‘If someone told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it’
It’s one of those stories that even those involved find hard to swallow. “I think if someone told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it…but it happened to me,” says Hassan Al Kontar, a 38-year-oldSyrian refugee currently living in British Columbia, Canada
For several months in 2018, Al Kontar was known as “the man at the airport” in the news, after he wasstranded at the Kuala Lumpur airport for 7 months.
His story began in 2011 when conflict broke out in Syria while he was living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Not wanting to go back to Syria — to face civil war and likely conscription into the army — he stayed in UAE until his visa expired. Ultimately deported to Malaysia, he sought asylum in numerous countries, including Canada.
In the meantime, he waited in the airport. And waited.
He slept in airport chairs and in a small enclave under an escalator. He made friends with the cleaning staff who brought him food and coffee (the coffee shops were in a part of the airport he couldn’t access).
Boredom and incessant boarding announcements were constant companions as the days ticked slowly by.He missed important family events, like his brother’s wedding, which he watched via Skype.
Desperate and frustrated, he turned to social media, quickly becoming an internet and media phenomenon. News reports referred to him as a real-life version of Tom Hanks’s character in the film, The Terminal.
“It’s the small things — taking a shower, washing your clothes, getting medicine — things you do all the time that suddenly become impossible”, explained Hassan.
“I remember day 122. I felt something strange. I could not tell what it was until I discovered that someone had opened a door to the outside. It was the first time in 120 days that I smelled fresh air.”
Finally, in November 2018, a private group of Canadians succeeded in sponsoring Hassan’s request for residency and he boarded a plane to British Columbia. Canada was the first country in the world to introduce a private sponsorship programme, which allows five individual Canadians or permanent residents to collectively sponsor a refugee. “Ordinary individuals are directly involved in saving lives,” says Hassan. “If that’s not being a hero, what is?”
From limbo to inclusion
Hassan’s airport experience was just one example of thelegal limboin which refugees often find themselves: stuck at borders, unable to move forward or back, as they try to make asylum claims and wait for some sign of hope.
Today, Hassan’s story is an example of what can happenwhen refugees are given the chanceto make a life for themselves and give back to their new communities. In Hassan’s case, part of giving back means putting on the well-known red vest worn by volunteers and staff of the Canadian Red Cross.
Inspired by the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Syria and in many other conflict and emergency zones around the world,Hassan decided to help othersas his adopted country coped with a worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
“Working with the Red Cross is a dream come true,” he says. “It’s my way of giving back to the community that accepted me and gave me a chance. It’s my way of showing the Canadian people that they were not wrong in giving me a chance.”
Afraid of forgetting
Still, life is not always easy for a refugee half-way around the world from his family. “It’s my destiny and the destiny of every refugee to live between two worlds,” he says.
It’s the little things — the aroma of coffee or fresh rain on a hot street — thatbring back memories of his home in Syria, where his family has a small farm. “I am afraid of forgetting,” says Hassan, as he prepares a Syrian style coffee in his flat in Vancouver. “I have not seen my mother, my siblings, for 12 years. I do not want to lose the connection.”
What does it mean to be Syrian?
Now Hassan’s mission is tohelp his family and other refugeesfind a similar sense of safety. He works with a group that helps sponsor other refugees and he continues posting on social media to raise awareness about the plight of refugees.He even wrote a bookcalledMan @ The Airport.
“I want the western world to understand [Syrian refugees] more,” he says. “To bring the gap closer between our two cultures. What does it mean to be Syrian? To be powerless? To be voiceless?”
But Hassan is hopeful. Ironically, he says the restrictions imposed due tothe COVID-19 pandemic has helped many people better understand the plight of refugees. “During the pandemic, when all the borders were closed, people could begin to understand how it has always been for refugees. When all airports were forbidden areas, when all our passports, regardless of the color, were equally useless. This is still is the situation for most refugees in the world today.”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
| Press release
Türkiye and Syria earthquakes: Six months on, IFRC calls for urgent support to meet immense ongoing needs
Ankara/Damascus, 3 August 2023: Six months after the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls for urgent support to affected communities still reeling from the monumental impacts of the disaster.
Although recovery efforts are well underway, the earthquakes have had an immeasurable impact, leading to the loss of thousands of lives and affecting millions more.
“We have seen astounding resilience in communities, but people still find themselves stuck in a very difficult situation,” says Ruben Cano, IFRC Head of Delegation in Türkiye. “Many people in Türkiye – particularly those who lost their homes and income – are still struggling with their day-to-day needs, including paying for food, rent and other necessities. A ‘normal’ life is still far from reach.”
Many people are falling deeper into debt to help cover their needs while they recover and build back income sources. More than 50 percent of families supported by the IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent are taking on new debts after the earthquakes as the country battles inflation and a drastic increase in prices.
In Syria, the reality for many people is even more dire – the earthquake's impact, coupled with 12 years of conflict, has rendered recovery exceedingly challenging. The economic situation continues to push already vulnerable communities deeper into hardship and uncertainty.
“The rescue phase of the earthquake response may have concluded, but the emergency situation persists,” says Mads Brinch Hansen, IFRC Head of Delegation in Syria. “Immediate international support is needed right now, both to meet immediate humanitarian needs, as well as to build people’s resilience and rehabilitate vital infrastructure and community services, which are on the brink of collapse.”
The IFRC, together with the Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent, has been at the very heart of this response since day one. Teams have been providing immediate relief to affected communities, including food, water, shelter, healthcare and mental health and psychosocial support. Financial support through cash and vouchers is helping many families recover as best they can, as is support for rebuilding businesses and opportunities for income.
The IFRC launched two Emergency Appeals, one for Türkiye and one for Syria, totaling CHF 500 million. There is still a funding gap of 74% in Türkiye and 56% in Syria. Further support and funding are urgently needed to make a significant impact on the lives of those affected and empower individuals to rebuild their lives and contribute to their local economies in both Syria and Türkiye in the long term.
Notes to the editor:
More about the operation in Türkiye: click here
The Turkish Red Crescent has been providing 416 million meals to affected communities and responders in the last six months while also ensuring people have clean water, essential hygiene items and health services. Teams have set up safe spaces offering mental health and psychosocial support to many children, parents, first responders and other individuals who need it. To help survivors buy the items they need as they recover, cash assistance has been given to more than 137,000 families in partnership with the IFRC and WFP. In partnership with the IFRC, the Turkish Red Crescent has reached over 590,000 people with cash and voucher assistance.
For the short-term, multipurpose cash assistance gives people the opportunity to buy what they need the most, but it will also be a vital tool to provide livelihood assistance to those who lost their jobs or their sources of income. IFRC and the Turkish Red Crescent are currently ramping up aid support for livelihood assistance to people with a focus on agriculture, animal husbandry and small businesses.
The IFRC Emergency Appeal seeking CHF 400 million to support the Turkish Red Crescent response has already been funded up to CHF 105.5 million. The current funding gap is approximately 74%.
More about the operation in Syria: click here
Communities affected by the earthquake in Syria are grappling with the daily struggle for survival, as access to necessities like food, water, shelter, and medical care is becoming increasingly scarce.
Since day one, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) staff and volunteers were the first on the ground to respond, and they have provided more than 12 million humanitarian services, including food, water, shelter, healthcare and mental health support to the affected population.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent continues to be the main humanitarian actor in Syria and is covering the impacts of the earthquake on a broad scale, including food, water, shelter, healthcare and mental health support, and items to meet people’s basic needs. It will continue to support communities over the years to come. So far, SARC provides 80% of the Syrian population with safe water through the treatment and maintenance of damaged water infrastructure and has a network of 229 health facilities, which represent a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
The IFRC Emergency Appeal seeking CHF 100 million to support the SARC response has already been funded up to CHF 44million, with a current funding gap of approximately 56%.
For more information or to coordinate an interview, please contact: [email protected]
Global: Anna Tuson: +41 79 895 6924
Syria: Mey Al Sayegh: +96176174468
Türkiye: Sevil Erkus: +905366449122
Houda's dream: Building a new life in Türkiye through food
Food has always a central part of Houda Al-Fadil’s life. Some of her fondest childhood memories center around preparing dishes such as makdous (pickled or oil-cured, stuffed eggplant) with her mother in her home town on the outskirts of Damascus.
“We sat around our mom when she prepared it,” she recalls. “We did the same when she prepared mulukhiyah,” she adds, referring to a leafy plant from the region used like spinach in stews or with lamb and rice. “These were happy times and wonderful get-togethers with my mom and sisters.”
Then war broke outand the happy days ended. Houda’s husband lost his job and the family faced tremendous hardships. That’s whenher cooking skills came in handy. “I cooked kibbah (croquettes filled with lamb or chicken) and I prepared hacked parsley, stuffed zucchinis and grape leaves,” she says. “For those celebrating the arrival of a baby, I supplied wrapped candies. I made pancakes.”
