Food Insecurity

External ID
23
Displaying 1 - 25 of 56
|
Article

In part of Nigeria hard hit by drought and heatwaves, Red Cross volunteers are helping farmers find natural solutions

Like many young people in Nigeria, Saratu Aboki was introduced to the Red Cross in grade school, when she learned a range of first-aid skills to care for herself and others in emergencies.Over the years, she trained many others in first aid and in doing so she learned to speak many of the 29 languages spoken in her home state of Nasarawa.But even though she always had a strong love for the environment and the natural world, she says she was never very interested in one of the biggest activities in her home state: farming. Despite the fact that farming makes up a big part of the economy in Nasarawa, she didn’t know much about what it took to grow the food that ended up on her table.That was until she saw how much the farmers were suffering due to the dual impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic – which put a halt on nearly all trade for farmers for several seasons -- and the prolonged heatwaves and droughts in the years since.Saratu knew she wanted to do something to help. After all, the farmers were the lifeblood of their area, bringing in income and producing the yams, sesame seeds, casava and maize beloved and needed by everyone.“After the Covid-19 pandemic, the small-scale farmers in my community had a hard time getting back on their feet because during the crisis they could not take their product to market to sell,” Saratu says. “They lost a lot of their crops, especially the perishable ones. They lost almost half of their livelihoods.”After the pandemic eased up, it didn’t get much better. The normal rainy seasons weren’t coming as usual. After losing so much, farmers could no longer afford supplies like fertilizers that they needed to put on their crops of wheat, rice, melon, cassava yams and maize.“The farmers had this ritual where, at the end of each harvest, they clear their fields by setting fire to the remains of the plants in the field,” she recalls. “So I started to think about how to convert the leftover plant material into organic fertilizer.”“When the IFRC was calling for applications for its ‘Limitless’ project at the Solferino Academy, for people who have innovative ideas, I saw it as an opportunity for me to help the people of my community to get back on their feet,” she says. ‘So excited to share’With support from her local branch, Saratu’s first step was to organize training sessions with about 120 farmers, who came from 15 communities in the area. The trainings went well and the farmers were receptive.In the coming months, Saratu and other branch volunteers organized trainings in 10 other communities, where they invited farm leaders from various communities in the hope that they would share the knowledge with other farmers.The composting process they proposed to the farmers is relatively simple, though it is hard work. First, the farmers collect all the leftover plant stalks and leaves. Then they make a pit and put the organic material inside.After that, they add some topsoil and some fresh plant material. Then sprinkle occasionally with water over the next three or four months. After that, the compost is ready to be put on the fields, in time for the next planting season.But it’s also not so simple. It’s important to get the right balance of materials and to give the process enough time. Too much of one ingredient – or not enough of another – can inhibit the composting process. Also, if the compost is not cured properly, it can be too strong and hurt the crops’ growth.It’s been a joint learning process, and Saratu stays in constant touch with farmers as an evolving experiment as they refine their technique and continue to share ideas.“They call me at all times of the day and night,” she says with a smile. “They are so excited to share what they’ve learned as they try new techniques and successes. They call me and say, ‘You have to come to my village and see my yams.’”“One farmer told me that last year, he got an increasing yield and was able to buy a car and that car is now helping get his produce from farm to the community. He doesn’t have to pay money to convey the produce to the community any longer. Also, he says his kids have gone back to school. I told him I was so happy.”“It keeps me going because I know it’s protecting our ecosystem, the communities and people’s health — and it’s making money for the farmers.”Helping people displaced by violenceThe project has now expanded to other states in Nigeria. In Benue State, Saratu and other volunteers have done many trainings in camps for people displaced due to violence between herding and farming communities.“The idea is to train them so that as go back to their homes, they have something to fall back on,” she says. “A lot of the displaced people lost everything and they have to go back to farming. A lot of them are not able to afford the supplies they need.”So far, the volunteers have trained more than 2,000 farmers. They also show a similar process to women who manage gardens from which their families get much of their daily food. In this case, the compost is made mainly with cow dung, chicken dropping and rice husks.From first-aider to farmerNow, many years after learning first aid as a young student, Saratu is still also a first aid volunteer who offers trainings in first aid wherever she goes. But she also has a new found love for farming.“Now I am putting these farming skills to the test myself,” she says. “I plant around my house and I do different tests, trying other things, mixing different ingredients to make the compost.”For example, she says, if you apply too much compost to a patch of sweet potatoes, you might end up with plants that produce a lot of leaves but not much of a fruit, or in this case the root. Now that she’s got the farming bug she wants to keep developing her own green thumb. “I just learnt it on my own,” she says. “I was someone who did not really like farming. But now I love it.”“I intend to farm really big now. I want to grow maize and rice. Presently, rice is one of crops that is very expensive so I would like to experiment on techniques so it can be grown more affordably.”“But I have a lot to learn. I am still on the journey.”

|
Article

Tree-planting champions of Sierra Leone: Leading the fight against climate change, one seedling at a time

With her watering can in hand, Mariam Albert carefully sprinkles each of the many tree seedlings that cover the ground around her. Someday these young trees will bear fruits and nuts, and provide oil, cacao and wood for local communities. Just as importantly, they will help diminish the impacts of climate change and deforestation, while providing a vital source of local income.The tree seedlings were planted by Miriam and others in a community nursery as part of the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society’s (SLRCS) Tree Planting and Care Project. As one of the project’s Tree Planting and Care Champions, Miriam sees her hard work as not just a duty; it is a passionate pursuit to secure a greener and healthier future for generations to come.“I take deep pride in seeing my community embrace our initiative,” she says. “The trees not only provide green cover but also benefit families nutritionally and economically. This is because we focus on fruit trees like cashew, oil palm, cacao, avocado, and timber trees such as Gmelina”.Her role as a Tree Planting and Care Champion goes beyond tending for plants. It’s also about inspiring a sense of environmental stewardship among fellow members of the Gbandi community, within the Baoma chiefdom of Bo District, Sierra Leone.Her responsibilities are multifaceted. She mobilizes the community, educating them on the importance of nurturing seeds, transplanting them, and providing ongoing care. Her leadership is pivotal in organizing regular community activities centered on environmental conservation.Funded by the Icelandic Red Cross and implemented with support from the Finnish Red Cross, the SLRCS’s Tree Planting and Care Project aims to combat deforestation, promote biodiversity, and mitigate climate change. It’s a vital response to the urgent need for environmental action in Sierra Leone and beyond.5 billion new trees across Africa by 2030The tree planting in Sierra Leone is part of a larger initiative that spans the African continent. In the face of increasing natural disasters and humanitarian crises in Africa, which are exacerbated by climate change and conflict, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched the Pan-African Tree Planting and Care Initiative in 2021.This initiative tackles these challenges by integrating environmental interventions with traditional humanitarian aid. It emphasizes large-scale tree planting and nature-based solutions to enhance climate adaptation, disaster-risk reduction, and improved food security.With a goal to plant and care for 5 billion trees by 2030, the initiative promotes sustainable practices, strengthens community resilience, and advocates for stronger policies that support environmental protection.Trees play a critical role in absorbing carbon dioxide, thus mitigating the causes of climate change while adapting landscapes to its consequences. They also reduce soil erosion, conserve biodiversity, and enhance water quality.The SLRCS empowers individual women, like Mariam, to lead and facilitate the tree-planting process in their respective communities. These women champions establish and maintain nursery sites, mobilize community members, and ensure the ongoing care of the trees until they reach maturity.To date, there are 52 dedicated women champions in 52 communities actively involved in similar efforts in Sierra Leone. Together, they have planted more than 55,000 trees, roughly 60 per cent of the project’s goal. SLRCS's planting efforts are ongoing, with the expectation that these numbers will continue to grow as champions like Mariam persist in their work.

|
Article

‘No such thing as a simple disaster’: Partnership to tackle complex food crises by addressing hunger on multiple fronts

