The IFRC calls for safe and unhindered access across the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages
A month since the onsetof violence across Israel and Palestine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls forsafe and unhindered access across the Gaza Stripand the release of hostages seized during the conflict. It also calls upon the diplomatic community to accelerate efforts towards a longer-term peace agreement and a massive scaling up of humanitarian assistance, including fuel.
The Magen David Adom (MDA) in Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, both members of the IFRC network, have been responding since the beginning of the hostilities. Staff and volunteers of both National Societies have been at the forefront of humanitarian efforts. And they have seen the violence firsthand. Many have lost friends and family members. Seven members, three of MDA and four of PRCS, have lost their own lives while helping others; many more have been injured.
The IFRC repeats its calls for all parties to respect International Humanitarian Law and immediately cease indiscriminate attacks. That means the protection of civilians, healthcare workers and facilities,humanitarian first responders, the immediate and unconditional release of hostages, rapid and unimpeded passage for humanitarian aid, including fuel, throughout the entire Gaza Strip and safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers. Civilians, humanitarian aid workers, hospitals and ambulances are not targets and must be protected. It is not possible to evacuate patients and those who care for themfromhospitals; we ask for an end to demands to the contrary.
The last month has been the most devastating period of violence ever across Israel and Palestine, killing around twelve thousand people and gravely injuring many more, mostly women and children. The siege of Gaza has caused immense suffering to more than two million people. Both the violence and the siege need to end.
We call on all parties forsafe and unhindered access across the Gaza Stripand the release of hostages. Now.
Israel / Palestine conflict: our response so far
As the escalation of hostilities in Israel and Palestine enters its second month, the conflict continues to take the lives of civilians, disrupt the delivery of life-saving medical care, interrupt critical services that people rely on to survive, and leave families grieving the loss of loved ones.
The IFRC has called on all parties for humanitarian access across Gaza and West Bank, the release of hostages, the protection of civilians, hospitals and humanitarian workers from indiscriminate attack and compliance with international humanitarian law.
Among those killed have been humanitarian aid and health workers who lost their lives while trying to save others, as well as people seeking safety and care at health facilities.
IFRC and National Society response
Meanwhile, IFRC member National Societies in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories continue to respond to urgent humanitarian needs and to provide life-saving assistance and other essential services. The IFRC, meanwhile, is supporting its National Societies Magen David Adom in Israel and the Palestinian Red Crescent in their on-going, live-saving work.
Magen David Adom in Israel (MDA) has been supporting affected communities since the beginning, with ambulance and medical services on call 24/7. Staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly, putting their lives and well-being in harm's way to tend to the wounded and deceased. A total of 1,500 ambulances and 10,000 first responders (EMTs and paramedics) have been mobilized. Since 7 October, they have treated over 4.000 patients.
These staff members and volunteers have been working under difficult and dangerous circumstances. Tragically, several volunteers and staff have died in line of duty, killed while treating patients. Several others also suffered major or minor injuries while on duty. Ambulances have also come under attack at various times during the hostilities.
The MDA has also supported the Ministry of Health in the transfer of patients and the evacuation of bed-ridden people close to the border. MDA is also helping communities prepare in case of further escalation. For example, the National Society offers free, first-aid training focusing on trauma care. It has also gathered, tested and processed over 50,000 units of blood to supply ambulances, mobile intensive care units, hospitals and clinics.
As the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has deteriorated – with little humanitarian aid reaching impacted communities – Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCRS) teams are working around the clock in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances. Already, several PRCS volunteers have been killed in the escalating violence. Meanwhile, there are drastic shortages of critical basic necessities, such as fuel, water, food and medical supplies.
Despite the challenges, PRCS has continued to provide critical, life-saving care. In the Gaza Strip, the PRCS has provided emergency medical care to more than 8,800 injured people as of 4 November. PRCS ambulance crews have also transported more than 2,800 people killed since the escalation began.
PRCS’s Al-Quds hospital in Gaza city has cared for 1,061 injured people and taken in long-term patients from the main hospital. The National Society’s Al Amal hospital in Khan Younis has cared for 873 injured people as of 4 November and has also taken in long-term patients from the main government-run hospital.