The key ingredient
Today whenHouda cooks mulukhiyah or uzi(pastry stuffed with peas, sautéed nuts, vegetables, meat and rice ), it has an entirely different meaning. Houda now lives in Türkiye, a country that welcomed her after she and her family fled Syria, terrified and weary after years of indiscriminate shelling, random abductions, and a lack of opportunity and future for her children.
In her new home of Kahramanmaras, in central southern Türkiye, Houda’s cooking skills are the now key ingredient in her quest for a new life. They not only provide asmall income and meaningful employment,they offer a way to connect with people in her new community.
Her new culinary adventure began when Houda enrolled in a traditional Turkish cooking course offered at acommunity center run by the Turkish Red Crescent, supported in part with funds from theEuropean Unionand operated as part of a partnership with theInternational Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
There are 16 such centres in Türkiyeand they are open to people from both Syrian refugee and Turkish communities. They help connect people with lost loved ones, provide child-friendly spaces, and offer a range of services from vocational training to business development, psychosocial support, health referrals, among many other things.
“I signed up in a cooking course, a sport class and a course in agriculture,” Houda says. “We grew pepper and tomatoes. The experience was great. I enjoyed all the courses, but I found great pleasure in the cooking course.”
Sharing recipes, sharingfriendship
Now she is able to make a living much as she did before the war by cookinguziandmulukhiyahin the Turkish style.“There were Turkish and Syrian women with us. The Turkish women learned from us the Syrianstyle ofcookingandthey taught us the Turkish way.”
“I learned how to cookmanti(traditional Turkish dumplings)andtarhana[a spicy Turkish soup].Ialso learnedthat we had many things in commonwith the Turkishway.”
NowHoudahas a small but growing list of customerswho use Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to place their orders, whichthe customers thenpicked up ororwait for them to be handdelivered by the chef herself.Houdaalso sells her dishes at small events calledkermes. “Thisactivity has served me well.It directed me to the right path.”
Still,fitting in to a country with a different language and culture is not always easy.FatmaBeyaz, an interpreter at the Turkish Red CrescentCommunityCentre inKahramanmaras, saysHouda’s growingculinary skills will help her and her family find a seat at the table in their new Turkishcommunity.
“Houdais a very happy and positive person when she came to theCommunityCenter, but still she needed somesupport,”saysBeyaz, who has served as a kind of a personal mentor toHouda. “Now her confidence and her social skills increased. She found a community and started to make in income for herself.”
Meanwhile,Houdais already thinking long-term.“I have a dream; I have a dream to open a little restaurant,” she says.“Arestaurant that offersall kind of dishes: Turkish, Syrian orfrom elsewhere.I hope I could open such restaurant,in which people from Syria, Türkiye and other places can come togetherand strengthenthetiesbetween them.”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
We caught up again with Houda in 2023 following the devastating 6 February earthquake that affected hundreds of thousands people in Türkiye and Syria. You can read that story here.
IFRC statement at the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region pledging conference
Excellencies, distinguished representatives, ladies, and gentlemen, for years we have gathered here to support the future of Syria and the region.
After years of unrelenting conflict, the collapse of the Syrian economy, and a recent, devastating earthquake there is still no solution in sight.
And the scale of the crisis outstrips our collective humanitarian response.
The IFRC with its long-time presence in Syria, supports Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)—the country’s largest community-based provider of humanitarian assistance to deliver quality and accountable services.
SARC provides 5 million people each month with food and relief items and supports their longer-term resilience with livelihoods support, healthcare, water, and sanitation services.
In neighbouring and host countries, the IFRC and its members, with the support of the European Union and other partners, have been providing assistanceto Syrians and host communities. We hope this continues.
The pressure to expand our humanitarian programmes is immense.
Aid alone will not reduce the humanitarian needs or contribute to a long-term resilience and sustainable recovery in Syria.
This conference is a vital opportunity to focus on a key message:
Saving lives must be our collective priority.
SARC has unparalleled and trusted access in most of the country.
Investing in local actors like SARC and National Societies in neighbouring countries is essential.
Guaranteeing their unhindered delivery of assistance ensures that donor funding is directly supporting humanitarian and recovery programmes designed by and for communities who need it most.
Ensuring basic services, and long-term economic opportunities, are critical to millions of Syrians.
Livelihoods support, and strengthening basic services like health, sanitation, and education are long-term interventions that build resilience and must be developed with the needs of the Syrian people at centre-stage.
We must also continue to work together to reduce the unintended impacts of sanctions on humanitarian response.
The IFRC, closely working with other Movement partners, will continue to deliver impartial, neutral, and independent humanitarian aid, but to do so, we need collective and convergent leadership across the political divide.
It is time for real responsibility-sharing and real solidarity amongst the international community if we want to see real and sustainable impactful change in the lives of Syrian people.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2023
The Empress Shôken Fund (ESF) is named after Her Majesty Empress Shôken of Japan who – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – proposed the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime.
The fund is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which maintains close contact with the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Intercultural Research Institute in Japan.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is evidenced by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The Fund has a total value of more than 14 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that benefit the communities they serve in many different ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921 to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. Since then, more than15 million Swiss francs have been allocated to 171 National Societies. The grants are announced every year on 11April, the anniversary of the death of Her Majesty Empress Shôken.
Increasingly, the Fund encourages new and innovative approaches with the potential to generate insights that will benefit our International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
2023 selection process
The Fund received 51 applications in 2022 for the 102nd distribution of income, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies globally. The applications submitted featured more innovative proposals than in previous years, further confirming the need for the ESF to support innovation and experimentation within National Societies.
This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 367,187 Swiss francs to 13 projects in Albania, Belgium, Burundi, Eswatini, Fiji, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Paraguay, Sudan, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay. The world’s current crises have impacted the performance of the fund, and ESF Joint Commission members have adjusted the process accordingly.
This year the projects selected cover a variety of topics, including first aid and rescue, youth, disaster preparedness, health, and National Society development (NSD).
The 2023 grants by theme
The Fund continues to encourage new and innovative approaches, and this is clearly reflected in the selection of proposals to receive funding. Some National Societies are incubating and testing their innovative solutions and experimenting with a host of ideas and approaches. With their pilot methodology, they could potentially scale up and implement their initiatives with the support of other funding sources.In this category, the selected grantees are as follows:
The Honduran Red Cross has taken an innovative approach to volunteer empowerment and engagement. The goal of its project is to establish a fund that supports innovative micro-projects developed and led by local volunteers. This will help forge stronger links between the National Society and the communities it serves. It has designed a pilot with 12 micro-projects, responding to an identified need to grow activity at the branch level.
The Uruguayan Red Cross is focusing efforts on improving mental health resilience among young people by providing training in schools, creating psychosocial support mechanisms and forming youth brigades. There is a growing need for youth mental health support, and this pilot in two schools will give the team an opportunity to learn and adapt their approach.
The Indonesian Red Cross Society will pilot a community-based approach to environmental awareness and food security. A renovated community learning centre will be used to launch the pilot, which will engage over 100 stay-at-home spouses and 30 children. The project aims to tackle emerging issues, such as climate change, while building stronger community connections.
Many National Societies have prioritized innovative solutions to combat the challenges of climate change. In this category, the selected beneficiaries, in addition to the Indonesian Red Cross Society, are as follows.
Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards. The Belgian Red Cross will engage and empower young people impacted by floods to express and share their feelings on climate change through digital story telling. Simple to replicate and scalable, this initiative has the potential to give us tremendous insight and allow for powerful messages to be shared.
As a means of addressing the challenges of climate change, the Burundi Red Cross will engage in implementing activities such as tree planting and promoting improved city waste management. The project is a youth volunteer-led initiative that will reduce youth unemployment. This comprehensive approach will result in significant learning opportunities.
The Paraguayan Red Cross will develop a mobile app that will serve as an early warning system and educate communities on how they can respond to flooding in seven community districts. This solution is scalable, innovative and a sustainable approach to addressing community needs.
Finally, the last group of beneficiaries will use their grants to address issues related to disaster preparedness, health and youth. In this category, the selected grantees are as follows.
The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society will improve data management processes for effective decision-making during emergencies in Eswatini by 2025. The main idea is to integrate and mainstream a mobile phone app dashboard into the existing National Society information management system and increase community participation (affected communities) in information sharing and management.
Thailand is prone to natural hazards, which often cause devastating damage and loss of lives. Therefore, the Thai Red Cross Society aims to improve disaster readiness, mainly for earthquakes, by training children and young people using virtual reality simulation.
The Sudanese Red Crescent will use the funds to support flood-affected women, providing them with cash, grants and livelihood tools to allow them to start their own business. The aim is to build resilience and longer-term recovery contexts for current and future crises by empowering the most vulnerable in a self-sustaining way.
The Red Cross Society of Guinea will focus on developing a mobile health app to comprehensively improve the quality of basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care, especially for complex deliveries, with a view to reducing maternal and newborn mortality.
According to figures on human trafficking, Albania is a primary source country and the non-EU European country with the second highest number of victims. To address this threat, the Albanian Red Cross will use the grant to train staff and volunteers, with a view to activating peer-to-peer prevention in high schools. The National Society will reach out to other sister National Societies to build a strong network of certified trainers who will raise awareness through peer-to-peer activities.
