Building Trust programme
Building Trust during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Humanitarian Settings is our global programme supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to build trust in public health responses and in the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
National Society Investment Alliance: Funding announcement 2022
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
It provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies—particularly those in complex emergencies and protracted crisis—so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services.
The NSIA can award up to one million CHF of accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, bridge grants of up to 50,000 CHF over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from elsewhere.
This year, the NSIA is pleased to announce that the following six National Societies have been selected for accelerator funding in 2022:
Burundi Red Cross
Kenya Red Cross Society
Malawi Red Cross Society
Russian Red Cross Society
Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Zambia Red Cross Society
These National Societies will receive a significant investment of up to one million CHF, to be used over a maximum of five years, to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability. Three of these National Societies (Syria, Malawi and Zambia) previously received NSIA bridge awards, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach towards sustainable development.
In addition, 14 other National Societies will receive up to 50,000 CHF in bridge funding: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Rwanda, Sierra Leone.
In total, the NSIA will allocate 5.4 million CHF to 20 different National Societies this year. This is more than double the funds allocated in 2021 and represents the largest annual allocation since the NSIA’s launch in 2019.
This landmark allocation is made possible thanks to the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, Canada and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ National Societies. Both the ICRC and IFRC have also strongly reinforced their commitment, by allocating 10 million CHF and 2 million CHF respectively over the coming years.
The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination, and Olivier Ray, ICRC Director for Mobilization, Movement and Partnership, said:
“We are pleased to have been able to select 20 National Societies’ initiatives for funding by the NSIA in 2022. Our vision and plans are becoming a reality. We see Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies operating in fragile contexts accessing funds for sustainably developing to deliver and scale up their humanitarian services. This is localization in action and at scale.
It is particularly encouraging to see that the NSIA’s two-stage approach, with initial funds providing a springboard to help National Societies prepare for increased investment aimed at achieving sustained impact on the organization and vulnerable communities, is working. We hope to see many more National Societies planning and following this journey.
2022 will be remembered as a milestone for the NSIA. Our ambition is to maintain this momentum and continue to grow in the years to come. We see this mechanism as a valuable and strategic lever to support National Societies in fragile and crisis settings to undertake their journey towards sustainable development.”
For more information, please click here to visit the NSIA webpage.
Amman Humanitarian Declaration: Concerted efforts to help as many people as possible in Iraq, Jordan and Egypt
The Iraqi, Jordanian and Egyptian Red Crescent societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have agreed on the "Amman Declaration," during a tripartite meeting that took place in Amman, Jordan on 11-12 August 2021. The declaration develops a model of cooperation that is consistent with local strategic orientation and with IFRC’s strategy 2030.
The partners agreed to work on a joint plan of action that addresses common challenges such as climate change, food security, livelihoods, particularly in light of the global consequences of the Covid19 pandemic on people's lives.
Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, Regional Director of IFRC MENA, said: "As partners, we are determined to adopt the best ways and mechanisms that translate our strategic visions into concrete actions on the ground. Particularly, in the fields of disaster preparedness and response, climate change, volunteer management, livelihoods and food security. We agreed to share our experiences notably in regard to working with refugees and displaced people with technical support from IFRC.”
Donor fatigue and the need to find new ways of funding was one of the topics discussed. Partners agreed to develop a joint plan of action to attract resources locally and regionally. They decided as well to form a capacity strengthening task force that will develop a training roadmap to strengthen the skills of the Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers.
For more information:
Rana Sidani Cassou: Mobile: +96171802779
Iraqi Red Crescent Society
A pandemic reminds us why health care professionals are so valuable
Each nurse and midwife who joined the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has a different story, but they share a common passion: to care for those in need.
“I have a big heart that prompts me to engage in humanitarian work in all sectors, whether in times of peace, war, or natural disasters,” said Etidal Abdo Nasser Al-Qabati, a Yemeni nurse and midwife who has specialized in practical nursing and midwifery for three years and studied for four years to become a paramedic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This year, according to WHO, the world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
‘’I started to volunteer for humanitarian work, with the Yemeni Red Crescent, in 1973, and fell in love with nursing and helping others,’’ said Etidal, who is known as ‘Mama Etidal.’ “My biggest pain is knowing that we can conduct rescue missions but lack the necessary resources.”
