Red Cross volunteers headed out into their communities to reinforce the messages shared on air through door-to-door visits.“The radio programme is very good, because it has given me practical information. I had a cholera case in my family, but based on the measures I heard on the radio, I was able to save my sister’s child who was sick,” explained Talaga Joseph, a listener who called into FM Bénoué—one of the participating radio stations.Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)In DRC, harmful rumours and misinformation about COVID-19 and other diseases have spread across the country in recent years. For example, some people believed the COVID-19 vaccine was a source of income for the government and had no benefit to society, while others believed the measles vaccine was less effective than traditional remedies involving cassava leaves.To address these rumours, DRC Red Cross volunteers went door-to-door to collect community feedback and record common myths and misconceptions. After analysing the feedback, DRC Red Cross staff took to the airwaves—launching interactive radio shows to directly address and debunk health misinformation and provide trusted advice.For example, in Kongo Central province, the DRC Red Cross partners with Radio Bangu to produce a show called ‘Red Cross School’. Listeners call in to check information on different diseases, ask questions, and discover what support they can access from the Red Cross.“The collaboration with the Red Cross is very good and has enabled listeners to learn more about its activities and how they can prevent different illnesses and epidemics. The Red Cross broadcasts are so popular they have increased our overall number of listeners in the area we cover,” says Rigobert Malalako, Station Manager at Radio Bangu.--The activities with local radio featured in this article are just a few examples of media partnerships developed through the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), CP3 supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more, sign up to the IFRC’s Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Newsletter.You can also access the following resources:BBC Media Action’s Guide for the media on communicating in public health emergencies (available in multiple languages)BBC Media Action’s Lifeline programming websiteIFRC Epidemic Control Toolkit

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A deadly start to 2024: Cholera in Zimbabwe spreads rapidly after holiday season

Almost a year ago, the first patient with cholera in Zimbabwe was reported in the town of Chegutu, located about 100 kilometres southwest of the capital Harare. Throughout 2023, the numbers have only increased, as the disease spread to all the country’s ten provinces. During the recent holiday period, there was an additional steep increase as people travelled and gathered to celebrate with their extended families, giving the disease new opportunities to spread. “Our worst fears and predictions for the post-holiday season are confirmed with this upward trend of people contracting cholera," says John Roche, head of IFRC's Country Cluster Delegation for Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.“This is especially worrisome for people with vulnerable health, who are the most affected and urgently need assistance.” "With schools starting again and people going back to work, we must act quickly to reduce the numbers now. We have no time to lose; we need to break the cycle as every life in jeopardy is one too many.” No time to lose For this reason, speed is of the essence. Cholera spreads rapidly and easily. Simply drinking or eating something infected with the cholera bacteria can result in infection. This can lead to severe diarrhea and vomiting, sometimes so intense that people lose litres of water per day. The dehydration that followed can lead to death if measures are not put in place to rehydrate quickly. In the capital city, many people live in close quarters and hygiene measures are poor, increasing the risk of becoming ill. With thousands of suspected cholera cases in the capital, Harare has declared a state of emergency. Additionally, sewage and water infrastructure in many places in the country are in dilapidated condition requiring major rehabilitation. Sewage blockages are common, contributing to the rapid spread of the disease. Moreover, people struggle to access clean water for cooking and drinking. Red Cross ready to help Since the beginning of the outbreak, volunteers, and aid workers from the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) have been taking action to combat the spread of cholera and provide care for patients. Volunteers have been visiting communities to inform people on how to protect themselves and their loved ones, as well as what to do if they become ill. ZRCS has also been supporting the Ministry of Health in setting up Cholera treatment to allow individuals with symptoms of cholera access to appropriate care. A total of nine Oral Rehydration Points (ORPs) have been set up throughout the country (in Harare, Mutare district, Masvingo district and Mashonaland). These locations were chosen based on the presence of trained volunteers conducting door-to-door cholera awareness sensitization. A community feedback mechanism has been setup and there are currently community feedback meetings and suggestion boxes at numerous health facilities. So far, community outreach volunteers have connected and shared information with over 171,000 people. To ensure that Red Cross teams can act promptly, the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (IFRC-DREF) allocated roughly 500,000 in June 2023 to support immediate response efforts. Unfortunately, cholera spreads rapidly, and ZRCS needs more funds to ensure that the number of infected individuals reaches zero. For this reason, the IFRC and its members are urging people to support its emergency appeal seeking CHF 3 million to support the ZRCS reach 550,455 people with life-saving assistance and help to contain the outbreak. “This support is vitally needed to combat cholera and help ensure that no more lives are lost to this disease,” says IFRC’s Roche.

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Uganda: School Health Club helps students and communities stay safe from diseases