The Fiji Red Cross Society aims to overhaul its current volunteer programme, using the grant to implement end-to-end digitization to enhance the onboarding experience and increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of volunteer management. The idea is to also include community-level training that will generate meaningful learning and be easily replicable elsewhere.
At present, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has more than 18,000 staff and volunteers across its local branches who support it in carrying out its humanitarian mission. With a view to scaling up branch development by complementing other initiatives, the National Society will use the grant to digitize its policies for online courses that can be freely accessed at any time, making training more convenient for its network of staff and volunteers.
ESF and learning
The Fund constantly strives to generate insights from the projects implemented for the benefit of the whole Movement and to diversify its learning materials. Later this year, the Fund will join with the stakeholders of the other NSD funding mechanisms, namely the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) and the National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA),for a learning event, with the aim of sharing lessons learned and experiences from grantees across the different funds.
It is important to recognize the diversity of National Societies within the network and the wide range of NSD support that is needed. The ESF and the other funding mechanisms (which focus more on NSD) operate in a complementary way, and togethertheyhave the capacity to meet this array of NSD and learning needs and support a broader transformation in our network.
Türkiye and Syria earthquakes: MENA Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies come together in crisis
It was 4:17 AM on February 6, 2023 when two powerful earthquakes wreaked havoc across southeast Türkiye and northern Syria, killing more than 50,000 people and instantly destroying livelihoods.
Those fortunate enough to walk out of their buildings woke up to absolute devastation. The only thing more frightening than the sight of collapsed buildings was the deafening silence.
While the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent were very quick to respond, it was clear from the immense scale of the disaster that additional support was urgently needed.
Thankfully, regional and global support from the IFRC network was swift, with Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from all over the world sending aid within 24 hours.
National Societies from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region were some of the first to arrive on the scene. Red Crescent and Red Cross emergency teams from Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE were all dispatched immediately to support search and rescue missions and provide urgent relief.
Let’s hear from some of them about how they responded, and hear their perspectives on the crisis:
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society was quick to act, with emergency teams and shipments of relief items by air and land. Their President, Dr. Yassin Ahmed Abbas, said:
“Two Iraqi airplanes carrying tons of relief items landed in Syria approximately 8 hours after the earthquake. We also dispatched a team of 150 volunteers - supported by ambulances and mobile clinics - to Türkiye to assist with search and rescue and first aid. We’ve managed to provide more than 300 tons of relief supplies so far - to both Syria and Türkiye - and there’s more coming.”
At the same time, the Algerian Red Crescent quickly mobilized its resources, deploying an emergency team and sending out two shipments totaling 185 tons of relief items that included food, water, clothes, blankets, mattresses, tents and generators.
Nabyl Daas, Emergency Response Team Coordinator for the Algerian Red Crescent, said:
“We formed a team of 26 volunteers that included two orthopedic surgeons and a team of Mental Health & Psychosocial Support specialists. We served in 4 different areas in Aleppo, but the conditions were extremely difficult as most buildings were in danger of collapse, which made our work extremely challenging.”
It was a similar story for the Kuwait Red Crescent Society volunteer team, who were unaware of the immense challenges ahead.
“We felt so many aftershocks during our search and rescue missions, which made our job more difficult than it already was. The most intense aftershock was a 6.4-magnitude, and it caused more deaths and destruction.” said Adnan Haidar, a Kuwait Red Crescent volunteer.
“There was nowhere to sleep as everything was destroyed, homes, hotels, everything. People were lining up in fuel stations to get fuel for their cars, which were turned into temporary homes. It was extremely cold, so people used the heaters in their cars for warmth. They would then turn off the cars to sleep because either they were too scared to go back into a building or because their homes were completely destroyed,” Adnan added.
As well as sending much-needed support crews, the Kuwait Red Crescent Society signed an international cooperation agreement for 5 million USD to provide urgent aid in affected areas in Syria, which included food, medical supplies, blankets, tents, electrical appliances and prefabricated homes.
However, there is a need for more support despite the ongoing efforts, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), which dispatched a team of 14 specialized in Disaster Risk Management, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support, and First Aid.
The PRCS assessed the situation in Syria and were able to identify several gaps, including a shortage in particular relief items.
Rana Faqih, Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for the Palestine Red Crescent, said:
“We were able to assist thousands of people through our different services; however, there is a desperate need for more support.”
“There’s plenty of aid coming in, but it’s not enough. There are plenty of food parcels and hot meals, and they’re enough for everyone, but we noticed an insufficiency in other relief items such as baby formula, children’s clothes, hygiene kits and dignity kits. We need to do more.”
There is, nevertheless, light at the end of the tunnel, as Abdallah Zgheib - who was part of the Lebanese Red Cross search and rescue team - says:
“I cannot describe the feeling we had when we rescued a pregnant woman and her child from under the rubble. I never imagined I would feel so joyous and thankful amid such devastation. Everyone who witnessed this moment erupted in celebration. We celebrated hope.”
“The power of humanity is what gave us hope and kept us going, non-stop; it kept us going in sub-freezing temperatures and it kept us full despite barely eating anything for 4 days straight.”
One month into this heartbreaking crisis, MENA Red Cross and Red Crescent teams continue to support one another in the face of challenging and evolving circumstances.
While much uncertainty remains for those affected by the earthquakes, our volunteers are a constant and will be there for people as long as they’re needed.
This crisis has shown, more than ever, that there is strength in numbers. Strength in working together. And strength in our IFRC network.
| Press release
Türkiye and Syria one month on: A mental health ticking time bomb
Geneva/Ankara/Damascus, 03 March 2023 – Nearly one month since two devastating earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns of the urgent need of a sustainable short- and long-term response to the health and mental health and psychosocial needs to prevent a “second disaster”.
Since day one, the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with the IFRC support, have been meeting the immediate humanitarian needs in the hardest hit areas, including the distribution of food, clean water, hygiene items, winter clothing, blankets and the provision of first aid, health care and sanitation services. But one month into the response, scaling up mental health services is crucial.
The demand for mental health and psychosocial support and health care is immense, and in some areas where access is difficult, it can put the most affected at even higher risk of developing medium- and long-term mental health challenges that can hinder recovery and resilience.
The earthquakes have rocked survivors to their very core. Entire communities are suffering after losing everything from their loved ones to homes, jobs and many sentimental belongings they own. Moreover, many caregivers and first responders are struggling to cope with what they’ve seen in addition to the exhausting workload and secondary trauma.
In Türkiye, Red Crescent teams have set up safe spaces offering mental health and psychosocial support for children to play, supporting over 42,000 people, including first responders and health workers. They also provide psychological first aid and offer referrals to local health facilities.
“Responding from the local level, with both mobile and fixed units, is what allows the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC to respond immediately to the physical and mental health needs of those most affected. A localised and early health and mental health response is and will continue to be essential to prevent negative long-term and even permanent effects on people's lives”, said Lauren Clarke, IFRC health coordinator for the humanitarian response in Türkiye.
In Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams have supported over 30,000 people with psychological first aid, especially children and continue to provide healthcare and medicines through mobile health units, and physical rehabilitation programs and clinics. The earthquake comes after nearly 12 years of conflict that has already displaced millions and traumatised many communities.
“Many of the damages caused by the earthquake are not visible. People have suffered more than a decade of conflict which has already affected their mental health and wellbeing. This earthquake adds another layer to that. We also have seen that psychological wounds won’t always appear right away. That is why we need to provide continuous support, not only right now but for years to come. Hopefully, there will not be another disaster that would complicate the situation even further”, said Gwendolen Eamer, IFRC Health Coordinator in Syria.
The IFRC Emergency Appeals for 650 million Swiss francs will support the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to continue scaling up their humanitarian response and recovery efforts over the next two years in what is one of the most challenging earthquake responses recently faced by the global Red Cross Red Crescent network.
For more information or to coordinate an interview, please contact:
[email protected] or +41 79 708 4367
Note to editors
In Syria, Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams have also distributed more than 1.2 million relief items, such as winter clothes, food, clean water, hygiene articles, and they have provided sanitation services, as these are key to prevent outbreaks such as diarrhea, respiratory and skin infections, COVID-19 and other viral diseases.
In parallel, the Palestine Red Crescent in Syria together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent continue to deliver aid, including food distribution, ambulances and medical services, focusing mainly on the Palestinian camps in Aleppo and Latakia.
In close coordination with the health authorities, the Turkish Red Crescent is also providing health care through seven mobile clinics in hard-hit rural areas and temporary shelters. Where markets are functioning, they have distributed more than 140,000 cash vouchers, helping to empower survivors by restoring their agency, and giving them the freedom and control to meet their needs in the way they prefer. Turkish Red Crescent volunteers have also distributed over 94 million hot meals.
| Press release
Syria and Türkiye: IFRC increases emergency funding ask to CHF 650 million, as humanitarian needs rise
Geneva/Ankara/Damascus (16 February 2023)–As the scale of the earthquake’sdevastation inSyriaandTürkiyebecomes clearer, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is increasing its Emergency Appeals from CHF 200 million to CHF 650 million to respond to rising humanitarian needs in both countries.