This life-saving work is being done in the face of regular power and communications blackouts as well as the extreme danger posed by the on-going conflict. PRCS teams have reported shelling very close to their hospitals, ambulance center, main warehouse, and headquarters causing injuries, damaging the buildings and restricting access to the hospitals. Eight ambulances are inoperable due to severe damage, according to PRCS. Al Quds hospital, meanwhile, has continued operation despite demands that it be evacuated.
Meanwhile, PRCS staff have distributed relief items to more than 60,000 internally displaced families in temporary shelters and at their hospitals. Aid items include food parcels, milk, blankets, mattresses, water as well as some hygiene kits, kitchen sets, and baby necessities.
In the West Bank, PRCS has provided emergency medical care to more than 2,300 injured people. Ambulance crews have also transported 49 people killed in the fighting.
Aid delivery to Gaza so far
On 21 October, the first 20 humanitarian aid trucks were allowed to cross the border from Egypt into the Gaza strip. The Rafah border crossing — a key lifeline for essential goods into the Gaza strip — had been closed since the escalation of violence on 7 October.
Since the border was re-opened, 756 trucks carrying food, water, relief items, medicine and medical supplies have been allowed in as of 9 November – an average of 33 trucks per day. The aid that has been received is only a drop in the ocean considering the immense needs of Gaza’s two million people. So far no fuel has been allowed to enter the Gaza strip. The aid deliveries were coordinated by the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) the only relief organization with access to North Sinai, including the Rafah border crossing.
New humanitarian flights
On 7 November, two new European Union Humanitarian Air Bridge flights for the people of Gaza took off from Ostend, Belgium and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, transporting almost 115 tonnes of assistance supplies to al-Arish, Egypt, near the Rafah Border Crossing Point.
The flights were organised through a coordination platform managed by the EU and the IFRC. The cargo from Dubai carried logistical items such as refrigerators and containers, a crucial element for the treatment of aid arriving in Egypt and Gaza. These items were purchased by the EU and donated to the World Food Programme in order to strengthen the logistical capacity of the Egyptian Red Crescent and to facilitate relief operations in the region.
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt
In view of the scale of likely needs and in order to complement the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS)’s response efforts outlined in their appeal, the IFRC will enhance the capacities to respond through an Emergency Appeal by coordinating the response in neighbouring countries to the occupied Palestine Territories.
The IFRC will be supporting – in close coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - the response of its membership, as significant humanitarian actors in their own geographies, and strengthen their organizational capacities. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC and its membership seek CHF 30 million (CHF 20 million of which is expected to be raised by the IFRC Secretariat) to support the Lebanese Red Cross, Egyptian Red Crescent, Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Jordanian Red Crescent in preparing and strengthening their response readiness to the potential escalation of hostilities in the region and subsequent humanitarian needs.
On 13, October, the IFRC also allocated CHF 1 million from its Disaster Emergency Relief Fund to support a wide range of humanitarian assistance in the occupied Palestinian territories impacted by the hostilities.
The highest price
Since the escalation of hostilities began on 7 October, the IFRC has decried the fact that civilians are paying the “highest price” in the hostilities and has called on all parties to allow humanitarian organizations to safely access and support people impacted by the crisis.
In a joint statement on 14 October, IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain and ICRC Director General Robert Mardini said they were “appalled to see the human misery that has unfolded” and that “civilians - including women and children, the elderly, and the wounded and sick - are currently paying the highest price.”
“Human suffering is happening on all sides,” the statement said. “And it is always devastating. The death of a son or daughter, a sibling, a parent, is a human tragedy no matter where it happens or who it happens to. Civilian life must be protected on all sides.”
“We call on all parties to exercise restraint, to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, and to protect civilians – which must remain at the core of everything we do,” they wrote, stressing the critical need for all parties to respect and facilitate impartial and neutral humanitarian assistance to all those impacted by the violence.
The IFRC governing board, which includes National Society leaders from all parts of the globe, also expressed its shock and horror at the “growing humanitarian needs and the mounting loss of life” in a special statement released on 20 October.
“This situation underscores the critical importance of access to all civilians, including those held hostage,” the statement continued. “We urge all parties involved to prioritize the safety and well-being of civilians and to commit to ensuring rapid, safe, and unimpeded access, including the opening of the Rafah border crossing, for humanitarian organizations to provide essential humanitarian assistance and ensure protection.”
