Nataliia Korniienko: Helping her fellow refugees cope with the stresses of conflict, migration and starting over
Nataliia Korniienko knows firsthand the psychological and emotional stresses of conflict, migration and living as a refugee. In 2022, she was a mental health and psychosocial field officer for the ICRC when conflict finally forced her and her daughter to leave for Poland. Now her experience as a psychologist, former Ukrainian Red Cross technical adviser and refugee is helping her provide services to other Ukrainian refugees throughout Europe as a mental health and psychsocial specialist for the IFRC.
| Press release
One month after Libya floods: Urgent mental health support needed
Geneva/Beirut/Benghazi, 11 October 2023 — One month after devastating floods struck Libya, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Libyan Red Crescent Society (LRCS) are urgently calling for support to meet immediate needs in clean water, sanitation, cash assistance, and crucially, psychosocial support. The floods have wreaked havoc, displaced thousands and straining already fragile infrastructures in regions such as Derna and Tobruk.
The disaster led to overwhelming destruction, with people losing homes, family members, and their sense of security. Libyan Red Crescent Society teams were the first responders, providing vital services from search and rescue to first aid. To date, 450 dedicated volunteers have been actively involved in these efforts, some even losing their lives while saving others.
Tamer Ramadan, IFRC Head of Delegation in Libya, said:
"The emotional and physical toll of this disaster has been immense. While we have been diligent in our immediate response, the recovery process is far from over. Attention must not wane."
In Libya, the focus of aid is not just immediate relief but also long-term recovery. Cultural norms favor financial autonomy; hence cash assistance is essential. Furthermore, with damaged sewerage systems contaminating water sources in Derna, there's a heightened risk to community health. Teams are also focusing on providing holistic psychosocial support, especially given the emotional toll of losing entire families.
The LRCS has been indispensable in relief efforts. With a central emergency operation room in Benghazi and two temporary centers in Derna, their services range from family reunification to relief item distribution. They've supported over 54,000 people through various services to date.
In light of the escalating needs, IFRC has officially launched an appeal for 10 million Swiss francs to support the ongoing efforts of LRCS in providing comprehensive aid and care for survivors. As of now, 3 million Swiss francs have been raised, leaving a crucial 70 percent of funding appeal yet to be met. Donations can be made through participating national societies and directly via the IFRC website.
To fund the emergency appeal and support the people of Libya in their time of dire need, visit the IFRC website.
For b-roll footage, visit the IFRC newsroom.
To request an interview, contact: [email protected]
Tommaso Della Longa: +41 79 708 43 67
Mrinalini Santhanam: +41 76 381 50 06
Mey Alsayegh: +961 3 229 352
Breaking the silence: addressing mental health and fighting stigma in the aftermath of Ukraine's conflict
Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, millions of people have been displaced from their homes, facing distressing situations that have left them with trauma and loss. The impact of this crisis on mental health cannot be underestimated, with one in five individuals affected by mental health disorders in post-conflict settings, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The conflict in Ukraine has been devastating, forcing 6,199,700 people to flee their homes as refugees around the world, with an additional 5,088,000 internally displaced within Ukraine itself.
These individuals have endured heartbreaking losses, including the deaths of loved ones, the destruction of their homes, and the loss of their livelihoods. Witnessing traumatic events has further compounded the mental anguish faced by many.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been on the ground, assisting people at border crossing points, train stations, and temporary shelters. They have been providing a listening ear, demonstrating empathy, sharing life-saving information, and taking care of vulnerable individuals. In neighboring countries, IFRC member National Societies are witnessing an increasing number of pleas for mental health assistance through their community feedback systems.
To address this massive need for mental health and psychosocial support, IFRC, the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, and National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 European countries have united their efforts. Since 2022 June, the EU4Health program provides in-person Psychological First Aid (PFA) within Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services, via helplines and other service platforms, and by building and strengthening the capacities of Red Cross Red Crescent National Society staff and volunteers, frontline responders and other professionals.
“Through this project, we are continuously creating the awareness to all that it is okay to take a break and prioritize your emotional, psychological, and social well-being especially in stressful situations,” says Basilio Muiruri acting Project Coordinator of Health and Care at IFRC Europe.
“As a team together with the national societies’ staff and volunteers, we are emphasizing to the people fleeing Ukraine and those affected inside Ukraine, that indeed they are worthy of happiness and peace of mind, through provision of psychological first aid and basic coping skills.”
As part of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), the EU4Health programme takes a comprehensive approach to mental health and psychosocial support. Funded by the European Union, EU4Health is committed to restoring hope and healing to the people of Ukraine during their time of greatest need.
In this collaborative project, National Red Cross Societies in Ukraine and 24 European countries have achieved significant milestones in their mission in the last year to provide psychosocial support to individuals displaced from Ukraine. Some key accomplishments include:
Establishment of 27 helplines providing Psychological First Aid and Psychosocial Support services to 68,706 people displaced from Ukraine.
Training of 4,114 staff and volunteers in Psychological First Aid and Psychosocial Support, including 440 who are Ukrainian or Russian speakers.
Engagement of 1,853 staff, volunteers, and first responders in the response to the Ukraine crisis.
Facilitation of 490 meetings between National Societies, key stakeholders, and partners to ensure a coordinated response.
Mental health is a neglected area of public health in the WHO European Region, with over 150 million people suffering from mental health conditions by 2021. Only 1 in 3 individuals with depression receive proper care, according to The Pan-European Mental Health Coalition (who.int). The conflict in Ukraine has led to an estimated 15 million people needing psychosocial support, with millions potentially requiring medical treatment.
Stigma, discrimination, and human rights abuses still hinder access to mental health services. World Mental Health Day on October 10th serves as an opportunity to raise awareness and address gaps in mental health services, with a focus on it being a universal human right in 2023.
The content of this article is the sole responsibility of IFRC and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
5 top tips on maintaining mental health from Red Cross first-responder volunteers
We all know that mental well-being is as important as physical health. But how often do we actively take care of our mental health? What can we do to support ourselves and others?
Why not ask some experts? People whose job is to take care of others during and after crises and emergencies.
We decided to ask volunteers from a Honduran Red Cross team that provides medical and mental health services to migrants at a mobile Humanitarian Service Point in Danlí, 92 km southeast of Tegucigalpa.
To do their job, they must take care of themselves. After all, how can you support others if you’re not processing your own emotions in a productive, healthy way?
Here are 5 tips they offered that can help everyone - even if you are not a volunteer - to take care of your mental health, anywhere, at any time:
1. A little help from close ones: Individual and team care.
In emotionally intense situations, it is important to rely on work teams, friends and family. You don't have to face it alone. Sharing experiences and reflecting together helps us deal with the emotional impact of daily work.
"In the team, we are always trying to fill ourselves with good energy and good attitude towards difficult situations. We always try to take care of ourselves physically, and above all to take care of our mental health.
Because we see many cases, aggressive people, without self-control. In childhood care, we can handle a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, and we try to understand but also to take care of ourselves."
Honduran Red Cross
It is necessary to allow yourself to feel and validate all emotions in order to heal, even if they make you feel uncomfortable.
Engaging in self-care practices that involve physical activity and moments of relaxation, as well as resting and spending time in nature, or with people you love, can also help you through painful situations.
2. Someone to lean on: Seek professional support.
Access to information and psychosocial support resources can save lives. Despite the fact that close to one billion people in the world suffer from a mental disorder, stigma and social difficulties make it difficult to promptly seek help and mental health care.
"We rely on our own team, we reflect and share the experiences we have lived through, and that helps us to provide emotional support. But beyond that, there is also a team of mental health professionals that we can rely on."