Along the Niger River in Mali, Red Cross volunteers are helping local communities find new sources of water during dry spells when the river dries up and water for crops and livestock all but disappears.“There is water in the river only for three months,” said Nouhoum Maiga, Secretary General of the Mali Red Cross. “And the people there, most of them, rely on that water for their cattle.”As part of a pilot programme, volunteers help the communities dig wells and install solar-powered pumps that provide a continual source of water.In addition, the Red Cross collaborates with meteorological and hydrological services to get ahead of future problems – extreme heat, unpredicted dry spells or flash floods – with community-based early warning systems.As a result, says Maiga, local farmers have been able to quadruple their harvests. “Instead of just doing a harvest for one season they have been able to harvest four times,” he said.A complementary partnershipThis is exactly the kind of forward-looking, multi-layered response to complex challenges that will be strengthened through a renewed partnership signedon 29 May, 2024 between the FAO and the IFRC.The FAO and IFRC partnership aims to build on the two organizations’ complementary mandates and strengths at the local and international level in order to improve the quality, reach, impact and sustainability of food security and agricultural livelihoods programming. So far, the renewed partnership has been initiated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, South Sudan and Uganda.The partnership is born from a growing understanding that durable solutions to today’s complex and long-lasting humanitarian crises require ever deeper cooperation among multiple partners from the community to the global level.“There is no such thing anymore as a simple disaster,” said Caroline Holt, the IFRC Director of Disasters, Climate, and Crises, speaking recently at an FAO-IFRC Global Dialogue on Localization held on 27 March, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland . “Issues such as food insecurity are intimately connected to lack of access to safe water or reliable energy sources. All of these issues impact one another and so the solutions need to be equally integrated.”Solutions to food insecurity must also address the complex factors that impact local food production and they will require new and innovative resourcing strategies. The partnership between the IFRC and FAO, therefore, will also serve as a base for wider investment by other partners interested in supporting local innovation on food security and livelihoods.“Two-thirds of people experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity depend on agriculture as their main source of livelihood, yet only four per cent of humanitarian assistancegoes towards emergency agriculture assistance,” Dominique Burgeon, Director of the FAO Liaison Office in Geneva, noted during the FAO-IFRC Global Dialogue on Localization.“Food aid alone is not enough to address acute food insecurity without the support and protection of livelihoods, many of which are based in local agriculture”.Mali serves as a good example. In Mali, FAO and the Mali Red Cross are collaborating on cash transfers, supplies for farm and food production, and cooking demonstrations aimed at achieving good nutritional balance, among other things.“We work with those communities, to empower them to be able to provide for themselves even in the midst of ongoing conflict,” added Maiga, who also participated in the FAO-IFRC Global Dialogue on Localization.The case of Mali also highlights the critical role that IFRC member National Societies play in addressing complex, long-lasting crises. In Mali, the Red Cross works amid an array of challenges: unpredictable and extreme weather patterns exacerbated by climate change, instability and insecurity, loss of traditional livelihoods and food sources, and massive displacement of entire communities. Meanwhile, in many parts of the country,most international organizations have left due to a lack of security.“TheRed Cross has remained in the communities impacted by these crises ,” Maiga noted. “Why? Because the Red Cross is a community-based organization. Our 8,000 volunteers are part of the communities where they work.”The critical need for early actionSimilar challenges exist in many countries. With one of the largest refugee populations in the world, Uganda is experiencing numerous, serious climate challenges, as weather patterns become more unpredictable. In some areas, entire communities have been washed away in flash floods.In this case, collaboration between FAO and the Ugandan Red Cross has helped communities withstand heavy rains caused in part by the most recent El Niño Phenomena from September to December 2023.With funding from FAO, the Ugandan Red Cross took actions in ten districts of Uganda in anticipation of coming rains: disseminating early warning information, mapping flood-prone areas, and overseeing cash-for-work activities in which local people cleaned water canals or removed silt from tanks that help contain excess water.In other cases, the cash-for-work projects involved helping local communitiessafely manage crops to reduce loss once they have been harvested. Crops can be ruined if storage facilities are damaged by flooding or if the systems needed to store, transport and distribute them are disrupted.“It's clear that the increasing frequency, magnitude, and intensity of disasters are not only affecting human lives, livelihoods and property but also evolve into epidemics requiring strong investment in community level preparedness and response,” said Ugandan Red Cross Secretary General Robert Kwesiga.

|
Emergency

Mozambique: Drought

The 2023-2024 El Niño has been one of the strongest on record, bringing below-average rainfall between October 2023 and February 2024 in southern and central Mozambique. It also brought average- to above-average rainfall to the northern part of the country. Prior to the current El Niño, 2.7 million people living in the drought-affected areas were already facing high levels of malnutrition. This is expected to worsen as conditions deteriorate. Through this Emergency Appeal, IFRC and its membership will support the Mozambican Red Cross (Cruz Vermelha de Moçambique) to reach 55,000 people (11,000 households) across Tete, Manica and Gaza provinces.

|
Article

Resilience: Nurturing new life in Galoolay village

By Timothy Maina, IFRC communications officer and Guuleed Elmi, SRCS Somaliland, director of communicationsNestled in Somaliland's Togdheer region, the vibrant agro-pastoral community of Galoolay faced a harsh reality - a ravaging drought that threatened their very way of life.But hope arrived with the SRCS Somaliland Resilience and Livelihoods Programme, which empowers communities like Galoolay by fortifying their resilience against disasters and climate change, fostering sustainable livelihoods, and ensuring access to clean water and sanitation.Made possible through a partnership between the German Red Cross (GRC) and the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS), the program has successfully completed two life-changing initiatives in Galoolay since 2022 that have reached over 2,000 families.A Community StrugglesAmong the many the concrete examples of the project’s impact is the renovated berked — a traditional underground water cistern — that provides residents of Galoolay with a critical source of clean water for households and for livestock.Standing next to the refurbished cistern, Asad Abdilahi Heri, the village head, paints a vivid picture of a community struggling with drought and why access to water is so critical. Their livestock, the lifeblood of their livelihood, has dwindled by a shocking 3,800 head due to drought in recent years."Since this berked was constructed, life has improved for the better and more than half of our water needs of the households have been met,” he says. “We thank SRCS for coming to our aid."Due to increasing water scarcity in recent years, only two of the 56 berkeds that once existed still function. Villagers were forced to travel a grueling 30 kilometers to the nearest water source in Odweine district.The restoration of this water source — done by the community with SRCS support — has significantly improved the situation for 480 households who now rely on it for their primary water needs.Despite the improvements, the scars of the drought remain. Familes that were displaced due to livestock loss now live in the village, relying on donkeys and camels for the arduous water-fetching journeys.Still, there's a sense of progress. With over half the village's water needs met, life has improved. Heri's plea for another berked, along with repairs to existing ones, reflects the community's desire for a more sustainable water future.Koos Yusuf Mohamed: A Story of ResilienceSRCS' intervention has also been instrumental in reviving the village's agricultural efforts. Their support, including providing hours of field ploughing work, significantly helped farmers like Mama Koos Yusuf Mohamed cultivate a second harvest of corn.A mother of eight, Mama Koos exemplifies the challenges and triumphs of Galoolay. Despite limited resources, she keeps a spirit of optimism and gratitude. The drought reduced crop yields, but Mama Koos finds solace in the SRCS' continued support."Despite the drought hurting our crops, their continued support gives us hope,” she says. “They generously provided four hours of ploughing for my land, allowing me to harvest corn a second time this season.”The drought's effects are undeniable, but SRCS' support has demonstrably made a difference. The community's corn residue, used for animal feed, ensures the well-being of the remaining livestock, a vital part of their livelihood. With healthy animals, the village can rebuild herds, rebuild their economic engine, and secure a future they wouldn't be at the mercy of the elements.

|
Article

A severe and prolonged cold spell in Mongolia – known as the ‘dzud’ – is taking a deep toll on rural livestock herders

In the heart of the dzud-affected region of Sukhbaatar Province in Mongolia, families that rely on livestock herding to survive are watching in despair as they witness their animals perish by the day due to cold and excessive snow cover.The Khurelbaatarfamily, for example, has been heavily hit by this year’s unprecendented dzud. The family of five has seen their once-thriving herd reduced from over 400 animals to less than 100 since the start of winter.“The ground is completely blanketed by thick snow, which undergoes a daily thaw-freeze cycle, creating icy conditions that damage animal hooves,” saysKhurelbaatar B, a herder of Sukhbaatar province.“Starved and exhausted pregnant ewes are particularly vulnerable,”he adds. “Without assistance, many succumb overnight, often several at a time. Simply moving them and providing hay or fodder is likely not enough due to their weakened state.”The father in a family of five, Khurelbaatar, points out a particularly sombre spot near his house, where in heartbreaking silence lay the carefully stocked carcases of the animals that succumbed to the harsh winter conditions. Most herder households in the area have a simlar spot.While Khurelbaataris eligible to receive a government disability subsidy of about CHF 80 per month, the loss of the family’s livestock has resulted in a significant decrease in their assets and income.The shortage of cash has hindered their ability to purchase food and basic items, leaving them struggling to repay the bank loan they took to buy hay and fodder for their animals.To alleviate the immediate crisis, the family received an animal care kit and bought hay with the multi-purpose cash assistance provided by the Mongolian Red Cross Society with funding from the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance of USAID. The hay will sustain them for three weeks.During a recent visit, a Mongolian Red Cross team provided a tarpaulin donated by the Korean Red Cross, to serve as a roof for the couple's animal shelter. This shelter can hopefully protect the remaining livestock from the bone-chilling winds that plague the region.The family remains determined and resilient, but challenges remain. Unsure of how they will overcome their current struggles and meet future obligations, this household faces uncertainty.The IFRC, Mongolian Red Cross and our partners are committed to supporting families like these throughout their journey to recovery. The IFRC has released CHF 500,000 from the IFRC-DREF fund in early February and launched anEmergency Appeal for CHF 4.5 million on 15 March 2024.The crisis is impacting large areas of the country. The Tumurzurkh family in Dornod province, for example, started experiencing heavy snowfall and extreme cold since November 2023.The family is residing in a modest winter house with one room and a small kitchen area.With no running water, they rely on a nearby well for their water supply. Access to the well had been blocked by snow for an extended period, however, and as a result, the family faced the arduous task of melting snow to provide themselves and their livestock with drinking water.With 400 animals at the start of the winter, the family had experienced gradual losses due to the challenging winter conditions. They’ve lost more than 70 livestock already and are losing an average of 1 to 3 animals daily.Both the husband and wife receive a state pension. However, they also carried a bank loan with a high interest rate. Now they are uncertain about how they will make the upcoming payments.The family expects to receive some hay and fodder support from local authorities but this has not been provided so far. To be able to continue to feed their livestock, they had to purchase hay and fodder, but that was expected to last only for a couple of days. The family expressed hope that the snow would soon melt, allowing the grass to grow and the animals to graze naturally. They longed for a return to more favorable conditions that would mitigate their daily losses. However, the reality of their situation was evident as we witnessed the accumulation of deceased animals near their home, awaiting collection by the government.