If you are a journalist and would like more information or to request an interview about this emergency, please email [email protected].
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@elsharkawi - IFRC MENA Regional Director, Hossam Elsharkawi
IFRC is horrified and dismayed by the loss of life at the hospital in North Gaza
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is horrified and dismayed by the tragic events that unfolded at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in North Gaza on the evening of 17 October 2023. Hospitals are places of help and refuge; they must be protected at all costs. This is not just a moral obligation but also a legal imperative. Hospitals should be sanctuaries for all, where healthcare workers and civilians alike can seek safety and care.
IFRC leadership responds
Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of IFRC, expressed his profound concern, saying,
"I'm horrified and dismayed by what's happened at the Al Ahli Hospital in #Gaza. Hospitals are places of help and refuge. They must be protected. It's a moral and legal imperative."
Secretary General, IFRC
Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC, echoed these sentiments, stating,
“Horrified by what happened at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. The hospital was full of patients and people seeking protection. Civilians, healthcare workers and facilities are protected under international humanitarian law. Even war has rules!”
Call for humanity
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is catastrophic. With hospitals overwhelmed and medicines running out, fuel, water, and food are in short supply. We urge everyone to exercise restraint, adhere to humanitarian law, and protect civilians. We cannot stress this further. Civilian lives must be protected. Hospitals, doctors and nurses must also be protected.
We issued a joint statement from Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, and Robert Mardini, Director General of the ICRC, on the escalation of hostilities in Israel and Gaza on 14 October 2023. Read the joint statement.
We are also devastated to confirm the deaths of seven members of our network due to the armed hostilities in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Read the statement published on 11 October 2023 (the number was five at the time of the statement).
For real-time updates on the current situation and to gain further insights, we invite you to listen to the latest weekly Red Cross and Red Crescent X (formerly Twitter) Spaces.
For media interviews, please write to [email protected].
National Society Investment Alliance funding announcement 2023
The National Society Investment Alliance (NSIA) is a pooled funding mechanism, run jointly by the IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The NSIA provides flexible, multi-year funding to support the long-term development of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies so they can increase the reach and impact of their humanitarian services. It focuses on supporting National Societies operating in complex emergencies, protracted crises and fragile contexts.
The NSIA can award up to one million Swiss francs of Accelerator funding to National Societies in fragile contexts over a maximum of five years. In addition, Bridge grants of up to 50,000 Swiss francs over 12 months can help National Societies lay the ground for future investment from the NSIA or from other National Societies Development (NSD) support initiatives.
In 2023, the NSIA Office received 27 eligible proposals: 14 for Accelerator funding and 13 for Bridge grants. Having reviewed all applications and following up the decision of the Steering Committee, the NSIA Office is pleased to announce that the following four National Societies have been selected for Accelerator funding in 2023:
Ecuadorian Red Cross
Myanmar Red Cross Society
Red Cross Society of Niger
The Palestine Red Crescent Society
These National Societies will receive a significant investment to help accelerate their journey towards long-term sustainability.
Three of these National Societies (Myanmar, Niger and Palestine) previously received NSIA Bridge grants, proving once again the relevance of the fund’s phased approach.
The Myanmar Red Cross Society will proceed with the decentralization of its commercial first aid program after designing a strategy and a business model with the bridge grant.
The Red Cross Society of Niger plans to develop the resource mobilization capacities of its branches after a pilot phase and to boost their volunteer base.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society, having developed an investment strategy with a previous bridge grant, will improve access to healthcare services by implementing a health management information system.
The Ecuadorian Red Cross plans to develop a new internal system to better manage important parts of their work - including HR, volunteer, financial management and logistics. The NSIA will fund the first phase of implementation of this system.
15 other National Societies will receive Bridge grants (up to 50,000 Swiss francs): Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Central Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Honduras, Liberia, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Most Bridge initiatives will focus on developing business plans and strategies for resource mobilization (57 per cent) followed by branch development (21%). The National Societies’ projects will also focus on other themes such as volunteer development, youth engagement, digital transformation and governance are also identified.
In total, the NSIA will allocate 3.2 million Swiss francs to the 19 different National Societies this year.