“The fullimpactof this earthquake is still unfolding. The situation on the ground is rapidly changing, and needs are growing by the minute. For survivors, these are some of the hardest moments of their lives and the road to recoverywill belong. The most urgent needs are shelter, health care and sanitation, food, and water. People are also facing major distress – early access to mental health and psychosocial support is critical,” said IFRC’s Secretary General Jagan Chapagain,who is currently visiting communities in Syria and Türkiye.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent have been working around the clock to support affected communities even though many staff and volunteers have also lost homes and loved ones.
Millions of people in Syria and Türkiye are affected, and many are seeking shelter at relatives’ homes, inneighbouringcities or in emergency shelters. Others are sleeping in their cars, in tents or outdoors, exposed to freezing temperatures. Temporary shelters are critical so that evacuated families have a warm place to stay while they figure out next steps.
Long-term global support and solidarity to deliver humanitarian assistance will be needed in the monthsand yearsof recovery ahead.
IFRC’s Emergency Appealssupport impacted people throughthe Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the Turkish Red Crescentvia rapid response teams, funding, material assistance and more. Updates to the IFRC’s increased financial asks tell the story of a continually unfolding disaster with compounding needs—from shelter and health to livelihoods and food security.
InTürkiye, Turkish Red Crescent has deployed more than 5,000 staff and volunteers in ten affected provinces with stocks of food and basic aid items to support those injured and evacuated. Teams have distributed more than 31 million hot mealstopeople outdoors and at emergency shelters. To meet the increased demand for blood, Turkish Red Crescent has sent its national blood stock to the affected regions and is calling on people across Türkiye to donate blood.
InSyria, Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams have been responding with 4,000 volunteers and staff inthehardest hit areas – including Hama, Aleppo, Lattakia and Tartous – reaching more than 365,000 people with life-saving support. Medical units have been performing first aid, emergency evacuations and transport to hospitals. Volunteers on the ground have distributed more than 220,000 packages with items such as food, water, basic relief supplies and hygiene kits, and have been helping people connect with loved ones separated by the crisis.
Both Red Crescent teams are providing mental health and psychosocial support to those in need to help alleviate distress and refer them to long-term mental health care if necessary.
In Palestinian Refugee camps in Syria, Palestine Red Crescent teams are working together with Syrian Arab Red Crescent to provide lifesaving support, including first aid and food distribution. Response teams were focused on Palestinian camps in Aleppo and Latakia, managing ambulances, medical clinics, doctors, and volunteers.
The earthquake has prompted a huge wave of solidarity from the IFRC network: dozens of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from aroundthe world have offered technical support. Many of them have already supported the Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent with emergency relief items. Almost 60 National Societies have started domestic fundraising campaigns.
For more information or to coordinate an interview, please contact:
[email protected] +41 79 708 4367
Note to editors:
Gaziantep press briefing: IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain, will be holding anin-person press briefing from Gaziantepon Friday, 17 February at 17:30 local time. [email protected] details.
A/V materials available to media on theIFRC Newsroom.
| Press release
IFRC calls for long term support and solidarity for the people of Türkiye and Syria
Geneva/Ankara/Damascus (11 February 2023) - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on the international community for long-term support and solidarity to the people in Türkiye and Syria hit by two devastating earthquakes on 6 February.
“The level of pain and suffering is immense and the need for support is equally enormous. This humanitarian response is not a sprint. It is a marathon. We call on the international community to support the people of Syria and Türkiye not just in the coming days, but also in the months and years needed for recovery”, said Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General.
Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent are at the very heart of this response. Both National Societies are rooted in the communities they serve, providing unique access to hardest-hit areas. Often volunteers and staff come from those same communities and may have lost loved ones and homes themselves. They continue to work around the clock to provide life-saving care to survivors.
As the life-saving search and rescue window sadly closes, the most urgent needs are shelter, health and mental health care, food, and water.
The IFRC continues to scale up international support, bringing in urgently needed relief supplies and resources across borders to support localized efforts.
“The aftermath of the earthquake is that of utter devastation. Buildings, schools, homes, and hospitals are destroyed. The most heart-breaking reality is the many thousands still missing and stuck under the rubble. The chances of finding survivors are shrinking. Time is running out fast. Response efforts are extremely challenging. Many roads and other infrastructure have been damaged, limiting access to affected areas. Freezing winter conditions and aftershocks are also hampering those efforts and putting rescuers in considerable danger”, the IFRC Secretary General concluded.
The IFRC has scaled up its two International Emergency Appeals to 200 million Swiss francs to support people in Syria (80 million Swiss francs) and Türkiye (120 million Swiss francs).
Red Cross Red Crescent Action
In Türkiye, the Turkish Red Crescent has deployed more than 4,000 staff and volunteers in affected provinces with stocks of food and basic aid items to support those injured and evacuated. Their teams have distributed 3.5 million hot meals among people outdoors and at emergency shelters and reached 284,000 people with ready-to-eat packages. To meet the increased demand for blood, Turkish Red Crescent has sent its national blood stock to the affected regions and is calling on people across Türkiye to donate blood.
In Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams have been responding with 4,000 volunteers and staff in hardest hit areas – including Hama, Aleppo, Lattakia and Tartous –reaching almost 60,000 people with life-saving support. Medical units have been performing first aid, emergency evacuations and transport to hospitals. Volunteers on the ground have distributed more than 42,000 packages of food, water, basic items and hygiene kits to people, and have been providing restoring family links services.
Red Crescent National Societies in both Türkiye and Syria are providing mental health and psychosocial support to those in need to alleviate distress and refer them for long-term mental health care if necessary.
In the Palestinian Refugee camps in Syria, Palestine Red Crescent teams are working together with Syrian Arab Red Crescent to provide life-saving support, including first aid and food distribution. Their response teams are mainly focused on the Palestinian camps in Aleppo and Latakia, providing ambulances, medical clinics, doctors, and volunteers.
For more information or to coordinate an interview, please contact:
In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367, [email protected]
In Beirut (covering Syria): Mey Elsayegh, +961 3 229 352, [email protected]
In Gaziantep:(coveringTürkiye) Corrie Butler, +36 70 430 6506, [email protected]
In Ankara: Elif Isik, +90 539 857 51 97, [email protected]
In Washington: Marie Claudet, +1 202 999 8689, [email protected]
Photos and video of this response are available to download and use here.
Türkiye and Syria earthquakes: IFRC response to date
Two devastating earthquakes (magnitude of 7.7 and 7.6) struck southeast Türkiye in the early hours of Monday 6 February 2023, followed by several aftershocks. The earthquakes killed tens of thousands of people and injured many more in the region, as well as in bordering Syria.
This was the largest earthquake Türkiye and Syria have faced in more than a century.
Both the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent responded immediately, with thousands of volunteers and staff working around the clock to provide life-saving care.
Months later, millions of people continue to be affected and displaced and in need of shelter, health and mental health services, sanitation, food, and water.
Our emergency appeals
The IFRC launched two Emergency Appeals to support the response of our National Societies on the ground, with a combined value of 650 million Swiss francs (CHF). Follow these links to learn more about each appeal and priorities for the response:
In Syria:200 million Swiss francs to support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent
In Türkiye: 450million Swiss francs to support the Turkish Red Crescent
Please use the following links to donate to our response in each country:
Donate to Syria response
Donate to Türkiye response
We are grateful for your valuable support which will enable us to help the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent to deliver lifesaving support.
Click here for general information about donating to the IFRC.
If you are a journalist and would like more information or to request an interview about this emergency, please [email protected].
What are our National Societies doing?
Both the Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been at the very heart of this earthquake response.
InTürkiye, Turkish Red Crescent deployed more than 5,000 staff and volunteers in ten affected provinces with stocks of food and basic aid items to support those injured and evacuated. Teams have distributed more than 300 million hot mealstopeople outdoors and at emergency shelters.
InSyria, Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams responded with 4,000 volunteers and staff inthehardest hit areas – including Hama, Aleppo, Lattakia and Tartous. Through their clinics and mobile health units, they have provided healthcare and medicines for more than 1.1 million people. And they have distributed more than 3.2 million humanitarian relief items,including shelter, blankets, mattresses, winter clothes, hygiene supplies, and food and agriculture supplies.
Red Crescent National Societies in both Türkiye and Syria are providing mental health and psychosocial support to those in need to alleviate distress and refer them to long-term mental health care services where necessary.
The earthquake prompted a huge wave of solidarity from the IFRC network: dozens of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from aroundthe world have offered technical support. Many of them have supported the Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent with emergency relief items. Almost 60 National Societies have started domestic fundraising campaigns.