Honduran Red Cross
Talking about your emotions is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. You may be struggling with what you feel is part of the human condition and there is no shame in doing so. You are just a person going through a difficult time and doing the best you can.
There will always be someone who understands what is happening to you.You can always ask for help.
3. I hear you: Practice active listening
Just as sharing your feelings is beneficial to your mental health. Listening to others in an attentive and respectful way, validating their experiences and emotions, can strengthen your relationships and bonds. It can also provide valuable emotional support, and even more so during crisis and emergencies.
"For me, this time I have being a volunteer has been very eye-opening. Gettingclose todifferent realities and learning what people live through along the migratory route, helped me grow as a mental health professional."
Honduran Red Cross
By practicing active listening, you develop empathy and open yourself to know realities different from your own.
When you see that someone is suffering and having a hard time, let's listen, validate, support and, if possible, accompany them to seek professional help.
4. Keep learning: Look for useful resources.
Training is a powerful tool for understanding and addressing mental health challenges and identifying symptoms and situations that can lead to stress and anxiety.
"In the Red Cross, I was trained from the basics. I learned what the Red Cross was, safety measures for field work, the meaning of our uniforms. I also received training in Psychological First Aid, Restoring Family Links and Protection, Gender and Inclusion.
"We know that in the field we need this knowledge to provide adequate care and to protect ourselves, which is part of the Red Cross training."
Honduran Red Cross
Don't miss the opportunity to strengthen your mental health knowledge and learn how to help yourself and people around you.
Visit our mental health page to find more resources.
5. Support others - support yourself: Volunteer service
By supporting others in times of crisis and emergencies, you not only provide support to those in need, you can also find meaning and satisfaction in your life.
"You see on the news what the people who pass through the Darien go through, they come with their complications, there are people who have even died on the way....
And to see the joy of the adults, when we take care of their children, when they have their medicines and the possibility of healing their wounds, is the most valuable thing. People always leave grateful, giving you blessings".
Honduran Red Cross
The advice and practices shared by Scarlet, Angel, Yaritza and Leonardo show that taking care of our mental health is essential to facing life's challenges and providing effective supportto those in need.
Access to mental health services must go hand-in-hand with actions that guarantee basic needs for all people, whoever they are and wherever they are.
There is no health without mental health.
Red Cross helplines offering mental health resources in Ukrainian
The conflict in Ukraine has exposed people to extremely distressing situations. People have lost loved ones, homes and jobs. Many have witnessed traumatic events or are now finding their way in countries, far from friends and family, among people who do not share their language.
At times like this, it’s important to have someone to talk to. This is why Red Cross National Societies around Europe are there to offer a listening ear. From Bulgaria to Spain, Red Cross National Societies are offering telephone helplines, staffed by trained staff and volunteers who speak Ukrainian, to offer emotional and psychological support. During times of stress, it’s important to recognize and talk about your emotional well-being. Here below you will find a list of helplines and addresses that offer mental health and psychosocial support in Ukrainian.
Гарячі лінії Червоного Хреста пропонують психологічну підтримку українською мовою.
Завжди важливо мати можливість поділитися своїми почуттями з кимось, коли ви переживаєте складні моменти. Від Болгарії до Ісландії, Національні Товариства Червоного Хреста в Європі готові вислухати вас. Ви можете зателефонувати на гарячу лінію допомоги, де працюють досвідчені оператори, які володіють українською мовою, щоб надати вам підтримку у важкі моменти.
Під час стресу дуже важливо розпізнавати свої почуття і відкрито говорити про них. Якщо ви відчуваєте потребу в розмові з кимось, будь ласка, не соромтеся звертатися до гарячих ліній психологічної та психосоціальної підтримки в країні вашого поточного проживання.
Нижче ви знайдете список гарячих ліній та адреси, де можна отримати психологічну допомогу українською мовою.
Bulgarian Red Cross
Helpline (National Contact Centre):
Болгарський Червоний Хрест
Телефон гарячої лінії допомоги (Національний контактний центр):
Hellenic Red Cross
Mobile Health Unit Department of Thessaloniki:
Tel.: +30 2310 531534
Viber, Telegram, WhatsApp: +30 6936879405
Multifunctional Athens Centre:
Tel.: +30 210 5126300
+30 210 5140440
Viber, WhatsApp: +30 6934724893
When: Monday to Friday
Multifunctional Thessaloniki Centre:
Tel.: +30 2310 270914
+30 2310 270496
Viber, WhatsApp: +30 6955563471
When: Monday to Friday
Грецький Червоний Хрест
Відділ мобільного медичного пункту у м. Салоніки:
Тел: +30 2310 531534
Viber, Telegram, WhatsApp: +30 6936879405
Багатофункціональний центр у м. Салоніки:
Тел: +30 2310 270914
+30 2310 270496
Viber, WhatsApp: +30 6955563471
Коли: з понеділка по п'ятницю
Багатофункціональний центр в м. Афіни:
Тел: +30 210 5126300
+30 210 5140440
Viber, WhatsApp: +30 6934724893
Коли: з понеділка по п'ятницю
Polish Red Cross
Infoline: Tel.: +48 800 088 136 (from within Poland) or +48 221 520 620 (from abroad).
When: Monday to Friday from 09:00 AM to 17:00 PM.
Польський Червоний Хрест
Інформаційна лінія: Тел: +48 800 088 136 (з Польщі) або +48 221 520 620 (з-за кордону).
Коли: з понеділка по п'ятницю з 09:00 до 17:00.
Romanian Red Cross
Red Cross call center in Romania:
Tel.: +40 37 441 5000.
When: Monday to Friday from 09:00 AM to 17:00 PM.
Румунський Червоний Хрест
Телефон гарячої лінії допомоги Червоного Хреста в Румунії:
Тел: +40 37 441 5000.
Коли: з понеділка по п'ятницю з 09:00 до 17:00.
Russian Red Cross
Psychosocial support helpline:
Tel.: 8 (800) 250-18-59.
Psychological support is available at the regional branches of the Russian Red Cross, as well as at the Russian Red Cross mobile support point in the Belgorod region.
Російський Червоний Хрест
Гаряча лінія психосоціальної підтримки:
Тел.: 8 (800) 250-18-59.
Психологічну підтримку можна отримати в регіональних відділеннях Російського Червоного Хреста, а також в мобільному пункті підтримки Російського Червоного Хреста в Бєлгородській області.
Slovakian Red Cross
Tel.: +421 910 910 116
When: Monday to Friday from 09:00 AM to 17:00 PM
Language: Slovak, Ukrainian, Russian, English
The helpline could be overloaded; we kindly ask you for patience. You can also write us: [email protected]
Словацький Червоний Хрест
Тел: +421 910 910 116
Коли: з понеділка по п’ятницю з 9:00 до 17:00.
Мова: словацька, українська, російська, англійська
Лінія може інколи бути перевантажена. В такому випадку, будьте терплячі або напишіть ваше питання або відгук на електронну пошту [email protected]
Spanish Red Cross
"Cruz Roja Te Escucha" service:
Tel.: 900 107 917
When: Monday to Thursday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM (one hour less in the Canary Islands) and on Fridays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM (one hour less in the Canary Islands).
Іспанський Червоний Хрест
Послуга " Червоний Хрест слухає вас ":
Тел.: 900 107 917
Коли: з понеділка по четвер з 10:00 до 14:00 та з 16:00 до 20:00 (на Канарських островах на одну годину менше), у п'ятницю з 10:00 до 14:00 (на Канарських островах на одну годину менше).
