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.
| Press release
Cox’s Bazar: the IFRC calls for global support and durable solutions to address pressing needs
Geneva/Kuala Lumpur/Dhaka, 24 August 2023: Six years after displacement from Rakhine State in Myanmar, nearly one million people still reside in Cox’s Bazar camps, and 30,000 people are in Bhasan Char. The situation is dire, with the displaced population continuing to face multiple and simultaneous threats, including fires, climate-related disasters, and epidemics in crowded, temporary shelters. With challenges mounting and resources shrinking, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls for sustained global support, particularly for durable solutions and improved settlements.
The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, IFRC, and partners, including the Bangladesh government, have assisted over a million people from displaced and host communities. Still, challenges remain for those in congested camps.
In the past year, challenges like 33 fire incidents, Cyclone Mocha, and funding shortfalls have heightened vulnerabilities related to malnutrition, security, and education. The IFRC stresses the importance of ongoing investment in settlements and camp management to uphold the dignity of camp residents. Presently, living spaces average 24 sqm per person, falling short of the 30 sqm global standard. While the Red Cross and Red Crescent provide shelters meeting basic requirements, more support is needed to protect vulnerable camp and host community members, ensuring their safety, privacy, and dignity.
The Secretary General of Bangladesh Red Crescent, Kazi Shofiqul Azam said:
“We stand with the displaced people and the local communities that have generously hosted them in Cox’s Bazar. We’ve witnessed the aftermath of the sufferings caused by flash floods, fire incidents, and the recent Cyclone Mocha in Cox’s Bazar camp. We’ve immediately responded to each disaster and repeatedly rebuilt damaged shelters. With fire incidents on the rise and Cox’s Bazar being highly susceptible to cyclones, there’s a growing need for improved shelter and infrastructure.
The resilience of the displaced people from Myanmar has been truly exceptional. They deserve to live with dignity and hope until they can safely repatriate. We remain committed to working alongside them and our partners to collectively alleviate their sufferings.”
To date, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has facilitated nearly 2 million health consultations, and over 60,000 families have received 1.1 billion litres of safe drinking water. Despite these efforts, durable solutions remain essential, especially given the challenging living conditions. Continued international support is crucial to ensure that people in these camps can return to their places of origin with dignity once it's safe to do so.
The IFRC Head of Delegation in Bangladesh, Sanjeev Kafley, added:
“Six years into the crisis, our commitment remains firm. We stand by the many who continue to remain displaced, offering them a helping hand, a compassionate heart, and a voice that echoes their struggle for dignity, and a better tomorrow.
As we navigate this protracted crisis, finding durable solutions becomes imperative. Yet, year by year, needs grow while funding gaps widen. This overlooked crisis risks the very services, relief supplies, and healthcare that thousands rely on. Without renewed attention, we risk being forced to prioritize support solely for the most vulnerable. We urge the international community to reengage and support, before lives are further impacted.”
The IFRC and Bangladesh Red Crescent have been steadfast in supporting both displaced people and host communities from the beginning. However, the appeal is significantly underfunded. Only 61.5% of the CHF 133.2 million needed has been raised, leaving a gap of over CHF 51.2 million. Learn more about the emergency appeal.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: [email protected]
In Cox's Bazar: Barkat Ullah Maruf, +880 1711222922, SM Taslim Reza, +880 1759004869
In Dhaka: Al-Shahriar Rupam, +880 1761775075
In Kuala Lumpur: Afrhill Rances, +60 192713641
In Geneva: Mrinalini Santhanam, +41 763815006
Fleeing bombs and robbers: Lia’s search for safety in Sudan
“I was living peacefully in Khartoum before Ramadan. I’m a single mother, just with my children. I'm a director and scriptwriter, and had a new business. It was working very well and I was happy with my life until the war started,” she says.
“The day of the war, our neighbour came and told us there were problems outside. We are used to riots – we get them every day. But suddenly he told us that everything was closed and no one was going out, they are bombing everywhere, it is a real war.
“We heard constant bombing outside. The noise was so big, we were just hiding. The kids had so much fear. There was nothing in the shops to buy, and nothing in the house, so things were really very hard. We stayed one week in these conditions, then they said there was a ceasefire to give people time to get themselves a hiding place."
At this point, Lia decided to travel with her children and other family members to Omdurman, a city on the west bank of the River Nile just northwest of Khartoum, to stay with father.
“We saw a lot of things on the road. There were people with guns and weapons asking you if you were going to attack them. I told them we were not their enemy while trying to calm my children down, but they were very scared.
“Omdurman was kind of safe. At first we heard some gunfire, but suddenly after two days they started to bomb really close to us and I was scared there was no safe place around Khartoum at all. I couldn’t sleep. I was just looking at the sky – seeing all the shooting planes, colours in the air, and bombs.”
Lia and her family stayed in Omdurman for another few days until an armed robber broke in and stole from them while they were sleeping, at which point she decided it was too unsafe and time to head to the coast. She pleaded with her father to come with her, but he refused to leave his home.
Before heading for safety, Lia needed to return to her house in Khartoum to collect her family’s identity documents in case they needed to leave the country. But this proved to be another ordeal. A taxi ride that would usually take 30 minutes stretched on for hours on end, as the taxi driver tried to find safe streets in Khartoum to avoid the violence.
“We arrived at the house. It was so late. Everything was sadness and we cried altogether. We sat down in front of our house inside the gate until the morning because I couldn’t find the key. No one was sleeping. I was just holding my children, all of us together.
“Morning came. The shooting stopped for a little while, and we had hope. But suddenly it started again. We broke our lock and took our papers and some of our things.”
Lia and her children then began the long journey to Port Sudan, more than 800km away on the coast.
“We managed to escape to the place where buses were leaving Khartoum. We were on the road for almost four days, stopping in different cities overnight, sleeping on the ground next to the bus. We knocked on strangers’ houses and they helped us because they knew in Khartoum there was war. They gave us kitchen equipment so I could cook and they let us use their bathroom.
“It was tough. It was OK for me, but my children didn’t have this kind of life before. Nobody chooses to live that kind of life or chooses war, but we found ourselves in that situation.”
Eventually they arrived at Port Sudan. Though less dangerous than Khartoum, Lia struggled to find a decent place for her family to stay.
“I went to the first camp and it was so bad. We stayed there for just over a week but we couldn’t stay longer. My children were sick, so we moved to the beachside. I thought it wouldbe better but in the afternoon it was hellfire. You can’t stay directly under the sun. After that we were taken to another camp where we stayed for a month, then another camp. It’s a bit of a relief yet things are still bad. You cannot call camp a home. But at least this one compared to others is a bit better.”
When asked how the Sudanese Red Crescent Society had helped her throughout her ordeal, and what difference it had made, Lia said:
“The difference is clear. Red Crescent right from the beginning was always there to give a warm helping hand in times of need.
“They brought us doctors and medicine and some food.”
As to the future?
“I thank god we are alive. Though we lost a lot of things, we are alive and breathing and my children are by my side. I just pray that one day things will get better again and I pray Khartoum will become safe again.
“I don’t want to travel anymore. I want our lives and our country to be safe and all the worries to stop so we can continue to do the things we dream about.”
More than 1,000 people have lost their lives since conflict broke out in Sudan on 15 April, and more than 12,000 have been injured in the fighting.