“The School Health Club has taught us how to look after our health. I also bring the knowledge I learn from the club to my home, and my parents take those messages to the wider community.”These are the words of Kikanshemeza, a pupil at Mwisi Primary school in south-west Uganda and proud member of her School Health Club.Set up by the Uganda Red Cross, the School Health Club helps primary and secondary school pupils understand how to protect themselves from various disease threats, stay healthy, and share their newfound knowledge with their fellow pupils, families, and wider communities.It’s one of the many different activities under the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) – a multi-country programme run by the IFRC and seven Red Cross National Societies to help communities, first responders, and other partners prepare for, detect, prevent, and respond to health risks.Since joining her School Health Club, Kikanshemeza has built a tippy tap—a simple, low-cost handwashing facility that can help reduce up to 50% of avoidable infections—in her home, supported her family to use it regularly and properly, and shared life-saving information about different diseases.“She told us not to eat the meat of animals that have died and to make sure they are buried properly, and also that bats are a potential cause of Ebola and monkeys can transmit it too,” explains Kikanshemeza’s mother, Annet.Knowledge is powerKikanshemeza is one of 30 School Health Club members at Mwisi Primary school. The club meets up once a week in special sessions led by Akampurira, a facilitator from the Uganda Red Cross, who teaches them all about different diseases—including how to recognize signs and symptoms, which people might be most at risk, and actions the students can take to stop diseases from spreading.Club members are then responsible for maintaining school handwashing facilities, making sure all students follow proper hygiene practices, and sharing what they’ve learned with their follow students—often through large, theatrical performances in the school hall.Students act out informative and lively scenes: everything from a patient seeking help from a doctor after noticing signs of malaria, to a person being bitten by a dog in the street and rushing to get vaccinated.Tackling serious health issues in this more fun and light-hearted way helps break down complex topics, keeps fellow students engaged, and helps them retain the knowledge in case they need it in future.Why involve school children in epidemic preparedness?The IFRC and our member National Societies have long focused on helping people prepare for, respond to, and recover from epidemics.We know from experience that effective epidemic preparedness must involve communities themselves, first responders, and partners from across all parts of society – such as schools.“School health clubs have been a game changer in health risk communication, as engaged learners have been excellent peer educators in school, and also change agents at the household level,” explains Henry Musembi, CP3 Programme Delegate for Uganda and Kenya.“The clubs are a great platform for training the next generation of epidemic emergency responders and champions in target communities,” he adds.Seeing positive changeKushaba, another School Health Club member whose brother had previously suffered from malaria, says he’s learned a lot from the club and has noticed positive change in his community:“We learned how we can control malaria by slashing compounds, draining all stagnant water to destroy habitat for mosquitoes, and how you can use a treated mosquito net.”“Before the introduction of the School Health Club, we didn’t have tippy taps, we didn’t know how to use toilets, even how we can clean our school. Pupils, they were suffering from diseases like malaria, cholera, but now because of the School Health Club, they are fine,” he adds.--The School Health Club in Mwisi is one of several set up in Uganda and other countries through the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme runs in seven countries and supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more:Visit our Epidemic and pandemic preparedness webpageSign up to the IFRC’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness newsletter

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Nigeria: A community response that is saving lives

By Ene Abba/IFRC When Red Cross volunteers came to her neighborhood, distributing flyers and sensitizing residents about diphtheria Aisha Adam Ibrahim did not take them seriously at first. "I was dismissive at first when the Red Cross volunteers brought the information on diphtheria to our doorstep,” she says. “But that knowledge saved my life." When Aisha fell ill, those information sharing sessions played a crucial role, says Ibrahim, who lives with her extended family in Ungogo community in Kano state. Recognizing the symptoms early, she sought medical help promptly, potentially saving her life. Since December 2022, diphtheria has been spreading across Nigeria, posing a community-wide challenge. Communal living, close-knit neighbourhoods, and shared spaces play a big role both in how this outbreak is spreading and its mitigation. Kano state, with its large diverse population and unique architectural landscape, faces distinctive challenges in combating the spread of this epidemic. As the epicentre of this crisis, Kano is where 80 per cent of all reported cases in Nigeria originate. With a large population compounded by the close-knit nature of the houses, diphtheria finds an easy transmission from person to person. Aisha lives in such a close-knit neighbourhood, and as a primary school teacher interacts constantly with children in her community. Aisha encountered heartbreaking stories at the hospital where she was admitted for treatment. One such grieving parent is Surraya Musa, who lost her only two children to diphtheria within a week. Surraya now dedicates herself to educating neighbours and communities about the severity of the outbreak, imploring parents to heed the advice of Red Cross Volunteers regarding vaccination and hygiene practices. "I tell my neighbours to listen to what the Red Cross volunteers say,” she says. “I lost all my children, I don't want any parent to experience what I did." New Red Cross volunteers Amina Abdullahi and Maryam Ibrahim are also advocates in their communities. Having gone through training, they actively participate in Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), active case searches, and contact tracing. Amina and Maryam express their fulfilment in supporting their community during this challenging time. "Being part of the Red Cross allows me to make a difference. I feel responsible for protecting my community," says Amina. Maryam adds: "It's a tough time for everyone, but seeing the impact we can make on people's lives makes it all worthwhile." Red Cross Intervention The severity of the outbreak prompted the Nigeria Red Cross Society (NRCS) to step in and collaborate with the government in March 2023. With a DREF allocation of CHF 430,654 from the IFRC, NRCS launched a multifaceted response. Over 4.9 million people have been reached through public health prevention, RCCE activities, and 760 volunteers trained in diphtheria prevention. Meanwhile, more than 920,000 people have been mobilized for vaccination through 120 trained teams, and 1,915 suspected cases have been referred to health facilities through NRCS volunteers, as of early December 2023. As the outbreak gained momentum, IFRC has scaled up its diphtheria emergency appeal to 5.4 million CHF. This support is what allows people such as Salisu Garba to continue the life-saving work. As health coordinator for NRCS in Kano, he walks through the communities and interacts with the locals in a manner that exudes familiarity with the street corners and the names of neighbourhood vendors. He highlights the critical role of close relationships with community leaders. This trust and access enable the Red Cross to take effective actions, ensuring that diphtheria will be stopped as quickly as possible. "Our connection with communities allows us to reach more people effectively,” he says. “Together, we are working tirelessly to ensure that every person in Kano is informed, vaccinated, and protected from diphtheria."