Follow these Twitter accounts for the latest updates:
@SYRedCrescent- Syrian Arab Red Crescent
@RedCrescent- Turkish Red Crescent
@BirgitteEbbesen - IFRC Europe Regional Director, Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen
@elsharkawi - IFRC MENA Regional Director, Hossam Elsharkawi
Press release from 3 March: "Türkiye and Syria one month on: A mental health ticking time bomb"
Press release from 16 February: "Syria and Türkiye: IFRC increases emergency funding ask to CHF 650 million, as humanitarian needs rise"
Press release from 11 February: "IFRC calls for long term support and solidarity for the people of Türkiye and Syria"
Our first press release from Monday 6 February with an initial update and announcing our two appeals.
Rights-free photos and videos from our response so far which you can download and use.
General information about earthquakes and earthquake preparedness.
A devastating 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck southeastTürkiye, close to the border with Syria, in the early hours of 6 February. It was followed by several aftershocks, killing thousands and injuring many more in the region. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is assisting affected people by distributingfood, household items, shelter support and cash assistance. Volunteers are also providing health services, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and hygiene products. Through this appeal, the IFRC is supporting SARC to meet people's immediate and early recovery needs in an already complex humanitarian setting.
| Press release
IFRC launches international Emergency Appeals for CHF 200 million to respond to deadly earthquake in Türkiye and Syria
Geneva/Ankara/Damascus (6 February 2023) -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is launching Emergency Appeals for CHF 200 million to respond to a deadly 7.7 magnitude earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.
The Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have immediately mobilized to support communities affected: needs are growing minute by minute. Rescue teams have been reaching hardest-hit areas where survivors remain trapped under rubble.
In Türkiye, teams from the Turkish Red Crescent deployed in ten affected provinces in the south and southeast regions with stocks of food and basic aid items such as tents and blankets to support those injured and evacuated. Their teams are also providing psychological support, distributing hot meals and sending its national stock of blood and plasma to the affected regions.
In Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has been responding on the ground since early morning, supporting search and rescue operations, providing first aid, performing emergency medical evacuations and transporting injured people to the hospitals. A big number of buildings collapsed amidst vulnerable living situations and very harsh weather conditions.
“This earthquake caused unfathomable damage. Our worst fear is coming true. In this response, every minute counts,” said Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination.
“The vulnerabilities are coupled on top of harsh winter conditions, making it unbearable for many. The vulnerable living conditions, particularly in Syria, are even further stretched in a decade-long war. People who lost their homes and loved ones need our support. We must join forces and do our best to help.”
Increased global support and solidarity to deliver humanitarian assistance is essential in the weeks and months of recovery ahead. IFRC will launch two International Appeals, CHF 80 million to support people in Syria with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and CHF 120 million in Türkiye with the Turkish Red Crescent.
Updated on Feb. 7:
Based on continued monitoring of the situation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has increased the amount of the Emergency Appeal. We are now seeking 200 Million to respond to the deadly earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.
For more information or to coordinate an interview, please contact:
In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa, +41.79.708.4367, [email protected]
In Beirut (covering Syria): Mey Elsayegh, +961 3 229 352, [email protected]
In Budapest: Corrie Butler, +36 704306506, [email protected]
In Ankara: Elif Isik, +90 5398575197, [email protected]
Photos of this emergency are available to download and use here.
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.
| Press release
Crisis fatigue not an option as global hunger crisis deepens, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement warns
Geneva, 13 September 2022 (ICRC/IFRC) – The warning lights are flashing on high: armed conflict, climate-related emergencies, economic hardship and political obstacles are leading to a growing wave of hunger in countries around the world. The misery for millions will deepen without immediate urgent action.
Systems-level improvements must be made to escape a cycle of recurrent crises, including investments in climate-smart food production in conflict-affected areas, and reliable mechanisms to support hard-to-reach communities hit by food shortages and skyrocketing prices, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said ahead of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
The international armed conflict in Ukraine has greatly disrupted global food supply systems as well as future harvests in many countries due to the impact it’s having on the availability of fertilizer. The importance of more shipments by the Black Sea grain initiative reaching vulnerable populations in East Africa cannot be overstated. Too few grain shipments are getting to where they are needed.
As hunger emergencies hit the headlines, the risk of crisis fatigue is high. Yet what’s uniquely frightening about this moment is the breadth and depth of the needs. More than 140 million people face acute food insecurity due to conflict and instability, even as climate change and economic precarity indicate that hunger needs will rise in the coming months.
Political will and resources are needed now. Without them, many lives will be lost, and the suffering will endure for years. An emergency response alone will not end these hunger crises. Concerted action and long-term approaches are the only way to break the cycle.
While addressing urgent needs, it is essential to set the foundation for resilience. More efforts must be made — by governments, private sectors, and humanitarian and development groups — to support long-term food security, livelihoods, and resilience plans.
Measures must include investments in strengthening grassroots food systems and community actors to sustainably achieve food and economic security. One of the approaches to consider is anticipatory action for food security, based on forecasts and risk analysis.
Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC, said:
“Two dozen countries across Africa are grappling with the worst food crisis in decades. Some 22 million people in the Horn of Africa are in the clutches of starvation due to such compounding crises as drought, flooding, COVID-19’s economic effects, conflict – even desert locusts. Behind the staggeringly high numbers are real people – men, women and children battling death-level hunger every day. The situation is expected to deteriorate into 2023. However, with swift action, many lives can be saved. We need urgent and massive action to scale up life-saving assistance to millions of people in dire need of aid, but also to decisively address the root causes of this crisis through longer term commitments.”
The IFRC and its membership—which consists of Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in nearly every corner of the globe—are delivering aid in hard-to-reach communities. Assistance includes getting cash into the hands of families to meet food, health and other urgent needs. In Nigeria, Red Cross volunteers focus on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, whose nutrition is paramount for healthy births and childhoods. In Madagascar, volunteers restore land and water sources through anti-erosion activities, the construction of water points, and a focus on irrigation in addition to traditional ways to fight hunger, like nutrition monitoring.
Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, said:
“Conflict is a huge driver of hunger. We see violence preventing farmers from planting and harvesting. We see sanctions and blockades preventing food delivery to the most vulnerable. My wish is that we build resiliency into the fabric of humanitarian response, so that communities suffer less when violence and climate change upend lives. A cycle of band-aid solutions will not be enough in coming years.”
The ICRC this year has helped nearly 1 million people in south and central Somalia buy a month’s worth of food by distributing cash to more than 150,000 households. A similar programme in Nigeria helped 675,000 people, while more than a quarter million people received climate smart agriculture inputs to restore crop production. The ICRC works to strengthen resilience through seeds, tools and livestock care so that residents can better absorb recurrent shocks. And its medical professionals are running stabilization centres in places like Somalia, where kids are getting specialized nutrition care.
Communities around the world are suffering deep hardship. A short snapshot of some of the regions in need includes:
In Sub-Saharan Africa: One in three children under the age of five is stunted by chronic undernutrition, while two out of five women of childbearing age are anaemic because of poor diets. The majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.90 a day.
In Afghanistan: The combination of three decades of armed conflict and an economic crash resulting in few job opportunities and a massive banking crisis are having a devastating effect on Afghan families’ ability to buy food. More than half the country – 24 million – need assistance. The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement welcomes any measure aimed at easing the effect of economic sanctions. But given the depth of the humanitarian crisis, long-term solutions are also needed, including the resumption of projects and investments by states and development agencies in key infrastructure.
In Pakistan: The recent flooding has led to an estimated $12 billion in losses. Food security in the country was alarming before this latest catastrophe, with 43 percent of the population food insecure. Now the number of acutely hungry people is expected to rise substantially. Some 78,000 square kilometers (21 million acres) of crops are under water. An estimated 65 percent of the country’s food basket – crops like rice and wheat– have been destroyed, with over 733,000 livestock reportedly killed. The floods will also negatively affect food delivery into neighboring Afghanistan.
In Somalia: We have seen a five-fold increase in the number of malnourished children needing care. Last month the Bay Regional Hospital in Baidoa admitted 466 children, up from 82 in August 2021. Children admitted here die without the specialized nutritional care they receive.
In Syria: Food insecurity rates have risen more than 50 percent since 2019. Today, two-thirds of Syria’s population –12.4 million out of 18 million – can’t meet their daily food needs. The compounding effects of more than a decade of conflict, including the consequences of sanctions, have crippled people’s buying power. Food prices have risen five-fold in the last two years.
In Yemen: Most Yemenis survive on one meal a day. Last year 53 percent of Yemen’s population were food insecure. This year it’s 63 percent – or some 19 million people. Aid actors have been forced to cut food assistance due to a lack of funds. Some 5 million people will now receive less than 50 percent of their daily nutritional requirement because of it.