The NSIA Office also takes this opportunity to thank the generous support from the governments of Switzerland, the United States, and Norway, and from the Norwegian and Netherlands’ Red Cross Societies, as well as the ICRC and IFRC, for their continuous commitment and contribution to the fund.
The NSIA remains a strategic instrument for National Societies in fragile settings. The Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) has been implementing a NSIA accelerator initiative since 2021. Mr. Abubakar Kende, NRCS Secretary General explains:
“The NSIA has played a pivotal role in the success and expansion of the Nigerian Red Cross Society's commercial first aid training program. The financial and technical support and resources provided have significantly improved the overall impact, reach and quality of our Workplace First Aid training by developing advanced training products to bring us up-to-date with international best practices.
The NSIA Accelerator Grant has been an invaluable asset for the development of the Nigerian Red Cross Society through strategic investments, expert guidance, and the introduction of additional revenue-generating streams that contribute to its long-term financial sustainability. This enables the National Society to fulfil its humanitarian mission and positively impact the lives of vulnerable communities across Nigeria.
We are immensely grateful for the partnership so far with NSIA and look forward to continuing our shared mission of building a more prepared and resilient Nigeria. This cooperation and support has enabled NRCS to establish a solid foundation for growth and financial sustainability at both National Headquarters and the Branches, which we intend to scale up over the next coming years.”
For more information, pleasevisit the NSIA webpage.
| Press release
Joint Statement from Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC and Robert Mardini, Director General of the ICRC, on the escalation of hostilities in Israel and Gaza.
Geneva,14 October 2023 – The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movementis appalled to see the human misery that has unfolded over the last week in Israel and Gaza. Civilians - including women and children, the elderly, and the wounded and sick - are currently paying the highest price.
Nothing can justify the horrific loss of civilian lives in Israel last weekend. Our hearts go out to people who lost family members or are anxiously awaiting news about their missing loved ones, which they should receive without delay.But such tragedy cannot in turn justify the limitless destruction of Gaza.
We are deeply alarmed by the call for relocation in Gaza. Our volunteers refuse to leave and abandon those who need them most. They must be protected so that they can protect others.
Human suffering is happening on all sides. And it is always devastating. The death of a son or daughter, a sibling, a parent, is a human tragedy no matter where it happens or who it happens to. Civilian life must be protected on all sides.
In international humanitarian law – the law of armed conflict – there is no hierarchy in pain and suffering. These rules exist to help preserve humanity in the darkest moments, and they desperately need to be followed today. They are and should remain our compass to ensure that we put humanity first.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society and The Magen David Adom in Israel have been working around the clock to provide critical assistance, including ambulance and health services, to those affected. Their staff and volunteers are risking their lives every day to save others. Just this week, we have lost colleagues from both National Societies, who were killed in the line of duty, carrying out life-saving humanitarian work. This is a tragic reminder of the dangers humanitarian and medical workers face and we offer our deepest condolences to their families, friends and colleagues. We reiterate our call that humanitarian workers must be protected.
The Movement is committed to continuing to provide protection and life-saving relief to the people suffering the horrors of the ongoing violence. To do so, our teams need to be able to operate safely. Humanitarian organizations must be given the access to do their work to alleviate the growing human suffering.
The needs are staggering and will only continue to increase if the hostilities persist. We call on all parties to exercise restraint, to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, and to protect civilians – which must remain at the core of everything we do.
Совместное заявление Джагана Чапагайна, генерального секретаря Международной Федерации обществ Красного Креста и Красного Полумесяца, и Роберта Мардини, генерального директора Международного Комитета Красного Креста, в связи с эскалацией военных действий в Израиле и секторе Газа.
14 октября 2023 г.
Женева – Международное движение Красного Креста и Красного Полумесяца потрясено человеческими страданиями, захлестнувшими в прошедшую неделю Израиль и сектор Газа. Самую высокую цену сейчас платит гражданское население — в том числе женщины и дети, старики, раненые и больные.
Ничто не может оправдать чудовищные потери среди мирных жителей в Израиле в прошлые выходные. Мы от всей души сочувствуем тем, кто потерял родных или с тревогой ждет известий о пропавших без вести близких — известий, которые они должны получить без промедления. Однако эта трагедия не может в свою очередь служить оправданием безоглядному разрушению Газы.