Etidal started as a @YemenCrescent volunteer, now she is a professional nurse and midwife: “My long experience and big heart prompt me to humanitarian work.” She is the one who protects the dignity of mothers and women during the most difficult times. #YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife pic.twitter.com/5pnQXElVtf
— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 6, 2020
Lebanese midwife Pascale Rizk, joined the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2017 and chose this profession ‘’because it is amongst the most noble professions in the world”.
‘’The relationship that the certified midwife builds with the couple is outstandingly beautiful. Indeed, she witnesses the couple’s greatest moment of joy. And the most sacred event of their lifetime, i.e. the arrival of their newborn.’’
According to Pascale, midwifery and nursing are misperceived by society. ‘’Honestly, when people used to ask me what I did for a living, I would answer by saying ‘a certified midwife,’ and the first response that I would get was: ‘Oh, so you’re a doula?’ People don’t realize that certified midwives are one of the pillars of the medical sector. ‘’
Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services and are often the first and only points of care in their communities. Nurses in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have long been at the frontlines, in war, natural disasters and in combating major diseases like Ebola, SARS, coronaviruses and lately COVID-19, often putting their lives at risk.
"The core of our work is saving other people's lives," says Pascale, a #midwife at @ICRC_lb.#Midwives reduce suffering and protect the dignity of mothers and women during the most difficult times: war, disasters and disease outbreaks such as COVID-19.#YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife pic.twitter.com/DH7Gelr6FC
— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 8, 2020
Muhsin Ghalib, an Iraqi Red Crescent nursing officer, has chosen the nursing profession because it is a vocation that helps preserve human rights. Ghalib narrates an unforgettable experience where he witnessed the death of a young man who was helping his father at the hospital. “I can never forget this experience, because the father was the one who was sick, but ended up staying alive. Whereas his son, who was perfectly healthy, passed away just like that.’’
Today, health care workers need #solidarity, not #stigma. Thank them and show them your support every day. By doing this, you help yourself and others to stay safe.
Think what would happen if we don’t have enough #nurses and #midwives#YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife @iraqircs pic.twitter.com/EDsgGKU364
— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 5, 2020
It is pivotal to create and respect a humanitarian space in order to allow Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and health workers to care for people in need and alleviate human suffering among the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach communities.
Health workers who dedicate themselves to saving lives deserve society’s respect. They must not be prevented from reaching those in need.
Nurses and midwives have devoted their lives to saving and caring for others. In return, we should protect, respect, recognize and give thanks nurses, midwives and all health workers at all times.
Elias from @YemenCrescent was granted a #FlorenceNightingale medal – the highest award one can get in #HealthCareSector.#Midwives and #nurses are needed today more than ever before, and they must be appreciated by everyone. Thank you for what you do! #YearOfTheNurseAndMidwife pic.twitter.com/jUHiflcwj7
— IFRC Middle East and North Africa (@IFRC_MENA) November 4, 2020
Dr. Abbas finds physical distancing a real challenge in Iraq to fight COVID-19
Randa El Ozeir: The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) has gathered its efforts to fight COVID-19, and launched “Your Doctor” program to guide, sensitize, and refer people to the relevant health services depending on their situation. In our conversation with the President of the IRCS, Dr. Yaseen Abbas, we talked about how Iraqis are dealing with the pandemic, which hasn’t changed much of their behavior and social culture although it caused them to lose their livelihood and revealed the depth of the economic and social crisis inflicting on the country. Dr. Abbas stressed the need to strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction and Management to protect the population and keep and attract the local and foreign investments.
Why the situation in Iraq regarding COVID-19 hasn’t improved despite all the adopted measures?
Any measure taken during a pandemic wouldn’t succeed if citizens do not cooperate or understand its importance. Since the beginning, it was obvious that the adopted measures focused on the health side without looking into the reality of livelihood. In the first phase, a curfew has been imposed in Iraq. And this simply meant livelihood interruption for citizens who earn their living from daily jobs. I don’t think citizens would respect such a curfew as it affects their livelihood and their families’ and would find breaking this ban as their only option.