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| Press release

Africa CDC and IFRC ramp up COVID-19 response in Africa

Addis Ababa, 25 August 2021 - The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today launched a new collaboration to strengthen community resilience and response to public health emergencies at community level. The two institutions have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to ramp up pandemic response—including testing support to countries; community mobilization; advocacy and scaling up of contact tracing. In addition to COVID-19, the collaboration includes other areas of public health. Africa CDC and IFRC will strengthen investments in locally-led action—for prevention and response purposes—while working with governments to ensure they intensify efforts to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, Africa CDC and IFRC will scale up advocacy against vaccine wastage. This new initiative comes at a time Africa continues to face major vaccine shortages, amid a high level of community transmission in countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said: “Africa is facing a double-edged challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with health response gaps, and also trying to ensure that the continent prepares efficiently for future pandemics, using lessons from current challenges”. Africa CDC has been implementing various public health responses to control COVID-19. These include the engagement of community health workers in risk communication and community sensitization; surveillance activities for early case identification; contact tracing and in facilitating referrals for testing and continuum of care. Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: “What the IFRC and its network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies bring to this partnership with Africa CDC is our unparalleled access to local communities. Our community-based volunteers have the access and trust that are needed to address vaccine hesitancy and sensitize communities about adherence to preventive measures”. The Africa CDC has been working to support African Union Member States to build a wide network of 2 million community health workers (CHWs) in line with the July 2017 African Union Assembly Decision. The collaboration with the IFRC network, which includes 1.2 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers across the continent is expected to strengthen community level interventions and consolidate gains in tackling the spread of the virus, while increasing awareness about vaccine benefits. National Red Cross Red and Crescent Societies across Africa remain on the frontline of the response to COVID-19. They are providing ambulance services; conducting contact tracing and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation and provide emotional comfort and psychological support to people in need.

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Epidemics and pandemics

Epidemicsare an unexpected, often sudden, increase of a specific illness within a community or region.Pandemicsare when an epidemic occurs worldwide, crossing international borders and affecting a large number of people.A number of communicable diseasescan be significant health threats at the local, regional andglobal leveland leadto epidemics or pandemics. Epidemics and pandemics can be prevented and mitigated through a range of household and community measures, such as good hygiene, social distancing and vaccination.

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| Press release

COVID-19: Southeast Asia battles world’s highest deaths

Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 18 August 2021:Southeast Asia is battling the world’s highest COVID-19 death toll driven by the Delta variant and unequal global distribution of vaccines. Hospitals remain overwhelmed by record surges across Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to Malaysia and Myanmar as fears mount of greater suffering and loss of life with COVID-19 spreading from cities to rural and regional areas. In the last two weeks, Southeast Asia has recorded38,522 deaths from COVID-19, nearly twice as many as North America, according to theJohn Hopkins UniversityCOVID-19 data dashboard. Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said: “This COVID-19 surge driven by the Delta variant is claiming a tragic toll on families across Southeast Asia and it’s far from over. We fear that as the virus spreads from cities to regional and rural areas that many more lives will be lost among the unvaccinated. “Vaccinations are at record rates in some countries, yet many Southeast Asian nations have low portions of the population fully vaccinated and are languishing far behind Western Europe and North America.” The United Kingdom has fully vaccinated 60 per cent of its population, while Canada and Spain stand at around 64 per cent, according to Oxford University’sOur World in Data. By contrast, Malaysia has fully vaccinated 34 per cent of its population against COVID-19, Indonesia and Philippines, close to 11 per cent and Vietnam less than 2 per cent. Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and most Southeast Asia countries are all battling record COVID-19 infections or death tolls. Seven of the top 10 countries where COVID-19 deaths have doubled the fastest are in Asia and the Pacific, with Vietnam, Fiji and Myanmar all in the top five, according toOur World in Data. “In the short-term, we need much greater efforts by richer countries to urgently share their millions of excess vaccine doses with countries in Southeast Asia. We also need vaccine companies and governments to share technology and scale up production,”Mr Matheou said. “These coming weeks are critical for scaling up treatment, testing and vaccinations, in every corner of all countries in Southeast Asia. We must aim for mass vaccination rates of 70-80 per cent if we want to win the race against the variants and overcome this global pandemic.” Until vaccination levels reach a critical mass, in the short-term it is also crucial to reinforce health protection measures, such as wearing a mask, physical distance and meeting outdoors or in well ventilated spaces. The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with around 60% of the appeal covered so far. The funds are crucial to support the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world. Photos of Red Cross and Red Crescent activities are available for download