|
Press release

IFRC launches an appeal as Mongolia faces its harshest winter in 50 years

Geneva/Kuala Lumpur/Ulaanbaatar, 18 March 2024: Mongolia is enduring its most severe winter in nearly half a century, grappling with the devastating effects of Dzud. Since November last year, extreme weather has now enveloped 76% of the nation in White Dzud and Iron Dzud conditions. These conditions cover grazing areas with deep snow and ice, critically limiting access to food for livestock.However, since February this year, the livestock mortality rate has surged, affecting about 75 percent of all herder households. With the current toll of lost livestock exceeding 4.7 million, official forecasts predict the situation to worsen.The livelihoods of herders, who depend on cattle, goats, and horses, are under severe threat.According to the assessment by the Emergency Operation Centre,this crisis is to be twice as severe as last year's Dzud. It predicts an impact greater than the significant 2010 Dzud event, which resulted in the loss of 10.3 million livestock and affected 28% of Mongolia's population. The crisis disproportionately affects herders with smaller herds, who face significant recovery challenges.Over 7,000 families now lack adequate food, and heavy snowfall has buried more than 1,000 herder households' gers (traditional homes) and shelters. To date, 2,257 herder families have lost over 70% of their livestock, with thousands more needing basic health services, fuel, and coal.Bolormaa Nordov, Secretary General of the Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS), said:“As one of the most active humanitarian actors in the country, the Mongolian Red Cross Society is working tirelessly to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people together with partners in this difficult time. We are grateful that the IFRC has always been with us, supporting our humanitarian efforts through the years. With this Emergency Appeal, we hope to minimize the impact of the Dzud emergency and support households with longer-term solutions for their lives and livelihoods.”Since November 2023, the MRCS has led response efforts, identifying urgent needs, such as food scarcity, healthcare access, and livelihood destruction. In addition, MRCS has allocated distributed vital supplies such as warm animal blankets, benefiting 5,100 herder families in urgent need.Olga Dzhumaeva, Head of the IFRC East Asia Delegation remarked:“We stand witness to the numerous struggles many herder households face from the loss of their precious livestock to the burdens of financial hardship, limited resources as well as immense pressures on people’s mental and physical health. Yet we see the unwavering hope and resilience of so many families as they battle winter's wrath with incredible strength. The ongoing livestock deaths, diminishing resources and deteriorating conditions of hundreds of thousands of people in Mongolia this winter is a stark reminder of the urgent need for assistance.”To support the people of Mongolia, the IFRC's Emergency Appeal seeks 4.5 million Swiss Francs to reach up to 10,000 Dzud-affected herder families with cash assistance, livelihood protection, health and psychosocial support, vocational training and community engagement.For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: [email protected] Beijing:Kexuan Tong: +86 13147812269In Kuala Lumpur:Afrhill Rances: +60 192713641In Geneva:Tommaso Della Longa: +41 797084367 Mrinalini Santhanam: +41 763815006

|
Article

Cash assistance: ‘Today, I see a brighter future for my daughters’

For several years now, the Far North region of Cameroon has been facing the effects of climate change, characterized by droughts, seasonal disruptions and recurrent flooding, with disastrous consequences for agriculture, livestock farming and even access to supply centres and markets, among other challenges. This situation has led to a further deterioration in the economic situation of local households.In addition to the effects of climate change, there are social tensions marked by inter-community conflicts and grievances, as well as the presence of non-state armed groups. Over the last ten years, these factors have created a situation of insecurity, leading to population movements and, for many, the loss of loved ones."I lost my husband a few years ago,” says Soumaïra, who lives with her children in the village of Ndoukoula, in the Far North region of Cameroon. "I was 13 when we got married. A few years later I gave birth to our first daughter. My husband took good care of us. His job was to rear the herds of important local men, and he was also responsible for selling them.“One day, as he was returning from a village on the border with Nigeria to sell the animals of one of his bosses, he was killed in an attack. I had only just given birth to our second daughter, and I was already a widow with two children to support.”A new lease on life through cash assistanceHaving lost her parents when she was less than 10 years old, and facing a precarious situation, Soumaîra was taken in by the village chief, who tries as hard as he can to look after her and her daughters."One day, as I was going about my daily chores, I was approached by Red Cross volunteers and some members of my community", she recalls. "They told me they wanted to collect information about me to see if I was eligible for any further financial assistance to help me meet my family's immediate needs."It turns out that Soumaïra’s village is one of eight targeted by the programmatic partnership between the IFRC, the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the French Red Cross in Cameroon.As part of the second phase of the partnership's operations in the region, 1,000 households in the Far North region have been receiving cash assistance since January 2024. The cash grants were made to respond to the most urgent basic needs of the population in this region, following armed violence, the impacts of climate change and the residual and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic."I told them everything they wanted to know and I was confident of being selected, which I was. Some time later, they explained to me that I would receive 64,000 Central African Francs (around 91 Swiss francs) in three instalments. With this money, I could buy a few important items for the house, have my children looked after if they were ever ill, and with the rest, if I wanted to, start a small business.“Today I received my first financial allowance and I'm so happy. With this money, I'm going to buy millet and other food to feed my children. I'm also going to start raising livestock and trading for a living. It's a process that will continue with the other funds I receive. I will be able to take care of my daughters' school needs and fight to make a difference to their lives.“Today Icansee abrighterfuture for my daughters.”In addition to the cash assistance, the Cameroon Red Cross is sharing community awareness messages on how best to prepare for and respond to epidemics and disasters, as well as on risk communication and community engagement.

|
Basic page

Islamic humanitarian giving

As the world’s largest network of locally based humanitarian organizations and volunteers, the IFRC is uniquely positioned to ensure your Zakat or Sadaqah donation reaches the people and communities who need it most. Fully accredited for receiving Zakat donations, we are based in communities alongside those we support. We act before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs of, and improve the lives of, vulnerable people—reaching millions every year.

|
Article

Hunger crisis: ‘Now I can take care of my own family’

In the Lubombo region of Eswatini, near the town of Big Bend, 39-year-old Bongani Masuku looks over at his field of maize. He just harvested a section last week. “But there is still work to do,” Bongani says and starts working the land. Lubombo is one of the hottest areas in Eswatini. As Bongani weeds his field, the temperature has already risen to over 34 degrees. “I remove the weeds so that my maize will grow properly,” he says. “If I let the weeds take over, the seedlings would grow to be very thin and not offer good harvest.” Earlier in the season, Bongani attended an agricultural training, after which he received a cash grant of around 70 euros. He invested the money in maize seeds that are more resilient to drought, as climate change has made rains more irregular and increased drought. Around 70 per cent of Eswatini’s population are directly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. This is why the changing weather conditions are extremely concerning. “The recent heatwaves have really made farming more difficult. The maize should not receive too much sunlight when it is blooming. Rain is important at that stage. The last time the maize was in bloom there was no rain at all, so my harvest was smaller than I expected.” The maize field has a great significance to Bongani. “This allows me to feed my family, but also to sell some of the crops and get money,” he adds. “This money helps me put my children to school. I have five children with my darling wife. Now I can buy them schoolbooks and other school supplies, like pens. If I make enough money, I can also buy them shoes to wear to school.” Prolonged food insecurity Like elsewhere in Southern Africa, people in Eswatini are suffering from a severe and prolonged food security crisis that began in 2015. The drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon, further strengthened by climate change and the irregular rains and floods ever since, have damaged harvests year after year. Bongani is one of the 25,500 people included in the three-year project funded by the European Union to improve food security by means of cash assistance. In addition to the Finnish Red Cross, the project includes the Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society and Belgian Red Cross Flanders. For recipients of the cash grants such as Winile Masuku, the cash assistance has meant the ability to buy food such as rice, maize flour and cooking oil at a time when regular food sources are far less plentiful and more expensive. “Before receiving cash assistance, we were dependent on our neighbours,” Winile explains as she sits in front of her home – its walls made of intricately woven branches and stonework. “Now I can take care of my own family.” Gardening for change While not everyone is a farmer, many people in Eswatini grow a portion of their daily sustenance in local community gardens. This is one reason this climate-resilience project also aims to revive the tradition of community gardens. Part of that effort includes trainings from the Ministry of Agriculture on how to most effectively tend community gardens in the face of more extreme climate conditions. After each training, participants get a cash grant of around 35 euros to buy plant seeds, for example. The participants are encouraged to use crop varieties that require less water. “The garden offers stability to my family, as I employ myself with this and take care of my family,” says Sibongile, one of the participants. “The harvest from the garden allows me to feed my family, and I can also sell some crops to get money for my children’s education.” Health in the countryside It’s also important to ensure that people stay healthy as drought and heat can create conditions that exacerbate the spread of diseases and symptoms such as dehydration. For this reason, the EU-funded project also supports the community in epidemic and pandemic preparedness. The Baphalali Eswatini Red Cross Society runs three clinics in the country, and the project supports their capacity to respond to different epidemics, such as diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis and HIV. “Each morning we offer health advice, meaning that we tell patients what epidemics are currently ongoing,” explains Phumlile Gina, a nurse at the clinic in Hosea Inkhundla in the Shiselweni region. “Right now we are informing them of vaccinations, especially against the coronavirus and tuberculosis. We also highlight proper hygiene: we explain how important it is to wash your hands and also remind people to wash their water containers every now and then.” “Some of our patients here in the countryside are very poor,” she adds. “They can come to the clinic for some completely other reason, for a flu for example. But we may then notice that the growth of the patient’s child is clearly stunted and there is reason to suspect malnourishment.” “We are able to take care of such situations as well and monitor the condition of the patients. It feels great when a patient comes back to the clinic after six months and says that their child is doing great and playing like other children.” The Programmatic Partnership between the IFRC network and the European Union, provides strategic, flexible, long-term and predictable funding, so that National Societies can act before an emergency occurs. It is being implemented worldwide including 13 countries in Africa.