The second and more important point in my opinion is the physical distancing during social event. The social celebrations didn’t stop at all, namely “Majalid Al-Aza’a” (Mourning Gatherings). It is an occasion where come together the parents, relatives, friends, locals, and everyone who had known the deceased. They crowd in pavilions, mosques, and halls for three days as per the customs in Iraq. Social distancing was not practiced as well as the physical distancing in such occasions. Shaking hands, and even hugging, continued. Besides, visits during the curfew did not ease if not increased due to work suspension, and the chances upped for everyone to stay late and meet in the morning, at noon, and at night.
Do you find that learning and education factor in helping with the awareness about the seriousness of COVID-19? And how do you deal with people who believe only in our written fate?
Learning plays a crucial and direct role in the process of accepting and perceiving information. But nowadays, we notice a lot of confusion circulating through the social media. Unfortunately, part of the confusion is coming from highly educated people.
There is been a talk lately, about the concept of “COVID-19 fatigue” as a widespread phenomenon among people, the youth in particular. Does this apply to Iraq or specific parts of it?
Yes, it does apply to Iraq, and I suspect it to be a human nature regardless of the country. The latest measures in Iraq reflect this fatigue, which is noticed through the complete opening of institutions. All restaurants, coffee shops, and public shops are open in a manifestation of COVID-19 fatigue.
Prior to COVID-19, Iraq was still struggling with social, economic, and political crisis. How the unfavourable impact of the virus reflected in the whole situation of the country?
As a result of COVID-19, many jobs discontinued in Iraq. For instance, the hospitality and restaurant sector almost stopped altogether. It employed huge numbers of citizens and affected other related sectors, which was a direct reason for too many to lose their livings, especially those who bank on daily jobs with no protection or insurance.
The other factor is the falling of oil prices, which directly affected many businesses linked to official spending, such as construction, business related to public firms, buying from the markets, and the salary of some public employees or the people who do daily work with the government. The government was in a tight spot to secure the permanent employees’ salaries, which led to harming some of those who earn a daily living.
“Your Doctor” for Help and Guidance
Are there any particular initiatives you like to highlight or believe they played, or could play, a positive role in protecting the population?
In the extensive awareness program the IRCS adopted since the end of last January, the Society launched “Your Doctor” project due to the many confusing opinions circulating about COVID-19. We gave the phone numbers of numerous doctors to guide, at certain hours, those who are suspected of being infected or who are actually infected. Our doctors receive a high volume of calls and refer the caller to the best way of consulting health institutions when his situation worsens and encourage him not to ignore the approved health guidelines in Iraq, as well as these of World Health Organization.
We asked the government to adopt the concept of “Disaster Risk Reduction.” The world and the investors evaluate the countries’ situation by their capacity and resilience at times of disasters whether it be natural or man-made. The risks of investment and building projects in a country are assessed by its capacity to deal with all kinds of disasters. A lack of such plans raises the risk level in investment for both local and foreign investors.
Iraq suffered an unrest due to the living conditions that affected the stability of political situation. There were demonstrations and strikes that might have coincided with what happened in Lebanon. Then later came the COVID-19 pandemic. We all need to understand that “Disaster Risk Reduction” is not a luxury, but a necessity and foundation for any development process to achieve progress and stability. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and notably the National Societies, and the IFRC are involved in directing the government’s focus to prepare emergency plans. To this date, many governments haven’t done that. This is a real problem, as we may find ourselves facing other disasters without any fending governmental plans, the way it happened with COVID-19. Thus, we see the amplified effect in our countries where the most vulnerable groups in society are to bear it.
There’s no doubt that the virus is present among the healthcare workers on the frontline, and the volunteers and staff of the IRCS are no exception. What measures are in place to curb the spread of cases, and how do you deal with the infection cases within the Society?