Swiss Red Cross
"Helpful" website with important information (e.g. healthcare) including an integrated Telegram Channel: helpful.redcross.ch
If you don’t find the information you need you can write to the Telegram channel: Telegram: Join Group Chat
Швейцарський Червоний Хрест
"Корисний" веб-сайт з важливою інформацією (наприклад, про охорону здоров'я), включаючи інтегрований Telegram-канал: helpful.redcross.ch
Якщо ви не знайшли потрібної інформації, ви можете написати в Telegram-канал: Telegram: Join Group Chat
Ukraniain Red Cross
Tel.: 0 800 332 656.
To connect to a psychologist, select number 2 in the menu.
When: from Monday to Friday, from 09:00 AM to 18:00 PM.
Calls from the numbers of Ukrainian mobile operators are free and confidential.
You can also leave a request for a consultation by e-mail: [email protected].
Червоний Хрест України
Інформаційний центр: 0 800 332 656.
Для з’єднання з психологом потрібно обрати цифру 2 у меню.
Коли: з понеділка по п’ятницю з 09:00 до 18:00.
Дзвінки з номерів українських мобільних операторів безкоштовні та конфіденційні.
Також можна залишити заявку для отримання консультації на електронній пошті: [email protected].
We've also gathered a collection of helpful resources, including articles and tips, to help improve your mental well-being.
Video of self-care advice
The well-being guide
14 Day Well-Being Kit
How to manage your exposure to news events and social media
How do you to talk to children about war?
Saying goodbye to loved ones when it's difficult
Ми також зібрали корисні ресурси, включаючи статті та поради, які допоможуть покращити ваш психологічний стан.
Відео з порадами щодо турботи про себе
Посібник для доброго самопочуття
14-денний щоденник для доброго самопочуття
Як контролювати вплив новинн і соціальних мереж на себе
Як говорити з дітьми про війну?
Прощання з близькими людьми, коли це важко
IFRC Psychosocial Center
Gabon ferry disaster: Gabonese Red Cross supports ongoing mental health recovery
"The sinking of the Esther Miracle, which I now call the Esther Ghost, profoundly changed the course of my life. I lost half of myself, my beloved wife," says Gabriel, a survivor who was travelling from Port Gentil to Libreville when the boat sank.
"We used to make this trip to Port Gentil regularly. It was around 8pm when we boarded. As a former seaman, I could already sense that something wasn't quite right. And indeed, it wasn’t.”
"Between one and two in the morning, we heard suspicious noises. A policeman on board approached us and the other passengers to inform us that there were a few minor problems on the boat but that everything was under control. Shortly afterwards, everything went wrong. The boat tilted dangerously to one side. On the orders of the policeman, we tried to balance the boat, but to no avail, and the boat began to sink.”
Hearing of the emergency, the Gabonese Red Cross rushed teams to Port Môle in Libreville where survivors, rescued by another boat, began to disembark in the early hours the following day.
Ambulances began transporting people in critical condition to hospital. Red Cross volunteers provided urgent care and first aid to survivors at the scene, and a psychosocial support unit was quickly set up to provide urgent mental health services.
"When we arrived at Port Môle, the Gabonese Red Cross teams were already there to receive the shipwrecked survivors, who were all in a bad way. It was only thanks to them that we all received first aid and support. Psychologists were made available to us", explained Gabriel.
For Priscillia, it was her uncle who was travelling on the Esther Miracle and who unfortunately lost his life.
"I thought of him as more than just an uncle, because he played many different roles in my life and in the lives of many members of our family. He was a pastor and had a huge impact on my life, supporting me so much from a very young age.”
“What we know is that when the boat was sinking, not knowing that there were not enough life jackets on board, my uncle gave his to another person who survived. I’m told he spent the last moments of his life saying prayers to strengthen the people around him," explained Priscillia.
“The Gabonese Red Cross was very supportive. Emotionally it was difficult at the time. From the first day at the port, when the survivors disembarked on the quayside and my uncle wasn't one of them, the Gabonese Red Cross volunteers were there to help us and take care of us. We were at the port in the morning and came back very late at night every day, and their teams were always there,” she added.
As well as providing psychological assistance, the Gabonese Red Cross prepared more than 7,000 meals within 10 days for survivors and families who had come to wait for news of their loved ones at the port.
They also set up a special Restoring Family Links (RFL) unit to reconnect people with their lost loved ones. And in the weeks following the disaster, they provided continued medical advice to survivors and helped people to track down lost belongings that were able to be recovered.
"It was our duty to provide assistance at such a difficult time. Providing first aid services enabled us to save lives. Similarly, the psychological unit that we opened enabled survivors and family members waiting for news of their loved ones to have an attentive ear ready to provide them with the necessary support. This support continues to this day", said Véronique TSAKOURA, President of the Gabonese Red Cross.
In the months since the disaster, Gabonese Red Cross psychologists have referred survivors and relatives of the victims to specialist mental health services in Port Gentil for continued assistance. And their door remains open to anyone seeking comfort or a listening ear.
Click here to learn more about our work in mental health and psychosocial support.
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.
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.
São Tomé and Príncipe: Older people receive care and compassion from Red Cross volunteers
"Today, thanks to the centre, I feel better and have regained a taste for life."
These are the words of Manuel, 81, a resident of the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross welcome centre for the elderly, where volunteers work every day to bring a smile and hope to some of the country's older population.
Set up in October 2005, with funding from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the welcome centre has been run by the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross for nearly 20 years.
Today, volunteers are taking care of 18 residents – people from all walks of life who have come upon hard times and need a little extra help to get by.
In Manuel’s case, it was a story of great tragedy that brought him to the centre.
He had worked for the Portuguese Embassy for a long time. But financial difficulties meant he was unable to build the house of his dreams – the one where he hoped to spend his old age. When the time came for him to retire, he had to leave his house to move in with his daughter.
One night while they were at home, an enormous fire broke out. Manuel lost everything, including his precious daughter.
Distraught and completely lost, he found support and comfort in the Red Cross centre after being approached by a volunteer in his community who had noticed his distress.
"Today, thanks to the centre, I feel better and I’m getting back to life. I have the support of a doctor, a roof over my head, a meal every day and friends to talk to.”
The centre has evolved a lot during the past 20 years.
"The initial project was to provide a home and basic assistance for older people who had been rejected by their families. But over time, we transformed it into a properwelcome centrewhere we take care of more complex needs of our residents,” says Filippa Fernandes, volunteer and director of the centre.
"We strive to provide them with an environment where they can flourish by taking care of their physical and mental health," she added.
Friendship and conversation are an important part of supporting the mental health of older people in the community. So the São Tomé and Príncipe Red Cross also runs a social centre nearby which opens its doors every day, letting all older people in the community come and socialize with one another.
Together, all visitors can spend the day in a safe and peaceful place where they have access to basic amenities, such as food and washrooms.
Ronaldo, is one of the seven volunteers who work to keep the social centre active. As manager and cook, he manages the day-to-day business inside the centre, but also heads out into the community to deliver meals to people with limited mobility.
"We try to do our best to make sure that no one is left behind.”
Red Cross volunteer
Too often in societies around the world, older people are underserved, cast aside or viewed as a burdenon a country's resources. But thanks to the kindness of Red Cross volunteers like Ronaldo and Filippa, older people in their community are being treated with the dignity, respect and care that they deserve.
The welcomecentre for the elderly receives funding from local churches and associations, as well as members of the diaspora. The social centre was initially set up with funding from the joint IFRC and ICRC Empress Shôken Fund. In 2022, the IFRC provided water, sanitation and hygiene kits to all residents.