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| Press release

Mass COVID-19 vaccinations kick off in Bangladesh camps

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 10 August 2021:Vaccinations have begun for people in the camps for displaced people, amid a record COVID-19 surge in Bangladesh and a widening global vaccine divide. The vaccination campaign begins on 10 August with priority for people aged 55 and over covering 48,000 camp residents. About 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent staff and volunteers are working under the Population Movement Operation (PMO) and the Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation (MRRO), in collaboration with UNHCR and health authorities, in the urgent rollout all over the 34 camps. There are more than 900,000 people living in the densely populated camps. Many people face ongoing health issues, limited access to hygiene facilities and safe water. Existing health clinics were already stretched to the limit, even before the COVID-19 epidemic. The Delta variant has driven surging infections across the country, with around 20,000 infections and 200 deaths recorded in the Cox’s Bazar district so far. A national positivity rate of around 30 per cent indicates the spread of COVID-19 is much higher, especially with cramped conditions and the risks faced by many people living in the camps. M.A. Halim, Head of Operations, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said: “This pandemic is inflicting a terrible toll on every aspect of people’s lives and has been compounded by recent floods and fires that have swept through the camps. Vaccinating is more important than ever to prevent illness and more loss of life in Cox’s Bazar. “Thousands of trained Red Crescent volunteers are playing a key role supporting vaccinations in the camps and all over the country including at our health clinics and door to door to encourage people to get vaccinated.” Hrusikesh Harichandan, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Cox’s Bazar sub-office, said: “People in these camps are living in the shadow of the global vaccine divide. Widespread vaccinations are critical to contain this deadly virus. We need united efforts by national agencies and international organisations to help vaccinate all adults in the camps. “Vaccinations are vital for families to live with dignity because staying home is so tough for people in these cramped camps and most still have limited access to water and sanitation facilities, escalating risks from COVID-19.” Less than 3 per cent of the population in Bangladesh has been fully vaccinated and Bangladesh Red Crescent is working alongside health authorities to help vaccinate millions of people across the country over the next week. As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 14 healthcare facilities, helping to meet health needs of people living in the Cox’s Bazar camps. As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operation which began in 2017 and the MRRO which began in 1992, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross Red Crescent partners and UNHCR, is providing both camp residents and host communities living on the periphery of the camps with healthcare, improved access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation services, shelter, livelihoods and other essential needs, along with reducing risks in disasters and protection support for women and those most at risk. In total, from the start of operations in 2017, Bangladesh Red Crescent has supported over 1 million people. For more information, please contact: In Cox’s Bazar: Ibrahim Mollik, +880 16 74 330863, [email protected] Sabrina Idris, +8801 763777999, [email protected] In Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected] In Wellington: Ellie van Baaren, +64 21 774 831, [email protected] In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]

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As COVID-19 cases surge in Africa, Red Cross warns that insufficient funding is impeding the response

Nairobi/Geneva, 2 July 2021 – Halting an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases in Africa will require additional funding. This was announced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), amid a worrying surge of cases in Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa. National Red Cross teams in these seven countries are stepping up surveillance, testing, healthcare and hygiene activities. They have also scaled up their COVID-19 awareness campaigns in public places such as markets and border points. However, efforts like these ones, aimed at containing the spread of the virus, have been strained by insufficient funding. With a third wave looming large, there are increasing concerns that the impact will be more devastating, especially if the shortage of funds persists. MohammedMukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said: “Since the outset of this pandemic, not enough attention has been paid to the evolution of this virus on the African continent. Lower levels of transmission data have created the perception that this region has not been so affected by the pandemic. The upward trend in the number of infections that we are now seeing, is partly as a result of insufficient funding to address several gaps in the response. These include weak surveillance mechanisms; weak testing capacity; insufficient protective gear and medical equipment including hospital beds, oxygen and ambulance services. If these gaps are not addressed, cases will continue tosoar,followed bya peak in fatality rates, which is already being observed.” IFRC Africa has so far only received about half of the funds it requires to support 48 countries in their response to COVID-19. Crucially, these funds are almost depleted. Red Cross Red Crescent teams across Africa have been on the frontline of the response to COVID-19 since the outset. They are providing ambulance services, conducting contact tracing, promoting, and ensuring adherence to public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus and supporting in Infection Prevention and Control measures at treatment and isolation facilities and point of entry screening. They are also tackling stigma and the spread of misinformation by providing educational materials, running radio campaigns and informational hotlines for the community and providing psychosocial support to people in need. To address the secondary impacts of COVID-19, Red Cross Red Crescent teams have been providing cash to vulnerable families. Many of these vital prevention programmes are at risk, if more funding is not urgently secured. Mukhier said: “Without adequate funding, we are unable to respond to the needs of the communities we serve or address the gaps and challenges of this response. The gains that have been made over the last year are at serious risk of being lost, if funding is not made available to help us continue to reach the most vulnerable and affected communities in Africa.” The average number of new daily infections reported in Namibia and Zambia has reached a new high with 1,600 and 2,719 daily cases, respectively. This is by far the highest rate of infection (over 100 per cent increase) observed in these countries. Mozambique is recording 400 daily cases, a 10-fold increase in comparison with previous months, Uganda is now detecting over 900 daily infections, and South Africa close to 18,000 daily cases. In addition to lack of funding, there is the challenge of availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines: just over 1 per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated. Most of the countries experiencing increasing trends have reported less than 5 per cent of their population receiving at least one vaccine dose. Furthermore, the response to COVID-19 in Africa is complicated by the existence of other parallel and mutually exacerbating emergency situations. Rui Alberto Oliveira, IFRC’s Operations Manager for Africa said: “Responding to COVID-19 in countries facing multiple crises, such as DR Congo, Sahel, Lake Chad, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan or Somalia, is extremely challenging, meaning the disease may continue to circulate unchecked. “We cannot wait for the situation to deteriorate further before taking action. We must ensure that enough resources are made available, now, to halt the progress of the imminent, and potentially catastrophic, third wave of COVID-19 in Africa.”

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New Red Cross Red Crescent analysis shows deep inequalities in COVID-19 response across Middle East and North Africa