Notes to editors
For more information, please contact:
IFRC:Tommaso Della Longa, [email protected], +41 79 708 43 67
IFRC: Jenelle Eli, [email protected], +41 79 935 97 40
ICRC:Crystal Wells, [email protected], +41 79 642 80 56
ICRC: Jason Straziuso, [email protected], +41 79 949 35 12
Horn of Africa photos and b-roll
Pakistan floods photos and b-roll
Somalia cash programme photos and b-roll
Kenya sees climate shocks b-roll
| Press release
Migration and displacement crisis in MENA: Responding to the basic needs of people on the move
Beirut, September 12, 2022 - The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with more than 40 million migrants and 14 million internally displaced persons, has some of the world’s longest protracted conflicts, combined with frequent natural disasters, man-made crises, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Ukraine conflict has added another layer of complexity.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has joined forces with three Red Crescent societies in the region to address the basic needs of people on the move, including refugees, migrants, and internally displaced persons.
Fabrizio Anzolini, the IFRC’s regional migration advisor for the MENA, said: “The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement approaches migration and displacement from a purely humanitarian perspective, without encouraging or discouraging it. However, we do respond to the needs of people on the move.”
As part of IFRC’s efforts to support more than 4,000 people on the move, the IFRC has signed three project agreements on migration and displacement in the region since July.
The agreements with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Egyptian Red Crescent, and the Algerian Red Crescent were established in the framework of the IFRC’s ‘Humanitarian assistance and protection for people on the move.
This three-year programme focuses on humanitarian assistance to migrants, displaced people, and host communities on the migration routes of greatest humanitarian concern spanning Africa, the Middle East, and Europe and involves 34 Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies.
The agreement with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent aims to improve the livelihoods of internally displaced persons, returnees, and host communities in Syria, while the agreement with the Algerian Red Crescent was developed to improve the living standards and reduce the vulnerability of migrants, refugees and displaced persons in Algeria.
The agreement with the Egyptian Red Crescent focuses on providing comprehensive and structured support to children on the move and the community by establishing community schools and ensuring access to basic humanitarian services.
“This example of collaboration and coordination with other Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies would not have been possible without the support of the Italian Red Cross, which played a crucial role in facilitating the establishment of these three agreements,” Anzolini added.
Rania Ahmed, IFRC’s deputy regional director in the MENA, said: “The IFRC's attempts to make a difference in the migration and displacement crises in the Middle East and North Africa are at a critical juncture. Until long-term sustainable solutions are in place, we ensure that people on the move have access to health services and psychosocial support, and offer protection to children and victims of violence, as well as livelihood support and cash assistance.”
Ahmed added that as the link between climate change and the displacement of the most vulnerable is becoming more obvious by the day, “IFRC is eager to bring this issue to the states’ attention during the upcoming COP 27 Conference in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt”.
For more information, please contact
IFRC-MENA: Mey Al Sayegh, Head of Communications,
Mobile: +961 03229352,
E-mail: [email protected]
| Press release
Syria: Extremely harsh winter raises acute humanitarian needs to highest level ever
Damascus/Beirut, 27 January 2022–Extreme winter conditions are putting communities already overwhelmed by overlapping crises in immediate danger, resulting in the highest level of acute humanitarian needs ever in Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns. In many areas, this winter has been one of the coldest in the past decade, with snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures.
IFRC is deeply concerned about the situation in the country as the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has reached the highest since the start of the crisis. According to the UN, a total of 14.6 million people needs support, 1.2 million more than in 2021. 6.9 million people are internally displaced.
Mads Brinch Hansen, Head of the IFRC Delegation in Syria, said:
“Exceptionally cold weather is making the lives of many people all around Syria even more difficult, especially the displaced communities living in temporary shelters who don’t have appropriate clothing or heating for sub-zero temperatures.
“The situation in Syria is worse than ever. The price of basic commodities such as food and fuel has skyrocketed making them unaffordable for the majority of people, escalations of violence are intensifying, and COVID-19 continues to put an extra burden on communities. At the same time, funding for humanitarian actors is shrinking.”
Eng. Khaled Hboubati, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), said:
“Daily, our volunteers in Hassakeh and everywhere in Syria see more people who are asking for support, more children who are without winter clothes in the middle of the storm. The situation is getting worse amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic sanctions that complicate our humanitarian response.
“We will continue doing our best to alleviate the suffering of millions of people and preserve their dignity. We need the support from partners and donors to restore the livelihoods of people and ensure sustainable solutions to accelerate the recovery.”
Hassakeh, where up to 45,000 people have been displaced by recent violence at Sina'a Prison, is one of the hardest-hit regions with sub-zero temperatures making the winter one of the coldest in recent history. Snow has also covered the Al-Hol camp, which hosts more than 60,000 displaced people.
SARC continues to be the main humanitarian actor in the country with thousands of volunteers responding to the acute needs caused by the conflict, economic crisis, and COVID-19 as well as the cold wave.
In Hassakeh, SARC has a key role in evacuating as well as providing medical services and drinking water for the newly displaced and the communities hosting them.
Almost 11 years since the start of the conflict, Syria continues to be one of the biggest and most complex humanitarian crises globally. Homes and whole cities have been utterly destroyed, forcing mass displacement.
According to the UN, 90 percent of the population in Syria lives below the poverty line and 70 percent are facing acute food shortages – figures that have not seen improvement in recent years due to the economic downturn, instability and disasters driven by climate change. In 2021, Syria faced the worst drought in more than 50 years.
To scale up the Syrian Arab Red Crescent's humanitarian response and meet the growing needs, IFRC calls for partners and donors to continue showing their solidarity towards the people in Syria. Funding is more urgent than ever to ensure Syrian people can cover their basic needs and maintain a life of dignity.
For more information:
In Beirut: Jani Savolainen, IFRC, [email protected], +961 70372812
In Damascus: Rahaf Aboud, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, [email protected], +963 959999853
IFRC Syria Country Plan
For the editors:
About the Syrian Arab Red Crescent:
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is the main humanitarian actor in Syria. It has more than 13,500 staff members and volunteers in 14 branches and 97 sub-branches nationwide. Annually SARC reaches 5.6 million people with humanitarian assistance.
About the IFRC:
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (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. With a permanent delegation in Syria since 2007, IFRC has played a pivotal role in providing humanitarian services and supporting the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) in their organisational and strategic development and in strengthening SARC’s operational capacity.
| Press release
Red Cross Red Crescent reaching 1.5 million people on the move in MENA, yet millions are left without support
Beirut, 16 December 2021 – Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are reaching more than 1.5 million migrants, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Middle East and North Africa, yet the number of people on the move left without essential support is colossal, a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has found.
Ahead of International Migrants Day on 18 December, the IFRC is calling for a stronger commitment to support people on the move during their journey, not only once they have managed to reach their planned destination – if they ever do.
Fabrizio Anzolini, Migration Regional Advisor for IFRC MENA, said:
“Countless migrants face inhumane conditions along their way, including violence, lack of food, shelter and access to health services. Climate change and conflicts are only expected to accelerate the number of people migrating out of the region in the coming months and years. We need to act right now on the routes and advocating for durable solutions.”
The region, with more than 40 million migrants and 14 million internally displaced people, has some of the world’s longest protracted conflicts, combined with frequent natural disasters, man-made crises and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Regional hotspots include the population movement from Afghanistan to Iran, the migration flows from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya to Europe, the extensive number of internally displaced persons in Syria, as well as the route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Rania Ahmed, IFRC MENA Deputy Regional Director, said:
“Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are reaching more than 1.5 million migrants and displaced people in the Middle East and North Africa, but it is not enough. We need bigger investment and greater long-term commitment to address their plight. We need to mobilize all efforts and resources to ensure people on the move receive humanitarian assistance and protection. Migrants and displaced populations are intensely vulnerable and must be included in COVID-19 prevention, response, and recovery plans. We urge governments to ensure that people on the move have equal access to vaccinations, health care and basic services.”
With the engagement of the IFRC, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the MENA region are on the frontline attempting to cover the enormous gap between people’s needs and the support that is available for them. Red Cross and Red Crescent teams provide multidisciplinary assistance, including health services, livelihood support, protection for children and victims of violence, mental health, and psychosocial support, as well as cash assistance. These support services are also widely available to host communities, leaving no one behind.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies remain committed to continue responding to the needs of migrants and displaced people as well as advocating for the support that they need at country, regional and global levels through evidence-based humanitarian diplomacy. However, their continued activities are hampered by shrinking funding. In addition, access to migrants is often limited, especially in conflict zones and due to restrictions put in place to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can access the full report here: MENA Red Cross and Red Crescent Activities on Migration and Displacement – Snapshot 2021. The survey includes responses from twelve Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Middle East and North Africa.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Geneva: Rana Sidani Cassou, +41 766715751 / +33 675945515, [email protected]
In Beirut: Jani Savolainen, +961 70372812 / +358 504667831, [email protected]
| Press release
EU and IFRC support people affected by the water crisis and drought in Syria
Damascus, 3 December 2021 – In response to the severe water crisis and drought in Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 748,000 CHF (709,000 EUR) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.
The European Union is providing CHF 158.000 (150,000 EUR) in humanitarian funding to assist the most affected people. The funding is part of the EU's overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The funds released to the IFRC will help the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) cater to the humanitarian needs of 15,000 people with food and health interventions over six months in Al Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, which are some of the most affected localities.