If you are a donor and are interested in learning more and supporting the IFRC’s work in São Tomé and Príncipe, please read our IFRC network country plan here which includes contact details for our cluster office in the region.
You can also click here to learn more about the IFRC’s work supporting healthy ageing.
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.
| Press release
Türkiye and Syria one month on: A mental health ticking time bomb
Geneva/Ankara/Damascus, 03 March 2023 – Nearly one month since two devastating earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns of the urgent need of a sustainable short- and long-term response to the health and mental health and psychosocial needs to prevent a “second disaster”.
Since day one, the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with the IFRC support, have been meeting the immediate humanitarian needs in the hardest hit areas, including the distribution of food, clean water, hygiene items, winter clothing, blankets and the provision of first aid, health care and sanitation services. But one month into the response, scaling up mental health services is crucial.
The demand for mental health and psychosocial support and health care is immense, and in some areas where access is difficult, it can put the most affected at even higher risk of developing medium- and long-term mental health challenges that can hinder recovery and resilience.
The earthquakes have rocked survivors to their very core. Entire communities are suffering after losing everything from their loved ones to homes, jobs and many sentimental belongings they own. Moreover, many caregivers and first responders are struggling to cope with what they’ve seen in addition to the exhausting workload and secondary trauma.
In Türkiye, Red Crescent teams have set up safe spaces offering mental health and psychosocial support for children to play, supporting over 42,000 people, including first responders and health workers. They also provide psychological first aid and offer referrals to local health facilities.
“Responding from the local level, with both mobile and fixed units, is what allows the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC to respond immediately to the physical and mental health needs of those most affected. A localised and early health and mental health response is and will continue to be essential to prevent negative long-term and even permanent effects on people's lives”, said Lauren Clarke, IFRC health coordinator for the humanitarian response in Türkiye.
In Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams have supported over 30,000 people with psychological first aid, especially children and continue to provide healthcare and medicines through mobile health units, and physical rehabilitation programs and clinics. The earthquake comes after nearly 12 years of conflict that has already displaced millions and traumatised many communities.
“Many of the damages caused by the earthquake are not visible. People have suffered more than a decade of conflict which has already affected their mental health and wellbeing. This earthquake adds another layer to that. We also have seen that psychological wounds won’t always appear right away. That is why we need to provide continuous support, not only right now but for years to come. Hopefully, there will not be another disaster that would complicate the situation even further”, said Gwendolen Eamer, IFRC Health Coordinator in Syria.
The IFRC Emergency Appeals for 650 million Swiss francs will support the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to continue scaling up their humanitarian response and recovery efforts over the next two years in what is one of the most challenging earthquake responses recently faced by the global Red Cross Red Crescent network.
For more information or to coordinate an interview, please contact:
[email protected] or +41 79 708 4367
Note to editors
In Syria, Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams have also distributed more than 1.2 million relief items, such as winter clothes, food, clean water, hygiene articles, and they have provided sanitation services, as these are key to prevent outbreaks such as diarrhea, respiratory and skin infections, COVID-19 and other viral diseases.
In parallel, the Palestine Red Crescent in Syria together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent continue to deliver aid, including food distribution, ambulances and medical services, focusing mainly on the Palestinian camps in Aleppo and Latakia.
In close coordination with the health authorities, the Turkish Red Crescent is also providing health care through seven mobile clinics in hard-hit rural areas and temporary shelters. Where markets are functioning, they have distributed more than 140,000 cash vouchers, helping to empower survivors by restoring their agency, and giving them the freedom and control to meet their needs in the way they prefer. Turkish Red Crescent volunteers have also distributed over 94 million hot meals.
| Press release
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:
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.
West Africa migration: Red Cross offers an oasis of help and hope to migrants in Kolda, Senegal
"They are exposed to violence, exploitation, abuse, security risks, sexual and gender-based violence, and all kinds of dangers along their migratory routes; here we offer them hope, as well as protection, assistance, guidance and counselling”.
This is how Mariama Mballo, a social worker, sums up the work carried out at the Kolda Humanitarian Service Point (HSP) run by the Senegalese Red Cross and IFRC in southern Senegal.
"The Kolda HSP is a centre for listening, psychosocial support, counselling and assistance for migrants. It offers an anonymous, confidential and free space for reception and counselling", says the 30-year-old sociologist by training, who has been working there since February 2022.
Senegal, historically considered a destination country for migrants in West Africa, has become a transit country. Due to its geographical location, migrants, especially those coming from West Africa, pass through Senegal on their journey north to Maghreb countries or Europe in search of a better life.
The importance of psychosocial support
Travelling along perilous migration routes can have a profound impact on both the physical and mental health of migrants.
The aim of the psychosocial support provided in Kolda is to help people on the move regain a certain normality, mental balance and, above all, to encourage people to be active and committed to their own recovery—by finding defence and protection mechanisms that work for them.
When migrants in transit have needs that cannot be met at the HSP, they are referred to other external partner services.
"The key to the project is its volunteers, in fact, they are the 'front door', the ones who first receive the migrants, listen to them and then direct them to the social worker for an active and in-depth listening", stresses Mariama.
Staff working in Kolda can also sometimes become overwhelmed when listening to the experiences recounted to them by migrants during counselling sessions.
“Yes, there are stories that shock us, but we have the capacity to overcome them in order to offer migrants the guidance and support they need," says Mariama.
Meeting people’s wide-ranging needs
People on the move can access other vital assistance, such as food and water, in Kolda. Many migrants who arrive, including women and children, have gone days without food as they undertake their long journeys through often inhospitable areas.
Kolda's volunteers and staff also offer people useful advice and counselling on issues such as human trafficking, regaining contact with their families or the handling of important travel documents.
And, if necessary, migrants can also receive legal assistance, always with the utmost confidentiality and protection, as well as basic help with clothing and hygiene in order to ensure their health and well-being.
"The people who arrive at the HSP are often in a situation of advanced vulnerability, so we do everything we can to immediately meet their most pressing needs," says Mariama.
Volunteers don’t just support migrants. They also carry out intensive work with the local community to raise awareness and knowledge about respect for the rights and dignity of migrants.
This important work is carried out with the utmost confidentiality, always in line with our fundamental principles and the IFRC’s migration policy.
Assistance and protection of the most vulnerable migrants in West Africa
Kolda is just one example of the more than 600 Humanitarian Service Points run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies along the world’s main migration routes. They are neutral spaces that provide a welcoming and safe environment for migrants to access essential services, regardless of their status and without fear of being detained or reported to the authorities.
Since the launch of the Kolda HSP en 2020, wich includes other small posts in Tanaff, Salikégné, Diaobé and Pata, volunteers have welcomed and supported more than 1,500 migrants.
It was set up as part of the 'Assistance and protection of the most vulnerable migrants in West Africa' project. Funded by the European Union, the project covers different busy migratory routes through Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali, Niger and Senegal. In addition to the National Societies of these countries, the project also involves the IFRC, Spanish Red Cross, Danish Red Cross and Luxembourg Red Cross.
For more information, visit our migration and displacement webpage to learn more about the IFRC’s migration policies, programmes and operations
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.
Universal Health Coverage: IFRC Secretary General addresses the Third Annual Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Global Health
It is an honour to co-host today’s event as part of the Group of Friends on Universal Health Coverage and speak on behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, comprising 192 National Societies and millions of staff and volunteers.
Universal Health Coverage, which embodies the right of all people to quality, accessible, affordable, and available health services, reverberates deeply with the IFRC’s core mission to act in the interest of the most vulnerable and alleviate human suffering.