Beirut, 8 April 2021 (IFRC) – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is seeking “urgent and sizeable investment” to ensure the region’s pandemic response leaves no one behind. While no one has been spared from the effects of COVID-19, the consequences of this pandemic have not been equally felt. This crisis has been defined by profound and persistent inequities both in terms of who is most at risk, and how the world has responded. New analysis released today by the IFRC highlights significant inequalities in COVID-19 vaccination rates across the MENA region. According to this analysis: Less than 5 per cent of vaccine doses administered in MENA Region have been administered in the eight countries facing severe or very severe humanitarian crises. Only a third (37 per cent) of doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in MENA Region have been reported administered in countries experiencing any type of humanitarian crisis, whether conflict, complex emergencies, displacement, or others. Among MENA countries that have administered any vaccine doses, the country reporting the most doses per capita, UAE, reports having administered 510 times more doses per capita than Algeria. Hossam Khalil Elsharkawi, Regional Director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), said: “The Middle East and North Africa hosts some of the world’s most protracted humanitarian crises. This analysis shows that people in these settings are more likely than the general population to be infected, are more likely to die once infected, and are least likely to be appropriately supported through the response, including through vaccination campaigns. “While there is clearly a growing recognition of the importance of equitable vaccine access, this is not yet translating into investment in all the systems that are needed to turn this ambition into a reality. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement plan focuses on reaching the last mile and ensuring that no one is left behind. To continue to play this role, we need urgent and sizeable investment.” Many countries in MENA are now rolling out COVID-19 vaccination as a pathway to end the acute phase of the pandemic. Fifteen out of a total of 17 countries have now administered at least one dose, with more than 25 million doses having been administered mainly in Gulf countries. However, for middle- and low-income countries, the vaccine procurement and vaccination roll-out rely fully on international cooperation and support that will take some time to cover (or reach) all priority populations and the last mile populations (migrants, refugees, IDPs). The analysis also finds deep inequalities in broader COVID-19 health measures in the region: The least developed countries in MENA (as measured by the Human Development Index - HDI) have carried out the fewest tests per capita. Among MENA countries reporting testing data, countries with a "very high" HDI reported having carried out eight times (863 per cent) more tests per capita than countries with a Medium Human Development Index. (There is no testing data available for the one MENA country with “Low” HDI). This regional analysis comes following the launch of a new International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement plan that aims to tackle “deep and pervasive” inequities in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been at the frontline of the pandemic response. The revised International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement plan is designed to counter some of the more severe inequities by expanding care, treatment and support for people in all countries, including those affected by humanitarian crises such as conflict and disasters. The plan also includes a range of measures designed to support and extend COVID-19 immunization campaigns so that marginalized and isolated groups can access vaccines. In all, the revised International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement appeal seeks 2.729 billion Swiss francs, with 274 million earmarked for the MENA region. To read the revised Movement plan, visit the Covid-19 emergency page. Notes to editors The analysis of where vaccines have been administered; the relative reach of testing; and which countries carry out full, partial or no contact tracing is based on Oxford University’s ‘Our World in Data’ (latest available data used) and theINFORM Severity Index –an inter-agency tool that measures the severity of humanitarian crises and disasters globally (January 2021 data used). For a full list of countries listed against crisis severity, visitINFORM Severity index. All datasets have some gaps. While half (50 per cent) of MENA countries facing "no crisis" have contact tracing available, the same is true in only 20 per cent of MENA countries facing any type of crisis, whether displacement, conflict, political/economic, or other.

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COVID-19: Warning of “deadly consequences” of vaccine inequality, IFRC launches plan to help vaccinate 500 million people

Geneva, 4 February 2021 – The overwhelming majority of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered so far have been delivered in high-income countries, according to analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Nearly 70 per cent of vaccine doses administered so far have occurred in the world’s 50 wealthiest countries. In contrast, only 0.1 per cent of vaccine doses have been administered in the 50 poorest countries. The IFRC is warning that this inequality is alarming and could potentially backfire to deadly and devastating effect. Mr Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said: “This is alarming because it is unfair, and because it could prolong or even worsen this terrible pandemic. Let me be clear: In the race to end this pandemic, we are all rowing the same boat. We cannot sacrifice those at highest risk in some countries so that those at lowest risk can be vaccinated in others. “The equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines between and within countries is more than a moral imperative: It is the only way to solve the most pressing public health emergency of our time. Without equal distribution, even those who are vaccinated will not be safe.” The IFRC is warning that, if large pockets of the globe remain unvaccinated, the COVID-19 virus will continue to circulate and mutate. This may lead to the emergence of variants that do not respond to vaccines, allowing the virus to infect people that may have already been vaccinated. In a bid to support equitable vaccine distribution, the IFRC has announced today a new, 100 million Swiss franc plan that aims to support the immunization of 500 million people against COVID-19. Under the plan, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will support national vaccination efforts in a range of areas and across the planning and implementation phases. This will include efforts to build trust in vaccines and to counteract misinformation about their efficacy – an intervention that is increasingly important as vaccine hesitancy rates climb around the world. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers will also seek out communities and individuals that are economically, socially or geographically isolated to ensure their involvement in vaccine efforts. And trained personnel will, in many countries be responsible for the physical delivery of vaccines to at-risk and vulnerable groups. Already, 66 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are or will be involved in vaccine campaigns, with dozens more in discussions with their governments. IFRC’s Chapagain said: “Equality does not just happen. The history of the world tells us that. This is clearly also true for vaccine distribution. It needs to be engineered and planned for, right from the start.” “Our plan is about making sure that those vaccines make it out of capitals and into the arms of vulnerable, at-risk and isolated individuals and communities.”