From the beginning, we realized that our affiliates should follow three simple steps: cleaning the hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing. So we have made clear decisions to reduce the number of people in the offices, limit the numbers within the field teams, and in a clear educational method, stress on the importance of taking the obligatory steps to keep the hands clean and put on the mask. We succeeded to a great extent in preventing the infections inside and through our activities and in our institutions. But this did not spare our staff and volunteers from getting infected by their social interactions, in one way or another, with their families and other members of society. There have been cases, but I believe that 99 percent, if not 100 percent, of them came from outside the Iraq Red Crescent National Society.
Are you still capable of providing the Society’s regular services on a daily basis (for instance, the ambulatory services, the psycho-social support, etc…) although COVID-19 has been on the top priority of the service list?
The psycho-social support is currently a continuing service, namely for the patients, their families, the medical and health cadres who have started to suffer from exhaustion and anxiety too. We offer the First Aid now through our ambulances, but with lower frequency compared to previous times. In fact, I think that as IRCS, we should do business as usual, but gradually and with safe coexistence with people.
What does it mean for you, personally, to be the IRCS president in the time of COVID-19? What are the most difficult challenges you have to face?
As a president of the IRCS in such circumstances and in a country where human suffering is diverse and abundant, it means one thing: keep trying to be innovative in all means. We shouldn’t follow the traditional ways, as we have to be creative in order to deliver our response to the amounting humanitarian needs deriving from COVID-19 and from other issues. And this is the primary challenge. Thank God we haven’t stopped providing our services to the community and were able, despite the regular life disruption for a period of time, to conduct our activities according to population’s needs emerging from the pandemic. As IRCS, I believe we navigated lots of phases in fulfilling our humanitarian goals, as well as answering people’s requirements.
Among other challenges is maintaining the National Society’s regular activities, effectiveness, and staff performance. I mean here particularly its the staff who have been working every day, day and night, without interruption in spite of the difficult circumstances that we went through.
Volunteering with IRCS: Personal Transcendence and Societal Responsibility
“You give but little when you give of your possessions.It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.
Randa El Ozeir: Choosing to volunteer with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) is not to be taken lightly given the unrest and divisions the country has been grappled with for decades. “I still vividly remember an incident I went through in 2010,” recalled Ibrahim Ali Ibrahim, a seasoned volunteer with the IRCS. “I was still a fresh volunteer when I narrowly escaped being killed. I was carrying some detainees’ letters to their parents through the Red Cross at the time, travelling from Baghdad to Babel on a bus along with other civilian passengers. We came across a checkpoint for Al-Qaida in Latifiya area. One of the armed men, who was Iraqi, got on our bus and started a scrutinizing inspection, which sent a chill up my spine. What if he snatched my bag and interpreted my job with the Red Cross from his own angle, thinking that they are the crusaders?! He asked me for my ID, I told him that I was a student, which was true. Gunshots were echoing outside, and all I was thinking of “what if he ordered me to get off?” There would have been no turning back; only an unfortunate fate.”
Whenever Ibrahim recalls this incident, he relives its frightening scenes vividly. “If it weren’t for a female passenger who appealed to the armed man in a motherly tone, I would have faced a horrible fate. After 30 minutes of absolute silence, I opened my mouth to thank my rescuer”. It is a totally different story when we come to a life-threatening moment. “When you know that the person facing you does not care about anything, when you know you cannot be protected by anyone, you feel that you’re nearing your end. The cars ahead of us were emptied from their male passengers who got shot. I would have joined those unlucky men!”
Ibrahim stayed on path and the reward came “when I handed the letter in from a detainee whose mother thought he was killed by the Americans. When I delivered the good news, the father came running full-force, and the mother kissed me four times. At that moment, I beamed with heroic pride”.
But volunteering with the IRCS does not always have a happy ending, thorny periods are bound to happen. After Ibrahim saved a five-year-old girl who got hit by a car in 2017 when he was a paramedic with IRCS between Karbala and Babel during Ashura, she passed away at the hospital few days later. “The girl fell a few meters farther from the accident’s location due to the collision’s impact and was unconscious. Her head was wounded. I saw the real sorrow and the tragedy in her mother’s and brother’s eyes. The blood was a sign of a possible bleeding in the head. There was pulse but no breath. I frantically started the first-aid procedure, then the girl threw up blood and resumed breathing and crying.”