Since 2018, we have been scaling up our work on UHC and aligning ourselves with the WHO’s programme of work. As a member of UHC2030, we supported Country Focus Groups before and after the 2019 High Level Meeting to share lived experiences, challenges and achievements in UHC from populations often left behind.
This year, the IFRC conducted country consultations across the world with communities and civil society groups to identify barriers to accessing basic health services and to provide key inputs to the State of UHC Commitment report.
Despite all progress, we’re witnessing that many vulnerable groups and marginalized populations lack access to lifesaving health services.
One year from today, the High-Level Meeting on UHC must serve as a juncture for making the political commitments to strengthen health systems for future generations.
First, we must prioritize the health needs of the most vulnerable, especially in situations of disasters, climate crisis, health emergencies and violence. Governments must tackle stigma and discrimination and build trust by integrating vulnerable communities into policy making itself. Women and girls have reported greater difficulties in accessing healthcare, and people on the move are often completely left out of national health schemes.
Second, we must invest in ensuring safety and protection of community health workers and volunteers, including our Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, who have a deep understanding of the risks, vulnerabilities and inequalities that affect the health status of their communities and represent a key resource by working with the formal health system to deliver services. The role of community first responders in ensuring improved and timely coverage of essential health services became even more obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Third, governments should develop community health strategies through improved collaboration between public health services, communities, and civil society organizations. More investment is needed in scaling up risk communication and community engagement as a key component of people-centred health systems. We strongly believe in empowering communities and ensuring their meaningful engagement in decision making.
Our National Societies, as neutral and impartial actors, can translate the needs of communities into policy, social protection systems, infrastructure, laws and governance issues. Health systems should also be backed by better public health emergency laws that enable systematic responses to pandemics and health emergencies – we have just launched a guidance on public health emergency law to support this.
Lastly, and importantly, there is no health without mental health, especially in crisis situations. Health system strengthening means integrating and resourcing mental health and psychosocial support services for all who may need them.
Excellencies, colleagues, access to health services is not a privilege and should not be treated as such.
We cannot afford to lose the opportunity of next year’s High-Level Meeting and cannot waiver: achieving Universal Health Coverage is the only way forward.
We are committed to continuing work with governments and other partners to implement our shared commitments to UHC and stronger health systems for everyone, everywhere.
Ukraine crisis: Red Cross health centre in Uzhhorod offers relief and comfort
Like many cities in the western part of Ukraine, the health system in Uzhhorod has been overwhelmed. Located near the border with Hungary and Slovakia, the city’s population has increased dramatically with tens of thousands of people seeking refuge.
To help meet the growing medical needs of the new arrivals and relieve some of the pressure on local medical facilities, the Ukrainian Red Cross opened a temporary Health Centre in Uzhhorod with the support of IFRC and the Finnish Red Cross.
The centre offers consultation, treatment and medication free of charge for people in need. It’s open to everyone, local community members and internally displaced people alike.
Medical specialists are assisting people of all ages with their health issues. There’s an on-site pharmacist prescribing medications and a psychologist available for consultation and psychosocial support.
"Medications for the heart and blood pressure are the ones prescribed most often. People lived through stressful situations, and it affects their health,” explains pharmacist Olesya Verbovska, who works there with her twin sister Oksana.
"People had to leave their homes in a hurry, so they couldn’t bring their regular medication with them. They’re grateful that the Red Cross provides medicine free of charge.”
Many patients come from temporary shelters. One of them is 72-year-old Oleksandr Ivanovich from Luhansk who’s staying at the local school. He came to the Health Centre for a blood test and ultrasound.
"The only thing I can say is thank you – I’m grateful to everyone who cares for us.”
17-year-old Daryna from Donetsk visited the Red Cross Health Centre with her mother, grandparents and younger brother. Her family members are experiencing many health problems, including allergies and stomach pains. They heard about the health centre from other displaced people in town.
"It’s great to have a hospital like this that helps people like us,” Daryna said.
Some of the doctors and volunteers working at the Health Centre have also been affected by the conflict, like Dr. Nataliia Vasylivna, a family doctor from Donetsk.
"When patients are withdrawn, I tell them that I’m a displaced person just like them. This helps them relax and connect with me. After that, they speak more openly about their problems,” she said.
She’s seeing between 15 to 20 patients a day. Some of the most common conditions she is treating are heart diseases, high blood pressure and allergic reactions.
"Many patients are also showing signs of chronic stress and start crying as soon as they feel the sympathy from me,” she adds.
The health centre also provides psychosocial support six days a week, for adults and children alike. And two volunteers who are doing that can also relate to what patients are experiencing.
Daria from Odesa and Ostap from Kyiv both came to Uzhhorod fleeing from the conflict, and started volunteering for the Red Cross there. While helping people deal with their challenges, they got to know each other and have been a couple since May.
"We are never bored when we volunteer together. Working with kids can be difficult sometimes, but Ostap is always there to help me,” Daria said.
"Daria is an extraordinary person, I have never met anyone like her. We both have a strong urge to help others, and it’s much easier to do with someone you love,” said Ostap.
"He called them hope plants": Supporting people's mental health in the Ukraine crisis
A simple search for “Kharkiv” on the internet today yields scenes of grey ash covering splintered buildings. This is how much of the world now sees Ukraine.
Far from this perception are locals’ memories of crackling fireplaces and walks under the trees—so many of which now stand lifeless.
But at least one small clump of spring green remains—a few little plants in one Kharkiv resident’s back yard. The only ones to survive raining missiles in a garden once lush and vibrant.
“He called them hope plants,” says Ana Blanco, one of 20 emergency responders from the Spanish Red Cross working in Zahony, Hungary.
“He and his wife arrived at Zahony train station with two of them, having travelled all this way from Kharkiv. And every day I’d see them take such great care and pride ensuring they stayed alive on the windowsill of the shelter.”
For this man, these plants are his token of home. And while they may not be the most practical thing to carry with him on his journey, Ana understands they are vitally important to his mental wellbeing.
Having been an emergency responder with the IFRC since 2011, Ana knows that survivors of disasters and conflicts can be resilient. She’s seen it with her own eyes while providing emergency relief in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and water and sanitation support after the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
But this doesn’t mean hope always flourishes on its own.
That’s what brought Ana from her home in Valencia to Zahony—her experience teaching her that supporting the mental health of people affected by disaster or conflict is just as important as supporting their physical health.
She came with 20 fellow health specialists from the Spanish Red Cross to work alongside the Hungarian Red Cross, ensuring their teams have what they need to meet people’s immediate mental and physical health needs. And to help set up a health clinic in Zahony so they can provide effective longer-term support too.
This is not Ana’s first time supporting refugees. Twice, she has worked in camps in Greece helping refugees express their emotions through art therapy. Her eyes light up as she speaks, “It was remarkable. Even though there was a huge language barrier, we relied on universal ways of communicating.”
Whether it’s through creating art, or delicately tending to small plants on a windowsill—everyone has something to say, because everyone has something to feel. And these feelings need somewhere to go.
“I grew up in a family that has always helped people. I feel something is missing in me when I see a crisis and I can’t go – if I’m not available to respond. It’s an earthquake inside of me,” Ana explains.
It’s this innate desire to help others, to be kind to others—shared by so many millions of our Red Cross and Red Crescent family—that has motivated Ana during her time in Hungary. For many weeks she’s worked patiently to get to know so many of the people staying in Zahony and build trust with them, helping them to open up.
