Emergency health

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27/05/2022 | Article

Menstrual Hygiene Day: #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination

Around the world, millions of women and girls* face stigma, exclusion and discrimination simply because of one perfectly natural bodily function: their periods. Negative attitudes and misinformation about periods limit women and girls’ potential. Too often they miss out on education and employment—either due to a lack of hygiene facilities and products to easily go about their daily lives while menstruating, or because they are weighed down by fear of shame and embarrassment from their communities. Women and girls’ safety is also at risk. Without proper hygiene facilities, women can be forced to go into the open to deal with their period needs—leaving them exposed to physical danger and psychological harm. And in extreme cases, period stigma has tragically claimed women and girls’ lives. At the IFRC, #WeAreCommitted to challenging period stigma, exclusion and discrimination and to improving the menstrual hygiene management (MHM) knowledge, skills and programming of our National Societies. We’re working to raise MHM standards across our network—both as part of our long-term water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes, but also during emergency response. Because periods don’t stop in an emergency! We focus on three main areas: Providing pads and menstrual health items as part of our relief assistance Community engagement to demystify periods, educate women and girls on how to manage them safely, and challenge negative attitudes—especially among men and boys. This also involves advocating for more and better MHM activities with governments. Setting up WASH facilities designed with the additional needs of menstruating women and girls in mind. Many of our National Societies are already doing fantastic work in this area. Let’s look at some of them! Lebanon With support from Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund, the Lebanese Red Cross has partnered with the IFRC, British Red Cross and consulting firm ARUP to develop inclusive and MHM-friendly latrines and bathing/laundering facilities. They focused on women living in informal tented settlements near the Syrian border. Speaking to women in the settlements, Lebanese Red Cross teams learned that women mainly use disposable pads during their periods, or a cloth in an emergency, which they burn after a single use. Women explained if they had a safe, accessible and private space to use that was separated from men’s facilities and had discrete disposal methods, they would put their used pads in the bin. Based on this feedback, the Lebanese Red Cross piloted technical designs for emergency WASH facilities that took these women’s needs into account. They developed a manual that can be adapted and used by other National Societies and partners—which includes recommendations of how to best engage with women and girls about their period needs in a sensitive and effective way. Click here to read more about the project. Pakistan Although menstruation is considered natural and a sign of maturity for women in Pakistan, it’s also seen as dirty, shameful and something to be dealt with in silence. Men are generally responsible for deciding on the menstrual health facilities and services offered to women and girls, but rarely involve or consult them on their needs. The Swiss Red Cross worked with Aga Khan University in Pakistan to set up special MHM corners within hospitals—safe spaces in which women and girls could receive information and counselling about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health. They ran pad-making sessions with men and women to raise awareness of good hygiene practices. And they identified influential ‘MHM champions’ who are now spreading this knowledge and tackling period stigma within their communities. Malawi For many girls in Malawi, managing their periods continues to be a challenge due to a lack of access to information, sanitary products, and adequate WASH facilities—particularly in schools. The Malawi Red Cross Society, with support from the Swiss Red Cross, conducted mixed-method research with more than 500 school students to understand girls’ and boys’ knowledge, attitudes and practices around periods. They discovered that: More than half of the girls they spoke to had never heard about menstruation before it started Girls with increased knowledge used better MHM practices and skipped school less Interestingly, boys’ increased knowledge about MHM was associated with higher levels of teasing, and with more absenteeism of girls during their periods The Malawi Red Cross Society has since used this research to inform their work in MHM so it better meets girls’ needs. They’ve constructed female-friendly toilets in schools, produced reusable menstrual hygiene products, delivered training to teachers and parents’ groups and advocated for more menstrual health activities at the community and district level. Argentina During the COVID-19 pandemic, transgender people in Argentina were found to be having difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene items. In close coordination with two local specialist organizations which support and advocate for transgender people, the Argentine Red Cross distributed hygiene kits which included sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups. Transgender men provided recommendations and selected appropriate menstrual items for the kits. Distribution of the kits was accompanied with virtual workshops on sexual health and correct use of menstrual cups. The Argentine Red Cross also set up a health advisory line to offer psychosocial support to anyone who needed it. Learning resources and more information about MHM: Discover even more case studies from our National Societies’ MHM activities in this collection Explore our wealth of practical guidance, tools and advocacy resources on menstrual hygiene on our dedicated WASH site here Visit the dedicated WASH page on the IFRC website Visit the global Menstrual Hygiene Day campaign page for more information about this year’s theme Contact our Senior Officer for WASH in Public Health, Alexandra Machado, for any MHM-related questions: [email protected] -- *We recognize that not everyone who menstruates identifies as a woman, and that not all women menstruate.

