| Press release
IFRC and C40 Cities urge cities to prepare for more dangerous and deadly heat waves
14 June 2022, Geneva, New York—Heat waves are becoming more frequent, longer, hotter and deadlier, especially in urban areas, but the threats they pose are preventable if cities and residents are prepared for extreme heat and take steps to save lives.
The past seven years, from 2015 to 2021, have been the hottest on record and this year is already a punishing one. The life-threatening temperature spikes seen in recent months across India, Pakistan, East Asia and southern Europe and this week’s unusually intense, early-season heat wave gripping parts of the United States are an ominous sign of what is to come as the world gets warmer.
Every year, increasingly scorching temperatures put millions of people at risk of heat-related illnesses and claim the lives of thousands of others. People living in cities are hardest hit because urban areas are warmer than the surrounding countryside and are getting hotter due to climate change. Those most at risk are already vulnerable—the elderly and isolated, infants, pregnant women, those with pre-existing ailments and the urban poor, who often work outdoors or live and work in buildings without air conditioning or adequate ventilation.
But deaths from heat waves are not inevitable. Five billion people live in places that are prone to heat waves and where early warning systems can predict them before they happen.
“Heat waves are the silent killers of climate change, but they don’t have to be,” says Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Most heat waves are forecast days or weeks in advance, giving ample time to act early and inform and protect the most vulnerable. The good news is that there are simple and low-cost actions authorities can take to prevent unnecessary deaths from heat.”
Ahead of the summer season in many parts of the world, IFRC is launching its first global Heat Action Day, today, 14 June—mobilizing branches and partners in over 50 cities to hold awareness-raising events about ways to reduce severe impacts of extreme heat.
The IFRC is also partnering with C40 Cities to call on city officials, urban planners, and city residents in every region of the world to prepare for more dangerous and deadly heat waves.
“Cities that are used to hot weather need to prepare for even longer periods of sweltering heat and cooler cities need to prepare for levels of extreme heat that they are not accustomed to,” says Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities. “From Miami to Mumbai and Athens to Abidjan, mayors in our network are increasing green spaces, expanding cool roof programmes and collaborating on heat actions to improve resilience to rising urban heat. But far more work is needed to reduce andmanage risks as the climate crisis worsens.”
TheC40 Cool Cities Networksupports cities to embed heat risk and management in their climate action plans, develop heat resilience studies, and develop, fine-tune and measure impacts of heat mitigation action, including cooling, greening and emergency management.The network has held intensive workshops on urban heat and equity, developed resources to guide heat action plans and, over the past two years, supported cities in managing the compound crises of extreme heat alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on outreach to vulnerable populations.
Across the globe, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are rising to the extreme heat challenge—supporting and improving local and national heat action plans, spreading messages to the public on heat safety, checking in on the most vulnerable, distributing water, supporting medical services, identifying and setting up cooling centres, and even helping people retrofit their homes to improve shade and reduce heat. They’re also expanding research on heat to parts of Africa, Asia and South America that have been overlooked in the past.
“The climate crisis is driving and intensifying humanitarian crisis in every region of the world,” says Rocca. “But when cities and communities are better prepared, extreme weather doesn’t have to become a disaster or a tragedy.”
Note to Editors:
IFRC’s “Heat Wave Guide for Cities” and “Urban Action Kit” are resources for city officials, urban planners and community organizations to anticipate and plan for extreme urban heat and reduce deadly risks.
C40’s “Urban Cooling Toolbox” provides approaches to lower urban temperatures and reduce the impact of the urban heat effect; the “Heat Resilient Cities Benefit Tool” helps city planners and decision-makers quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of adaptation actions.
A heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures and often high humidity. Extreme heat can cause shock, dehydration and other acute illnesses, and worsen cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
There is now a mountain of evidence that climate change is increasing the occurrence of deadly heat waves. Scientists have concluded that climate change has made the 2022 heat wave in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely, the 2019 heat wave in western Europe 100 times more likely and the 2019-20 heat wave in Australia 10 times more likely.