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| Press release

COVID-19: Red Cross Red Crescent steps up European response, urges Governments to strengthen testing, tracing and isolation measures

Budapest/Geneva, 11 November 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging Governments to strengthen their “test-trace-quarantine” systems to help prevent future surges of COVID-19. This call comes as multiple European countries put in place new restrictions to stop community transmission and to avoid the collapse of health systems. Francesco Rocca, IFRC President, said: “The recent restrictions across Europe signal that more must be done, and we see ourselves as a critical piece of that puzzle. We understand that these measures are difficult for many people, but they are needed to both flatten the curve and provide an opportunity to fix what hasn’t been working. “In many countries, we have been supporting local authorities in testing, contact tracing and isolation measures. This system can be effective only when it can be carried out fully and in a coordinated way. We are scaling up these critical activities across more countries. No one wants this second wave to be followed by a third or a fourth.” Across Europe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are supporting embattled health systems by conducting COVID-19 testing, transporting patients and providing psychosocial support. They are also offering a range of services designed to ensure that highly vulnerable people can complete everyday tasks, including grocery shopping and picking up medicines, while still fully complying with restrictions. However, with the situation worsening in many countries, the Red Cross and Red Crescent stands ready to do more, said IFRC President Rocca: “Our collective effort to prevent transmission will pay dividends going forward. We offer our help to ensure the worst can be behind us and lockdowns won’t be necessary in the future. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are already supporting their own local authorities to flatten the curve, stop the spread of the virus and save lives – and we stand ready to do more.” In France, Red Cross volunteers are supporting walk-in COVID testing units at railway stations across Paris. In Monaco, Red Cross volunteers are helping rapidly escalate the country’s testing regime. In the Netherlands, Red Cross volunteers are on hand to assist scaled-up testing and crowd control at numerous testing sites. And in Georgia, the local Red Cross is training medical students in testing for COVID-19 to supplement its ramped-up response to the pandemic, an effort that now involves tens of thousands of volunteers. Red Cross teams in Slovakia are helping authorities test every person in the country. In the Czech Republic, Red Cross volunteers are training thousands of people to support health care workers in hospitals and in Italy, the Red Cross has deployed several field hospitals and has strengthened its ambulance services to support local health systems, as well as providing psychosocial support. “Our volunteers have been doing all they can to ensure peoples’ needs are met in a safe manner with as many COVID-19 precautions in place as possible – and we will need to do more. Above all, we want to thank all people who have been helping for months on end to serve their communities. It will be a long path, but together, I know we can succeed,” Francesco Rocca said. More than 300,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Europe, and in the past week the region has registered more than half of all new infections reported globally.

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Cox’s Bazar: Almost 1 in 5 people in treatment have lung disease as COVID-19 spreads

Kuala Lumpur, Cox’s Bazar, Geneva, 24 August 2020: New data reveals that nearly one in five (17.9%) people being treated for medical conditions in displacement camps in Cox’s Bazar are already experiencing some form of lung disease as COVID-19 spreads in one of the most densely populated places on earth. Three years on from a mass exodus triggered by violence on 25 August 2017, close to 1 million people displaced from Rakhine, Myanmar, also face many other chronic health conditions, including malnutrition and diarrhea, in overcrowded camps. Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Operation of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in the Population Movement Operation in Cox’s Bazar, said: “My greatest fear is that high and unacceptable rates of acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and malnutrition, all make families more at risk of COVID-19.” To date, there have only been 82 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths reported among the population of displaced people living in the camps. But concerns remain high, and these figures may not tell the whole story. “The true extent of the COVID-19 outbreak is unclear due to some challenges with the testing capacity and participation by people in the services and health facilities available in the camps. Red Crescent volunteers are going door to door to provide people with lifesaving information and protective equipment to stay safe from the disease,” Mr Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman said. Despite the serious health concerns, there have been hard fought gains in the past three years. as chronic health conditions including unexplained fever, diarrhoea and other infectious diseases have reduced, according to World Health Organization figures, despite some of the harshest living conditions in the world. The figures show that intense public health measures and boosted access to limited medical care have succeeded in containing many serious diseases including diphtheria and measles. The rate of unexplained fever reported in health clinics is nine times less than three years ago at the height of the mass movement of people fleeing violence. Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) sub-office in Cox’s Bazar said: “Every day we see the remarkable strength and resilience of people who live in these camps. It doesn’t ring true that there have only been around 82 identified cases of COVID-19. We are very concerned that there may be many more people sick and infected.” “We have two new COVID-19 isolation and treatment centers treating people along with 11 existing health facilities, all helping to close the gap in critical medical care,” Mr Kafley said. Bangladesh Red Crescent teams, supported by the IFRC and other partners, are providing critical ongoing healthcare, relief supplies including safe water, longer-term support for more secure homes, along with protection and support for women and those most at risk. The relief operations are among the biggest ever in the region.

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Timor-Leste COVID-19 threats: Red Cross prioritizes border areas

Dili, Timor-Leste, August 17, 2020 – Timor-Leste Red Cross (CVTL) is urgently ramping up COVID-19 prevention in remote areas bordering Indonesia as the country’s containment success is threatened after its first new case has been reported in more than three months. While Indonesia has recorded more than 125,000 cases, recently rising by over 2000 each day, Timor-Leste has achieved remarkable success, recording only 24 cases in the country in total and remaining COVID free since late April. Late last week an Indonesian national tested positive to the virus after entering Timor-Leste via a land border with Indonesia. Timor-Leste’s government responded quickly, declaring a new state of emergency, tightening border restrictions, and reinstating stricter health protocols and bans on gatherings. Red Cross has further intensified its prevention campaign in the border regions, regarded as the “red zone”, for the transmission of COVID-19. Since the outset of the pandemic, Timor-Leste Red Cross has prioritized this area and its 35 villages and 140 hamlets due to the porous border that allows people to move illegally between the neighboring countries. Secretary General of Timor-Leste Red Cross, Anacleto Bento Ferreira, said: “Timor-Leste Red Cross volunteers are reaching out to communities with important hygiene information and awareness raising activities to contain the virus. In disease outbreaks, engaging with and providing timely information to the most exposed communities is the best way to help people protect themselves.” “Known and trusted in the area, our volunteers are best equipped to reach these remote villages and hamlets, going door to door or sharing information at strategic places like markets and village centres. Where possible, we amplify this through radio messages and social media.” In addition to the educational campaign, Red Cross has worked with the Ministry of Health to establish quarantine tents in the capital Dili and the border stations between Indonesia and Timor-Leste. With hygiene a priority, Red Cross has also established more than 80 hand washing facilities in key areas such as government offices, schools and churches and is now working urgently to establish another 80 in border areas. Jan Gelfand, Head of IFRC’s Country Cluster Support Team for Indonesia and Timor-Leste, said: “Timor-Leste is one of the few countries in the world that succeeded in containing COVID-19, responding quickly and effectively in dealing with the pandemic at the outset. With the detection of a new case it is important that every effort is made to contain the transmission of COVID-19.” “Given that Timor-Leste is a relatively new country, COVID-19 has the potential to place a great deal of pressure on the country’s fragile health care system particularly in remote areas. With its reach down to the village level, CVTL has an important role to play in this effort.” 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. www.ifrc.org-Facebook-Twitter-YouTube