|
Press release

Africa's hunger crisis intensifies: IFRC warns against crisis fatigue

Geneva/Nairobi, 07 December 2023: In response to the growing hunger crisis across sub-Saharan Africa, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is amplifying its call to action amidst growing concerns of crisis fatigue. To this end, the IFRC has revised its funding appeal to 318 million Swiss Francs, now aiming to reach 18 countries. More than a year has passed since the initial launch of the Africa hunger crisis appeal, yet the needs continue to outpace support received. Originally set at 215 million Swiss Francs for 16 countries, only 59 million Swiss Francs has been raised. This humanitarian crisis, intensified by recurring droughts, El Niño-induced floods, conflicts and economic downturns, demands an immediate response to prevent widespread suffering, loss of lives and livelihoods. Around 157 million people in 35 countries across sub-Saharan Africa face acute food insecurity. Despite early warnings from African Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, more funding and resources are needed. The Horn of Africa has been particularly hard-hit, enduring its longest dry spell on record with five consecutive dry seasons. In contrast, regions like eastern Kenya, parts of South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania experienced heavier than usual rains during the October-December season, leading to flooding that further aggravated the situation for those already facing acute food insecurity. This mix of extreme weather conditions, along with ongoing conflicts, has led to varied harvest outcomes across the continent. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are witnessing heart-wrenching conditions where many, including women and children, survive on less than one meal a day. Mohamed Omer Mukhier, Regional Director for Africa, emphasized the continued urgency: “In the past year, the dire need for resources in tackling the current hunger crisis has been evident with millions of people deprived of water, food and health services. While this crisis has intensified, it has been largely overshadowed by more visible crises over the past year. Considering its magnitude across the continent, we urgently call for expanded support to pursue our collective lifesaving and life-sustaining mobilization.” These countries are currently at the heart of the hunger crisis: Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. African Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have been instrumental in providing life-saving assistance to millions affected by this crisis. So far, they have reached 1.53 million people. Most of the aid provided has been water and sanitation services, reaching over 1.2 million people. Additionally, over 725,000 people received cash assistance and over 450,000 received health and nutrition support. This underscores the IFRC's commitment to transitioning from immediate relief to sustainable, long-term resilience strategies in the region. The revised appeal will focus on improving agricultural practices, fostering peace and stability and creating economic opportunities. More information: For more details, visit the Africa Hunger Crisis appeal page. For audio-visual material, visit the IFRC newsroom. To request an interview, contact: [email protected] In Nairobi: Anne Macharia: +254 720 787 764 In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67 Mrinalini Santhanam: +41 76 381 50 06

|
Article

El Nino expected to make Malawi’s lean season even leaner

By Anne Wanjiru IFRC Senior Communications Officer Almost every family in Malawi is a farming family, a source of great strength for the country’s economy. This was seen a few decades ago when the country was regularly exporting agricultural produce to neighboring nations. However, this means most families have also been extremely vulnerable to climatic stresses and shocks. "Year after year, it’s been getting harder to get good yields from farming and get a good earning,” says Martha Makaniko, a farmer from Chiwalo village in Mulanje. “We no longer rely on regular weather patterns. I used to get eight bags of maize from my field. Now I would be lucky to get two. I have prepared my land awaiting the rains but have no money to buy seeds or fertilizer." When tropical cyclone Freddy hit Malawi in March 2023, Martha watched as her entire crop was washed away. Like thousands of other farming families, she not only lost her crops. “My house collapsed,” says Martha, who is also ill and in need of money for medical assistance. “I stayed in the shelter for several months. I spent my entire lifesavings building a new house. This set me back. We eat nothing, but porridge made from raw mangoes.” Boiled fruit and poisoned yams People don’t normally boil fruit for food in Malawi, so Martha’s mango porridge is an indication that a lot of families are running out of choices. According to the Malawi government’s Vulnerability Assessment Committee Report, more than 4.4 million peopleare facing hunger. The economic downturn, as well as the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have all exacerbated the hunger situation in Malawi. In the last 18 months,Malawi’s currency – the Malawian Kwacha – has been devalued twice. This has caused inflation on everything, including critical supplies such as seeds and fertilizer. Some farmers find it too expensive to manage their own farms, and decide to do piecework in other people’s fields, a common coping alternative among farming families that is also proving to be very competitive. Those that cannot find any piece work at all will scavenge for wild yams or raw mangoes to boil and feed their families. A variety of wild yams is poisonous, however, and the difference can be hard to tell. Fani Mayesu recently lost her husband and 19-year-old son after consuming poisonous wild yams. “We didn’t know they were poisonous,” she says, with a look of disbelief. “My husband brought them, I prepared them, and we all ate. Immediately we begun getting sick and vomiting. My other 5 children and I recovered but not my husband and one son.” El Nino’s first waves According to forecasts, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. International and national Meteorological agencies say the upcoming 2023/24 rainy season (also known as the lean season when food supplies diminish) in Malawi is expected to be influenced by El Niño. In the past, El Niño conditions have been linked to a delayed start of the rainfall season, below-normal precipitation, and dry spells. The Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) in its lean-season response plan will seek to prioritise highly affected districts. This is aimed at strengthening community capacity to cope with the food insecurity while sustaining other resilience building activities. “We hope to not only address the immediate acute food security needs but to also respond to climate predictions through interventions such as distributing early maturing seed varieties,’ says Prisca Chisala, director of programmes and development at MRCS. “We also plan to support winter cropping and encourage crop diversification to adopt drought resistant crops to address the gaps in production.” Red Cross response Through the support of IFRC and partner National Societies, MRCS needs over CHF 3 million to help close to 100,000 people by: • providing food assistance in forms of cash-based transfer, wet feeding in schools and in-kind support • strengthening community resilience through promotion of livelihood and risk reduction, • protection of all vulnerable groups from violence, sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect and ensure that human rights are respected. “It’s critical that we support the farming family’s resilience to attain a harvest after this rainy season, otherwise we will see significant rise in hunger levels,” says John Roche, head of IFRC's cluster delegation for Malawi. Zambia and Zimbabwe. “Time is of essence here to avert a worsening situation from the El-Nino predictions. Only a rapid, effective, and well-resourced response is urgently needed to mitigate the crisis from long-term impacts.”

|
Article

Yemen: When conflict comes with disaster or disease, cash assistance can save lives.

In the village of Khanfar, in Yemen’s Abyan governorate, 62-year-old Khamisa lives with her daughter and her daughter’s children. The two women can barely manage the family's daily needs, so what will happen now that illness joins their daily struggle to survive. “Conflict increased our suffering as women as we did not have any breadwinners, and conflict left us on a new journey of survival, where we had to face our pain and suffering alone,” Khamisa said. Yemen has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and is now in the midst of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The country is now facing the world's largest food security emergency, with 20 million people – 66 per cent of the country's population - in need of humanitarian aid. Embroiled in conflict since early 2015, fighting has devastated its economy, leading to severe food insecurity and the destruction of critical infrastructure. Natural disasters have aggravated the crisis; the latest came in the form of tropical cyclone Tej, which made landfall over the southern coast of Al Mahrah Governorate recently, leaving more than 27,000 people internally displaced. And the ongoing conflict does not mean other chronic ailments take a break. In Khamisa’s case, it came in the form of cancer. “Before I became ill, we used to devote our time to the daily struggle of providing the basic necessities of life,” she says. “Following that, other challenges surfaced. Permanent fear and anxiety defined my life and my daughter’s, especially because of the difficulty of obtaining money for necessary medical examinations to find out the cause of my illness.” When even food is not the biggest priority Khamisa’s case shows us that the daily struggle to find food and drink may not be a priority for some people, as their main priority is getting medicine to stay alive. There are a few places where people can seek help as almost all basic services available in the country have collapsed. Khamisa and others like her see the cash assistance (offered by Yemen Red Crescent Society in partnership with the IFRC, ICRC and the British Red Cross) as a real lifeline. It gives Khamisa some hope and also helps her get to the hospital quickly, which unfortunately she must do on a regular basis. Her focus now is on ensuring her own survival to stand by her only daughter. “Our struggle stories never end,” she adds. “Our struggle is not only related to the continuous efforts to provide food and water but also related to dealing with sudden diseases in the absence of the necessary health care and sufficient support.” The power of choice 39-year-old Ahmed also lives in Khanfar with his sister, and his six children. He was working as a day laborer to provide for his family’s food needs and cover other medical and education requirements. But after Ahmed suffered from a heart disease, conditions began to gradually deteriorate. After becoming jobless, he spent all his savings trying to make sure his family had enough to eat, but what he saved from this work was not enough to cover his family’s needs. Ahmed told us that there were days when he went to bed hungry to save a little food for their children. Since the first cash distribution, Ahmed said that he was able to treat his illness and recover his health, and after the second cash distribution, he was able to open a grocery store which is now a permanent source of income. “I think it is better for aid to be given in cash rather than supplies,” Ahmed said. “The cash I received helped me to recover my health, and at the same time, it saved my source of income.”

|
Article

Mauritania: Cash for families affected by food insecurity offers ’choice and dignity’

By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC It’s a hot September morning and the courtyard of the village school, usually quiet during the school holidays, is teeming with people. Zeinab Bechir, a 54-year-old mother of six, and dozens of other men and women, take shelter under a tent to protect themselves from the scorching sun. They wait impatiently to be called by Mauritanian Red Crescent teams who are organising a cash distribution operation to help families affected by chronic food insecurity. For Zeinab and most of the villagers, life is a constant struggle. Since the failure of the harvests – due to poor rainfall then flooding – feeding one’s family has become a daily battle. As a widow with many children in her care, the ordeal for Zeinab is even more difficult. “Life is so hard,” says Zeinab. “There was nothing to prepare today.” Amid this lean season, the most challenging period of the year when food stocks are low and prices high, the assistance she has received from the Mauritanian Red Crescent has been a lifeline. The cash aid has enabled her to buy basic foodstuffs and ensures that her family does not go to bed hungry. “With this money, I’ll be able to buy food for at least a month,” she says. “This help from the Red Crescent has come at the right time.” Dignity and choice A thousand households in Barkeol district have received cash to help them cope with the tribulations of the lean season. “Rather than providing food rations, we chose to give cash to households,” explains Mohamed Abdallahi, food security and livelihoods m,anager at the Mauritanian Red Crescent. “This allows them to buy food that better meets their needs with dignity and choice." Although the cash distribution operation – supported by the IFRC – has brought a ray of hope amidst the gloom in Barkeol, many gaps remain. Of the 2,700 households targeted for cash in Barkeol, Guerrou and Moudjeria by the MRC and IFRC, only around 1,000 have so far received assistance. More than half a million people in Mauritania, or 11 per cent of the population, are facing food insecurity during the lean season. The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for two million Swiss francs to help the Mauritanian Red Crescent assist 81,900 people. The funds raised should be used to provide cash and nutritional support to the most vulnerable people, while putting in place long-term solutions to build community resilience. "The lack of funding is limiting our ability to reach thousands of families in need,” says Alex Claudon de Vernisy, head of the IFRC Cluster Delegation in Dakar: Senegal. “For example, our appeal is currently 20 per cent funded, thanks to a contribution from the Norwegian government. But in the face of persistent food insecurity, we must remain mobilized and increase the partnership for this emergency appeal.”