Images and Video for use by media outlets:
Follow thisTwitter thread to access videos and photos of global Heat Action Day events. Heat emergency response images can be accessedhere
For more information or 1:1 interviews, contact:
IFRC: Melissa Winkler, [email protected], +41 76 2400 324
IFRC: Tommaso Della Longa, [email protected], +41 79 708 43 67
C40 Cities: Rolf Rosenkranz, [email protected]
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives, build community resilience, strengthen localization and promote dignity around the world.www.ifrc.org - Facebook-Twitter-YouTube
C40 Citiesis a network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities who are working to deliver the urgent action needed right now to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone, everywhere can thrive. Mayors of C40 cities are committed to using a science-based and people-focused approach to help the world limit global heating to 1.5°C and build healthy, equitable and resilient communities.www.C40.org-Twitter-Instagram-Facebook-LinkedIn
Forest fires in the north and north-east of Algeria in August and September 2021 claimed many lives and caused extensive damage to infrastructure, livelihoods and local ecosystems. This Emergency Appeal will enable the IFRC to support the Algerian Red Crescent in delivering assistance to 42,500 affected people over 12 months. The operation will focus on shelter, livelihoods and basic needs, health, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), protection, gender and inclusion (PGI) and disaster risk reduction (DRR)—as well as building the capacity of the National Society.
| Press release
Sierra Leone Red Cross and IFRC respond to oil tank explosion tragedy
Freetown, Nairobi, 6 November 2021—Sierra Leone Red Cross teams are providing ambulance services; first aid and psychosocial support following a fire incident that killed nearly 100 on Friday night. To support Sierra Leone Red Cross teams to step up its emergency response, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is in the process of releasing money from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
The number of affected people and the gruesome nature of the disaster have posed challenges to response teams.
Kpawuru E. T. Sandy, Sierra Leone Red Cross Society’s Secretary General currently, said:
“The main hospital is overwhelmed, and families are struggling to identify their loved ones who were burnt or killed as bodies are badly charred.”
Sierra Leone has been hit by frequent disasters in recent years, including floods, epidemics, and fire incidents.
Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said: “This is a heart-breaking incident, for a country where memories of the 2017 tragic mudslides and the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak are still fresh. Over 100 patients are now being taken care of at different hospitals in Freetown.”
Sierra Leone Red Cross teams have responded to other major disasters in the past with the latest being the Susan’s Bay fire incident in March. The disaster left at least 7,000 homeless. Sierra Leone Red Cross responded by providing first aid and ambulance services, and IFRC released nearly 300,000 Swiss francs from its DREF to scale up the response operation. Sierra Leone Red Cross teams have also responded to the August 2017 mudslides that killed over 1000 people; and the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 4000 people.
Through its 18,000 volunteers across the country, Sierra Leone Red Cross continues to play a leading role as a first responder to disasters and as a provider of primary health care.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Swaray Lengor, +232 79 236196; [email protected]
Dr Ghulam Muhammad AWAN, +232 78 811 584; [email protected]
Camara Yusuf; +23279492611; [email protected]
Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613, [email protected]
Wildfires (also known as bushfires, brush fires or forest fires) arelarge, uncontrolled and potentially destructive fires that can affect both rural and urban areas.They can spread quickly, change direction and even 'jump' across large distances when embers and sparks are carried by the wind. They are caused by a range of natural causes (such as lightning) or by human carelessness (such as a discarded cigarette). The spread of a wildfire depends onthe arrangement of land,available fuel (vegetation or dead wood)and weather conditions (wind and heat). They can start in just seconds and turn into infernos in a matter of minutes.
| Press release
Combination of wildfires and COVID-19 threaten tens of thousands of lives in Algeria and Tunisia
Algeria/Tunisia/Beirut, 13 August 2021–The wildfires currently spreading in Algeria and Tunisia threaten the lives of tens of thousands, while also damaging local ecosystems, infrastructures and livelihoods. Both countries face a multi-hazard situation, as an alarming number of COVID-19 infections have been reported in the past weeks.
Flames have killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of families to leave their homes. Hundreds of people have lost their houses, farms and livelihoods. Thousands of hectares of land have been burned down.