The Sudanese Red Crescent Society, supported by the IFRC network, is continuing to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance despite security challenges in the country.
To help people like Lia inside Sudan, please donate to our Emergency Appeal. You can find information about the work your donation will support here.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
| Press release
SOS Mediterranee and IFRC call upon all governments to ensure humanitarians can provide lifesaving support at sea without risking their lives
Central Mediterranean,10 July 2023 -The lives of shipwrecked personsand a humanitarian crewfrom SOS MEDITERRANEEand IFRCwereputin danger on Fridayafternoon, July 7, during a rescue operation at sea.TheLibyancoastguard fired shots in close proximitytoa rescue crew.This isthe third incident this year,andpart ofa context of increasinginsecurityin the MediterraneanSea.
The crew onboard humanitarian rescue ship Ocean Viking, operatedby SOS MEDITERRANEEandthe International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), responded to a mayday relay call about a small boat in distress in international waters off the Libyan coast. It was the second operation of the day after a first rescue of 46 persons that also took place in international waters in the Libyan Search and Rescue Region.
Shortly after the evacuation of the eleven shipwrecked personsby the Ocean Viking’s smaller inflatable rescue boats,a Libyan Coastguard patrol vessel approached the scene at high speed and started to fire multiple shotsat close range.The gunshots were fired less than 100 meters from the humanitarian rescue crew and the shipwrecked persons– including a woman and five unaccompanied children – as they were trying to get back to the Ocean Viking.
While all shipwrecked persons and crew members made it to safety onboard the Ocean Viking, all are in shock and some sustained injuries because ofthe dangerous manoeuvres of the Coastguard.Giannis, leader of the inflatable rescue boat closest to the Libyan patrol vessel, describes the imminent danger of the incident: "The impact of the wake created by the Libyan patrol vessel on our boats was so strong that I injured my back. As they continued shooting and chasing us, the safety of the rescued people and crew were in the hands of a gunman."
It is the third time since the beginning of this year that the crew of the Ocean Viking faced a dangerous incident during a rescue operation. IFRC and SOS Mediterranee call uponall governments to ensure humanitarians can providelifesavingsupport at sea without risking their lives.
Ashumanitarianorganizations, our focus is on saving lives, filling the gap in search and rescue left in the Mediterranean and these situations put people at increasing risk. At the same time, numbers of dead and missing at Europe’s southern border continue to mount.
“We are extremely worried about the security situation onthe MediterraneanSea.We have seen devasting numbers of people that perishedat seathis year, with the horrific shipwreck off the coast of Greeceas a recent example. At the same time, humanitarian organizations tryingto help people in distress at seafear for their safety. Thisdangerous situation can lead to the loss of more lives, even though all these deathsofpeopleat sea are preventable,”saysMariaAlcazar Castilla, DeputyRegional Director for Europe and Central Asiaat IFRC.
2023 has been a particularly deadly year so far: 1,728 people have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean in search of safety and peace in Europe since January. It is the highest death toll since 2017 and almost certainlyan undercount.
To prevent more deaths, it is crucial that humanitarianscan operatesafely to assistpeople in distress at sea.
Note to editors
Photos and footage of the incident can be found here.
OnJanuary25, the Libyan Coastguard interfered with an ongoing rescue operation by preventing the SOS MEDITERRANEE Search and Rescue team on arigid-hull inflatable boat to return to the mothership. All survivors and crew eventually reached safety onboard the Ocean Vikingwhere IFRC provided them with post-rescuesupport.
On March 25, a Libyan Coastguard patrol vessel came dangerously closeto the Ocean Viking (less than 50 meters). Not answering to VHF calls, the Libyan Coastguard started firing shots in the air in close proximityof the Ocean Viking as therescue ship was trying to leave the scene. Only after firing gunshots, the Libyan Coastguard in Arabic language requested the Ocean Viking to leave the area.
The operational partnership between IFRC and SOS Mediterranee onboard the Ocean Viking fills an important gap in the humanitarian response to assistand rescue persons in distress at sea. We do this by providingessential humanitarian services such as food, items for basic needs, and access to protection and health services to all survivors, regardless of their migration status.
For more information, please contact:
Julie Enthoven/+36 70 508 5702/[email protected]
SOS MEDITERRANEE PRESS CONTACTS:
Alisha Vaya /+33 6 34 10 41 33 /[email protected]
MérylSotty / +33 6 11 74 10 11 / [email protected]
Francesco Creazzo / +393478151131 / [email protected]
Federica Salvati / +393332091366 / [email protected]
Alice Ganguillet/ +41 78 301 81 30/ [email protected]
Julia Schafermeyer/ +33 6 12 52 15 69/ [email protected] /
IFRC statement at the High-Level Pledging Event for Sudan and the Region
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has been working closely with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in close coordination with other Movement partners before and since the onset of this conflict.
The Sudanese Red Crescent Society is the largest humanitarian responder in the country. It has more than 40,000 trained volunteers. It has access and reach to all 18 States and across both sides of the conflict to deliver life-saving assistance.
The IFRC has launched Emergency Appeals to scale up response in support of the Sudanese Red Crescent and National Societies in neighbouring countries to provide dignified and safe assistance to people on the move.
Excellencies – today I call on the international community to make following commitments:
First - Ensure Protection: The IFRC calls on all parties to the conflict to take all precautions to avoid civilian injuries and loss of life, and ensure critical civilian infrastructure is protected.
Second – Ensure Access: Sudanese Red Crescent Society and other first responders must have the humanitarian space to conduct their lifesaving work.
The IFRC is deeply concerned at reports of increased cases of violence affecting civilians and reports of surging cases of sexual and gender-based violence.
Third – Ensure resources: We urge world leaders, to urgently increase their funding so that local organizations including the Sudanese Red Crescent Society have sufficient resources to save lives.
The people of Sudan need our support today and, in the weeks, and months to come. Their lives are on the line. The world cannot afford to look away.
IFRC statement at the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region pledging conference
Excellencies, distinguished representatives, ladies, and gentlemen, for years we have gathered here to support the future of Syria and the region.
After years of unrelenting conflict, the collapse of the Syrian economy, and a recent, devastating earthquake there is still no solution in sight.
And the scale of the crisis outstrips our collective humanitarian response.
The IFRC with its long-time presence in Syria, supports Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)—the country’s largest community-based provider of humanitarian assistance to deliver quality and accountable services.
SARC provides 5 million people each month with food and relief items and supports their longer-term resilience with livelihoods support, healthcare, water, and sanitation services.
In neighbouring and host countries, the IFRC and its members, with the support of the European Union and other partners, have been providing assistanceto Syrians and host communities. We hope this continues.
The pressure to expand our humanitarian programmes is immense.
Aid alone will not reduce the humanitarian needs or contribute to a long-term resilience and sustainable recovery in Syria.
This conference is a vital opportunity to focus on a key message:
Saving lives must be our collective priority.
SARC has unparalleled and trusted access in most of the country.
Investing in local actors like SARC and National Societies in neighbouring countries is essential.
Guaranteeing their unhindered delivery of assistance ensures that donor funding is directly supporting humanitarian and recovery programmes designed by and for communities who need it most.
Ensuring basic services, and long-term economic opportunities, are critical to millions of Syrians.
Livelihoods support, and strengthening basic services like health, sanitation, and education are long-term interventions that build resilience and must be developed with the needs of the Syrian people at centre-stage.
