Displaying 1 - 15 of 15
31/03/2023 | Press release

Vanuatu: One month on since double cyclones, rising cases of Leptospirosis a concern

Port Vila, 31 March 2023 – There are grave concerns over the increase in Leptospirosis cases, a bacterial disease, one month on from the double category 4 cyclones in Vanuatu. The country has reported 19 new cases of Leptospirosis and three deaths since the cyclone passed. The majority of cases have been in Santo and Efate islands, with a few cases in Malekula, Pentecost, Malo and Erromango. Vanuatu Red Cross is working in coordination with authorities to curb the situation with health awareness in communities across the six provinces. Vanuatu Red Cross Secretary General, Dickinson Tevi said: "It is usually in the aftermath of any cyclone that we see an increase in diseases such as Leptospirosis. Flooded waters have contaminated water sources, animals have been affected, and people who are in contact with these animals and infected water sources, usually get it." "Our volunteers are raising awareness on these issues, including to watch out for symptoms, when they visit the communities with relief distributions. Teams are also raising awareness on other diseases such as typhoid and dengue fever which are also common in the aftermath of a cyclone. They are advising communities to practice safe hygiene and to boil all drinking water. Cleaning their surroundings is also important to prevent dengue fever." Vanuatu Red Cross has so far reached over 9,000 people with immediate relief assistance. Over 1,000 shelter toolkits, 2,500 tarpaulins, 1,600 mosquito nets, 800 hygiene kits, 250 dignity kits which includes sanitary hygiene items for women and girls, and 1,400 jerry cans for storing water have been distributed to severely affected communities. The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) continue to work with Vanuatu Red Cross and partners to provide essential support to the teams on the ground. Emergency funds totalling 799,389 Swiss Francs has been released to support Vanuatu Red Cross with their operations over the next six months – until September, 2023. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said: "We continue to provide critical support to Vanuatu Red Cross and the affected communities. Families are slowly picking up the pieces and the Red Cross is right there assisting them get back on their feet.” “In the coming weeks and months, we will focus on early recovery efforts in the form of water source rehabilitation through rainwater harvesting and restoring livelihoods through cash voucher assistance.” For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 998 3688, [email protected]

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14/03/2023 | Press release

Vanuatu: Urgent need for shelter and clean drinking water after double cyclones

Port Vila, 14 March 2023 – There is an urgent need for shelter and clean drinking water as hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by back-to-back cyclones in communities across Vanuatu. Hundreds of people are still seeking shelter in evacuation centres as some have had their houses damaged or completely destroyed. Access to clean drinking water has also been affected as water sources were damaged due to the severity of impact of the two cyclones. Cyclones Judy and Kevin affected over 160,000 people across the six provinces of the country. Ten days since the cyclones hit, most communities remain without power as authorities continue to struggle on finishing the repair on damaged power lines. Vanuatu Red Cross has been working closely in coordination with the local National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and providing immediate assistance to those in evacuation centres and in severely affected communities. Over 300 trained Red Cross volunteers have been deployed to assist with the disaster response and continue to work tirelessly up to now. Vanuatu Red Cross Secretary General, Dickinson Tevi said: “Our volunteers have been on the ground since last week conducting assessments and distributions to the affected communities. Most houses have suffered damages while some people have had their houses completely blown away. That just shows the scale of damages caused by these two cyclones. It was massive.” “We are glad to have been able to establish contact with our branch on Tanna island and our volunteers are already distributing relief items to affected households.” The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released emergency funds totalling 799,389 Swiss Francs to provide support to Vanuatu Red Cross for nine months. With the support of IFRC, Vanuatu Red Cross volunteers have so far reached over 5,000 people with immediate relief. Over 700 shelter toolkits for repairing of damaged houses, 1,000 tarpaulins, 500 hygiene kits for cleaning and washing, 200 solar lanterns and 900 jerry cans for storing of water have been distributed to severely affected communities. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said: “We are already assisting Vanuatu Red Cross to scale up its activities with this response as critical needs become clearer with assessment data coming in from affected communities. We have already deployed IFRC and Red Cross personnel in key technical roles such as Shelter cluster coordination and IT and telecommunications, to assist with operations and are looking at deploying additional staff in the coming days based on gaps identified by Vanuatu Red Cross." “The impact of these two cyclones will be felt for a long time and will need a well-coordinated response plan to get people back on their feet, the soonest time possible.” For more information, contact: In Port Vila: Soneel Ram, +678 517 0388, [email protected]