Red Crescent volunteers and staff have been supporting communities by providing first aid, psychosocial support, emergency shelter, drinking water and other necessary relief items. For example, the Algerian Red Crescent has already set up 200 tents for emergency shelter and supported shelter solutions in host communities for an additional 8,000 families.
Anne E. Leclerc, Head of the North Africa Country Cluster Delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
”Most of the northern parts of Tunisia and Algeria have already been severely impacted by multiple fires. Extreme weather conditions intensify the risk of additional fires in the region. The Red Crescent Societies of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are on high alert, mobilizing volunteers and providing assistance to affected communities in close coordination with local authorities.
"Climate change is here. It impacts people across the globe every day. Combined with the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the region, we are tackling multiple crises simultaneously. The combination of these is stretching already strained healthcare systems to their limits.”
In Algeria, the fires have been raging since Monday and are spreading to new areas. So far, the Algerian Red Crescent has mobilized more than 300 volunteers to the response operation. IFRC is releasing financial resources from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the response operation and is planning together with the Algerian Red Crescent for a possible request for more international support.
Dr. Saida BenHabyles, the President of Algerian Red Crescent said:
“The momentum of national solidarity, initiated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been reinforced during this wave of multiple fires that struck parts of the country. The Algerian Red Crescent, one of the links in this great chain of solidarity, has been working tirelessly on the ground since the start of the pandemic and since the first hours of the outbreak of the fires. This disaster comes with another great danger, the COVID 19 pandemic. We are facing a double challenge when working against the spread of the COVID-19 and providing assistance to those affected by the fires.”
In Tunisia, more than 100 families have already lost their homes as the fires have been spreading to new areas. The Tunisian Red Crescent is providing affected families with emergency shelter, household items, as well as psychosocial support. The IFRC has released 99,897 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the fire response by the Tunisian Red Crescent.
In addition, the IFRC supports the coordination of both response operations as well as monitors the heatwave patterns and real-time wildfire alerts across the region, disseminating early warnings and calls to action to the affected countries.
Algeria and Tunisia have been witnessing an increasing number of wildfires. The fires are linked to climate change, which is causing more extreme weather conditions, such as scorching temperatures and less rainfall.
Notes to Editors
The IFRC is working with the Algerian Red Crescentto release initial financial support from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the wildfire response in Algeria. Ongoing operational planning is also ongoing for a possible request for more international support.
In the past weeks, we have seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections. In response to the latest peak, the Algerian Red Crescent (ARCS) has scaled up its COVID-19 activities. More than two million people have already been vaccinated by ARCS doctors and nurses both in cities and in remote areas. Many new vaccination centres have recently been set up to reach the national target set by authorities to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2021.
The IFRC has released 99,897 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the fire response by the Tunisian Red Crescent.
The wildfires have particularly affected the governorates of El Kef, Jendouba, and Kasserine. Communities urgently need emergency shelter, safe drinking water, livelihoods support and health care.
The first phase of support will be targeted especially for the families that have lost their homes or source of income, women-headed households, families which have members with special needs including disabilities, the elderly, lactating and pregnant women, and children under five.
In the past weeks, Tunisiahas registered the highest number of daily COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic as theDelta variant of the coronavirus is spreading and vaccine availability remains low. The health care system is struggling to cope and intensive carecapacities are inadequate. Tunisia has one of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates in the world.
The IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a pooled fund that allows for flexible and urgent disbursing of funds in acute emergencies or for anticipatory action.
Any time a Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF. Funds can be requested for small and medium-scale disasters, or to provide initial funding before emergency appeals are launched for large-scale operations. The IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can then be replenished by the donors.
Contributions for donors to replenish DREF are very welcome, to enable local actors to act swiftly in support of vulnerable people on the ground, before larger funding arrives.
What to do before, during and after wildfire EN | AR | FR
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| Press release
Hundreds of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers responding to wildfires across Europe
Ankara/Budapest/Geneva, 2 August 2021 – Volunteers from Greece, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Turkey are responding to several wildfires raging across Europe. Scorching temperatures, high winds and tinder dry conditions have forced rescues by sea and land, with thousands of people fleeing for their lives with just the clothes on their backs.