We must also continue to work together to reduce the unintended impacts of sanctions on humanitarian response.
The IFRC, closely working with other Movement partners, will continue to deliver impartial, neutral, and independent humanitarian aid, but to do so, we need collective and convergent leadership across the political divide.
It is time for real responsibility-sharing and real solidarity amongst the international community if we want to see real and sustainable impactful change in the lives of Syrian people.
| Press release
Hellenic Red Cross volunteers support survivors of deadliest shipwreck off Greece this year
Geneva/Budapest/Athens, 15 June 2023 – The Hellenic Red Cross volunteers have been supporting the survivors of the deadliest shipwreck off Greece this year, in southwest of Pylos in the Peloponnese.
Red Cross teams have rapidly responded in the rescue efforts, providing health and care support, food, and other basic items.
“As time passes, the chances of people surviving becomes less and less likely. People are exhausted as they were already at sea for days: they are in shock and distress. Many require urgent health care. They will need mental health and psychosocial support in the coming hours and days. I have never seen a rescue operation like this one before. It is a tragedy,” said Dimitris Chaliotis, Hellenic Red Cross volunteer.
“It is heart-wrenching and simply unacceptable that these people, who were seeking safety and a better future, have died at the EU borders in 2023. The first quarter of this year was already the deadliest on record on the Central Mediterranean route and this tragedy could be one of the worst ever as the search for the missing continues. Every one of the lives lost should be on our collective conscience due to the failure to provide safe pathways to protection,” said Frido Herinckx, IFRC operations manager.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact: [email protected]
Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 43 67
Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 69 24
Corrie Butler, +36 70 430 6506
Hiding from bullets in a water tank: Kenyan evacuee who fled Sudan shares her story
“I heard the bullets outside when I was cleaning. My boss told me the war had started.”
These are the words of Theresa*, a young woman from Kenya who bravely agreed to share her story with me about fleeing the conflict in Sudan. Feeling afraid for her safety, she asked me to not publish her photo.
Theresa had just started working as a domestic worker with five other young women in a large home in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, when the fighting broke out.
“I was new in Sudan. My bosses left for Egypt and I stayed with five girls and three security. The electricity went off, there was no water, it was too hot.”
She says thieves came into the house, tied up their security and started looking for her and her fellow workers.
“We went and hid upstairs at the top of the house where there was a water tank. The thieves broke the doors, took gold, money, everything in the house. Even my passport.”
“They came upstairs and looked around. We had left a phone and kettle of tea and they said ‘the girls are around and have taken their tea here’.”
“I was inside the water tank. They shot bullets so we would come out, but we didn’t. We kept quiet in that tank of water until they ran away.”
Theresa and her fellow workers fled the house several days later when another group of men came and moved into it.
“I left everything in that house. The road was not safe. The bombs were everywhere. They were shooting, I didn’t care [if I died]. […] I came to my embassy. I stayed there then they brought me to Kenya.”
Theresa is just one of 44 people I met in Nairobi airport who’d managed to get evacuated to safety from the conflict in Sudan.
They drifted through the airport gates in small pairs and groups, collapsing onto chairs that volunteers from the Kenya Red Cross (KRC) had set out for them. “Karibu, you’re welcome” were among the first words they heard.
The group was made up of mostly women – their evacuation prioritized due to the increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. They had come from different countries and had all been in Sudan to work or study.
Social worker and Kenya Red Cross volunteer, Alexina, tells me most of the women and some of the men she’s helped have survived sexual violence. She’s welcomed numerous groups now, and stories like Theresa’s are shockingly similar. People have often fled in a hurry, or their possessions have been stolen en route, meaning they typically have no passports, money or belongings by the time they reach Nairobi.
When they arrive, evacuees first register with Kenya Red Cross volunteers who take their details to help reconnect them with their loved ones. They’re then led to a tent where they can have quiet conversations with trained mental health workers.
Inside the tent, volunteers, including psychologists and a social worker, sit with small circles of evacuees who share their stories of what they’ve been through. This early psychosocial support gives people who’ve been through traumatic situations a chance to start to process what’s happened.
Next is a police table to help them with ID documentation. Then there’s a comfortable welcoming area where people enjoy food and drinks, and a first aid station with medical and hygiene supplies. People can access free phone services, and the Kenya Red Cross runs a bus service to transfer people to free accommodation.
“I’m very happy to be back in Kenya now […] When they were looking for me and I was inside the water tank, I thought that was my day to die,” says Theresa.
After recounting her story, Theresa looks numb and exhausted. I struggle to find adequate words as we say goodbye. She climbs, carrying her one bag, into one of the buses, and I think about what I should have said: “I’m in awe at your resilience, Theresa.”
An estimated nine million people have been affected by the conflict in Sudan. Some 1.2 million people have been displaced internally and nearly half a million people have fled to neighbouring countries.
The IFRC has launched two Emergency Appeals in response to this crisis: one to support the Sudanese Red Crescent Society to help people inside Sudan, and another to support National Societies in six neighbouring countries welcoming people fleeing the conflict.
To help people like Theresa, please donate to our appeals by following the links above.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity.
Secretary General speech at the Inter American Conference 2023
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It’s so good to be here in the beautiful Bahamas.
Bahamas —thank you for hosting this conference. I take this occasion to congratulate the Bahamas on 50 years of your Independence.
President Terez Curry, IFRC Vice President Miguel Villarroel, Dr Judith Carvajal, Vice Chair of CORI, GB members and Commission and Committee chairs of the IFRC, George Weber Vice Chair of Standing Commission, Giles Carbonier VP of ICRC, National Society leaders, staff and volunteers and my amazing IFRC secretariat team led by Martha Keys —I pay tribute to all of you who have shown incredible leadership these past few years--through the COVID-19 pandemic and so many other compounding crises.
I thank you all for your focus on doing what is right for the people we serve, and for your unwavering commitment to your communities.
The Americas region is vibrant, teeming with diverse communities and extraordinary resilience.
It is also one of the most unequal regions in the world, hit by a complex web of crises that is driving up humanitarian needs and negatively impacting communities’ lives, livelihoods, and dignity.
The climate crisis with rising temperatures, extreme weather events and environmental degradation are wreaking havoc on communities and their livelihoods, across the region.
Endemic violence has shattered communities leaving scars that last for generations.
It has widened inequality and worsened socio-economic conditions.
It is pushing people to flee their homes and has directly contributed to the most severe migration crisis the Americas region faces in recent history.
Today, 3 out of every 10 migrants or asylum seekers leave their country of origin because of threats of violence.
Sadly, women and children bear the brutal brunt of this terrible crisis.
The tragic and horrifying stories of the people I met who were making the perilous journey across the Darien Gap last August will stay with me forever.
Every day, around 1000 people take this dangerous path in Darien Gap, in search of safety, hope, and new opportunities.
With no political solutions in sight and less resources available, the global humanitarian system is buckling under pressure to meet assistance, and protection needs of people in these circumstances.
But, 35 National Societies in this region, sadly only 34 now, have shown that we can confront these challenges by providing a wide range of services that address the core needs of communities.
From managing blood banks, clinics, hospitals, and ambulances to leading search and rescue operations, supporting people on the move, running nursing institutions, and developing solutions to tackle the climate crisis and violence, National Societies play crucial role.