|
Speech

IFRC Secretary General Keynote speech at the 10th Pan African Conference in Nairobi

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends, I’m so pleased to be here in vibrant Nairobi. You have always extended such warmth and enthusiasm every time I visit Africa. Thank you for your unmatched hospitality. I am grateful to Kenya Red Cross for hosting Pan African conference of the IFRC. IFRC Vice President Elder Bolaji Akpan Anani, Chair of the PAC. Governor Korir of the Kenya Red Cross. Governing Board members, Commission and Committee chairs of the IFRC, of the Standing Commission, Africa governance group, Vice President of ICRC (continuing our proud history to invite ICRC to IFRC statutory meetings because we can be successful when we work together as a Movement), National Society and youth leaders, staff and volunteers and the entire IFRC secretariat team. I want to particularly recognize the Africa team led by our Regional Director Mohammed Mukhier for working tirelessly to support the organization of the conference. I pay tribute to all of you for your immense contributions to the IFRC network, today and always. Your dedication to the communities we serve is unparalleled, especially through the recent growing complex crises across Africa. Let me join in solidarity with Morocco and Libya as they work hard to recover from two terrible disasters. As we gather here today, I am struck by the rich tapestry of Africa’s history, cultures, and the extraordinary resilience and spirit of its people. Yet, this comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges. A continent of immense beauty and diversity, Africa presents us with a complex humanitarian landscape. Africa is a place of paradoxes, where soaring aspirations uncomfortably co-exist with profound inequalities. Humanitarian needs are growing each day, stretching the bounds of lives, livelihoods, and human dignity. Poverty, inequality, and political instability compound these humanitarian needs. Economic challenges including high unemployment rates, limited industrialization, and a heavy reliance on primary commodities for export make many African nations vulnerable to fluctuations in global markets. We continue to witness alarming hunger levels across the continent, with 167 million facing acute food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa, a 14% increase from 2022. The impact of El Niño in 2023/2024, forecasts a 90% probability of flooding in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, alongside reduced rainfall in Southern Africa. We know this will further exacerbate food insecurity in the coming years, as African food systems are very vulnerable to climate extremes and shifts in weather patterns. Disease and epidemics are on the rise as a result. Last year, 96 disease outbreaks were officially reported in 36 countries, with cholera, measles, and yellow fever being the most common. As climate disasters worsen, 7.5 million people were displaced in Africa, the highest annual figure ever reported for the region. And with the cascading effects of political instability in a number of countries, the number of people on the move have begun to climb as well, with 9 million people torn from their homes in 2022. We cannot forget that behind these distressing statistics are actual people –women, men, and children with increasing needs and less resilience to cope. These are the challenges that exist in a continent which is full of young and dynamic population full of unparalleled vibrancy and dynamism. It also has many beautiful tourist destinations. This is a continent full of natural resources - minerals, oil and gas, timber, agricultural land, fisheries, renewable energy, gemstones, water resources, forestry products. Almost everything you can think of. It makes me wonder how come a continent so full of resources is also facing so many challenges. How can we contribute to addressing these humanitarian gaps? Please allow me to share just three fundamental approaches that could help us to make a meaningful contribution to the people and communities in Africa. First is Solidarity – Working together in partnerships: We are bound together in our journey in search of a brighter future. The expanding humanitarian needs push us to the brink, but our unwavering solidarity pulls us back and drives us forward. Solidarity and commitment to our Strategy 2030 and Agenda for Renewal allows us to respond to multiple crises and disasters, build community resilience and strengthen localization in this region. Just last month, I visited Gambia and Egypt to better understand the migration situation. My conversations with volunteers, National Society and government leaders were eye opening. When it comes to migration, Africa is a continent on the move. This comes with positive benefits too—In Gambia migrants contribute to 20% of the country’s GDP. To the rest of the world, the migration of Africans is often framed around their movement beyond Africa’s borders. Yet the story of the millions of refugees and internally displaced people being hosted within Africa, which is more than 85%, is not acknowledged. Through the IFRC’s Global Route-based Migration programme and humanitarian service points we witness how Africans are overwhelmingly supporting fellow Africans on the move. Africans standing shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow Africans, is a testament to our capacity to overcome adversity. As we address urgent crises before us, it's our combined strength that forms our bedrock of hope. Internal solidarity sometimes can be challenging. Let us not doubt ourselves in our commitment to solidarity. Let us foster trust and belief among ourselves. Second is Solutions to scale- think big, act big: Across Africa much progress has been made and the vast opportunities lie ahead. 34 countries, representing approximately 72% of Africa’s population, have demonstrated significant progress in governance over the last two decades, especially in the areas of rule of law, the protection of rights, and growth of civil society. Africa’s great untapped potential is more visible than ever, with economic growth and investment in public services contributing to the improvement of millions of lives and transformation of societies. The theme of this 10th Pan African Conference is renewing investment in Africa. I suggest that we make this investment people centric. You may want to consider calling it "renewing people-centric investment in Africa". I encourage every one of us to consider how investments in National Societies, and especially in their young volunteers, can harness Africa’s agility and innovation that empowers people to address the needs when they come and continue to work to reduce humanitarian needs by building long term resilience in the communities. For this, our Agenda for Renewal guides the IFRC to work for and with National Societies in everything we do. We have invested in scaling up digitalization, risk management, new funding models for greater agility, accountability, and impact to reach the communities. We foster learning and strengthen National Society capacities, so that we become leaders in the humanitarian field, not just in response but in resilience building, data, influence, collaboration, and innovation. In 2020-2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, African National Societies came together with the IFRC secretariat to reach 450 million people with humanitarian services. The REACH initiative between Africa CDC, the African Union and the IFRC comes with an ambition to scale up the community health workforce by two million and strengthening National Society capacity across the continent to address health needs. These are solutions that are tailored to African communities, that reflect African needs and that can be measured by the outcomes we achieve for the people. Let’s not play small. Let’s think big, let’s act big. Because that’s what it is needed now. Third is Leadership – listen, learn and lead. Our humanitarian action must make a positive difference in people’s lives. In this era of fast paced change and shifting political divides, our leadership has never been more crucial. Leadership to partner with others along equal and mutually reinforcing terms, Leadership to position our National Societies as unparalleled community partner, with unmatched local intelligence and reach, Leadership to engage in internal transformation, Leadership to embody our Fundamental Principles, Leadership to invest in young people--Africa’s most abundant and greatest resource--harness their skills, give them opportunities to lead us to a more just and equitable future. Leadership to build trust, internally and externally, to be bold at communicating good news as well as challenges, to bring about collective energy and hope. Leadership that doesn’t accept business as usual. Leadership that strives for excellence in everything we do. There will be ups and downs, but we will persist. This is what leadership is all about. In our pursuit of a brighter future for Africa, let us hold ourselves to lead with accountability, not just to the challenges of today but also to the aspirations of tomorrow. Let every action we take, every initiative we launch, and every partnership we forge be a testament to our unwavering commitment to the people. I wish you a very productive Pan-African Conference. And please allow me to conclude by sharing a quote from Nelson Mandela – «one of the things I learned when I was negotiating that until I changed myself, I couldn’t change others». Let this conference give us the inspiration to be the real agent of change for the people of Africa. Thank you.

|
Podcast

Mahabub Maalim: Planting hope amid a hunger crisis in Africa

A regional leader in the fight against food insecurity in Africa, Mahabub Maalim knows first-hand the impact that hunger has on people and communities. Growing up in eastern Kenya, he’s seen how cycles of drought, crop loss and hunger have become more frequent and more severe. He’s dedicated his life to helping communities develop local solutions and he now serves as special advisor to IFRC’s response to the current hunger crisis in Africa (now impacting 23 countries).

|
Article

New IFRC podcast introduces the 'People in the Red Vest’

When disaster strikes, the sight of someone wearing a red vest is a sign that help has arrived. It’s a powerful symbol of hope and comfort amid the chaos following an emergency, worn by members of the IFRC and its 191 member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. And now it’s also a symbol of our brand new podcast. Launching on 12 September across all major streaming services, People in the Red Vest is a twice-monthly podcast that features inspiring stories of people from across the IFRC network. They’ll speak about their personal experiences of responding to the world's biggest humanitarian crises and what inspires them to keep going. The first episode features IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain, who talks about his recent missions to several countries in Africa impacted by an acute hunger crisis, and to Slovenia, hit by severe flooding. He also speaks of his upcoming trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly and shares what inspired his own personal humanitarian journey. “One thing that always stuck into my head was something Albert Einstein said, ‘You live a real life by making a difference in someone else's,’” said Chapagain, who was 14 when he became a volunteer for the Nepal Red Cross. Keenly interested in science from a young age, Chapagain is an engineer by training. But it was his first job, helping refugees in Nepal, that steered him down the humanitarian path. “Just listening to the refugees’ stories, their dreams and plans for their families... in many ways, that cemented my belief that if you want to live a satisfied life, you should do something for others,” he adds. Upcoming guests include: A regional leader in the fight against food insecurity in Africa, Ambassador Mahabub Maalim, who also serves as advisor to IFRC’s response to the current hunger crisis in Africa (now impacting 23 countries). He shares his thoughts on how to break cycles of food insecurity in the face of the climate crisis, as well as his own personal experiences growing up with hunger in eastern Kenya. Nena Stoiljkovic, a leader in the world of humanitarian and development finance who serves as IFRC’s Under Secretary General for Global Relations, Diplomacy and Digitalization. She talks about her life-long passion for using innovative financing and partnerships to help people and communities bounce back from hardship, as well as her experiences as a woman leader in the still male-dominated world of finance and development. Future episodes will also include people working at the heart of IFRC emergency and recovery operations around the world, as well as volunteers and leaders from its member National Societies. They will share their own compelling and inspiring stories and their thoughts on new trends in technology and humanitarian response, how to make our operations more inclusive and equitable, and what makes them to keep going despite the mounting challenges. In each episode, the guests will also tell us what the Red Vest symbolizes to them. If you’re curious, subscribe and join us wherever you listen to your podcasts.