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Philippines: Red Cross urges greater vigilance as COVID-19 cases fill hospitals

Manila, 28 July 2020 - Red Cross is urging everyone in the Philippines to be even more vigilant as COVID-19 cases continue to jump by more than a thousand each day following the easing of quarantine restrictions. More than 80,000 people in the country have tested positive to COVID-19, with a record number of 2,539 cases in a single-day on 8 July. There are more than 42,000 confirmed cases this month alone, more than double the cases from January to June 30. The country has the most number of active cases compared to its neighbouring countries in South East Asia. An increasing number of hospitals are reporting full capacity and can no longer accommodate COVID-19 patients. The Department of Health reported on 14 July that the COVID-19 bed capacity in the country’s capital, Metro Manila, has reached a “danger zone” with 76 percent of COVID-19 wards occupied. A “warning zone” has been declared in four regions which have at least 30 percent of isolation beds occupied. Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said: “The biggest threat is complacency as we are far from being out of the woods. We need to act like we already have the virus and keep wearing face masks and practising proper handwashing and physical distancing. While we all carry out our responsibility to protect ourselves and others, we in the Philippine Red Cross will continue responding and focusing our resources on key areas where we can create the most impact to help contain the disease. Together, we will prevail.” Red Cross is playing a central role, working alongside the government in tracing, testing, isolating and treating COVID-19 patients. Thousands of volunteers are helping with surveillance and contact tracing. Seven molecular laboratories across the country have tested more than 300,000 people so far, comprising 26 percent of the national test output. Seventy-one medical tents have been set up to support public and private hospitals. Red Cross volunteers are also distributing emergency food packages, providing psychosocial support, promoting healthy behaviour and improved hygiene, reaching more than 700,000 people. IFRC’s Acting Head of Philippine Country Office, Patrick Elliott said: “These times are very challenging for all of us, but some are more at risk and we have growing concerns for the elderly, people with disabilities and families with members who have contracted the disease. We need greater efforts to overcome mounting stigma and fear in the community. Volunteers are providing for basic needs to reduce the worsening social and economic impacts of this tragic pandemic.” Of the 16,000 families being assisted with cash grants, 4,500 families have members who have contracted the disease. They are also provided with food support while in quarantine. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting National Societies in most at-risk countries through a global appeal. Philippines is second after Indonesia with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in South East Asia. 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. www.ifrc.org-Facebook-Twitter-YouTube

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Red Cross urges Indonesians to change behavior to slow COVID-19

Jakarta/Kuala Lumpur, 24 July 2020 – Indonesian Red Cross is calling on Indonesians to continue practising physical distancing and to exercise greater caution to prevent COVID-19 infections from spiralling out of control as the country adapts to a `new normal’. COVID-19 cases continue to climb rapidly in Indonesia, with more than 1000 new cases being diagnosed every day over the past three weeks, with a record high of over 2,600 people infected by coronavirus. The country is the hardest hit in South East Asia, with more than 91,751 cases and at least 4,459 deaths, according to the John Hopkins University COVID-19 database. In response to this surge in cases, Red Cross is actively sending stronger public messaging through awareness campaigns, to contain the spread of the virus, especially as restrictions start to ease in much of the country. In what has been called the “new normal”, offices, schools, places of worship, malls, markets, and tourist attractions are reopening in some regions as four months of large-scale social restrictions are lifted. Indonesian Red Cross Secretary General Sudirman Said: “Transmissions will continue to rise unless communities adapt their daily lives by applying strict health protocols during this new normal phase.” “We are intensifying our efforts to educate the public about the importance of changing their behaviour for good by physical distancing, wearing masks and practising good hygiene. We are mobilizing our thousands of brave volunteers to work directly and safely with communities while reaching out on social media and across radio airwaves and loudspeakers. “These times are tough, but people are staying strong. The challenge is to effectively reach all our diverse communities living on 6,000 inhabited islands. This calls for a unified, unprecedented, large scale effort to reach all parts of society, in every corner of our country.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesian Red Cross is mobilising around 7,000 volunteers to provide important health services to 1.5 million people. Volunteers have also carried out health promotion activities for more than five million people focusing on eight priority provinces which have the highest COVID-19 cases in the country, which is the fourth most populous in the world. This effort has been backed by the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), which launched a global appeal to provide support to the world’s most at risk countries, including Indonesia. Jan Gelfand,Head ofIndonesia Country Office,InternationalFederation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society said: “This global pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge, requiring global cooperation but a local response. As cases rise in Indonesia, Red Cross is doubling its efforts, using all available resources to slow the spread of this virus. Red Cross recognises that individuals and communities have a critical role to play, by changing their behaviour, they can help to control COVID in this new normal.”