IFRC is proud to support these efforts through the Disaster Response Emergency Fund, Capacity Building Fund, Emergency Appeals and our annual unified plans.
To address increasing migration needs, we are expanding our Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs) to provide life-saving and inclusive services across migratory routes.
Collectively, we have reached millions:
Over a million people through programmes for migrants and host communities
A further one million people through disaster response,
More than 3.5 million people through health and well-being programmes.
And the millions reached during the COVID-19 response and related immunization efforts.
But we cannot rest on our laurels.
Today we face serious challenges, both in our ability to meet growing humanitarian needs but also in our ability to safeguard our fundamental principles.
In this context, today we gather at this 22nd Inter-American Conference recognizing the responsibility we bear, the solidarity we must foster, and the impact we can create together.
Firstly--The responsibility we bear is our opportunity to contribute to something greater than ourselves.
Our IFRC network is like no other.
We are part of the communities we serve.
And we are the largest, most connected, global humanitarian network.
This sum of local action and global reach makes National Societies effective auxiliaries to their public authorities in humanitarian field.
Our responsibility is to deliver quality humanitarian action that makes a positive difference in people’s lives, that reduces their risks and vulnerabilities, and that enhances their capacities and potential.
We can only succeed if we remain true to our Fundamental Principles.
They are the foundations of just and inclusive humanitarian action.
They are the building blocks of unity, trust, and cooperation in our Movement.
They are our moral compass.
Without them, our credibility is called into question and our ability to deliver neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action is threatened.
We must reassert our Fundamental Principles.
Let’s practise them in our work, speak to them in our discussions, live by them, teach them, help communities, partners and donors understand them.
Secondly, solidarity is at the heart of everything we do across the IFRC network.
Solidarity and commitment to our Strategy 2030 and Agenda for Renewal has enabled us to respond to the multiple crises and disasters in this region, to provide relief to those in need, and to support communities as they recover and rebuild.
Solidarity also means that we stand together as one.
It means that we put the needs of those we serve before our own, and that we work to alleviate their suffering.
Solidarity enables us to leverage our collective resources, expertise, and influence, to reach more people in need, to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and to amplify their voices.
Solidarity is not an option. It is a moral duty. We need this now, more than ever.
Our success is measured by the outcomes we achieve for the people we serve.
In this era of fast paced change and shifting political divides, our focus must be on accountability, agility, engagement, and innovation—which are important elements of our Agenda for Renewal.
For this, the IFRC is working for and with National Societies.
We have invested in scaling up digitalization, risk management, new funding models for greater agility, accountability, and impact to reach to the communities we serve.
We use these resources to foster learning and strengthen National Society capacities, so they are leaders in the humanitarian field, not just in response but in resilience building, data, influence, collaboration, and innovation.
This brings me to our volunteers—the lifeline and heartbeat of our network.
More than 50 percent of our volunteers today are people under 30.
Young people bring with them energy, technological know-how, and innovative solutions.
Let’s harness their skills today, give them opportunities to lead us to a more just and equitable future.
Colleagues, our impact must be about scaling up our delivery, while ensuring the quality, relevance, and sustainability of our actions.
None of the obstacles we face today are insurmountable.
We have the knowledge, the resources, the expertise and the skills to bring about the change.
As Mother Teresa once said – “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”.
Colleagues- just like Mother Teresa, let us all dare to cast a stone across the water that will collectively create millions of ripples to make this world a better place for everyone. Not just for the few but for everyone.
Fleeing Syria and surviving the Türkiye earthquake: Houda’s secret ingredients for resilience
Starting your life over somewhere new is never an easy feat. It takes immense mental strength to rebuild years of hard work and community from scratch.
For Houda Al-Fadil, starting over wasn’t by choice. She was forced to flee a war-torn Syria, leaving her home behind so she could protect her family and offer them a chance of a better life—a life away from bombing, hunger, and fear.
Back in October 2020, we interviewed Houda for our Red Cross Red Crescent magazine and learned how she and her family had started their new life in Kahramanmaraş, Türkiye.
There, Houda had found her calling in the kitchen. Cooking had always been a passion for her, but it also became a way to make ends meet and support her husband and four children.
Catching up with Houda in April 2023, she told us how she signed up for cooking courses at Turkish Red Crescent community centres to pursue her food business.
“Thanks to these courses, I learned how to buy and sell. I learned about Turkish traditions and the Turkish community, and I felt included. They brought together people from Türkiye and Syria, and I was able to learn from both. They also organized a cooking festival where I was able to sell food that I had prepared at home.”
The courses inspired her to create new recipes that combined Syrian and Turkish ingredients. Selling her dishes from home, she quickly built up a loyal following of customers who loved her unique culinary concoctions.
Her business was going well and she began dreaming up her own little restaurant, a safe space in which people from Syria, Türkiye and other places could connect with one another over food.
But on the morning of February 6, 2023, it all came to a halt. A 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Türkiye and northern Syria, killing more than 50,000 people and destroying homes and livelihoods.
Fortunately, Houda and her family were physically unscathed, but it was a terrifying experience for them.
“The shaking and the sounds that went on for a minute and a half were extremely distressing. One of my kids couldn’t sleep nor eat for a whole week after that. I sent her to stay with our relatives for a while so she could recover, and she came back when she started to feel better,” Houda says.
As well as the physical damage caused by the earthquake, with cracks appearing on the walls of her home, the real damage was to Houda’s up-and-coming cooking business.
“I had almost 100 customers, everyone was buying the dishes I was preparing. But most of my customers fled Kahramanmaraş after the earthquake. Some people moved to Istanbul, Bursa and Mersin. Others sadly passed away. I only have two customers left now.”
The earthquake might have shaken Houda, but it had little effect on her perseverance and her will to keep moving forward. So, what’s the secret ingredient to her resilience?
“My family keeps me going. I want my daughter to continue her university studies during these difficult times, and I want to help her achieve her dreams. By pursuing my own dream, I can support my children and other people to pursue their own. This is what makes me happy; helping others and providing all the support they need to achieve their goals.”
Houda wants to rebuild her cooking business in Türkiye, with no plans to return to Syria.
“I wouldn’t go back to Syria. The situation there is dire; the poverty is unbelievable. Some people don’t have food. I heard stories of people who had to sell their clothes to be able to feed their children. There’s no water, no electricity, no internet. There’s just no proper life for us there.”
To help her on her cooking journey, Houda has also now taken up gardening with support from the Turkish Red Crescent. Unwavering support from their volunteers has been another key ingredient to her resilience.
She concluded: “I still aspire to do it. My culinary dream lives on. Everyone should hold on to their ambitions and not give up early on. Stay strong in front of the challenges that lie ahead!”
You can listen to our recent interview with Houda via Red Cross Red Crescent magazine's latest podcast.
To assist people affected by the 6 February earthquake, the IFRC launched two Emergency Appeals for Türkiye and Syria to support the response of our National Societies on the ground.
And since 2019, in partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent, the IFRC has been supporting more than 1.5 million refugees like Houda in Türkiye through our Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Programme, funded by the European Union. Click here to find out more.