Ibrahim has earned lately a certificate to train paramedics. He has a background in analytic chemistry and teaches chemistry while still working on his Ph.D. “The fear I encounter doesn’t put me in the regret zone at all. Up to now, my work with the IRCS has been my breathing space. It brings me closer to the real and true life, the life of vulnerable and poor people. It makes me realize that I am not only a professor at the university who lives a normal life full of consumerism and leisure.”
The beginning could be confusing as much as compensating. Safa Alaa Kamal, who joined the IRCS in 2016 and fully concentrates today, as an administrator and a volunteer, on women and children, said, “during my very first filed visit, which happens to be in a refugee camp in the north of Iraq, I felt overwhelmed with conflicting pull-push emotions. On one hand, I was unnerved to fail in helping adequately the displaced people who opened up to me and revealed their own struggles. On the other hand, I was proud of doing my role in alleviating their burden by letting them share their feelings in a safe space. They boosted my self-confidence as a likable volunteer.”
Kamal’s drive to volunteering comes from a religious stance and from a societal sense of responsibility. “Volunteers are a crucial component of the society’s development. I believe that God creates every human being to fulfill a unique purpose, and I understood this since the day I learned that each one of us, including the identical twins, has their matchless eye iris print. I am planning on staying an IRCS’ volunteer for the benefit of my community. I want to leave for my children more advanced and cognizant surroundings.”
Prior to COVID-19, Kamal used to contribute in awareness sessions for women, but due to social distancing and the curfew, she moved to arranging and doing home visits throughout Baghdad’s districts to deliver crucial info about preventing the virus. “Women are not created only to procreate and bring up children. They contribute in building an educated, healthy, and conscious society. I enjoy being a volunteer and living in a state of satisfaction, as this fills me with positive energy to invest in caring for my family and balancing between the two.”
All through her years of volunteering, Kamal has never faced any gender discrimination, “at the contrary, being a woman made me more understanding of what families are going through. From my observation, the female volunteers are more in tune with others, and our communities want people who totally get their needs and recognize their sufferings. And our IRCS’ uniform with its emblem acts like an official permit to access all places. The IRCS is esteemed from everybody and is highly regarded for its good deeds and its humanitarian role.”
“There’s always disappointment and joy,” concluded Ibrahim, “I think the joy balances out everything else and keeps me going. I can see what is going on behind the scenes. My work with the IRCS helps me to transcend and alleviate the innate human tendency to self-interest and selfishness. Others around me do not always look at it from this angle and they wonder why I spend my time in a place with no money when I can teach instead. The answer is crystal clear for me: volunteering takes from my time to give me an inner spirituality that no one can perceive except the person who does it.”
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2020
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 160 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier owing to the Easter holidays.
The selection process
The Empress Shôken Fund received 36 applications in 2020, 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 400,160 Swiss francs to 14 projects in Argentina, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Lithuania, Montenegro, Namibia, Palestine, Panama, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.
The projects to be supported in 2020 cover a number of themes, including first aid, youth engagement and disaster preparedness. 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. The Fund encourages new and innovative approaches that are geared towards learning, so that the broader Movement can benefit from project findings.
The 2020 grants
TheArgentine Red Crosshas launched a generational change in its leadership by promoting volunteers’ access to decision-making bodies. It will use the grant to design and build virtual courses, creating new spaces for dialogue and debate.
For years, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been a major partner of the State in the field of first aid, helping it to respond effectively in a crisis. The National Society will use the grant to reinforce its leadership position by introducing an online first-aid training platform that will facilitate theoretical learning and increase the number of trained first-aiders.
The Hellenic Red Cross seeks to empower local communities in vulnerable or isolated areas. The grant will go towards establishing branch and community disaster teams that will build communities’ resilience through activities and training around disaster risk reduction.
In Iraq, late detection of breast cancer is common and makes the disease much deadlier. To save women’s lives, theIraqi Red Crescent Societywill use the grant to train female volunteers who will raise awareness of early detection methods for breast cancer.