Мы глубоко обеспокоены призывом к перемещению населения Газы. Наши добровольцы отказываются уезжать и бросать тех, кто больше всего в них нуждается. Им нужна защита, чтобы они могли защищать других.
Люди страдают одинаково, к какой бы стороне они ни принадлежали. Их горе всегда мучительно. Смерть сына или дочери, брата или сестры, отца или матери — всегда трагедия, где бы и с кем бы она ни происходила. Защитой должна пользоваться жизнь гражданских лиц всех сторон.
В международном гуманитарном праве — праве вооруженных конфликтов — не существует иерархии боли и страданий. Эти нормы созданы, чтобы помочь людям сохранять человечность в самые мрачные времена, и сегодня их крайне необходимо соблюдать. Мы должны сейчас и впредь руководствоваться ими, чтобы гуманность всегда оставалась на первом месте.
Палестинское общество Красного Полумесяца и израильское общество «Маген Давид Адом», включая их службы скорой помощи, работают сутками напролет, оказывая пострадавшим незаменимую помощь, медицинскую и иную. Их сотрудники и добровольцы каждый день рискуют жизнью для спасения других. На одной только этой неделе мы потеряли коллег из обоих национальных обществ — они были убиты при исполнении своих обязанностей, в ходе гуманитарной работы по спасению людей. Это трагическое напоминание об опасностях, которым подвергаются гуманитарные и медицинские работники, и мы приносим глубочайшие соболезнования их семьям, друзьям и коллегам. Мы вновь повторяем свой призыв защищать гуманитарных работников.
Движение полно решимости и дальше предоставлять защиту и спасительную помощь людям, переживающим ужасы неослабевающего насилия. Для этого нам нужна возможность действовать в безопасности. Гуманитарным организациям должен быть предоставлен соответствующий доступ, чтобы они могли делать свою работу, облегчая растущие человеческие страдания.
Потребности людей огромны и будут только расти, если военные действия не прекратятся. Мы призываем все стороны проявлять сдержанность, соблюдать свои обязательства по международному гуманитарному праву и защищать гражданских лиц, о которых мы всегда должны заботиться в первую очередь.
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
IFRC is extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Palestine
West Bank / Gaza / Geneva 12 November 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Palestine. Palestinians are facing a multitude of crises, including persistent escalations of violence, a socio-economic breakdown and the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of a protracted conflict and occupation.
Critical infrastructure, including the power and water supply, is eroding in many areas. Millions of people are unable to cover their most basic needs because of serious shortages of food, water, fuel, and medicines, among other essential supplies, especially in Gaza, as a result of the continued blockade. According to OCHA, more than 2.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Speaking at the end of his visit to the Gaza strip and the West Bank, IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Palestine: too many overlapping crises are pushing local communities to their limits. I am always impressed by the critical work done by the Palestine Red Crescent teams: from the emergency medical services to social and inclusion activities, they are a key humanitarian actor. I was particularly inspired by the visit to their centres for children with disabilities both in Gaza Strip and West Bank. These centres embody the real meaning of humanity: without PRCS these children would be left behind. The world has a moral duty to strengthen humanitarian support in Palestine and invest in local actors like the Palestine Red Crescent.”
Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) continues to be the leading provider of emergency medical services in Palestine, operating five hospitals and providing ambulance and first aid services. For decades, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has supported the Palestine Red Crescent Society to respond to the immense needs of the most vulnerable people.
During the visit, President Rocca signed the IFRC legal status agreement with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine: a standard procedure when the IFRC establishes an office with international staff to strengthen the operations of a national Red Cross or Red Crescent Society.
IFRC President Rocca said:
“Signing of the status agreement is verification for our long-term commitment to support PRCS and the people in Palestine. As per our humanitarian principles, we continue providing humanitarian relief to the people based on their vulnerabilities and needs, without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.”
Dr. Younis al-Khatib, PRCS President, said:
“The signing of the legal status agreement is a manifestation of the long-standing support and solidarity of IFRC with PRCS. The staff and volunteers of PRCS are always happy to meet with President Rocca and be inspired by his unwavering support and praise for the volunteers of our Movement.”
IFRC is committed to supporting the PRCS in its humanitarian mandate to deal with the acute and protracted consequences of occupation, violence, disasters, and crises.