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02/03/2023 | Press release

Cyclone Judy wreaks havoc across Vanuatu, Red Cross ready to respond

Port Vila/Suva, 2 March 2023 – Cyclone Judy has left a massive trail of destruction in its path across Vanuatu as over 160,000 people are estimated to be affected. A category 4 cyclone with destructive winds of up to 150 km per hour and gusting to 200 km per hour, has also caused severe damage to infrastructure, buildings, connectivity, and crops. Port Vila and Tanna felt the brunt of the cyclone with power outage and water cuts in some of the worst affected communities. Vanuatu Red Cross is working with authorities to ascertain how many households require immediate assistance as well as provide first aid to individuals. Vanuatu Red Cross Secretary General, Dickinson Tevi said: “We are trying our best to reach the worst affected communities. The disaster was massive and as a result, some roads leading to communities have been damaged while some roads have been blocked by fallen trees and debris.” “That’s how much of an impact this cyclone had. Our Red Cross volunteers are on the ground and working with authorities to reach these communities as we are yet to find out the full extent of damages in these places.” Immediate pre-positioned relief items such as tarpaulins for shelter are ready to be distributed to 2500 affected households. In addition, hygiene kits for washing and cleaning, solar lanterns, mosquito nets and cooking items are also ready for distribution. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said: “We must act swiftly as people are in urgent need of short-term relief especially with basic needs such as temporary shelter and access to clean and safe drinking water. "A disaster of this scale is too big for one country to deal with. It will need a coordinated regional effort to first provide immediate relief, and then help communities rebuild their lives and livelihoods in the longer term." Hours after cyclone Judy caused havoc, another tropical low pressure system has entered Vanuatu's area of responsibility as of today and is predicted to follow the same path as TC Judy. The potential for this tropical low to develop into a tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours and move towards Vanuatu is high. The increased frequency and intensity of these cyclones is a reality our Red Cross Societies and the communities they work with are facing due to the impacts of climate change and shifting weather patterns. Vanuatu was last affected by a cyclone of this scale in 2015 when category 5 Cyclone Pam caused widespread damage across Port Vila, affecting at least 166,000 people. For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected]

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04/03/2023 | Press release

Vanuatu: Back-to-back cyclones hammer island nation, recovery efforts will be immense

Port Vila/Suva, 4 March 2023 – Hundreds of thousands of people in Vanuatu are estimated to be affected after two massive category 4 cyclones slammed across the island nation within 24 hours. Cyclone Kevin, packing wind gusts of up to 160 km per hour, slammed across the country within hours of cyclone Judy’s exit. Access to affected communities has been hampered as most roads have been damaged and fallen power lines have also caused power outages, making communication to remote communities difficult. Tanna island in the province of Tafea is expected to be the worst affected. Vanuatu Red Cross Secretary General, Dickinson Tevi said: “We are still trying to establish communication with our branch in Tanna. We still have not heard anything since cyclone Judy hit. We have pre-positioned relief items on the island ready to be distributed to affected households. Despite being cut off from the rest of the country, our trained staff and volunteers on the island will know what to do as this is what we prepare them for every year as part of our disaster preparedness trainings.” “The impact of both these cyclones will be felt for a long time as people slowly start to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives. The response and recovery efforts will be huge.” Vanuatu Red Cross has been providing immediate assistance to over 300 people currently sheltered in evacuation centres with items such as blankets, hygiene kits for washing and cleaning and solar lanterns. Other items such as tarpaulins for shelter are also ready for distribution once teams are able to access affected communities. Head of the IFRC Pacific Office, Katie Greenwood, said: “Two back-to-back cyclones means that the immediate needs will be huge. IFRC is ready to provide support as we anticipate that the needs will be scaled up in the coming days. We are working closely with the team at Vanuatu Red Cross and preparing for the days ahead.” “Disasters of this scale require collaboration with all relevant stakeholders so that we reach the most affected people with assistance as fast and as safely as we can.” For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected]

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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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27/04/2022 | Press release