The Lithuanian Red Cross will put the grant towards an innovative digital platform for evaluating the impact of its first-aid courses, issuing and tracking certifications, and connecting with first-aiders after they complete their training.
Young people account for more than 80% of the volunteers of the Red Cross of Montenegro. The National Society will use the grant to improve its activities and services with the aim of strengthening youth participation and raising awareness of volunteer opportunities.
As Namibia’s population grows, first-aid skills and services are more in demand than ever before. The grant will enable the Namibia Red Cross to run intensive first-aid training and certification courses in ten schools.
To better serve the communities it works with, thePalestine Red Crescent Society seeks to build its staff members’ and volunteers’ capacities. It will use the grant to establish a computer lab as a continuing-education unit for all of its staff and volunteers.
In Panama, gang violence has shot up in recent years, and pollution continues to grow owing to a lack of public awareness. The Red Cross Society of Panama will use the grant to develop a series of activities aimed at promoting a culture of peace and environmental responsibility.
Blood transfusion services are an essential component of Sierra Leone’s health-care system. The grant will enable the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to increase access to safe blood products, especially for pregnant woman and infants.
In Timor-Leste, 70% of the population is under 30 years old, but accessing information about reproductive health can be difficult, particularly in rural areas. The Timor Leste Red Cross will use the grant for a public-awareness and education campaign for young people on reproductive health.
The Tonga Red Cross Society will use the grant to improve students' access to health care and physical activity by using safer vehicles for transportation.
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society is exploring novel approaches to teaching disaster preparedness and increasing public awareness on the subject. The grant will enable the National Society to use virtual-reality technology to teach the public about the reality and impact of disasters.
In Uganda, 70% of blood donors are students, so the country faces blood shortages outside term time. The Uganda Red Cross Society will use the grant to develop its online recruitment of adult blood donors so as to counteract any seasonal shortfalls during the holidays.
Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies scaling up coronavirus preparedness and response
As the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading also in the Middle East and North Africa, the Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies in the region are scaling up their preparedness and response, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Aglobal IFRC emergency appealof 32 million Swiss francaims to support the national societies across the globe in in their preparedness and response activities to prevent or slow transmission of the virus. The national societies are helping communities affected by the outbreakthrough community-based health and hygiene promotion, access to basic services, support for containment and treatment, and fighting rumours and stigma with advocacy and accurate information.
Red Cross and Red Crescent help is not a one-size-fits all approach.In each country, the national society is working closely with their health authorities to keep people safe, tailoring their actions depending on the needs and the phase of the outbreak they are in.
In Lebanon, as an auxiliary to the government, the Lebanese Red Cross is transferring people who may have COVID-19 to designated hospitals. The Red Cross has a total of 144 trained emergency medical technicians ready to respond when needed. Almost 300 Red Cross volunteers have also been trained in COVID-19 awareness.
In Iraq, teams of the Iraqi Red Crescent are on the ground raising awareness in communities and schools about how to reduce the risk of COVID-19, stay healthy and protect others.
In Iran, the Iranian Red Crescent is working closely with the health authorities to educate the public about this virus and to share prevention information both online and offline.
Across the West Bank, the Palestine Red Crescent is providing personal protective equipment to ambulance and emergency staff to safely assist people who are sick. The Red Crescent teams are also holding workshops in schools to raise awareness about reducing the risk of the virus.
Teams of the Tunisian Red Crescent are supporting authorities in raising awareness about coronavirus at border crossings.
In Bahrain, volunteers of the Bahrain Red Crescent have been trained on different scenarios related to the novel coronavirus preparedness and response as well as in community outreach.
Management of misinformation and stigmaare crucialto control the spread ofthe virus. Together with WHO and Unicef, IFRC has developed a guide (pdf) to preventing and addressing social stigma associated with COVID-19.
Goodwill ambassador Naseer Shamma tackling humanitarian challenges through music
The renowned Iraqi Oud artist Naseer Shamma, the Goodwill Ambassador of Iraqi Red Crescent and IFRC MENA, performed for peace and social inclusion at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement last week in Geneva, Switzerland.