IFRC together with the other Red Cross and Red Crescent partners continue to enhance the preparedness and response capacities of PRCS’ medical services, scale up their COVID-19 response activities, provide medical items, medicines and personal protective equipment, and replace old and out-of-service ambulances.
To request an interview or for more information, please contact:
In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC, +41 79 708 43 67, [email protected]
In Beirut: Jani Savolainen, IFRC, +961 70372812, [email protected]
In Ramallah: Mamoun Abbasi, PRCS, +970 595606096, [email protected]
PRCS introduces children with disabilities and their families to distance learning
Randa El Ozeir: Undeterred by the interruption of physical communication due to COVID-19, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has continued to support and help children with disabilities and those with special needs by using productive communication tools delivered by 60 teams responsible for distance learning and rehabilitation. Suheir Badarneh, the director of rehabilitation in the PRCS, explained that “due to the sudden closing down, this initiative didn’t require a special digital platform. We resorted to groups on WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook to exchange the information. We had to call some families on mobile phones and landing lines when they didn’t have neither internet connection nor smart devices.”
Up to now, 686 children with special needs have benefited from the program that consists of special activities prepared by 187 volunteers, who have instructed the parents to implement them at home and send their feedback to the specialists and the rehabilitation workers. According to Badarneh, the activities aim to develop the children’ capabilities, relying on four main channels: a) equipping families with lessons and learning activities to be completed at home; b) providing through guidance and mental support a safe space for the children and their parents to express and release their feelings, fears, and inner thoughts; c) understanding the needs of the children and their parents and meet them as much as possible; d) and raising the awareness on virus prevention through health pamphlets created by the PRCS or other organizations.”
So far, 10 PRCS Branches have participated in the program, which was geographically spread to Ariha, Anabta, Al-Khalil, Tarqumiyha, Toubas, Nablus, Bani Nai’m, Ramallah, Khan Younis, and Rafah. The PRCS has contacted 1048 families and supplied them with cognitive and kinetic activities along with instructions for self-care to train the children after the shut-down of schools and rehabilitation centres and the pending of face-to-face education. Badarneh said, “we were able to increase the number of beneficiaries to reach 70% of all targeted children. The positive involvement and the responsiveness of parents and children with the program team were crucial to the success of the initiative. At the beginning it wasn’t easy to convince the parents to commit to distance learning, as it was a new concept for them, and many believed it to be ineffective.”
Given the novelty of the experience, the PRCS kept the door open for comments and suggestions from parents who wanted to improve the performance and the delivery methods of information to their children, including the deaf. The PRCS Branches created between 18 and 847 specific activities to be sent every day depending on the participation ratio and the nature of each Branch’s centre. Badarneh said, “we promoted social interaction among family members and the contribution to house chores, as well as developing language and communication capability in children, focusing on behaviour modification and boosting their fine and gross motor skills. We also completed the kindergarten program based on speech training, concept recognition, reading and writing, and sign language learning.” Asmahan Assfour, the coordinator of the sign language unit at the PRCS, said that a sign language translation has been provided to several female students to finish their digital marketing training online. And a group of female deaf students put their experience to test by producing 57 animated videos to spread awareness about COVID-19.”
“This project requires an equipped team of volunteers and specialists to guide the families of children with disabilities and visit them as part of an awareness program,” suggested Sirine Abou Samaha, a psychologist with the PRCS, who also raised the alarm that, “people with special needs are one of the most marginalized and stigmatized groups in the world, even under normal circumstances. If the government and the relevant institutions didn’t act quickly to contain them in their response to the spread of COVID-19, they would be exposed to the infection risk and death. They are less immune to facing the virus, and this affects their families’ mental health and is reflected in chronic anxiety that can develop into depression. Abou Samaha warned that the psychological conditions of these children can become detrimental after being severed from their safe space in learning and rehabilitation centres. There they can socially interact and enjoy extracurricular activities, which channel their energy in the right direction, giving them a sense of self and the right to play, learn, and live like any other child. Abou Samaha suggested to coordinate health check-up campaigns for these children and encourage as many of their families as possible to be in the digital world.
Om Karim, a mother of two children who attend the PRCS’ Total Communication School for teaching the deaf, welcomed the program. “The teacher, Najah Zahran, sends videos showing the letters’ and sounds’ phonetics, their signs, and their pictures to use when I teach my children. It has been a fruitful experience in many aspects for me and for my son. We have been able to fill our free time at home with learning. I, myself, even gained new skills.”