Sudan crisis: Regional population movement
The ongoing conflict in Sudan has led hundreds of thousands of people—many of whom are women, children and older people—to flee the countryto find safety across borders. Those arriving in neighbouring countries have experienced dire humanitarian conditions. Many have been caught in the crossfire and struggled to access food, water, and health services for some time. Through this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR), Ethiopia and Libya to provide essential humanitarian assistance to people fleeing Sudan.
| Press release
New shipment of IFRC humanitarian aid arrives in Port Sudan amid conflict
Khartoum/Nairobi/Geneva, 16 May 2023: A new batch of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) humanitarian supplies, weighing 17 tons, arrived in Port Sudan today from Dubai. Transportation of these supplies was made possible through a European Union humanitarian air bridge flight. The IFRC is hopeful that this air bridge will be maintained to ensure further aid is provided in the coming weeks.
Among the household items delivered were blankets, jerricans, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and tarpaulins for 500 families. This dispatch will be followed in the coming days by a second batch of medical supplies including Interagency Emergency Health Kits (IEHK) to increase access to much needed healthcare services for thousands of people affected by the conflict. Upon arrival, they will be handed over to the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.
Mohammed Mukhier, IFRC Regional Director for Africa said:
“Most of our aid supplies were already distributed to people in need, despite some being looted in Khartoum and Darfur. So, this international humanitarian shipment comes at a crucial time as it will help the Sudanese Red Crescent Society to assist people caught between the conflict and the next flooding, which is typical in the country.”
Since conflict escalated, thousands of families have been cut off from basic services, including health services, food, water, and shelter and are in desperate need of help. Sudanese Red Crescent volunteers have been working tirelessly, right from the start, to provide lifesaving assistance to affected people, despite the dangers they face and the fact that they are also affected.
They are running a broad range of humanitarian services, including first aid, psychosocial support, family reunification for people who have been separated from their loved ones, food and water distribution, shelter provision, and safe and dignified burials for those who lost their lives. On May 4, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal to support the Sudanese Red Crescent Society to deliver assistance to 200,000 people affected by the conflict.
“Our volunteers will deliver the relief items wherever access and security allow. For that purpose, we renew our call for safe and unhindered access and passage to allow humanitarian help to reach those in need,” said Mr Mukhier.
While supporting the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in assisting people in Sudan, IFRC is also scaling up its response to meet the urgent needs of those fleeing the conflict and crossing into neighbouring countries: Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
In Nairobi: Rita Nyaga, +254 722 527553, [email protected]
Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 6924
Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367
Moustapha Diallo, +221 77 450 10 04, [email protected]
Darien new record: As migration increases, so must support
According to data from Panama's National Migration Service, 127,168 migrants crossed Darien National Park between January and April 2023, equivalent to more than 1,000 people per day.
In response to this announcement,Verónica Martínez, head of the IFRC's humanitarian response in Darien, said:
"The number of migrants arriving in Panama via Darien is growing exponentially. In the last few weeks, we have seen between 2,000 to 3,000 people arriving per day, a figure which is overwhelming the Humanitarian Service Points through which the Red Cross provides assistance."
"The majority arrive in a devastating and inhumane condition. They are injured, dehydrated, with severe allergic reactions, and complications from pregnancies or chronic illnesses. Many have been victims of abuse and violence. The Red Cross provides them with first aid, basic healthcare, and access to water. They also provide information, internet connectivity, and referrals to specialized institutions."
"But these record numbers also strain the basic services in the communities that host the migrant people after their journey through the jungle. In Bajo Chiquito, the number of walkers is sometimes five times greater than the number of local inhabitants, which leads to the collapse of water supply, for example. The water treatment plants installed by the Red Cross there are insufficient."
"Despite all efforts to meet the growing needs, the aid in Darien is becoming insufficient. Migrants, local communities, and humanitarian agencies all need humanitarian assistance to grow exponentially. We need sustained help over time that can adapt to changes in the context and is aimed at saving lives and protecting dignity, like the one provided by the Red Cross thanks to humanitarian aid funding and the continuous support of the European Union, Spanish Cooperation, and other actors*."
"The region is on the brink of a new rainy and hurricane season, which makes it even more urgent for support to arrive as soon as possible. From June to November, the risks faced by migrants on the migration route from Panama to Mexico will also include river floods and storms. The IFRC and the Red Cross network are preparing to face this scenario, but as they warned last March, we need allies. Providing humanitarian assistance remains urgent and is a team effort."
In August 2022, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appealrequesting international support of 18 million Swiss francs (USD 20.3 million) to provide humanitarian assistance to 210,000 people along the migration routes of Central America and Mexico. However, the amount raised so far is around five percent of the total requested.
Click here to access rights-free B-roll and photos from this crisis on the IFRC Newsroom.
*Contributors include the British Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Monaco Red Cross, Dutch Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Simón Bolivar Foundation, and UNICEF.
Polish Red Cross Infoline offers care and support to people fleeing Ukraine
“Yesterday I was told I’m an angel. That’s why it’s worth doing this job.”
Alla Karapeichyk is a psychologist from Ukraine working at the Information Line of the Polish Red Cross, providing mental health and psychosocial support to people who call in.
Most of her callers are people from Ukraine who have not yet been able to adapt to their new circumstances. Many of them expected to come to Poland just for a couple of weeks or months, but now they’ve been away from home for over a year. They feel confused about their next steps in life and are looking for some guidance.
“By the time someone calls the Infoline, they already have a kind of solution in their mind for the problem. A well-timed, smart question from a mental health professional can help that solution take shape,” Alla explains.
Christina from Kyiv is also a member of the team of seven operators at the Polish Red Cross Infoline. With her colleagues, she responds to an average of 300 calls per week, providing referrals to medical and public administration services.
“Sometimes people who call are so stressed that they cannot stop crying. We’ve been trained to talk to them in a way that helps reduce their stress. When they receive the information they need, they can finally relax,” says Christina.
“I’m also far from home, so I feel the same way as the people who are calling us. I can absolutely understand their problems, and I’m glad to be able to help.”
Both Alla and Christina have received training in Psychological First Aid thanks to the EU4Health project supported by the European Union, so that they can better respond to the psychological needs of people impacted by the armed conflict.
“Just as many other things in life, the situation in Ukraine is beyond our control. What we can change is our behaviour – we can influence our environment and have an impact on the people around us,” concludes Alla.
If you left Ukraine because of the current conflict and need support, you can contact the Polish Red Cross Infoline on +48 800 088 136 (from within Poland) or +48 221 520 620 (from abroad). The Infoline is open Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 17:00 CET.
About the EU4Health programme: National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 European Union (EU) / European Economic Area (EAA) countries joined forces to offer mental health and psychosocial support services to hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine. Funded by the European Union and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the National Societies.
This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the IFRC and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
Ukraine one year on: seven things to know about the ongoing humanitarian crisis
1. Millions of refugees are still adjusting to life in a new country
Since 24 February 2022, more than 8 million people have fled Ukraine to seek safety abroad. Forced to leave everything behind, and unable to safely return to their homes, they’re still trying to adapt to their new “normality”.
That’s one year of fear, sorrow, uncertainty, separation from friends and family, and worrying about the people and homes left behind.
For the past 12 months, the IFRC, along with 58 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has been working in Ukraine and the wider region to provide essential aid to people fleeing the country—including women, children, older people, and people with disabilities—and to help them integrate in their new communities.
2. Millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine are still in need of basic assistance
The displacement of more than 5.3 million people within Ukraine remains a staggering humanitarian crisis. Many of these people fled their homes with only the clothes they were wearing and are still staying with relatives or host families, in collective shelters or rented apartments.
Working together with the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, the IFRC network has been there from the very beginning, providing crucial relief items to those who need them.
While the initial shock of displacement may have subsided, the need for ongoing support and assistance remains critical.
3. Some people have returned to their homes, but rebuilding their former lives is a daunting challenge
Despite ongoing hostilities, more than 5.5 million people have chosen to return to their homes—whether from abroad or within Ukraine. Many of their houses, however, have been damaged or destroyed. The cost of rebuilding or repairing them can be prohibitively expensive, and many families simply cannot afford the materials or labour needed to make their homes habitable again.
Members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are providing vital support to people in Ukraine, including assistance with rent and utility payments, refurbishment of collective centres hosting IDPs and of individual housing, and providing building materials for home restoration. However, many people, particularly those in frontline areas, are still suffering.
4. The significant toll on people’s mental health remains
The ongoing conflict has had a devastating impact on the mental well-being of people inside and outside of the country.
Many have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. People—including children—have been uprooted from their communities. The long-term uncertainty and instability are weighing heavy on so many people’s minds.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has provided psychosocial support to more than 328,000 people this past year. While this is a significant achievement, there are still so many more people who need a listening ear and professional support for their mental health.
5. For many, access to medical services is limited
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 700 attacks targeting health facilities in Ukraine since February 2022. Many hospitals and medical facilities have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving people—especially those living near the front lines—with little or no access to medical services when they need it most.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement continues to provide basic medicines and medical equipment to health facilities across Ukraine. Together, we’ve launched nearly 100 mobile medical units, providing vital medical care to people living in hard-to-reach areas throughout the country.
The IFRC is funding a health centre in the city of Uzhhorod, run by the Ukrainian Red Cross, which provides essential healthcare services to vulnerable people and IDPs. And funding from our Emergency Appeal is also helping the Ukrainian Red Cross to provide home-based care and rehabilitation services to older people, those with disabilities, and wounded veterans.
6. The country's energy infrastructure has been severely damaged
While the cold season has now ended, and the energy provision within Ukraine somewhat restored, social and health institutions across Ukraine continue to face the threat of recurrent power shortages. These facilities, particularly those in frontline areas, often suffer from electricity cuts, depriving the local population of basic services.
The IFRC has already delivered 130 high-power generators to Ukraine over the course of the last winter. However, the country still needs further support to ensure the basic delivery of public services for millions of people affected by the conflict.
7. The country's economy has been severely affected
In 2022, Ukraine experienced a staggering 35% decrease in GDP and a shocking 30% annual inflation rate. This means that families across the country are struggling with skyrocketing food and rent costs. For many households, savings have been all but depleted, leaving people in a state of financial hardship and uncertainty.
National Societies in Ukraine and the surrounding region, supported by the IFRC, have been running several cash assistance programmes to help the most vulnerable get by.
The crisis is ongoing: what comes next?
Though this crisis has slipped from the headlines, the world cannot forget what’s happening in Ukraine.
This past year, our Movement has worked tirelessly to support people affected in Ukraine and beyond. But despite our efforts, the scale of this crisis demands more, and continued, support and attention.
Thanks to its auxiliary role and permanent presence in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Red Cross is best positioned to support affected people now and long into the future.
The IFRC network will continue to support the Ukrainian Red Cross and the people affected, as long they need us.
Click here to access the IFRC’s recently revised emergency appeal for Ukraine and impacted countries.
And if you would like to support our life-saving work, please donate to our appeal here.
Sudan: Complex emergency
Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out in the capital, Khartoum, on 15 April and spread rapidly across the country. More than 1,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands of people are internally displaced or have fled across borders to neighbouring countries to escape the violence.Through this Appeal, the IFRC is supporting the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to people in at-risk locations and on the move.
| Press release
IFRC increases support in Sudan to assist people in at-risk locations and on the move
Khartoum/Nairobi/Geneva, 4 May 2023 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an Emergency Appeal to support the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) to deliver assistance to 200,000 people affected by the recent conflict.
Since fighting broke out in several parts of the country on 15 April 2023, access to basic services such as healthcare and water provision have been deteriorating. Many families cannot access food, medicine, or water due to fear of being caught in the crossfire and the escalation of prices. Around 15 million people were already in need of humanitarian assistance prior to the conflict.
Farid Abdulkadir, IFRC head of Country Cluster for Sudan said: “Despite these difficult circumstances, Sudanese Red Crescent volunteers have remained on the ground, providing psychosocial support and first aid services since the fighting started. Those close to hospitals are working alongside the healthcare staff and providing medical support.”
Damage caused by the fighting is immense and the people will need to rebuild their lives in the months to come. Many have been moving to neighbouring countries in search of safety or to seek medical assistance. This has led to separation of families, causing further psychological strain on communities being forced to make decisions between remaining and leaving.
“This means that many are remaining inside Sudan because they are not able to make this choice and more cannot leave because they do not have the means to do so. All of them need support and we want to work alongside the SRCS to ensure as many people as possible get the assistance they need,” said Mr Abdulkadir.
Through the Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF), the IFRC previously activated funds to support mobilization of volunteers to help with emergency activities across all SRCS branches in Sudan. By launching this Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is seeking 30 million Swiss Francs to assist the SRCS in providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to people in at-risk locations and on the move.
The SRCS has 18 branches and 40,000 volunteers spread across the country, including at border points with Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Red Cross Red crescent teams in these countries have also been mobilized to provide humanitarian support to the influx of people crossing the borders and seeking safety.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Rita Nyaga, +254 722 527553, [email protected]
Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 6924
Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367
| Press release
Bangladesh fires: Thousands of homes, schools, hospitals, and water networks burnt in Cox's Bazar
Cox’s Bazar/ Kuala Lumpur, 06 March 2023: A massive fire that broke out in the afternoon of 5th March has razed at least 2,000 houses, leaving nearly 12,000 people homeless in the Camp 11 of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp.
Located in the Ukhiya sub-district where at least three water networks serving 16,000 people, five learning centers, and three health facilities were burnt to ashes, among other infrastructure, the fire rapidly spread to 15 sub-blocks of the camp. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) responded immediately, supporting fire-fighting operations and evacuations. At least 200 volunteers from the camps trained by BDRCS, along with the Fire Service and Civil Defense team of Cox’s Bazar, finally doused the flames by late evening. BDRCS is delivering 1,000 tents for immediate relief and distributing food parcels, blankets and mosquito nets in coordination with the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of the Government of Bangladesh to the affected people.
Belal Hossain, Head of Operations for the Population Movement Operation of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) in Cox’s Bazar said:
“Given the dry season and frequent winds, the fire spread rapidly. Thanks to our trained volunteers and preparedness plans –we responded immediately supporting evacuations, providing food, water, and emergency shelter. Such frequent fires bring needless suffering to the camp residents who are already displaced for more than five years now.”
Around one million people displaced from Rakhine State, Myanmar, live in the crowded camp settlement, supported by the Government of Bangladesh and humanitarian agencies, including BDRCS and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Hrusikesh Harichandan, Head of Sub-Delegation of the IFRC said:
‘‘This fire is a devastating blow to thousands of families who saw their hard work of the past five years turn to ashes. Several families have lost everything they own. We need greater coordination to establish better, more humane living conditions for them.We are giving emergency aid to support their resilience in the face of such disasters.”