Since January 2021, Syria has been witnessing extreme drought conditions coupled with unprecedented low water levels of the Euphrates River leading to poor agricultural production and loss of livelihoods. Millions of people are now experiencing worsening food insecurity and increasing malnutrition rates.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and community health promoters will distribute food parcels and engage in hygiene promotion and disease prevention through awareness-raising about waterborne diseases and COVID-19.
Through the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department, the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the European Union provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs.
The European Union is signatory to a €3 million humanitarian delegation agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to “small-scale” disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal.
The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF.For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can then be replenished by the donors. The delegation agreement between the IFRC and EU humanitarian aid enables the latter to replenish the DREF for agreed operations (that fit in with its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million.
For more information, please contact:
Rana Sidani Cassou, Head of Communications – IFRC MENA: Mobile +41766715751 / +33675945515 [email protected]
Anouk Delafortrie, Regional Information Officer – European Humanitarian Aid MENA: Mobile +962 777 57 0203 [email protected]
| Press release
Pledges are not enough - the world must not fail the people of Syria
Joint statement from the Presidents of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) ahead of the Brussels V Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”
Geneva, 29 March 2021 - As we mark the tragic milestone of a decade of conflict in Syria, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement calls upon the international community to translate words in action and ensure critical funding for one of the most brutal and far-reaching crises of our time.
Now, more than ever, Syrians need our solidarity and support. Ten years after the start of the crisis, the people of Syria are faced with a multitude of challenges: continuous hostilities, economic breakdown and the COVID-19 pandemic which has only exacerbated the immense humanitarian needs in the country. At present at least 13 million people need urgent assistance and are more dependent on aid than ever before.
The needs in Syria are enormous and humanitarian services remain a lifeline. Despite the security challenges and political blockages, we must continue to find ways to repair critical infrastructure and make sure people have access to basic services such as clean water, electricity and functioning health services.
“Our infrastructure is ruined. Our people are unable to cover their most basic needs because of serious shortages of food, water, fuel, and medicines,” said Khaled Hboubati, President of SARC, whose teams of staff and volunteers are working on the frontlines of the crisis, delivering more than 60 per cent of humanitarian assistance. “For a decade now, people in Syria have been living in agony. The world cannot abandon them,” added Mr Hboubati.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been responding to the needs of people in Syria since the first days of the conflict, with volunteers and staff providing vital aid to people in areas that others cannot reach. Without them, this humanitarian catastrophe would have been much worse. Each month, we currently assist around 4.5 million people inside Syria. For this life-saving work to continue, humanitarian workers must have sustained, safe, and non-politically motivated access to all people, families and communities in need. We ask that States and all parties to the conflict respect and ensure international humanitarian law in their operations.
Support is also desperately needed to help Syrians living outside of their homeland. Out of the 16.7 million people affected by the Syrian crisis, more than a third are currently hosted in neighbouring countries where National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are helping support millions of people, including through large-scale cash assistance in places like Turkey. In parallel, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe and elsewhere have been implementing a wide range of activities to help Syrians integrate into their host communities, from offering psycho-social support programmes, to running reception centres, to facilitating reunification procedures with family members left behind.
“Over the past decade, there has been tremendous generosity and solidarity in the form of aid funding for Syria and neighbouring countries,” said IFRC President Francesco Rocca. “Unfortunately, today we see that donations are declining, whereas the humanitarian crisis worsens every day. Funding is needed more than ever to ensure Syrians can cover their basic needs and maintain a life in dignity.”
Yet aid and funding alone will not resolve the crisis.
“Humanitarians are here to help but the ultimate responsibility lies with parties to the conflict,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer, recently returned from a visit to Syria. “Collective and convergent leadership across the political divide is urgently needed. Otherwise, there will be Brussels conferences 6, 7 and more. Ongoing financial support and anegotiated political solution will create the conditions for a brighter future for the Syrian people. Syrians cannot afford to endure another year in these desperate conditions, let alone another decade.”
| Press release
Syria crisis: 10 years on, humanitarian situation is worse than ever
Geneva, 4 March 2021 – The daily suffering of Syrians is worse now than it has been at nearly any point throughout the decade-long conflict that has ravaged the country. This is the sobering message delivered today by three senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officials as Syria enters the second decade of a relentless crisis.
Khaled Hboubati, the President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said:
“Continuing hostilities, a downward economic spiral, a refugee crisis that has reverberated around the world and the COVID-19 pandemic have conspired to push Syrian people to unacceptable extremes. For a decade now, people in Syria have been living in agony. As we speak, more than 13 million people need at least one type of assistance and about 8 million people are unable to respond to their basic needs.”
With the price of basic commodities more than doubling in the last year alone, food insecurity has worsened for the Syrian people. Around 12.4 million people - 60 per cent of the Syrian population - do not have regular access to enough safe and nutritious food, and more than 90 per cent of the population is estimated to live under the poverty line.
Speaking ahead of his visit to Syria, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said:
“The people of Syria cannot afford to endure another year like this, let alone another ten. We need a political solution to end the conflict, ongoing financial support for the recovery - and a future for those who have lost so much.”
The immense humanitarian needs across Syria have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC):
“For most Syrians, worrying about the virus is a luxury they cannot afford. They cannot afford to protect themselves. They cannot isolate themselves at home or else no food would be on the table. And even if they do get contaminated by the virus, the health system has been battered so severely that access to treatment and care is limited.”
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been responding to the needs of people in Syria since the first days of the conflict. With the support of the ICRC and the IFRC, backed by dozens of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, Red Crescent volunteers are delivering more than 60 per cent of aid across Syria. Without them, this humanitarian catastrophe would have been much worse. Since the beginning of the conflict, 65 volunteers of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and eight volunteers of the Palestine Red Crescent branch in Syria have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“We ask that States and all parties to the conflict respect and ensure international humanitarian law is respected in their operations,” added ICRC’s Maurer. “Humanitarian access, the protection of civilians, and humane treatment of detainees are not in the category of ‘nice to have’, they are both a moral and legal obligation.”
In the neighbouring countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where an estimated 5.3 million Syrians have found refuge, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement also plays an essential role in supporting vulnerable refugees and local communities.
IFRC’s Rocca said:
“Now, more than ever, Syrians need our solidarity and support. Over the past decade there has been tremendous generosity and solidarity. Unfortunately, today, we see that donations are declining despite the worsening humanitarian situation. We have a moral duty to support the sustainability of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, an organization that is so integral to the delivery of the international community’s support. Without the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, millions more would go hungry every month.”
Syrian refugee gets through challenges with power of writing
Said loves reading and transforming his personal struggles into stories and poems. Each tells a different story close to his heart about love, loss and the everyday challenges of those forced to flee conflict, like himself.
“How can I be indifferent to the suffering of those people injured by bombardments,” he says.
“I write about humanity and homelessness. About the ones who were displaced just like us. I feel them and I feel their suffering. These are the people of my country – they are my family.”
Said is a 66-year-old Syrian refugee living in Turkey; he and his family were forced to flee their hometown in Syria’s southwestern area of East Ghouta in 2018.
Said remembers a beautiful life before the war, full of nature and books. Working as a farmer since he was 12, he was growing vegetables and raising livestock. Inside his house, he had a large library, filled with precious manuscripts and books from well-known philosophers.
When a rocket landed on their home in Eastern Ghouta, the whole library was engulfed in flames.
“The fire devoured everything, blew up everything. With all the past, with all the books it had, with all the documents there. It was my legacy and the legacy of my ancestors. And all were gone,” remembers Said.
When the rocket attack tore through his home, he remained under the rubbles with his three-months-old grandchild Jana and shrapnel from the rocket severely injured him and paralyzed almost one side of his body. With barely any time to recover, they were forced out of their village and crossed into Turkey.
Said’s wounds are still fresh. However, writing, reading and time with his little grandchildren help him hold on to hopes of a new life.
“I sit with my grandchildren, they are always with me. We play games together and I tell them stories. I think I am child-like to them,” Said says with a smile.
Starting over in a foreign country with a physical disability was not easy. Now, Said receives small cash assistance each month from the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC, with funding from the European Union. Due to many health problems he and his family have, they use most of the cash assistance to buy medicine.
Funded by the European Union and its Member States under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.8 million of the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The cash assistance enables them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.
This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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
National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA): Funding announcement 2020
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) has today announced the National Societies to receive investment from the fund in 2020, with the Steering Committee approving Accelerator funding to:
The Colombian Red Cross Society
The Georgia Red Cross Society
The Mexican Red Cross Society
The Somali Red Crescent Society
The Co-chairs of the NSIA Steering Committee, Xavier Castellanos, Under-Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Katrin Wiegmann, Deputy Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said:
“We are pleased to announce this second group of National Societies to receive support from the NSIA. We have selected National Societies responding to ongoing crises in some of the world’s major humanitarian emergencies, such as Somalia and South Sudan, as well as Georgia Red Cross Society pursuing an entrepreneurial response to the unprecedented global pandemic that we continue to face.