There is value in looking at this distance learning program during COVID-19 and beyond. “We are weighing with the IT unit the options to best develop this technology, so we can keep working with the children with disabilities during COVID-19 or any similar situations,” concluded Badarneh. But the hard-financial position of the families remains the major obstacle to meet the necessary requirements and ensure an effective communication and participation of both children and their families.
Empress Shôken Fund announces grants for 2020
The Empress Shôken Fund is named after Her Majesty the Empress of Japan, who proposed – at the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross – the creation of an international fund to promote relief work in peacetime. It is administered by the Joint Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which maintains close contact with the Japanese Permanent Mission in Geneva, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Meiji Jingu Research Institute in Japan.
The Fund has a total value of over 16 million Swiss francs and supports projects run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to benefit their communities in various ways. The first grant was awarded in 1921, to help five European National Societies fight the spread of tuberculosis. The Fund has assisted more than 160 National Societies thus far.
The imperial family, the Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people revere the memory of Her Majesty Empress Shôken, and their enduring regard for the Fund is shown by the regularity of their contributions to it.
The grants are usually announced every year on 11 April, the anniversary of her death. This year the announcement is being published earlier owing to the Easter holidays.
The selection process
The Empress Shôken Fund received 36 applications in 2020, covering a diverse range of humanitarian projects run by National Societies in every region of the world. This year the Joint Commission agreed to allocate a total of 400,160 Swiss francs to 14 projects in Argentina, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Lithuania, Montenegro, Namibia, Palestine, Panama, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda.
The projects to be supported in 2020 cover a number of themes, including first aid, youth engagement and disaster preparedness. Moreover, nearly all of the selected projects seek to strengthen the volunteer base of National Societies, with a view to building on the unique role played by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in communities everywhere. The Fund encourages new and innovative approaches that are geared towards learning, so that the broader Movement can benefit from project findings.
The 2020 grants
TheArgentine Red Crosshas launched a generational change in its leadership by promoting volunteers’ access to decision-making bodies. It will use the grant to design and build virtual courses, creating new spaces for dialogue and debate.
For years, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been a major partner of the State in the field of first aid, helping it to respond effectively in a crisis. The National Society will use the grant to reinforce its leadership position by introducing an online first-aid training platform that will facilitate theoretical learning and increase the number of trained first-aiders.
The Hellenic Red Cross seeks to empower local communities in vulnerable or isolated areas. The grant will go towards establishing branch and community disaster teams that will build communities’ resilience through activities and training around disaster risk reduction.
In Iraq, late detection of breast cancer is common and makes the disease much deadlier. To save women’s lives, theIraqi Red Crescent Societywill use the grant to train female volunteers who will raise awareness of early detection methods for breast cancer.
The Lithuanian Red Cross will put the grant towards an innovative digital platform for evaluating the impact of its first-aid courses, issuing and tracking certifications, and connecting with first-aiders after they complete their training.
Young people account for more than 80% of the volunteers of the Red Cross of Montenegro. The National Society will use the grant to improve its activities and services with the aim of strengthening youth participation and raising awareness of volunteer opportunities.
As Namibia’s population grows, first-aid skills and services are more in demand than ever before. The grant will enable the Namibia Red Cross to run intensive first-aid training and certification courses in ten schools.
To better serve the communities it works with, thePalestine Red Crescent Society seeks to build its staff members’ and volunteers’ capacities. It will use the grant to establish a computer lab as a continuing-education unit for all of its staff and volunteers.
In Panama, gang violence has shot up in recent years, and pollution continues to grow owing to a lack of public awareness. The Red Cross Society of Panama will use the grant to develop a series of activities aimed at promoting a culture of peace and environmental responsibility.
Blood transfusion services are an essential component of Sierra Leone’s health-care system. The grant will enable the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to increase access to safe blood products, especially for pregnant woman and infants.
In Timor-Leste, 70% of the population is under 30 years old, but accessing information about reproductive health can be difficult, particularly in rural areas. The Timor Leste Red Cross will use the grant for a public-awareness and education campaign for young people on reproductive health.