The BDRCS, along with the IFRC, has trained nearly 3,300 volunteers across the 33 camps to act as first responders during emergencies. They have undergone firefighting drills and other disaster preparedness training while awareness-raising activities to prepare for disasters are regularly held for camp residents. IFRC and BDRCS are collaborating with other humanitarian agencies to determine the needs. In addition, community health volunteers have been activated, and contingency stocks have been mobilized to support those affected.
As part of the ongoing Population Movement Operations, the BDRCS, with the assistance of IFRC, other Red Cross and Red Crescent partners, and UNHCR, has supported nearly one million people in the camps and host communities with healthcare, access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene, safer shelter and livelihoods.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Barkat Ullah Maruf, +880 1711 222922,
Sabrina Idris, +880 1710-840327,
Mahmudul Hasan, +880 1716-103333,
Afrhill Rances, +60 19 271 3641
Healing the invisible scars of the Ukraine conflict: IFRC and European Union launch mental health project
According to the WHO, one in five people are affected by mental health disorders in post-conflict settings. If left without treatment and adequate support, people from Ukraine face long-lasting effects that could harm themselves, their families and communities.
“Wounds of war are deep, sometimes too deep to manage alone,” says Nataliia Korniienko, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
As a Ukrainian herself who had to leave the country when the escalation began, she understands firsthand the stress faced by those fleeing conflict. “People are craving for someone to take the time to sit alongside them in their pain, but this often lacking for many fleeing Ukraine right now.”
In a regional initiative to meet this massive need, National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 EU/EAA countries have joined forces to offer mental health and psychosocial support services to hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine. Funded by the European Union, and with technical assistance from the IFRC and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, the project connects vulnerable people with mental health professionals and volunteers from the National Societies.
Support is offered in Ukrainian and other languages through various platforms, including helplines, mobile outreach and in-person group activities. Materials on psychosocial support in several languages are also going to be distributed among mental health professionals and the public.
Since the first days of the conflict, Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been assisting people at border crossing points, train stations and temporary shelters – listening and demonstrating empathy, sharing life-saving information, and taking care of vulnerable people.
Aneta Trgachevska, acting Head of Health and Care at IFRC Europe, said: “We try to reach everyone in need in a convenient, personalized way. Assistance will not be limited to just a couple of calls or meetings—a person will receive support as long as we are needed. This kind of early response can alleviate symptoms and prevent people from developing serious levels of distress or even mental health conditions.”
The content of this article is the sole responsibility of IFRC and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
| Press release
Nearly 1 million still await life at the world largest displacement camp
Kuala Lumpur/ Dhaka, 22 Aug 2022: This 25 August marks five long years of the massive displacement of people from Rakhine state of Myanmar, who crossed the border into Bangladesh. The protracted crisis now stands at colossal number of displaced people in the camp – 936,733 people – who are completely reliant on humanitarian assistance to meet their everyday needs in the world’s largest camp in Cox’s Bazar.
At the beginning of this humanitarian crisis, the Government of Bangladesh called on Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to respond to the emergency in line with Red Crescent’s mandate to provide humanitarian services as auxiliary to the public authorities. In response, an international operation was launched in Cox's Bazar with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and its RCRC partners, called Population Movement Operation.
The Secretary General of Bangladesh Red Crescent, Kazi Shofiqul Azam said:
“The crisis had already tipped into a complex protracted displacement crisis a while ago. Top priorities must go to long-term solutions, balancing the initiatives in the camps and to the neighbouring host community.
“We are calling for long-term commitment and resources that are very much needed to address this crisis.
Children make up almost a 51 per cent of the camp population, while women and girls represent almost 52 per cent of the population. One in three displaced families has at least one easily identifiable protection vulnerability, such as human trafficking, underage marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse.
Many sustainable initiatives that were implemented at the camp have been lifesaving for the people there such as mid-term shelters or durable housing, solar-powered water supply networks, and disaster mitigation activities.
However, the people there remains completely dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet daily and longer-term needs.
Asia Pacific Regional Director of IFRC Mr. Alexander Matheou said:
“What you see on the surface in the camps has improved over five years thanks to the work of the government of Bangladesh and multiple national and international partners.
“But below the surface, in people's lives, where the future is uncertain and there is no work or movement, there are less obvious but important risks - of depression, trafficking, violence, including gender-based violence. With no durable solutions in sight, the humanitarian response needs to focus on recreation and protection as much as lifesaving needs.
The situation is further compounded by the fact that Cox’s Bazar sits right on the path of cyclones, and hence is constantly subject to seasonal flash floods, devastating cyclones and heavy rainfall that cause landslides, severe water logging, shelter damages; frequent fire incidents; potential outbreaks of cholera, dengue and diphtheria. Also due to the sheer number of people there, epidemics such as cholera and COVID are a huge day-to-day threat.
The IFRC Head of Delegation in Bangladesh, Sanjeev Kafley said:
“This is one of IFRC’s largest, most complex humanitarian support in Bangladesh. For the last five years, the IFRC and many partner National Societies have been supporting Bangladesh Red Crescent in ensuring the protection and extended humanitarian support for the camp.
“Considering COVID-19 experience, the IFRC is focusing on institutional preparedness. The IFRC’s strategy of supporting the displaced and host communities in Cox’s Bazar includes integrated community resilience, social inclusion and readiness for effective response till 2024; for now.
Bangladesh Red Crescent, with the support of IFRC and Participating National Societies (PNS), will maintain and look to scale up its efforts to meet the urgent humanitarian needs and keep the hundreds of thousands of families safe through a range of life saving humanitarian assistance including shelter, health, PSS, wash, livelihood, DRM as well as emergencies and disaster response. The protection, gender and inclusion and community engagement and accountability are mainstreamed in our operation ensuring people at the center of our action.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Barkat Ullah Maruf, +880 1711 222922,
Sabrina Idris, +880 1710-840327,
Mahmudul Hasan, +880 1716-103333,
Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830,
Mexico & Central American migration crisis
Since the beginning of 2022, there has been a massive increase in the number of refugees, migrants, and returnees in transit by land northwards through Central America. People are mostly moving through irregular channels, and along the way face bureaucratic barriers, suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence or disappear and are separated from their families. Tragically, others are killed or die from diseases or the harsh environmental conditions. This Emergency Appeal supports the Red Cross Societies of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to scale up humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people along migratory routes.
Ukraine conflict: How the Red Cross provides much-needed support to people leaving the country
They arrive at the border between Ukraine and Slovakia exhausted after two or three days of travelling. Some come by car. Many others are on foot, carrying bags, dragging suitcases.
Since late February, nearly 6 million people have fled Ukraine to seek safety in other countries.
There are women and there are children. Many, many children. The few men in the line up tend to be older. The younger ones have largely stayed behind to support their country in the conflict.
The youngsters help the weary and worried adults carry their few precious belongings. They wear backpacks with teddy bears attached. One little girl carries her own bag of diapers. While some little ones cling to their mothers with all the strength their tiny hands can muster, older ones run about, excited about the adventure they have been told they are on. Their mothers scramble to corral them.