|
Article

Africa hunger crisis: Mothers unite to tackle malnutrition in Mauritania

In a small village in Barkeol, Mauritania, the sun has reached its midday peak, forcing villagers to seek shelter from its harsh rays in the shade. Sat under a tent made of colourful printed fabric, a group of twenty women are chatting and smiling as they enjoy a lively discussion and debate. Rakia Salem, a volunteer from the Mauritanian Red Crescent, has just completed a training session with them on how to recognise signs of malnutrition in their children using a special bracelet. Rakia joined the Mauritanian Red Crescent in 2020 as a facilitator for this local ‘mothers' club’, which was set up that same year. "My role is to train mothers to screen children for malnutrition using the MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) bracelet, which is a simple, easy-to-use tool that can help prevent a deterioration in their state of health," explains Rakia. To demonstrate this to the group, she welcomes brave little Mohamed, a 3-year-old boy who was diagnosed with malnutrition a few weeks ago and who is now on the road to recovery thanks to early treatment. Mother knows best In Mauritania, many children are at risk of malnutrition due to recurrent food and nutrition insecurity, which is also affecting many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In response, the Mauritanian Red Crescent has been exploring different ways of diagnosing children more quickly and simply—with mothers’ clubs proving to be particularly successful. “Being around their children every day, mothers are best placed to detect the first signs of malnutrition. That’s why we put them at the centre of our screening strategies,” explains Mohamed Abdallahi, Food Security and Livelihoods Manager at the Mauritanian Red Crescent. There are now ten mothers' clubs in Barkeol, all providing women with a friendly forum to discuss maternal and child health, hygiene, sanitation, and good food and nutrition practices. Crucially, the women who attend the mothers’ clubs have learnt how to detect signs of malnutrition early before it gets too advanced. Early detection considerably reduces cases becoming severe and prevents the need for hospitalization, which in turn relieves pressure on the limited available health services in the region. “The earlier malnutrition is detected, the shorter and more effective the treatment. There are also fewer medical complications and a lower the risk of mortality," adds Mohamed. Supporting women’s livelihoods The mothers' clubs are also a great forum for building food resilience within communities in other ways. As most families don’t have the resources to meet minimum daily food needs for their children, the Mauritanian Red Crescent is also training mothers’ club members in how to set up their own money-making activities. Thanks to a small grant from the Mauritanian Red Crescent, the mothers' club in Barkeol has opened up a general store through which they sell food at a lower cost to villagers. Other local women have received interest-free loans through the club, enabling them to set up small businesses selling couscous, processing cereals, making clothes, or producing soup. Some have chosen to invest their money in market gardening to boost their yields. “We used to have a lot of difficulties, but thanks to the support of the Mauritanian Red Crescent, we are now able to improve our families' food security and diversify our children's diets,” explains Khadidiatou Mohamed Abdallahi, President of the mothers' club. -- To support people affected by food insecurity across Sub-Saharan Africa, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal in October 2022 to help Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 15 countries provide urgent and long-term assistance. To date, the IFRC network has reached: 600,000 people with cash and voucher assistance 425,000 people with health and nutrition support, including child supplementary feeding 232,000 people with livelihoods support – such as training in income-generating activities and livestock management 1.2 million people with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance In Mauritania, the appeal is supporting mothers’ clubs, like the one in Barkeol, and cash assistance to thousands of households. To donate to our appeal and help us reach even more people, please click here.

|
Article

South Sudan food insecurity: “Holding on to hope the rains will not fail”

Kapoeta, South Sudan has seen a drastic change in recent times. As residents walk by in the hustle and bustle of this small, rural town, you can see it in their faces: fatigue, most likely from hunger. This is the second failed rainy season for a community that depends on cultivating crops. As I drive by local farmers’ fields, nearly all the crops I see are dry and struggling. Andrea Loteng, 64, shows me around his farm. He’s the chairman of the local farmers’ association in Kapoeta South county and shares how erratic this year’s weather patterns have been. “The rains this year came a little early in March. I planted maize and sorghum but the rains disappeared in May. I lost over 5 acres of crops. Now that it’s raining in July, I planted again, this time holding on to hope the rains will not fail,” he explains. Anyuon Malwan, Area chief of Atarabara, Kapoeta South also describes the situation as dire: “This is the second round of maize I am planting this year that is now failing. At least last year I harvested once.” Some farmers have reached breaking point and abandoned farming altogether, turning to mining for gold instead. Travelling long distances, they camp at mines for weeks on end to try their luck at collecting a few grams of gold in the local streams. If they do get lucky, a gram can fetch around 50 US dollars. But this livelihood, too, is risky and highly dependent on the rainy season. Soaring food prices Failed harvests in much of the Horn of Africa, coupled with the international armed conflict in Ukraine and regional conflict, have led the price of grain and cereal in Kapoeta to increase drastically. “In 2021, we used to buy a kilo of maize flour at 300 South Sudanese Pounds (34 US cents), today the same packet goes for 1,300 (1.5 US dollars),” says Anyuon. Unable to cope with the inflation, many residents in the area have resorted to more affordable cereals, such as sorghum. Those who cannot afford grain at all are forced to scavenge for wild leaves in nearby forests. Children’s lives at risk This poor diet is having devastating consequences for children in the Kapoeta region. Yaya Christine Lawrence is a nurse at a stabilization centre for malnutrition in Kapoeta Civil Hospital. She attends to 3-year-old Lolimo, who was admitted on 22 July with severe oedema (swelling in the ankles, feet and legs) from poor nutrition. “When Lolimo came he was in a really bad state. We have been giving him treatment to clear the fluids before we can now start building up his weight. His case is one of the many hundreds we see in a month.” Lolimo’s mother, Joska, is a single parent and doing her best to raise him, but times are hard. “All I can afford to give him occasionally is sorghum and wild leaves. I have no source of livelihood to offer him a better diet,” she says. Supporting the most vulnerable Women-headed households are bearing the brunt of food insecurity in this part of South Sudan. The Kapoeta region is hardest hit with, with more than 274,000 people classed as severely food insecure. The South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) recently conducted a needs assessment in the area, giving priority to women-headed households and people with disabilities, with a view to distributing cash to help them boost their livelihoods and put food on the table. Supported by the IFRC and the Japanese government, the SSRC is also actively training community members in Kapoeta in disaster preparedness, including early warning for drought and floods, in groups called Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT). To mitigate the negative effects of climate change, SSRC volunteers are also planting fruit trees, and distributing seedlings, in Juba and other branches across the country as part of its ‘green fund’ initiative. Mango and guava trees are more resistant to drought and only take a few years to start bearing fruit, so will provide a more reliable source of nutrients to local communities. “The needs related to food insecurity in Kapoeta region and South Sudan are great. If we can strengthen localized response capacity and the community structures, we can address the enormous and unprecedented level of humanitarian needs because of the frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards,” says John Lobor, Secretary General of South Sudan Red Cross. “Beyond responding to immediate food needs, we hope to build resilience, so families don’t have to grapple with climatic shocks year in, year out,” he adds. -- Click here to learn more about the IFRC’s response to the current hunger crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa. And to support people like Andrea, Anyuon and Joska, please donate to our Emergency Appeal today.

|
Article

Comfort after the storm

Born in a tiny fishing village on theisland of Abaco in the Bahamas, Lovely Reckley was raised on a cuisine straight from the sea. “Growing up in Fox Town, we were actually right on the water,” she recalls. “The waves put you to sleep and they wake you up in the morning.” “We basically grew-up on seafood,” she recalls. “We would eat other stuff, but the seafood we really loved. My mom was a great cook. I watched and saw everything she did and I really learned a lot from her.” So it’s no wonder that many years later,Lovely runs a small restaurant in Marsh Harbourknown for its affordable, delicious traditional Bahamian comfort foods: seafood, chicken dishes and burgers, always served up with a new, personal and innovative twist. Aptly namedLovely’s Delight,the restaurant also became a critical community hub in the months after Hurricane Dorianslammed into her home island of Abaco last year, and many islanders lost literally everything. Homes. Belongings. Many also lost loved ones. A scary time It was a scary time, says Lovely, who was evacuated from Abaco along with her husband just a day before the storm hit due to her husband’s medical condition. “I had to leave the island, leave my children and my grandchildren and my great-grandson behind,” she says. “It was scary becausethere was no communication until a few days after the hurricaneto know if everybody was ok.” “It was like about a week after the hurricane that we found out that I’d lost my home and everything in the home, our vehicles and everything.” Lovely almost lost her husband, who had a stroke the eve of the storm. And she almost lost the restaurant, a beloved local fixture that was also known as the home base for Lovely’s long-time commitment to providing meals to local children in need. “We had a lot of damage to the restaurant,” she recalls. The Hurricane Burger Ultimately, the restaurant pulled Lovely and her husband through — becoming their new home after a renovation made possible by the American Red Cross and the CORE added a new living space to the small structure. And because Lovely’s Delight was one of the first businesses to reopen, it provided a place for people to gather after the storm, easing their minds and their hunger pains. “We could get up and running and help people with food, which was on the island but because so many homes were destroyed, and people were living in tents, they couldn’t cook for themselves.” So once again, Lovely’s Delights became a base for making meals for people in need of some comfort during hard times. “Because of the help that we got from CORE and the Red Cross we got our building back in shape so that we can truly save our community,” Lovely says. “I was able to cook meals, make bread … That was a big help.” Meanwhile, Lovely’s Delight is a real family affair with kids and grandkids prepping and serving dishes such as “The Hurricane Burger” (in honor of the many storms people here have weathered), spicy chicken wings with names like “Da Burner”, and burrito-style wraps made with lobster, fish, chicken and shrimp. Now it’s the grandkids who are picking up culinary tips from their very own local celebrity chef grandma. “When I first got the restaurant, all of the children were involved,” she says. “Now it’s myself and my two grand-daughters and we have a few other workers that also come help. They’re always there to help out.” Lovely’s fried fish with peas ‘n’ rice

|
Article

Angola food crisis: ‘Because of hunger I am here’