The Tonga Red Cross Society will use the grant to improve students' access to health care and physical activity by using safer vehicles for transportation.
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society is exploring novel approaches to teaching disaster preparedness and increasing public awareness on the subject. The grant will enable the National Society to use virtual-reality technology to teach the public about the reality and impact of disasters.
In Uganda, 70% of blood donors are students, so the country faces blood shortages outside term time. The Uganda Red Cross Society will use the grant to develop its online recruitment of adult blood donors so as to counteract any seasonal shortfalls during the holidays.
| Press release
IFRC President praises Palestine Red Crescent volunteers and calls for more support
Ramallah, 14 Dec 2018: For the past 50 years, volunteers at Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) have been providing humanitarian services not only in the occupied Palestinian territory but also to the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Egypt. To mark the anniversary, PRCS organized an event in Ramallah attended by volunteers, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement representatives, NGOs and several humanitarian organizations.
Dr. Younis A-Khatib, President of Palestine Red Crescent Society, said: “On our 50th anniversary, I congratulate our volunteers and staff for their dedication and passion, without which, we wouldn’t have been able to provide humanitarian services in an extremely difficult working environment.
“I would like to express our gratitude for the remarkable support we have been receiving from our sister organizations, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and look forward to fostering additional strategic partnerships to further strengthen the capacity of our volunteers and staff.”
Mr Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and IFRC Regional Director Sayed Hashem attended the event.
Mr Rocca said: “We are in Palestine to express our solidarity and admiration of the hard work that volunteers and staff have been doing under difficult circumstances for the past 50 years. Humanitarian needs here are already serious and I fear they may worsen in 2019. At least 1.9 million Palestinians could be at risk of conflict and violence, forcible displacement and denial of access to livelihoods. We call on the international community for greater support to PRCS: local actors are always best placed to serve their own communities.
“While we celebrate 50 years of achievements, we remember all volunteers who lost their lives in line of duty and we remind all parties to the conflict that Red Crescent volunteers, staff and emergency medical technicians are neutral and should be protected and enabled to do their humanitarian duty at all times.”
Palestine Red Crescent Society emergency services are ready to respond at a moment’s notice across the occupied Palestinian territory. In addition, PRCS provides disaster management services when needed and deploys mobile emergency teams and field hospitals to isolated and affected towns and villages where teams provide health care and relief items to communities in need.
| Press release
In wake of Gaza violence, IFRC President praises courage of Red Crescent volunteers, highlights humanitarian needs
Ramallah/Beirut/Geneva, 24 May 2018— The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has met some of the volunteers injured while responding to recent violence in Gaza.
Speaking at the end of his two-day visit to Gaza, President Francesco Rocca, praised the courage and commitment of Red Crescent personnel who assisted more than 6,000 people injured during the violence. Six volunteers were wounded in the line of duty.
Mr Rocca said: “I came here to convey our admiration and solidarity to our colleagues from the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Their dedication and bravery is inspiring. I was especially moved to meet some of the young volunteers now recovering from injuries they sustained during their efforts. I once again call on all parties to respect and protect volunteers and other humanitarian workers.
“I also came here to better understand the difficulties faced by those living in Gaza. The humanitarian needs in Gaza are enormous. The health system is near collapse – any health system would struggle under the massive number of wounded.
“But when we talk about humanitarian needs in Gaza, we are not just talking about the recent violence. I saw a great need for long-term treatment and rehabilitation. Emergency care is critical, but so is longer-term support. Right now, this is not readily available in Gaza,” said Mr Rocca.
President Rocca visited several of the emergency medical stations that were established by Palestine Red Crescent Society during the violence, as well as a Red Crescent hospital and psychosocial centre in Khan Yunis.
President Rocca was joined throughout his visit by Dr Younis Al Khatib, the President of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Dr Younis said:
“We appreciate the support of IFRC and our partners across the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. We appreciate this support, but we desperately need more. We have launched an international appeal for Gaza and the West Bank. Our message is simple: people here need help. Every day our emergency medical teams, volunteers, and psycho social support staff are doing all they can to help meet these needs. But we cannot do it alone.
“I also repeat our call for our medical missions, volunteers and staff to be respected and protected. We are humanitarians. We wear the protective emblem of the red crescent. We are not a target,” Dr Younis said.