These investments build on those made in 2019, and we are already seeing how such funding can have a catalytic effect, such as in supporting the Lebanese Red Cross’ efforts to mobilize support in response to the double impacts of Covid-19 and the recent Beirut port explosion
As we begin to see the value of the NSIA on the ground, there continues to also be demand from National Societies thinking strategically about their development during unprecedented uncertainty. We call on our partners in the Movement and beyond to join us in expanding this important mechanism for supporting strong and principled local humanitarian action.”
The IFRC and the ICRC jointly manage the NSIA to provide substantial, multi-year development support to National Societies, especially those in contexts with heightened humanitarian needs. The NSIA helps strengthen the organisational and operational development and capacity of National Societies so they can increase their impact.
To respond to the varied development needs of National Societies, the NSIA can award up to one million Swiss francs of Accelerator funding to any one National Society over a five-year period. In addition, Bridge grants of up to 50,000 Swiss francs over 12 months can help National Societies prepare the ground for future investment from the NSIA or elsewhere.
To date, NSIA has been supported by generous contributions from the governments of Switzerland, The United States, and Canada.
Second Round of NSIA Funding
This second call for proposals received 49 applications from National Societies across all regions, with a range of contextual challenges and organizational development needs. The application process was adapted to take account of exposure to Covid-19 related risks and again involved an independent and objective process of consultation and review against the criteria, working with colleagues from the IFRC and the ICRC at the national and regional level, as well as National Societies themselves.
The selected applicants will undergo further due diligence steps, which in the case of Accelerator investments will include the Federation’s Working With Project Partners approach, as well as the meeting of certain conditions linked to their specific applications, such as securing sufficient co-funding.
Selected National Societies
The Colombian Red Cross Society will receive funding to build on the resource mobilsation work conducted under their ongoing Bridge Award, including individual giving and digital fundraising.
The Georgia Red Cross Society will receive funds to support the commercial production of sanitizer products at the national level. This funding is conditional on securing loan-based co-finance.
The Mexican Red Cross Society will receive funds to invest in systems for Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting, as well as learning, as part of their wider NSD strategy.
The Somali Red Crescent Society will receive funds for the redevelopment and commercialisation of their national HQ, as part of a wider NSD strategy, and contingent on co-funding.
The Lesotho Red Cross will receive funds for the development of a Resource Mobilsation strategy and investment plan exploring national level income generating activities
The South Sudan Red Cross will receive funds for the initial investment in IT capacities at HQ and branch level, to support remote management, and focused on longer term branch development efforts.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent will receive funds to roll out a new approach to branch development.
| Press release
World Humanitarian Day: One million masks produced by Syrian and Turkish volunteers, uniting forces against COVID-19
Ankara, Turkey (19 August 2020): Syrian refugees and Turkish people are coming together to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey and around the world. Since the pandemic began, over 120 volunteers and community members across Turkey have mobilized to produce more than 1.2 million masks to help people protect themselves from COVID-19.
Since 2015, Turkish Red Crescent, has been playing a crucial role in bringing Turkish and Syrian people together through its 16 community centres which 15 are them financed by the European Union. These centres are increasing livelihood opportunities, providing community-based health and first aid, giving psychosocial support.
Nearly 251,805 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Turkey since March, but cases are now lower since a spike in April. Although restrictions have begun to ease in the country, masks remain mandatory to help curb new infections.
Through the sewing courses offered in the community centres, refugee and Turkish communities began producing masks after seeing the massive demand for personal protective equipment. The mask production first started in Gaziantep, one of the most important textile manufacturing centres in Turkey and expanded quickly to other cities.
Volunteers are also producing masks specifically for people with disabilities. The masks have a transparent front, which helps people who are deaf-mute communicate easily.
Turkish Red Crescent has sent masks and PPE items to 40 countries including Georgia, Uganda, Tajikistan and many others since the pandemic started.
Around 250,000 people receive support from the Turkish Red Crescent community centres every year with the support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and funding from the European Union as part of its refugee response in Turkey.
Syria: Dying from hunger, conflict or COVID-19
They were perhaps two thousand stranded Syria returnees. Women, children and men sheltering from the unbearable heat and sun, on hill tops, under the scattered olive trees offering no shadow, carrying half empty jerrycans with water and waving at cars asking for help.
This is not a scene from a Hollywood movie.
This is at the No-Man’s-Land zone between the Syrian Lebanese borders; a stretch of a few kilometresin which people are stuck in the COVID-19 politics or the legal meanders of return. As if the 9 years of an unrelenting conflict, homelessness, and agony in all forms were not enough. Regardless of root causes as to what got people here, it encapsulates the cruelty of war and the pandemic.
A few days ago, I traveledto Syria from Lebanon by land, crossing a border closed for citizens but open for humanitarian organizations including the Red Cross and Red Crescent personnel. I saw the same people in the same place under the scorching sun several days later on my way back after visiting Damascus. Some have had their legal entry sorted out. Others are still out there sleeping under the open sky. As I write, my colleagues in Syria are looking for ways to assist those that may still be stranded.
Syrians are now hit by another wave of suffering: economic collapse, sanctions, hyperinflation, rising unemployment, businesses that barely survived the conflict are now shutting down, more hunger with families skipping meals, and shortages of medicine.
The devaluation of the local currency, the constraints and the blockage of international transfer of money are driving Syrians to extreme poverty. Syrian sons and daughters living abroad are experiencing serious challenges to send the 100 or 200 dollars, to parents who are still living in Syria. The impact is catastrophic.
Concretely, what does this mean?
It means, your 70-year-old mother, will no longer have a decent meal because she can’t afford it. It means, your 80-year-old father is no longer able to buy the asthma medication he needs for his survival. It means that daughters and sons, naturally tending to their elderly parents needs as part of a safety net that functioned well for centuries, are no longer able to meet their deeply rooted duties. It means that even emotionally and psychologically, Syrians are affected to the very core of their identity and dignity.
My message is not a political one, it is purely humanitarian. We at the Red Cross and Red Crescent have a neutral stance about the sanctions. We work as humanitarians to make sure that people are not suffering and dying because of lack of basic needs such as medicines, food or water. Innocent people in Syria are paying the price of failed diplomacy, and unnecessarily suffer daily.
During my visit, I heard a common and sad “joke.” Many Syrians told me: Either we die of hunger, of war, or we die of COVID-19. It doesn’t matter.”
In between the conversations, people asked: Can you send us coffee? Can you send us Tabascosauce? These things don’t make it to Syria anymore. One might think these items are luxuries. Well, we believe that preserving human dignity matters.
In Damascus, I met the dedicated leadership of the Syria Arab Red Crescent (SARC) the volunteers and the staff who joined SARC to help their people. COVID-19 didn’t stop them. The message “Stay Home” does not mean much to them because their job is to be with their communities, in the streets, in the ambulances, in the camps for refugees and the internally displaced.
I also visited the SARC Damascus branch; A nine-story building where each floor has a specific function. I started with the Emergency Response Teams on the ninth floor. I met young women team leaders and their volunteer teams who run the emergency calls and the ambulance dispatch. I asked them what was their number one concern? They said the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). They must rationalize the PPEs and reuse them between the different teams. They send the PPEs to sterilization in between missions and sometimes, as a new emergency call kicks in, the PPEs are not sterilized yet. So, some take the risk of wearing utilized PPEs. Some can’t take the risk as they have children and families at home. With some 11,000 SARC volunteers at work across the country our current PPE supplies and resources are being exhausted at high speed.
I visited the physical rehabilitation and prostheses center. I saw young children, young woman and men trying to make prosthesis fit. They have been disabled by the war and trying to bounce back. Some smiled to me, some didn’t, and some cried in silence.
I visited another floor that hosts the dialyses unit. I met with the young doctors who are running between the fully packed beds with dialysis patients. They talked about the lack of spare parts, lack of filters for the dialysis machine, the maintenance needed, the inability of the patients to access the facility because of the conflict. I was left wondering how many have died lacking access to such lifesaving units?
Another floor was being converted to provide ICU capacity as the anticipated COVID-19 waves begin to hit.
I salute SARC, its dedicated volunteers, its managers, its doctors, its nurses, and its leaders who are doing their very best to deliver humanitarian aid in one of the most complex crisis that I have ever experienced in my 32 years of humanitarian work.
I walked out of the SARC headquarters and paused at the main doors next to a wall displaying the names of the 62 staff and volunteers who lost their lives in line of duty to save others. Thank you! I also managed to meet Syrian officials to discuss and agree on increased access, with UN and ICRC colleagues to better coordinate and expand the work.
Serious international diplomacy efforts are needed to halt the suffering and address the challenges that Syrians face every single day including but not limited to COVID-19. Increased humanitarian funding and ceasefires will allow us more access, save more lives, and simply offer more protection to people.
We, as humanitarians we will continue doing our part to alleviate the suffering; It will not be enough.
An urgent, just, and durable political solution is needed.