With her baby wrapped snugly around her back, Usenia Semaneli braves the Kunene River on foot, supported by nothing but a walking stick. “Crocodiles live in those waters,” she says, “but you stop fearing anything. When you are hungry, you just choose to cross.” “When I was young, we used to get good rain,” says Usenia, who takes a break from her journey to share her story. Exactly how many people have made the trek from Angola to Namibia in the last few years is unclear. People have crossed the border for years to visit relatives, buy or sell goods. But in 2020 and 2021 it’s estimated thatat least 3,000 people from Angola were living in various encampments and host communities around border towns in northern Namibia. They came from various parts of Angola and from different tribes, but they tell a similar story. No rain. Failed crops. Livestock gone. A long perilous journey to Namibia. The troubles began in 2020, as dryness persisted through what would normally be the rainy season, which typically runs from November to April.Many of those most affected are children, lactating mothers, and the elderly. “We ate just a little bit every day, but all the children started to get weak,” says Usenia. “When you spend so many days without food it’s like you are confused. You lose control of your mind and everything is just turning around in front of your eyes.” Deolinda We used to walk during the day and at sunset we went to sleep,” saysDeolinda, who made a ten-day trek to Namibia with her granddaughter Venonyaand some other children. “Food was a big challenge throughout the journey. We didn’t have any food but we had to keep on walking. It was tough for me because I was traveling alone with the children. The journey was difficult, but I received help from people who carried my children… Not knowing whether the baby would survive or even make it, I was hoping for the best but also preparing myself for the worst”, she says. “When we arrived, Venonya was severely malnourished, so we took her to Outapi Hospital,” says Deolinda. “At first, when I arrived at the hospital I was scared because I feared that the baby would die. It was difficult to even find a vein to put a drip in the child, so I was scared. After a while, my baby got better and I started to feel calmer. We returned to the camp only a week ago with Venonya recovered, she stayed in the hospital for a week and a half.” Mwandjukatji “It took us almost ten days traveling, walking,” says Mwandjukatji, who found her way to a camp for migrants close to the town of Omusati, near Namibia’s northwestern border with Angola. “On the way,some of my daughters lost their children. Sometimes when we woke up we tried giving the children some water but they wouldn’t open their mouths, they died on the way. We had to leave them behind.” They knew the journey would be perilous, but staying in the end was not an option. “For a time, we debated what to do, and for a long while, we refused to leave our land,” she says. “But the hunger was growing unbearable. Because of that hunger, we decided to go to Namibia. We thought maybe we will survive there.” Mwandjukatji found temporary respite in a shelter she made using sticks, cardboard and plastic. There, she got by on food provided by local agencies and relief groups such as theNamibian Red Cross. “We heard that there was a camp where they were giving food to people like us who came from Angola,” says Mwandjukatji. “We receive some food and that is an enormous relief for us, because if we weren’t here most of our children would die.” “This shelter is not as strong, not the same, as our home. For our homes, we used to use strong sticks and sand mixed with cow dung, plus we had a fire inside the house. This is not the same. We can’t have a fire inside, and when it rains, the water seeps in. But here we have food at least.” Konguari The migrants saythe kindness of strangers has been critical to their survival, be it local leaders who let them stay on their land, government authorities, the Namibian Red Cross, or local residents who offered various kinds of support. The man in a blue shirt above, named Konguari, ran a garden hose from houseto give out water every evening. “In Opuwo, it is not uncommon to see people, usually men, coming from Angola looking for work. When I saw many women and children arriving, I knew something wasn’t right. I noticed that, although they were hungry, they were growing desperate for water. Very often they went in the field walking for hours to get wood that they sold in the market. With the money they got from the firewood they immediately bought water. When I saw this, I said to myself, ‘no, this isn’t right. Could it be possible for me to assist these people?’” A steady source of support The Namibian Red Cross Society (NRCS)has also been a steady source of support, providing food, water, health and hygiene support. A significant proportion of the people they helped have been children: of the4,027 people assistedin the Etunda and Opuwo areas of Kunene region last year, more than half were between 1 and 16 year old. More than 400 were lactating or pregnant women. The NRCS is one of numerous Red Cross of Red Crescent National Societies working on the frontlines of climate-related displacement,according to a 2021 climate displacement report by the IFRC. Their work includes responding to crises and building resilience to future shocks by preparing for and reducing climate risks. Around the world, floods, storms, wildfires, landslides, extreme temperatures and drought have caused the displacement of 30.7 million people, according to the report. “Our government tries its best to help the immigrants from Angola, and different organisations also try to help,” says Rijamekee, a Namibian Red Cross volunteer who lives in Northern Namibia and provides displaced people and vulnerable local residents with food, water, and health and hygiene support. “Anyone, who is out there should try their best to help these people. And not only the Angolans but anyone who is in need”, he says. Mekondo Climate change does not affect everyone equally. Children, the elderly, people with physical disabilities and other vulnerable and marginalized people are hit the hardestbecause climate change compounds the challenges they already face. “For the most part I crawled until I reached Namibia,” says Mekondo, who made his way from Angola to Namibia on his hands and knees. “I wore double pants until they peeled and tore at the knees. For my hands I used a pair of sandals so that I could crawl on the pavement.” “Although I feel well here because I have food, I feel bad for my mother who is still in Angola. I left her under the care of another person, but they were also hungry and were looking for food. I don’t know what to do because I don’t have money and I can’t crawl back all the way through that difficult journey, so I don’t feel well thinking about my mother living there without any food.” Returning home? Recent rainfalls have allowed many of the migrants to return to Angola, while others remain in host communities in northern Namibia. But the risk is far from over. The recentrainfalls come late in what is normally the rainy season, and they weren’t nearly enough to sustain a season of crops. But people remain hopeful as many of these 21stcentury climate migrants have missed their homes and always wanted to return as soon as possible. “I miss home,” says Mwandjukatji. “But the problem is that if we went home we would always be worried about what we were going to eat that day. When the hunger started there we sold our hoes and all the tools that we used to cultivate in order to get food. So now we don’t have those things and if we return we don’t have tools to cultivate. How are we going to get those tools to start again?” -- 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.

|
Article

Mauritania: Thousands of food-insecure families need urgent assistance as Sahel battles food crisis

It's hot and dryin N'Beika, a commune in Moudjeria, central Mauritania, with temperatures already rising above 40°C by late morning. It’s hard to believe that nine months ago, 90% of the commune was submerged by heavy rainfall and flooding. Mohamed Lemine Ould Mohamed Moctar, a 65-year-old farmer and father of seven, looks out over his piece of land, his face distant, hoping for a good rainy season, this time. "I didn't harvest anything last year. My whole sorghum field was ravaged by the floods. At least the year before, I was able to harvest a few small bags, despite the lack of rain", says Mohamed. Here in Moudjeria, asin Guerrou and Barkeol, the two other departments most affected by food insecurity in Mauritania this year, most families depend on traditional farming and livestock rearing to get by—a situation that makes them highly dependent on rainfall. For years, a lack of water had been the main obstacle to flourishing agriculture in this community nestled on a plateau some 100 metres above sea level. But last year's rains were much heavier than expected, causing flooding that wiped out people’s crops. This flooding has put severe strain on people’s livelihoods and is plunging many families in Mauritania into food insecurity. According to theMarch 2023 Mauritania Harmonized Framework, close to 500,000 people are expected to be acutely food insecure in the current lean season between June and August 2023. “Every day is battle for us to survive. Cereal, meat, and basic food stuff to feed my family are almost unaffordable since I lost my only hope for income in this past flood,” adds Mohamed. Sadly, communities in Mauritania are not the only ones facing this problem. The Sahel Region in Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing one of the worst food insecurity crises in decades, affecting millions of people. “It’s alarming to witness the deterioration in food security in the Sahel. Pre-existing conditions such as drought and floods, climatic shocks, regional and international conflicts and rising food and fuel prices are spiking hunger and malnutrition rates. Each time, it is the most vulnerable who suffer the consequences of a complex context, exacerbated by growing inequalities,” says Alexandre Claudon de Vernisy, head of the IFRC Cluster delegation for Cape Verde, Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal. In response to this emergency, the IFRC launched an appeal for 215 million Swiss francs in October 2022 to support 7.6 million of the most food insecure people across 14 priority countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mauritania is the latest country to join the regional appeal in May 2023, bringing the total number of countries to 15. The Mauritanian Red Crescent (MRC) needs 2 million Swiss francs from this appeal to help more than 80,000 people like Mohamed affected by food insecurity in the communes of Barkeol, Guerrou and Moudjeria. In the short term, this funding will be used to provide more than 2,700 families with cash assistance to help them get back on their feet. It will also enable MRC volunteers to provide community health services and malnutrition screenings to more than 2,500 families to meet their immediate health needs. In the longer-term, the funding aims to boost the resilience of communities in Mauritania so they are better prepared for future climate shocks. The MRC will: Set up three ‘Farmer Field Schools’ to teach climate-smart farming techniques—such assoil moisture conservation, use of appropriate seeds, and crop association—to hundreds of farmers, so they can have more successful and reliable yields. Help 30 villages to set up village food security stocks by buying cereals after the harvest period so that the price is cheaper during the next lean season. Support mother’s clubs in the region that help mothers to recognize and fight signs of malnutrition in their children. "It’s a long and difficult lean season ahead of us. Without the Red Crescent’s help, there would be very littlehope for us," says Mohamed. -- For more information about this crisis and to donate to the IFRC’s emergency appeal,please visit our Africa: Hunger crisis page.