“I came here to stand side by side with the Red Cross and Red Crescent representatives who risk their lives to help people in need regardless of faith, ethnicity and political affiliations,” said Shamma.
The International Conference, held every four years since 1867, brings together States party to the Geneva Conventions and global Red Cross Red Crescent representatives to discuss the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues and adopt resolutions that guide future humanitarian action.This year, key issues on the agenda included trust, mental health, climate change, pandemic preparedness and migration.
Next year, the Iraqi Red Crescent with support from the IFRC, will continue to work with Mr. Shamma on various advocacy campaigns including climate change, blood donation, migration and health, especially mental health for people affected by war and natural disasters.
“Psychosocial needs increase dramatically when people are exposed to extremely distressing experiences, such as separation from or loss of loved ones, loss of homes, property and livelihoods and severe violations of human dignity. We want to address these issues together with Mr. Shamma,” said Dr. Yaseen Abbas, President of Iraqi Red Crescent.
“Through my music, I am also hoping to help people who struggle with mental health issues. Music can be a powerful healing tool. Music is not a luxury. It satisfies a human need,” said Mr. Shamma.
Climate related shocks and hazards are amongst the major humanitarian emergencies confronting humanity today. Tackling climate change will be the IFRC’s major priority over the coming decade. This means strengthening the capacity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies so that they can effectively respond in their own contexts.
For nearly a decade, Mr. Shamma has also been an active advocate spreading awareness about climate change, especially about the protection of the Mesopotamian Marshlands (al-Ahwar in Arabic).
“The Mesopotamian marshes are a rare aquatic wetland within a desert landscape in the southern part of Iraq, hosting a freshwater ecosystem and providing habitat for important populations of wildlife.Until the 1970’s, they used to cover an area of up to 20,000 square kilometers, but were then drained almost completely. Through active advocacy to reopen the waterways, and heavier rainfall, this unique ecosystem is slowly being saved.” Shamma explained.
The IFRCsays that by 2050, 200 millionpeople per year could need humanitarian assistance as a result of climate-related disastersand climate change’s socioeconomic impact.
“I look forward working with the IFRC to spread awareness on the deadly effects of climate change in order for communities to increase their capacity to deal with the impending disasters which are to come," Shamma concluded.
Iraqi Red Crescent paramedic: 18 hours of work is not enough
Imad Sabah’s life changed more than 15 years ago, when he met an Iraqi Red Crescent Society’s volunteer collecting donations for displaced people in Anbar. When Imad heard how people had to leave all their belongings behind and seek safety away from home, and how the Red Crescent was supporting them, he was touched and decided to join the RC himself.
Since that date, as a RC volunteer and an active member of the emergency response team, Imad has been an important part of the ongoing humanitarian work of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society during many difficult situations Iraq has witnessed over the years.
After joining the Red Crescent, Imad Sabah has been trained on various humanitarian skills such as first aid, psychological support, disaster management and response. Imad, who always carries his first aid bag with him, has saved the lives of hundreds of people.
Lately, since the demonstrations started in Baghdad, he has been leading the emergency first aid team rescuing the wounded either on site in Tahrir Square or transporting them to nearby hospitals.
Working for more than 18 hours a day, Imad and his team refuse to leave the site of the demonstrations even during their breaks.
“I don’t feel tired, even though this work is very stressful. My team and I work in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, where we provide first aid for the injured. For more critical cases, we transport the injured to hospital and help the medical staff to manage the influx of people”, Imad explains.
The best reward Imad and his team get is from the people they help.
“We feel their love and appreciation. As soon as they see our logo, they allow us to help them, they give us access and they trust us. This is the best kind of a reward: access to those who need us.”
On a personal level, Imad has recently married another Iraqi Red Crescent volunteer - with whom he promised to spend the remaining 6 hours, after 18 hours a day saving lives.
IFRC releases emergency funds to support Iraq Red Crescent relief operations
By Rana Sidani Cassou
Iraq Red Crescent Society relief operations to support people affected by recent demonstrations in the country have received a boost from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
More than 150,000 Swiss francs have been released from IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help the Iraq Red Crescent to continue its humanitarian support.