Speaking about another man she met early on who would sit alone on a bunk bed in the corner of the shelter, Ana says: “He didn’t want to go outside when I first met him. He’d been traveling alone, the possibility of reaching a friend abroad growing scarce.”
“Every so often, I’d say to him, ‘hope to see you at the train station!’ ‘Hope to see you around for a meal soon!’” And within a few days, she saw him emerge from the dark and step outside, interacting with her and the others.
On her last day in Zahony, Ana goes out of her way to help connect him with a helper on the other end of the phone. She finishes her mission knowing that for millions, home now looks very different to the one they once had. Many do not know where their journeys will end.
Ana holds a truth that so many disaster responders keep close to their hearts: we can never guarantee someone will be okay or that everyone will make it.But we do whatever we can to nurture seeds of hope, so that one day the lives of people affected by crises such as that in Ukraine can fully bloom again.
Click here to learn more about the IFRC's Emergency Appeal for Ukraine and impacted countries.If you would like to donate to support our work responding to this crisis, please click here.
You can also visit our mental health page to learn more about the IFRC's work providing mental health and psychosocial support around the world.
100 Days of Crisis: Fleeing Home, Returning to Joy
We had already packed our passports in the bag. Living in Kyiv, we were already witnessing tension in the air and watching the news of what was happening near the border of Ukraine. We had accepted we would probably need to seek safety outside the house at some point.
But that night came so much sooner than we expected. Loud bangs and flashes through the window startled us awake, crisis landing at our doorstep.
My seven-year-old daughter and I traveled to our relatives’ home just a few hours away. It was anything but an easy decision to leave our cozy, familiar home on the edge of the city next to the woods where we loved to walk on the weekends. We were so happy there, but we knew it was no longer safe for us to stay.
The journey was surreal. Music on the car radio was playing as if nothing was happening, yet all around us were sounds of war. And no sooner than when we arrived at our family’s home, we realized it was yet again too dangerous to stay.
Over the next several days, we continued moving from place to place moving toward the western part of Ukraine, expecting the conflict to follow us.
The upheaval took a toll quickly, especially on my daughter. I am a professional psychologist by training, so I knew exactly what to look out for to identify those signs of severe stress. Several times a night, we woke up to the sound of air sirens and alarms. She refused to sleep in her pajamas and instead insisted to sleep in winter clothes. She did not sleep at all, really. For fear of having to get back up and seek safety. She was scared all the time, her toy bear providing only so much comfort.
That was when I knew we needed to leave the country. We knew a few people in Poland, also from Ukraine, who had been helped by the welcoming Polish community. They had gone above and beyond to help shelter families fleeing Ukraine.
Everything about my life was turned upside-down overnight. Even the familiarity with my profession as a humanitarian worker and psychologist for the International Committee of the Red Cross, (ICRC). There, my job was to support families of missing persons in Ukraine. But when the conflict started, we all switched gears, fully focused on the emergency in front of us.
I was one of the original staff members who trained Red Cross volunteers in providing psychosocial first aid to people in distress. Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers put so much effort from the very beginning of the crisis into helping people in need. I also taught them how to recognize if they needed to seek help for themselves. And now, it seemed we all needed that.
Having worked with the Red Cross for years, I tried to do my best to support them in their lifesaving work using my skills.
Together with my ICRC team, we created hotlines for people who needed psychological help – the same support I needed myself.
Crossing the border to Poland, we were welcomed by kind volunteers just as we were when we were on the way in Ukraine. Volunteers provided us food, and toys for my daughter-simple acts that made me feel so much better. This, I noticed, seemed to be a turning point for my daughter, and soon she was back to sleeping and playing with the other kids.
Not long after we arrived in Poland, I was at the bank when a woman also from Ukraine heard my voice – the same language she spoke and started sharing her own story with me. She started to cry. That was when I knew she needed me to listen.
She wanted to share her story with someone who would take the time to sit alongside her in her pain. It’s what so many people crave, often lacking words to express it. It became clear to me that this was a way I could contribute using my skills, especially now that I had more capacity to care for others while feeling safe myself.
I reached out to my colleagues at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and am now helping to lead a program in countries neighbouring Ukraine to provide mental health and psychosocial support to people who have fled Ukraine, which includes many different activities where volunteers can support people by using psychological first aid skills, organizing child-friendly spaces, offering referrals to other service providers and much more.
Wounds of war are deep, sometimes too deep to manage alone.
I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back home and help my people in Ukraine. It’s still not safe to return. For now, I can only plan a few days ahead. When I can – when any of us can – we’ll return home to that simple joy we once felt before.
Nataliia K is a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She helps give back to people who have endured more than 100 days of crisis at home in Ukraine. She is from Kyiv.
| Press release
Ocean Viking rescues 247 people within 48 hours from the Mediterranean Sea, including 5-month-old baby
Budapest/Geneva, 14 February 2022 – Search and rescue (SAR) ship Ocean Viking had an extremely intense weekend, with the crew having saved 247 people in five rescues in less than 48 hours. The ship is operated by European maritime search and rescue organisation SOS MEDITERRANEE in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Survivors are now being cared for onboard, having received food, dry clothes and blankets. The medical team provided first aid and psychosocial support, treating cases of mild hypothermia, fuel inhalation and fuel burns. Some people also show signs of torture.
Among the 247 survivors, there are 52 unaccompanied minors and a 5-month-old baby. The survivors represent 16 different nationalities, with most people coming from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Ivory Coast.
The first rescue operation started on Saturday, 12 February, three days after Ocean Viking had left the port of Trapani, Sicily. An alert was sent for an overcrowded wooden boat in distress in the Maltese search and rescue region. The rescue team of SOS MEDITERRANEE found 93 people in an overcrowded wooden boat without lifejackets and brought them to safety to Ocean Viking.
The second rescue took place during the night of 12 February, again a wooden boat in distress, in the Libyan search and rescue region. 88 people were rescued. The boat was highly overcrowded, very unstable, the people had no lifejackets and had suffered from fuel inhalation.
The third rescue happened on Sunday morning, 13 February, a small wooden boat with 22 people were in distress in the Maltese search and rescue region. The boat was at high risk of taking in water.
The fourth rescue started soon after the third one. Ocean Viking received a VHF call from the aircraft of the NGO Pilotes Volontaires about a boat requiring urgent help and about to take water in. The rescue of 25 people was completed in one hour.
The fifth rescue took place a day later, on 14 February, in international waters inside the Libyan SAR region. 19 people were safely recovered from a fiberglass boat in distress among 1-meter waves.
Since IFRC entered in partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE in August 2021, the Ocean Viking rescued 804 people in distress in the Mediterranean Sea.
This life-saving mission is an integral part of the Red Cross Red Crescent presence to protect and assist people in countries of origin, transit and destination across Africa, Middle East and Europe. As a neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organization, IFRC’s global network provides critical humanitarian assistance to all persons in need, regardless of their legal status.
For more information, please contact:
In Budapest: Hannu-Pekka Laiho, [email protected], +358 40 5257126
In Budapest: Nora Peter, [email protected], +36 70 265 4020
Mental Health Matters: Progress report on mental health and psychosocial support
Today, the Movement provides mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in most countries to face the extensive unmet mental health and psychosocial support needs worldwide in all contexts and at all times, with a special focus on situations of crisis. Indeed, these needs increase dramatically during armed conflicts, disasters, and other emergencies such as the COVID-19 crisis.
Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said:
“We are proud to have honoured the commitments we made as a Movement in 2019 to increase the provision of mental health and psychosocial support through our programmes. Crucially, this includes increasing the support available to our own volunteers and staff. But our work is not over. Worldwide, funding for these vital humanitarian services is lagging, and mental health continues to be one of the most neglected areas of public health. We once again reiterate our calls for more investment in mental health for everyone. Mental health cannot wait.”