|
Article

Somalia: Tackling malnutrition amid the drought

Across the Horn of Africa, people are entering their sixth rainy season without rain. For the last two and a half years the water that fills community water points, nourishes livestock, and grows vegetables, has not flowed. Surface water is gone and the sometimes green environment is dry and dusty. The ongoing drought, paired with conflict and rising food prices, has led to food insecurity, displacement, and the death of livestock. This, in turn, affects people's livelihoods and health, and leads to malnutrition. Across the country, Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) teams run static and mobile health clinics that serve rural and remote communities in hard to reach areas. These clinics provide basic health care and routine immunizations, as well as screening for malnutrition and providing nutritional support. The staff refer severe cases of malnutrition to larger medical centres and hospitals. In recent months, Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) teams have reported seeingincreasing numbers of children with malnutrition who need nutritional support. Here are some of the families they've been helping. Basra Ahmed Cabdale, brought her children to a Somali Red Crescent Society clinic near Borama to be screened for malnutrition. Her daughter, 3-year-old Nimco Adbikadir Hassan, was found to be moderately malnourished. Cabdale said that before the drought, her family would eat tomatoes and onions with sorghum and maize. They would also have milk and meat from their animals. However, without water, crops aren’t growing, livestock is dying and they need to sell off their animals to buy food and necessities at the local market. “Our biggest worry is the loss of our animals and the lack of food,” she said. “It takes two hours [to walk to the water point] and we have to form a long queue to get it.” Halima Mohmoud Abah visited the Somali Red Crescent Society clinic in a village near Berbera with four of her children. She was worried about the weight of her baby and her daughter Mardiye Abdullahi Ali, 4. While Mardiye had her height, weight, and arm circumference measured, Halima talked about some of her concerns. “There is a drought, water for livestock has been limited and there's not enough for crops,” she said. When Mardiye’s results come in, she is borderline malnourished. “I am worried for the health of the children,” she said. “If it continues, it will result in bad things... death, of animals and humans.” In the Somali Red Crescent Society clinic in Burao, the staff make sure all children who are acutely or moderately malnourished receive a high-calorie nutritional supplement – Plumpy'Sup or Plumpy'Nut. Children like Maslah Yasin Usman get their first supplement in the clinic, and their mothers are given enough to take home. His mother, Farhiya Abdi Ahmed, is one of many mothers who bring their children into this clinic in for screening. -- Somalia is one of many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa currently contending with one of the worst food crises in decades. The IFRC is supporting National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the region, including the Somali Red Crescent Society, to protect the lives, livelihoods and prospects of millions of people. Find out more about our Africa Hunger Crisis Appeal.

|
Press release

Ukraine: IFRC warns of psychological wounds adding cruel layer of pain one year on

Geneva / Budapest / Kyiv 23 February 2023 -The psychological wounds of the international armed conflict in Ukraine are adding another cruel layer of pain to people already struggling to cope with shelter, hunger, and livelihoods needs, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). As the effects of the last year continue to impact families, the IFRC network is running the biggest humanitarian response in its history. With a CHF 1.6 billion appeal spanning 58 countries, the IFRC network has reached more than two million people with medical care, mental health support and shelter; and so far has distributed more than CHF 87 million in cash assistance to bring choice and dignity to families who have lost everything. A total of 42 IFRC member National Societies are engaged in activities supporting people from Ukraine, domestically. IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain, said: “This grueling year has devastated the lives of millions of people and that brings with it psychological harm as significant as physical injury. We are preparing to expand our mental health interventions alongside cash, shelter, medical care and urgent assistance to help people manage the harsh winter with power cuts and water shortages.” Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are working everywhere—from bomb shelters in Bakhmut to refugees’ new homes across borders—and have provided more than a million people with psychosocial support since February 2022. As time marches on, more must be done to address mental health. “Trauma knows no borders: those in Ukraine and those who have fled are equally in need of comfort, stability, and a sense of normalcy,” remarked Mr. Chapagain. The Ukrainian Red Cross has provided psychosocial support to hundreds of thousands of people since the start of the conflict’s escalation. An additional 34 IFRC member National Societies are delivering specialist help to hundreds of thousands who have sought safety in other countries. Ukrainian Red Cross Director General, Maksym Dotsenko, said: “They have lost loved ones, homes, jobs, everything—this is devastating enough. People’s lives are in limbo and this anguish is eating them up inside, compounding the mental health crisis even further. “Helping families find coping mechanisms, treatment and support is crucial for us. We are training people on how to respond to mental health emergencies and this training is happening in bomb shelters and basements.” In neighbouring countries, IFRC member National Societies are receiving a growing number of pleas for mental health help via their community feedback systems. “We are a long way away from recovery for people from Ukraine, but ensuring support for mental health, alongside cash support, protection and other basic services is a way we can contribute to that eventual recovery,” said Mr. Chapagain. Over the past year, the IFRC network has mobilized more than 124,000 volunteers to respond to urgent needs of people affected by this international armed conflict. For more information, please contact: [email protected] In Kyiv: Nichola Jones, +44 7715 459956 In Budapest: Corrie Butler, +36 70 430 6506 In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, +1 202 603 6803 A/V materials available to media on the IFRC Newsroom. Note to editors: In a regional initiative to meet the massive need for mental health support, National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 countries across the EU/EEA have joined forces to provide mental health and psychosocial support services to more than 590,000 people over the course of three years. Target audiences include displaced people in Ukraine and impacted EU countries, caregivers, children, older persons, people with disabilities, host communities, as well as Red Cross volunteers and staff. Funded by the European Union and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the EU4Health project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the 25 National Societies.

|
Article

IFRC Secretary General on the year ahead: "Hope in the midst of hopelessness"

It’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness these days – climate crises, people on the verge of starvation in parts of Africa, multiple wars, protracted conflicts, people having to leave their homes out of desperation, shameful cases of exclusion in many parts of the world, rising mental health crises, people not having basic access to water and sanitation. This list can go on and on. While these crises are affecting everyone, the marginalized, excluded, and last mile communities are bearing the brunt of these crises disproportionately. Some 43 years ago, I signed up to be a young volunteer of the Nepal Red Cross. I joined not knowing how my life would unfold and where this would lead. I didn’t fully understand then, but I do now – the mission and mandate of our IFRC network, and the fundamental principles that guide our work with a very simple vision--to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Three years ago, we didn’t know the scale of impact of a global pandemic, international armed conflict in the middle of Europe and all other global crises we have been responding to. In this context, let me share some of my reflections on the current state of play. Reflection on the IFRC’s mandate and relevance As the world grapples with “polycrisis”, our mandate becomes as relevant as ever, if not more. The IFRC is at the forefront of humanitarian efforts in times of disaster, crises, and other emergencies. By providing immediate assistance and long-term sustainable development programmes, the IFRC network puts people at the centre of vital, life-saving assistance. We work to strengthen the resilience of communities in vulnerable settings, ensuring they are better prepared for and better able to cope with our changing world. In a time of great global disparities in terms of access to services, we bridge the gap. The role of truly local organizations like our member National Societies is critical to reach the most disadvantaged sections of societies. Localization is fundamental as crises grow; but resources do not keep pace with them. Business as usual is not going to work. True empowerment of community organizations and decolonization of aid will be critical in 2023 and beyond. Reflection on our fundamental principles, particularly the principle of neutrality The threat to our principles, particularly the principle of neutrality, lies in the fact that the international armed conflict in Ukraine has taken on a much-heightened political dimension. This has placed great pressure on the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. We must maintain a neutral stance and perform impartial aid operations, to ensure our principle of neutrality is observed. While we remain sensitive to the challenges emerging out of the conflict and we will be doing everything in our capacity to deliver on our mandate, it is essential that our fundamental principles remain the bedrock of our actions. Failing to do so will irreparably damage the notion of neutral, independent humanitarian action. Amid rapid changes in the global humanitarian landscape, one thing remains constant – that’s our fundamental principles. Our values and principles transcend all the divisions that exist in the world. Reflection on current trends We closely monitor the global trends that impact our work. Climate and Environmental crises have been at the forefront. Social issues like the erosion of trust, migration and displacement, inequality, global health and food crises are directly linked to our mandate. Economic issues like the cost-of-living crisis and energy crises will impact our work. Technological issues, like the opportunity created by digitalization as well as the risks arising from the digital divide and those linked to humanitarian data security, will have to be considered. We must also be mindful of the global political landscape and current lack of global political leadership able to deal with multiple crises. The international armed conflict in Ukraine will significantly impact the geopolitical landscape and will exacerbate the humanitarian situation across the globe. We must be humble enough to acknowledge that there is no humanitarian solution to most of these crises. There must be a political solution and we must support and advocate for the same. Reflection on our ambitions Our ambitions are simple as we deal with these trends. We will continue to be bold in our support to our membership both on humanitarian action and in building resilience. We will work harder to build a trustful relationship with our membership and governance structure. We will invest more in National Society transformations leveraging the power of youth and volunteers. Advancing gender and inclusion will require consistent push. We must do more to be a learning organization that continuously evolves. Within the family, we will continue to build mutually respectful movement cooperation. We will expand our humanitarian diplomacy efforts and further strengthen our highly professional partnership with all partners. Further building on the new operating model and new resourcing architecture, we will develop more inclusive IFRC wide approaches. We will accelerate our digitalization journey. We will continue to strengthen agility and accountability. Respectful workplace, issues of fraud and corruption, sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment, racism, and discrimination will be dealt with proactively and decisively. The world is full of daunting challenges. But it is also full of people and organizations committed to confront them and work together to bring about positive change. We are one of those organizations. We will lead from the front, working with our membership and their volunteers. We will be bold in our actions, but calm and composed in our approaches. There will of course be challenges along the way, but we will always move forward with integrity. We will have to be at our best when the challenges are the greatest. And we will have to always bring hope amid hopelessness.