Since the start of the protests on 1 October, more than 200 Iraq Red Crescent volunteers have been mobilized to provide first aid to the injured, give psychosocial support, and medical evacuations. A total of nine branches have been involved in the response. The demonstrations have involved clashes that have resulted in several deaths, and many thousands of people have been injured.
The emergency fundswillfurther strengthen IRCS capacity and ensurecontinuity of first aid and pre-hospital care topeople atriskof being affected bypossible unrest in themain cities of the country.
Meanwhile, and in the coming three days, millions of people from around the world are expected to arrive at Karbala city, 100 kilometers southwest of Baghdad, to visit the shrines of Imam Hussein and Abbas. Some of the pilgrims make their journey on foot from cities as far asBasra, about 500 kilometers away.
“Every year, we mobilize all our volunteers and employees to minimize the risks that might arise during this mass gathering,” said Dr. Yaseen Abbas, President of IRCS. “Some people walk for days including elderly, children and patients suffering from chronic diseases. We provide them with first aid, medical treatment all along their journey.”
With the participation of more than 2,000 staff and volunteers, IRCS installed more than 100 emergency health mobile and fixed posts in Karbala and on the roads that leads to it. So far more than 24,000 people have benefited from IRCS first aid, blood pressure measurement, evacuation to hospitals and awareness activities.
The location where pilgrims will arrive at the end of their journey is only accessible by foot. For that reason, more than 100 volunteers are there ready with stretches to evacuate people suffering from fatigue to the ambulances parked nearby. Two mobile hospitals have been deployed to the area as well.
In addition, more than 50 volunteers have one task: look for missing people, mainly children, who might be separated from their parents because of the huge number of people gathered in the same place.
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.
| Press release
Amidst escalating crises, Middle East humanitarian leaders meet to chart new course
Baghdad, 18 April 2018 – Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa gather today in Baghdad to discuss the region’s escalating humanitarian crises.
More than 140 attendees, including representatives from 16 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, will attend the conference to explore a range of issues, including the shrinking of neutral and impartial humanitarian space, and the rising vulnerabilities of millions of migrants.
“The Iraqi Red Crescent Society is pleased to welcome our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners to plan our collective strategy for the next decade,” said Dr Yassin, the President of the Iraqi Red Crescent.
“Only together, standing by our humanitarian principles, and advocating for protected humanitarian space, can we alleviate the suffering of millions of vulnerable people in our region.”
The Middle East and North Africa region is home to the world’s most pronounced humanitarian crises. The conflict in Syria, now in its seventh year, has left 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. In Iraq itself, 15 years of conflict and economic stagnation have left more than 8.5 million people relying on humanitarian relief. In Yemen, more than 80 per cent of the population is in need of aid today – 3.4 million people more than one year ago – after conflict devastated the health system and other essential infrastructure. Only 45 per cent of Yemen’s health facilities are currently functioning. In Libya, 9 per cent of the country’s estimated one million migrants are minors, and 40 per cent of these are unaccompanied. These crises are happening in parallel to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine.
The region’s conflicts are defined by growing disregard for humanitarian laws and norms. Civilians are increasingly bearing the brunt of the fighting, and aid agencies are finding it more and more difficult to access communities in need. As a further consequence, an estimated 35 million people have been displaced from their homes across the Middle East and North Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Mr Francesco Rocca, the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “Across the region and around the world, these people – who have fled their homes because of war or violence – struggle to access the services and support they need to survive. Even worse, they are increasingly falling victim to policies and laws that prioritize border control over humanity and dignity.
“All people migrating, regardless of their status, must have access to humanitarian protection and assistance. Human rights are migrant rights.”
During the conference, the Iraqi Red Crescent will nominate renowned artist Naseer Shamma as a Good Will Ambassador, in recognition of this efforts to help Iraqis affected by the conflict.
At the end of the two-day conference, participants will aim to adopt the Baghdad Declaration, which will address a range of humanitarian issues and underline the importance of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in bringing hope and support to vulnerable communities.
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
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