The report, “Mental Health Matters: Progress Report on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Activities”, is based on a survey of 163 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) carried out in 2019 and again 2021. It assesses the development in the delivery of mental health and psychosocial activities, in accordance with its policy on addressing mental health and psychosocial needs and Resolution 2 of the 33rd International Movement Conference in 2019, as well as the challenges encountered in delivering them.
“The mental health and psychosocial needs of people caught up in conflict, disasters and other humanitarian emergencies must be a part of the growing attention given to mental health around the world. When not addressed, these needs have a far-reaching and long-term impact on people, their families, their communities, and on the whole society”, said Robert Mardini, ICRC Director General.
Some of the key findings:
The number of trained staff and volunteers on mental health and psychosocial support activities has almost doubled from 69,000 in 2019 to 128,000 in 2021.
The mental health and psychological wellbeing of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff, and giving them the training and tools to respond to the mental health needs of others, has been one of the top priorities within the Movement.
Despite the often-limited resources and funds, the components of the Movement are delivering a wide range of MHPSS services and activities in accordance with their respective mandates, commitments, and auxiliary roles.
The report will also be available in French, Arabic and Spanish in the coming days.
Mental health and psychosocial support
Disasters and emergencies take an immense toll not only on people’s physical health, but on their mental health and wellbeing too. Addressing global mental health and psychosocial needs is a vital part of the IFRC’s work supporting healthy communities.
Global action needed to prevent the deepening crisis in mental health
The verdict is in: COVID-19 worsens mental health. So there can be no excuse and no delay in stepping up now to prevent a worsening and chronic catastrophe.
There is no health without mental health, therefore recovery from the pandemic needs to factor in mental health and psychosocial interventions.
Let’s step back and view the evidence. No group is immune from COVID-19’s insidious effects on mental health: from school children, to those of us working remotely, to the elderly. Studies have documented the extreme negative impact of the isolation caused by school closures which, at one point, saw 90 per cent of the world’s children locked out of school. A study of children in China found elevated rates of depression and anxiety. Similarly, another study found 86 per cent of Italian and Spanish parents noticed changes in their children’s emotional states and behavior during home confinement.
Sadly, children at home can be more at risk of abuse and neglect, as stressors on families increase, and the structure of the school day is taken away. There is also evidence of increased risk of suicide and self-harm among young people during the pandemic. Other studies have pointed to negative consequences of increased screen time . For the wider population, the suicide risk has also climbed . And new research co-led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has found older people become sicker and poorer and feel more alone as a result of living through the pandemic.
To bridge the gap between ballooning mental health care needs and services, traditional mental health care systems will not be the only answer. The IFRC and its network of 192 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies is already part of this solution. Mental health and psychosocial support is a core part of our work.
Following commitments we made to the state parties of the Geneva Conventions at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2019, we are making mental health and psychosocial support an even bigger part of our work.
Globally we have provided mental health and psychological support to 7.16 million people affected by COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Volunteers and staff have taken to telephone hotlines, new digital forms of support such as webinars, videos and SMS chats.
Our support comes alongside a wider expansion in new ways of reaching out to people suffering depression, anxiety, and PTSD, such as videoconferencing, online forums, smartphone apps, text-messaging, and e-mails, which evidence shows have been found to be effective ways of delivering treatment.
In Armenia, Red Cross psychologists provide psychosocial support services to people and assign volunteers to those identified as struggling to provide extra help with household chores. Danish Red Cross set up a phone service for volunteers to chat with people who are home alone.
A new form of support was seen in a project run by Serbian Red Cross, which published a collection ofcreative writingabout peoples’ experiences of living through the pandemic.
The French Red Cross has set up Croix-Rouge Chez Vous (Red Cross at Home), combining a national call centre and the dispatch of aid to all parts of France, both mainland and overseas territories. It targets any socially-isolated person who has no connections or support from family, friends or neighbours, who are able to call in and receive a listening ear, and receive a follow-up delivery of goods if needed.
Bulgarian Red Cross operates a telephone-based psychology service, where people can book free sessions online with qualified psychologists.
And Italian Red Cross psychologists are on board quarantine ships for migrants, to support the mental health and protection of the most vulnerable migrants, including minors, trafficked women, pregnant women and victims of discrimination. They also support the wellbeing of Red Cross personnel.
In a partnership with the IFRC, British Red Cross psychologist Dr Sarah Davidson has featured in a successful social media video series to reach new audiences.
With the pandemic’s effects expected to extend well beyond the current year, it’s clear more action needs to take place now if we are to be serious about preventing the deteriorating mental health of millions of people.
We are recommending three key steps:
A serious scaling up of mental health and psychosocial services. High attention to widening national societies’ access to new digital and other innovative means is needed. The IFRC network is well placed to facilitate sharing new practices and learning, and to work towards narrowing the digital divide.
Governments and major donors should step up investment in addressing mental health problems to enable individuals, families and communities to meet the challenges brought by the pandemic. Early and effective access to mental health and psychosocial support is key to creating sustainable and healthy local communities.
More care for the carers. Red Cross and Red Crescent people, who have worked through the pandemic, often when responding to other disasters, are immensely tired. We have become a more flexible workplace with increased support systems and monitoring of staff and volunteers’ wellbeing, and encourage wider formal supports for these often invisible responders.
Sadly, the full effects of this pandemic will only emerge much later, robbing many people of their future dreams. Now is the time to invest more in mental health care and psychological support that works. Even a small investment can have big results. Our movement is uniquely placed to scale up engagement through the variety of new platforms and services with our networks of trained volunteers in every community. Together with our partners, we can meet increased demand with expanded and integrated services and supports.
How can we tackle a growing COVID-19 caused mental health crisis?
By Dr Eliza Cheung, Technical Advisor International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support.
In ‘ordinary’ times, good mental health is fundamental for overall wellbeing. But when we are all stalked by fear and uncertainty caused by COVID-19, access to good mental health support is more important than ever. It is life-saving. There is mounting evidence that this Coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on the mental health of people in Asia and across the globe.
At the global level, a major review of 36 studies across the world has found that around one in three people are suffering from stress, anxiety or depression during this pandemic, while recent modelling suggests that unemployment caused by COVID-19 may lead to almost 10,000 additional suicides a year.
An analysis of 160 studies of eight South Asian countries also shows that nearly one in three people experienced anxiety or depressive symptoms.
In the midst of this global pandemic, it is understandable that people are worried about their health, their loved ones and how they will cope if they get sick. Ongoing restrictions are limiting social interaction, leading to increased loneliness and isolation. COVID-19 is causing enormous stress for people who were already worried about how they will support their families.
A new survey by the International Committee of the Red Cross in seven countries, including the Philippines, shows that one in two adults believe their mental health has been negatively affected by COVID-19. It is also alarming that latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures reveal the pandemic has interrupted or suspended mental health support services in 93% of countries.
Across most countries in Asia, investment in mental health support is woefully inadequate, even before this pandemic and in some countries there are only 0.3 psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to serve 100,000 people. By contrast, WHO data shows that the rate of psychiatrists is 120 times higher in countries such as France, Canada and Sweden.
The stresses we are experiencing affect us physically, psychologically and emotionally, as well as changing our behaviour. The stress undermines our ability to stay healthy, look after our families, and process new information. It can endanger nurses, doctors, police, leaders and disaster responders, jeopardising life-saving decisions to contain the virus and reduce longer-term impacts.