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Eight hundred thousand masks to help protect migrant workers from COVID-19

Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok, 23 June 2020:Nearly a million masks are being provided to migrant workers, village health volunteers and other frontline workers as part of a new initiative to protect people at risk from COVID-19 in Thailand. An estimated 80 million migrant workers in Asia are particularly vulnerable amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with many missing out on support because they are undocumented and therefore largely invisible to authorities and humanitarian organisations. Thailand is a significant regional migration hub in South-East Asia and currently hosts an estimated four million migrant workers. Most of these migrant workers come from neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Migrants work in a range of sectors including construction, fisheries, agriculture, hospitality, and domestic work. Thai Red Cross Society will be supporting 400,000 people by providing protective equipment to migrant workers, including reusable cloth face masks, alcohol gel and information materials. Migrant workers under quarantine will also receive relief kits including food and personal hygiene items. Mr. Pichit Siriwan, M.D., Deputy Director of the Relief and Community Health Bureau, Thai Red Cross Society, as Chairman of the project said:“This project isencouraging people to wear masks to protect themselves from the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand. Cloth face masks can prevent wearers from transmitting or being in contact with COVID-19. Theobjectives are to protect and help migrants and their families in accordance with humanitarian principles and to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in Thailand." Mr Christopher Rassi, Head of Delegation, Bangkok, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “Migrants, especially those who are undocumented, face daily challenges which are further exacerbated by the health and socio-economic impacts of this pandemic. Red Cross is supporting migrant workers, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and it’s vital that everyone can be safe from COVID-19.” Through this initiative the Thai Red Cross Society is working with IFRC, the Internatioanl Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF, and the Migrant Working Group, Thailand. This major collaboration is being launched in Samut Sakhon province, where many migrants live and work south west of Bangkok. IFRC is supporting Thai Red Cross to assist migrant workers and other COVID-19 initiatives through its Global Emergency Appeal.

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| Press release

Isolation field hospitals open to prevent COVID crisis in Bangladesh camps

Kuala Lumpur/Cox’s Bazar, 22 June 2020:Two new isolation field hospitals are opening to treat an alarming and growing number of COVID-19 patients in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh camps and adjacent host communities. The isolation and treatment centres help address a growing gap in critical medical care needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mass deaths in the world’s biggest camps for displaced people from Rakhine state of Myanmar. More than 1500 cases of COVID-19 in the Cox’s Bazar region, including 37 confirmed cases and three deaths in the crowded camps, are putting immense pressure on existing government hospitals and health facilities established by international relief agencies. Syed Ali Nasim Khaliluzzaman, Head of Population Movement Operation, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society in Cox’s Bazar, said that the true extent of the outbreak may not be fully apparent yet due to limited testing and health facilities available in the camp. “Extremely overcrowded living conditions, the existence of chronic diseases, basic sanitation and hygiene facilities and limited access to healthcare make the displaced communities in Cox’s Bazar extremely vulnerable to the virus,”he said There are an estimated 1.24 million people in the Cox’s Bazar area, including more than 900,000 people living in the camps, with the existing healthcare system stretched to the limit even before the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of a coordinated humanitarian effort, Red Cross Red Crescent has already established 12 healthcare facilities in the camp and meeting the health needs remains a huge challenge for all aid organisations in Cox’s Bazar. “The two new field hospitals are a step to closing the gap in crucial medical care, but it is important to remember that COVID-19 is not the only health emergency for the people living in these camps,”saidSanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of IFRC’s sub-office in Cox’s Bazar. “Whilst the virus is emerging as a massive threat to people living in the camp, there remain high levels of deadly diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and clusters of measles, all placing ongoing demands on the healthcare system in and around the camps. “These communities now need even more support than ever, which can only be provided through a unified effort between national agencies, humanitarian organisations and the international community.” Available for interviews: Dr Mohsin Ahmed, medical doctor heading field hospitals in the camps. Azmat Ulla, Head of Bangladesh Country Office, IFRC

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| Press release

DR Congo: Red Cross calls for “swift and extensive” response to the new Ebola outbreak

Goma/Nairobi/Geneva, 3 June 2020 –More than 150 trained Red Cross volunteers have been deployed as part of a first wave of response to the latest Ebola outbreak in the Équateur Province, in the western part of Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr Simon Missiri, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said: “The resurgence of the virus in Équateur province comes at the worst possible time, when we are already facing a double outbreak - COVID-19 and Ebola in East and West DR Congo - in one of the most complex and dangerous environments in the world. “The health, economic and social impact has the potential to be huge for millions of people who have limited capacity to cope, as their access to healthcare, food security and safety nets is continuously being eroded by humanitarian emergencies and the ongoing conflict.” The 11th Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka, the capital of Équateur Province, was officially declared by the DR Congo Ministry of Health on 31 May 2020. This area was previously affected by an outbreak between May and July 2018. It adds an additional layer of suffering for a population that is already struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The DR Congo Red Cross has been on the frontline of all previous Ebola outbreaks in the country and has developed a strong in-country capacity with 1,600 trained and highly skilled volunteers. Crucially, these have successfully built trust with communities. During the most recent outbreak in the eastern DR Congo, these volunteers provided information on prevention to almost 3 million people and conducted over 28,000 successful safe and dignified burials for confirmed or suspected Ebola cases as part of the 10th outbreak. Robert Ghosn, Ebola Operations Manager for the IFRC said: “When it comes to containing epidemics before these turn into large-scale humanitarian disasters you need not only to act local, with local responders taking ownership of the response, but also to act fast. “As the global pandemic of COVID-19 has broughtthe worldtoits knees, we at the Red Cross have lost no time in scaling up activities in DR Congo. This is not the time to look away from the dire suffering of Congolese people or the consequences for millions of them would be unimaginable.”

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