Vaccinations vital as COVID cripples Pacific countries

Kuala Lumpur/Suva 28 April 2022 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are increasingly concerned for more than 1 million people in Pacific nations as they struggle with their first major wave of COVID-19 fuelled by the Omicron variants. Ramping up vaccinations is vital as the rapid surge in COVID infections is causing increasing death and illness in countries with low immunisation rates. COVID-free for almost two years, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati, and Samoa have all experienced outbreaks in their capitals, and the virus is spreading to vulnerable outer island communities which lack basic treatment and vaccination facilities. The virus is putting huge strains on fragile healthcare systems in population centres such as Honiara, Port Vila and Nuku’alofa. A rising number of healthcare workers are being struck down with COVID-19, further limiting health services and escalating the crisis. Sainiana Rokovucago, Acting Pacific Head of Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “It is critical that we reach the last mile with vaccinations in the most remote Pacific island villages. Every effort must be made by authorities to reach these communities, despite the logistical challenges of getting vaccines to these remote tropical islands.” “Red Cross volunteers are working with communities to understand the importance of getting vaccinated and maintaining hygiene to stem the spread of this dangerous virus.” Solomons Islands has reported more than 12,000 infections and more than 100 deaths since January, 2022. Vanuatu has reported over 6,000 cases and 12 deaths in the past two months. After the volcanic eruption and tsunami in January, Tonga is battling a triple disaster with over 9,000 cases and 11 deaths due to COVID. In the Solomon Islands, only 20 per cent of the population have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. In Vanuatu, only 38 per cent have received two doses, considered the minimum initial protocol to help protect people. “There is strong evidence that vaccinations save lives. People in the Cook Islands are experiencing their first wave of the virus, yet due to the high vaccination rate of 100 per cent, they have been able to avoid severe illness and many deaths.” “It is critical that we do even more to counter misinformation, knowledge gaps and rumours about COVID-19 and vaccinations, by building trust and vaccine by understanding any concerns, answering questions, and fostering dialogue through trusted channels.” “COVID is far from over in the Pacific so we need to vaccinate everyone now”. For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Preeti Abraham, +66 61 412 3910, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [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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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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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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29/04/2020 | Press release

Pacific Islands: IFRC releases extra funds to support Cyclone Harold response in Vanuatu

Suva,22April2020–As a fuller picture of the destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu begins to appear, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released an additional allocation under its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to cover urgent relief assistance in the first six months. Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold left a trail of destruction across Vanuatu in early April, affecting more than 127,0000 people, and destroying 90 per cent of housing in some areas, including Luganville, Vanuatu’s second largest city. Onthe Island of Pentecost, up to 95 per cent of houses were destroyed, and many families are still sheltering in evacuation centres. At the time of TC Harold’s arrival, the country, which is one of the most disaster-prone in the world, was already dealing with immense humanitarian challenges, including COVID-19 preparedness as well as ongoing volcanic eruptions in Tafea province and localised flooding. “Vanuatu Red Cross Society, as an auxiliary partner to the National Disaster Management Office of the government, are experienced and were well prepared to respond to needs on several fronts,” IFRC’s Head of Country Cluster Support Team for the Pacific , Kathryn Clarkson, says. "At the time of TC Harold, they were already providing COVID-19 awareness session and hygiene promotion in communities, and now have scaled up their extensive volunteer network throughout the islands to support the needs of people affected by TC Harold.” In response to these challenges, on April 21, the IFRC allocated an additional CHF 657,590 from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to boost the ongoing emergency response operations of the Vanuatu Red Cross. “This will target 5,050 families [approximately 25,250 people or 30 per cent of the affected population] with emergency shelter needs, non-food relief items, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH), health and first aid,” Ms Clarkson says. “With restrictions on travel at the moment across the Pacific due to COVID-19, we also need to adjust to provide technical support remotely from our IFRC office in Fiji with additional delegates working remotely from New Zealand and Australia.“ This assistance will also complement other financial and in-kind assistance provided by the U.S Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Australian Red Cross and New Zealand Red Cross. “Vanuatu Red Cross are on the ground, and in the most affected communities, supporting in a number of ways, including collaboration with health authorities and partners, to offer health stations in evacuation centres where the existing medical facilities have been destroyed,” IFRC’s TC Harold Operations Manager, Rene Jinon says. “By accessing relief stock on the islands, it has enabled the Vanuatu Red Cross Society to work quickly to support those who need it most,” Mr Jinon adds. “To date more than750 standard Vanuatu Red Cross Society family kits have been provided to affected families on three of the Islands, including a shelter tool kit, two tarpaulins, kitchen sets and hygiene kits, two mosquito nets, a 20L jerry can, two sleeping mats and blankets and a solar lamp.” IFRC’s assistance is to respond to immediate relief needs, while detailed assessments continue to be carried out for recovery needs.