People already living with mental health challenges are experiencing the loss of critical support networks and clinical management. Yet they need this care more than ever.
We simply cannot afford to wait until the epidemic is under control before dealing with the massive, and increasing, psychological toll. To have any hope of stopping and recovering from this pandemic in a way that leaves no one behind, we need to treat the psychological and physical distress at the same time.
So how can we do it? Early intervention prevents distress from developing into more severe mental health conditions. We need to bridge the gap between those who need psychological and emotional support and those who seek it. We also need to better harness and strengthen existing community and clinical resources.
Preventing psychological issues and mental health support need to be integrated at all levels, in local communities, workplaces, schools, in hospitals and health systems.
People in communities are our first line of defence, making teachers, parents and colleagues in our workplaces critical for bridging the current resource gap. We urgently need to invest in supporting, engaging and equipping them to know what questions to ask, what signs to look for and what to do if someone may be struggling.
Asia-Pacific is the world’s most disaster-prone region and many people have developed an incredible ability to cope with adversity. Across our region, millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are first to respond, experiencing the stress in crises, from monsoon floods to typhoons, and COVID-19.
The trauma is real. People have lost loved ones, jobs or livelihoods. They have been separated by borders or quarantine, stranded and jobless in another country or living in crowded camps. All too many are overcome by anxiety, depression and distress.
It’s vital that we all support each other at this time. Get in touch. Be kind to friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, as well as ourselves. Taking good care of oneself enables us to take care of others.
We are at a crossroads. The response to COVID-19 and associated socio-economic impacts will be more effective and we will save countless more lives and livelihoods if we invest wisely in accessible and sustainable mental health and psychosocial support.
We make the impossible, possible
By Olivia Acosta
David Brito is studying to be a commercial engineer in Chile and in the meantime he is thinking about how to help most affected people by COVID-19 in his country. And he comes up with some good ideas. His mother was already a volunteer with the Chilean Red Cross for the extinction of forest fires, when her 23-year-old son joined the O'Higgins Regional Committee three years ago, where he works and develops his creativity in the fight against COVID-19.
Since the declaration of the pandemic, David has been thinking about how the Red Cross could help people who were feeling lonely and isolated during the months of confinement. At the same time, many of the organization's senior volunteers were also very frustrated about having to stay home from volunteering. And so, in late March, the Speak to Me project was born.
"It all started with the purchase of a SIM card that cost less than 2,000 Chilean pesos (2 euros). With that card and a phone, we were able to make ourselves available to people in confinement who were looking for an emotional distress... At first, we were surprised to find that not only elderly living alone called us, also parents or even young people who were looking to talk to someone who would listen to them and get truthful information about the virus, did it. This service is helping us a lot to fight false rumors that put people's health at risk”. First it was the phone, but such was the acceptance in the community that they quickly set up a WhatsApp line and a Facebook account so they could reach more people.
Several senior volunteers in their 70s and 80s answer the calls, while younger ones take care of Facebook and WhatsApp line.
According to David: "I thought the project was an excellent idea to offer a double service of psychosocial support: on one hand, senior volunteers who could not leave their homes due to the confinement restrictions, now can work from their homes without over-exposure themselves to the virus, and on the other hand, many people in need are receiving support during these difficult times."
The team of 7 volunteers who answer the calls have psychosocial training, and to attend most difficult cases they receive counseling from a psychologist.
"I must admit that it was not easy to start”, continues David, "because everyone thought it was very complicated to do it right, but now we have become so famous that we also get calls from other countries. I remember one day when the phone rang at four in the morning... it was an old lady from Spain, Doña Concepción, who was very lonely and needed support. We referred the case to the Spanish Red Cross so they could take care of her from there."
They also receive calls from people who have detected that a neighbor is very lonely and needs company, or food, hygiene items, or even medicine. One of the saddest cases was a call that came in about 32 migrant families from different Latin American countries who were living in confinement, crowded together in a tiny space, in terrible conditions. "It was gratifying to be able to help them, especially the children, who were really in need… the best payment is a sincere smile from someone who says thank you.”
According to David, "we adapt to any situation no matter how difficult it is, the will of the whole team made the project moving forward because we are not going to give up on our fight against coronavirus. Our motto is: we make the imposible, possible," he ends.
The Chilean Red Cross in response to the pandemic has provided more than 49,000 services in polyclinic activities, support to vaccination campaigns, delivery of humanitarian aid to migrants and vulnerable communities, distribution of PPE, food distribution, psychosocial support, etc. In addition, it has disseminated information and prevention measures and has made home visits to people with mobility difficulties and the elderly.
“30 Minutes with My Child”: An exceptional campaign in Bethlehem
Bethlehem - The Palestine Red Crescent Society's PRCS' campaign, “30 Minutes With My Child”, is still gaining momentum in the towns and villages of the Bethlehem Governate in Palestine since its launch at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. The successful campaign has been achieved thanks to the helping hands of many of the PRCS 350, who enthusiastically engaged in delivering this initiative.
To learn more about the campaign’s creation, Ms. Judith al Sayej, PRCS’ Bethlehem branch Administrative Director, described the campaign saying that “at the beginning of COVID-19 outbreak, we decided to set up a psychological support team to help mothers, and subsequently their children, as part of the service provided by PRCS to local communities during these difficult times. We asked mothers to film their children as they carried out various activities, such as drawing, telling stories, and reciting poetry”. Judith explained how “the videos aimed to showcase the children’s creativity and allow them to express their feelings and emotions”.
Given the outstanding artistic skills displayed by the gifted children, who exhibited their talents in many videos, PRCS’ Bethlehem Branch decided to hold a contest and recognise the top 10 videos with an award. According to Judith al Sayej, the judges we select will be tasked with selecting the winning videos. The abilities of the boys and girls of Bethlehem in expressive art does not come as a surprise since the city boasts 10 museums and over 150 cultural centers and NGO’s.
“30 Minutes With My Child” owes a crucial part of its positive outcome to thePRCS volunteers. Salwa al Zeer, PRCS’ Bethlehem Branch Community Action Coordinator, shed some light on the instrumental role they played in the campaign. Our “volunteers have played a major role in the implementation of this campaign. The local communities’ response has also been high, and the campaign gained interest rapidly with people eager to display their children’s creativity. We were heartened by this response rate, which proves that we can do great things even in the most difficult of times”.
Speaking about this phenomenal campaign and as one of the volunteers, Ahmad Imteir, PRCS’ Bethlehem Branch’s Activities Officer, elaborated and added that “the current extraordinary context led us to focus on psychological support as part of our social mission”. He applauded the volunteers’ great job in the campaign and detailed the areas they participated in to keep the confined children on track. “They also assisted children in grade one through grade three with their schooling by resorting to distance learning solutions. This was done in a fun and accessible way, so children received gifts as an incentive to join this initiative”. He attributed the success of these activities to the imagination and originality of the children as well as the widespread participation among the local communities.
In its response to COVID-19, PRCS provided the following humanitarian services: Emergency medical Services, Health and Relief, and Psycho-Social Support (PSS). PRCS distributed food parcels to 12480 families in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT), delivered medical services in primary health care centers to 1189 persons and activated 50 members of its PSS team to respond to people’s needs via phone sessions. The elderly and the patients who are dealing with chronic diseases have been visited at home by volunteers as well.
PRCS was established in December 1968 as a national humanitarian organization to look after the health, welfare and well-being of the Palestinian people in West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Iraq. PRCS, as a full member of the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, goes the extra mile to provide humanitarian, health, cultural and social services with its 4,200 employees and a network of 20,000 volunteers.