In southern Turkey eight people have died and scores are injured. Hundreds of animals have been killed and countless homes lost in the worst hit areas of Antalya and Bodrum. More than 2,000 Turkish Red Crescent staff and volunteers are on the ground.
Shafiquzzaman Rabbani, Acting Head of Turkey delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“We are very concerned at this week’s weather forecast, with temperatures tipped to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Antalya today. Teams of Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and staff are doing everything they can to assist those affected.”
Turkish Red Crescent is providing food through its mobile kitchens, distributing water and hygiene kits, and providing shelter and psychosocial support to firefighters and affected communities.
In Greece, Hellenic Red Cross rescuers and lifeguards have been evacuating trapped people by boat from the settlements of Kamares, Longos and Platiri. Earlier in the week they were helping the fire brigade quell a fire in Patras. Extreme temperatures forecast for this week have teams on high alert.
Italian Red Cross has been assisting with evacuations in Sardinia and distributing water and food. They have delivered animal feed to farmers as fires continued over the weekend. More than 800 flare-ups were recorded this weekend, mainly in the south, and firefighters continue to flight blazes in Sicily.
Spanish Red Cross volunteers have also been busy this weekend assisting at a fire at San Juan reservoir, 70km from Madrid, and 25 Russian Red Cross volunteers are still at the scene of a fire in Karelia, distributing food, water, bedding, hygiene kits and personal protective equipment to people affected.
IFRC Europe’s acting head of Disaster, Climate and Crises Antoine Belair said the increasing number of wildfires year on year across the Mediterranean is linked to climate change causing more extreme weather conditions, including lower rainfall and higher temperatures.
“Extreme weather conditions exacerbate risks of these events. Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies remain on high alert, providing support to affected populations, in close coordination with national authorities and firefighter teams,” he said.
Footnote: Advice on how to prepare for a forest fire can be viewed here.
For more information, please contact:
In Ankara: Elif Isik, +90 539 857 5197, [email protected]
In Budapest: Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected]
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
| Press release
Huge rescue and relief effort as fire razes Bangladesh camps
Kuala Lumpur/Cox’s Bazar/Geneva, 23 March 2021 – The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has launched one of its biggest ever rescue and relief efforts in the camp settlement in Cox’s Bazar after a deadly fire razed several thousand camp houses.
More than 1,000 Red Crescent staff and volunteers worked through the night with fire fighters, camp residents and other agencies to rescue people and douse the fire that has left thousands of people homeless. An estimated 123,000 people live in the camps affected by the huge blaze.
M. A. Halim, Head of Operation in Cox’s Bazar for the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said:
“It is heart breaking to see how destructive a fire can be in such a short time. As soon as this terrible blaze started, our teams rushed to the area to help fight the fire, rescue people in danger, evacuate thousands to safety and provide immediate relief.”
“We are providing relief through food and water, and erecting emergency shelters for people who have lost their homes. These devastating fires will require even greater efforts by all agencies in the coming weeks, particularly as the cyclone season approaches.”
Close to 900,000 people displaced from Rakhine State, Myanmar, live in the crowded camp settlement, supported by the Government of Bangladesh and humanitarian agencies including Bangladesh Red Crescent and the IFRC.
Sanjeev Kumar Kafley, Head of Delegation in Bangladesh for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“This is a terrible blow to some of the most resilient people on earth. Many people fled to Bangladesh after having their homes burnt to the ground. After setting up a new life, thousands now face more hardship and uncertainty.
“The volunteers and fire-fighters who have put out these fires and evacuated people to safety are real heroes as they have saved countless lives. These fires are a brutal blow for camp residents, compounding frightful hardship caused by COVID-19.”
Among the first responders were some 600 camp residents trained under the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, a joint effort of the Bangladesh government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent to prepare and respond to cyclones as well as other emergencies. The 600 are part of a total of 3,400 trained volunteers living in all 34 of the Cox’s Bazaar camps.
As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operation which started in 2017 and Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation, which started in 1992, the Bangladesh Red Crescent with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross and Red Crescent partners and UNHCR, is providing both camp residents and host communities living on the periphery of the camps with healthcare, access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, safer shelter, livelihoods and along with protection support for women and those most at risk. In total, from the start of operations in 2017, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has supported about 1 million people.