People come to this border at Uzhhorod crossing all hours of the day and night. Volunteers with the Ukrainian Red Cross greet them. They provide information, food, hot drinks, clothing, and blankets. Decked out in their vibrant red emergency uniforms, they help carry people’s belongings up to the border crossing. Some need wheelchairs and the volunteers jump up to help. Once they cross the border, they will be welcomed by volunteers from the Slovak Red Cross.
Olexander Bodnar is the 23-year-old man who heads up the volunteer team for the Ukrainian Red Cross in Uzhhorod, at the country’s western border. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the team takes shifts at this crossing.
“My team are the most wonderful people on the earth,” he says. “We have so many kind people who have joined us. We have 130 volunteers who have signed up since the conflict began. Many are nurses and doctors.”
Medical skills are highly valued. In a newly constructed building, the Red Cross has set up a small clinic, stocked with things like baby food and diapers. Cots line one side of the clinic as a place for weary travellers to rest, if only for a little while. It is here that the volunteers perform basic first aid. Many of the older people complain of rising blood pressure. Trained volunteers check it and tell me that most of the time, it’s fine. They are under extreme stress, and some experience panic attacks – a normal reaction during an abnormal event.
Olexander shares a story about an older woman who was leaving her beloved country with her husband, who had just had surgery:
“She fell to her knees and asked God to protect her country. She said ‘My dear Ukraine, please forgive me. I don’t want to leave you, but I must.’”
Tears filled Olexander’s eyes as he helped the couple approach the border crossing.
The IFRC is supporting the Ukrainian Red Cross, and many other Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the surrounding region, to help people affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Learn more about our work here.
En route to Europe I didn’t fear death—only dying without trying
This piece was originally published in Politico, here.
I sought safety. That was my destination. I wasn’t thinking of European cities or towns. I just wanted to be safe.
That’s why I left my country. It’s why I didn’t stop in those nearby either—I had to keep moving. First through Sudan and Libya, then on a wooden boat across the Mediterranean Sea, where I was eventually picked up by a rescue ship.
More than 10 years have passed since then, and I live in Italy now. But through my work, I find myself reliving that experience over and over.
The most important part of my job is telling the people we rescue: “You are safe.” It’s as if I’m also telling their mothers, telling their brothers and sisters and all their villages too. I celebrate this moment with them; I celebrate their lives with them. Because too many others never get to hear those words.
In the last few months, we’ve seen tremendous solidarity with those fleeing the war in Ukraine; it is incredibly inspiring. Yet witnessing the overarching willingness to help victims of this crisis, while so many who flee suffering and persecution elsewhere end up at the bottom of the sea, raises the question: do human lives really carry such difference in value?
It was never my first choice to undertake such a dangerous journey to seek safety so far from home. But the lack of available legal channels to access international protection made it my only option — it was a necessity. And while states argue about migration policies and practices, for us volunteers, it is simply about saving lives and alleviating suffering.
When I left Eritrea 20 years ago, fleeing compulsory military service and forced labor programs, I didn't know where Europe was, what it was like or how to get there. It also didn’t occur to me that I was saying goodbye to my family, and my country, for the last time. Like my brothers and sisters in Ukraine today, my only concern was avoiding bullets. And I am one of the relatively few from my part of the world fortunate enough to reach a place of safety in the end.
When I was travelling through the desert in Libya, I remember seeing a group of people—women, men and children—lying crumpled on top of each other, naked. I asked the driver why they were naked, and he told me that their car had broken down and they had burned everything to try and attract attention, including their own clothes.
What is the use of clothing anyway, when one is facing death? They were just some unknown people, who came into the world naked and left naked. People so off the radar they had to burn everything in the hopes of being seen.
Still, even that was not enough.
You meet merchants of death in Libya too—those who organize the trips to leave by boat, who are your only hope of escaping that hell. When you experience how horrible life there is—the prisons, torture, gangs and slave markets—you are not afraid of death, only of dying without trying.
When I finally reached the coast and went toward the waiting boat, I could barely walk from both the fear and hope. I saw mothers throwing their children onto the boat and following after them. I did not wonder why a mother would throw her child inside this small boat. I was sure that whatever she had seen must be more terrible than the sea and its darkness.
We set out at night. Eventually, the time comes when you can’t see anyone, not even yourself, but the prayers, crying and moaning remain. At that moment, the sounds of children are the only source of certainty that you are still alive.
We were at sea like this for three days until the rescue ship found us.
One might ask why someone decides to go through all this. But just look at what is happening in the countries people are coming from: the suffering caused by conflict, hunger, poverty, climate change and many other factors that are often present in their surrounding countries too.
And those who leave don’t just do it for themselves—they’re an investment for their families and communities. One of my friends sends the money he earns back home to build a school in his village. Another one has funded access to safe water. The money that migrants around the world send home is three times more than what comes from aid.
The Ukraine crisis and the response to it have now shown us what is possible when we put humanity first, when there is global solidarity and the will to assist and protect the most vulnerable. This must be extended to everyone in need, wherever they come from.
Nobody should have to experience what I have been through—in my own country, on my migration journey or when I arrived in Europe.
Everyone deserves to hear the words, “You’re safe.”
| Press release
IFRC to support more than 2 million people affected by the conflict in Ukraine with its largest ever rollout of emergency cash assistance
Geneva, 14 April 2022 – As the needs of people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine continue to grow, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling up its response activities to meet immediate and urgent needs, both inside Ukraine and within the countries people have fled to seeking safety.
Secretary General of the IFRC, Jagan Chapagain, says:
“This will be IFRC’s most extensive emergency cash programme. Our number one priority is getting support to people who are most vulnerable. From our previous experience with cash assistance, we know it is a dignified approach to providing aid as quickly and efficiently as possible. While financial assistance is a major component of our response, we’re also scaling up across many other sectors including health. We have already reached 160,000 people with healthcare and first aid support, but the longer the conflict continues, the more extensive the health needs will become.”
In its largest emergency financial assistance programme to date, IFRC aims to reach more than 2 million people with support, targeting 360,000 people in Ukraine and neighbouring countries within the first three months. Longer-term financial assistance will address the needs of affected people as the crisis evolves.
IFRC Regional Director for Europe Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, says:
“With every day that passes, we know vulnerabilities increase. Access to medical supplies, food, water, utilities, and other vital goods and services deteriorates. We know there are so many uncertainties for people right now, but one thing that’s clear is the needs are immense, and they will be for a long time.”
IFRC is supporting more than 1 million people with over 1,800 metric tonnes of hygiene and kitchen items, blankets, food, mats and tarpaulins in Ukraine and surrounding countries.
The IFRC Secretariat with its member National Societies have launched a Federation-wide response plan for 1.2 billion Swiss francs, which aims to assist 3.6 million people over two years, with multi-purpose cash assistance, health & care and water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as shelter and housing support. Globally, more than 55 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have supported the response to date. The IFRC Secretariat is supporting this response plan by appealing for 550 million Swiss francs to scale up support to National Societies in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
In Ukraine: Caroline Haga, +358 50 5980500, [email protected]
In Poland: Jenelle Eli, +1 202 603-6803, [email protected]
In Romania: Angela Hill, +40 758 450 185, [email protected]
In Budapest: Nicole Robicheau, +36 30 167 2629, [email protected]
In Budapest: Kathy Mueller, +1 226 376-4013 [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 6924, [email protected]
Learn more about the IFRC's work in cash and voucher assistance here.