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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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11/04/2019 | Article

Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2019

About the Fund The Empress Shôken Fundis named after Her Majesty The Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan. The Fund has a total value of over 15 million Swiss francsand supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 150 National Societies thus far. The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese RedCrossand the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund isevident inthe regularity of their contributions to it. The grants are usually announced every year on11April, the anniversary of her death. This yearthe announcement isbeingpublished earlierdue to the weekend. The selection process The Fund received 47 applications in 2019, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 395,782 CHF to 14 projects in Bolivia, Cyprus, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Singapore, Slovenia, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine and Vanuatu. The projects to be supported in 2019 cover a number of themes, including displaced people, disaster preparedness in vulnerable communities, and social cohesion and inclusion. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere. Going forward, the Joint Commission will continue to focus on innovative projects that are geared towards learning so that the broader Movement canbenefit from project findings. The 2019 grants The Bolivian Red Cross is currently working to address the issue of gender-based violence among young people. It will use the grant to set up a permanent programme for schools and youth organizations in order to conduct educational sessions, raise awareness, and provide support and assistance to victims of violence. Cyprus has become an important destination for trans-Mediterranean migration. Using the grant, the Cyprus Red Cross Society will train refugees and asylum seekers in standard and psychological first aid to enable members of the migrant community to help each other and relieve some of the pressure on the health-care sector. The Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau will use the grant to strengthen the resilience of coastal communities threatened by extreme weather. The funds will go towards drawing up an emergency action plan, building up stocks of relief items and training at-risk communities so that they can respond rapidly in times of need. In Iraq, displaced people and those living in remote areas have limited access to water, sanitary facilities and health care, which increases the risk that diseases such as cholera will spread. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society will use the grant to set up a health-education programme to raise children’s awareness of communicable diseases and the importance of personal hygiene. The conflict in Syria has significantly increased the number of refugees in Lebanon, which has put a strain on blood-related services in the country. The Lebanese Red Cross is a major provider of these services and will use the grant to enhance its ability to deliver them free of charge to all those in need. Hundreds of schools in Mexico were damaged by a major earthquake in 2017. The grant will help the Mexican Red Cross to set up a programme to prepare school communities for disasters and other emergencies, promote healthy lifestyles and develop skills to facilitate peaceful co-existence. Young people account for more than 70% of the volunteers of the Mozambique Red Cross. The National Society will therefore use the grant to strengthen its youth-oriented initiatives by running training camps and information campaigns, and setting up Red Cross activities in schools. In 2004, the Sao Tome and Principe Red Cross opened a social home for the elderly, which plays an important role in reducing this community’s vulnerability. The grant will allow the National Society to renovate the building and improve the services on offer. The Singapore Red Cross Society runs a large-scale programme to deploy volunteers overseas during disasters. It will use the grant to scale up the training programme for these volunteers, adding more specialized and in-depth training and team-building sessions to ensure the volunteers can work as effectively as possible. The Slovenian Red Cross plans to take an innovative approach to social cohesion by tackling hate speech and its consequences, with a special emphasis on hate speech against migrants. The grant will go towards a training programme within schools, designed to encourage students to become young cultural ambassadors and further spread the message. The Suriname Red Cross Society will use the grant to address disaster preparedness in vulnerable schools in Paramaribo. The National Society will help schools and communities to draw up disaster plans, deliver first-aid training to teachers, and set up and train school emergency brigades made up of teachers and students. The Thai Red Cross Society has a proven track record in conducting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities in emergencies, through its widespread network of registered nurses. It will use the grant to scale up this campaign, as well as to create a WASH manual, together with general and menstrual hygiene kits. The armed conflict in Ukraine has led to a substantial rise in the number of volunteers working for the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. The grant will go towards a new, more sophisticated system for registering, managing and training the National Society’s growing volunteer base. People with disabilities are at greater risk during disasters. The Vanuatu Red Cross Society will therefore use the grant to improve and promote disability and gender inclusion in National Society projects and programmes concerning volunteers, recruitment, capacity building, participation and access.

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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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