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28/06/2022 | Press release

COVID-19: Red Cross Red Crescent turns to animation to boost global vaccine effort

The animation is in the form of a nature documentary that examines how humanity is coping with the global pandemic and why vaccines are key to controlling COVID-19. “Until the majority of humans are vaccinated, the virus will continue to spread and mutate, creating new variants that could evade the vaccine altogether,” a resonating voice reminiscent of David Attenborough explains in the 90-second animation. “The humans only hope is to share the vaccine amongst themselves.” New analysis by the IFRC reveals that nearly one billion people in Asia and the Pacific are yet to receive a single dose of COVID -19 vaccine. Globally, less than 20 percent of the population have received a single dose in low-income countries, according to Oxford University’s ‘Our World in Data’. John Fleming, IFRC’s Asia Pacific Head of Health, said: “The COVID vaccine has saved millions of lives but too many people are still living in danger.If we want to end this pandemic once and for all, we need to urgently address hesitancy in every country, strengthen local delivery to get doses into arms and transfer vaccine and anti-viral drugs technology to manufacturers in low-income nations." “There has been remarkable cooperation between countries around the world, but this pandemic is not over, and much greater action is needed by leaders in richer countries and pharmaceutical companies to enable equal access to vaccines for people everywhere.” The animation video underlines the need to distribute vaccines among poorer nations with utmost urgency. The video can be downloaded here. The IFRC is asking people to just click on ‘share this video’ until it reaches policy makers, pharmaceutical companies, and government authorities. Its message is simple – people all around the world can take action to vaccinate everyone in all corners of the globe by calling upon their governments to help. Help is needed to ensure supply of vaccines to low-income nations as well as to get those vaccines from the tarmac into the arms of people. The quicker we do this, the safer everyone will be. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: In Bangkok: Preeti Abraham, +66 61 412 3910, [email protected] In Kuala Lumpur: Rachel Punitha, +60 19 791 3830, [email protected]

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10/06/2021 | Basic page

Emergency health

The IFRC and our 192 National Societies striveto reduce illness and death, improve health and maintain people’s dignity during emergencies.Our emergency health team works to improvethequality, reliability, predictability andflexibilityof our health services around the world in preparation for emergencies.

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14/02/2022 | 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

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25/01/2022 | Press release

Tonga: Aid ramped up after eruption and tsunami

Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 26 January 2022 – Local relief teams are urgently providing supplies to communities across Tonga, hit hard by a volcanic eruption and tsunami that destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands without safe drinking water. Relief items are being unloaded after the airport was cleared of ash, making it safe for planes to land. Tonga Red Cross staff and volunteers have been assisting people from the moment the tsunami alert was triggered, and are ramping up the delivery of drinking water, temporary shelters and other critical relief supplies across the country’s many islands. Sione Taumoefolau, Secretary General of Tonga Red Cross, said: “This disaster has shaken the people of Tonga like nothing we have seen in our lifetime. The tsunami has wiped out homes and villages, but we are already rebuilding amid the ashes. “After being cut off from the world, we are very grateful for the relief supplies being delivered to our shores. Our Red Cross teams are using boat and trucks to take these vital items that last mile to communities in need of shelter, water and other basic necessities. “There is an urgent need for people to have access to safe water sources in the days and weeks to come. Ash has settled in water tanks- requiring time to settle and careful treatment before use. It has also smothered much of the country, including houses and crops. “It is critical to clean this ash away, so it doesn’t run into water supplies when the next rain comes. “Shelter is a top priority for families whose homes have been completely wiped out because of the tsunami. People have lost everything. We need to provide immediate support – then turn our attention to the longer term. It will be a tough time, but we will recover.” To support the relief efforts of our locally led response, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal of 2.5 million Swiss Francs to provide urgent assistance including safe water, tarpaulins, shelter materials including tool kits to rebuild, household items such as kitchen cooking sets and hygiene kits. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “While the damage to some of the islands is truly devastating, it is heartening to see Red Cross and governments from around the world providing assistance to the hard-hit people of Tonga, enabling much-needed services and relief items. “A well-coordinated humanitarian response that brings together governments and international organisations to support local agencies like Tonga Red Cross is crucial in the Pacific. These partnerships are critical for effective delivery of immediate relief and longer-term support.” For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Joe Cropp, +61 491 743 089, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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25/01/2022 | Press release

Philippines: New data reveals Typhoon Rai wrecked 1.5 million houses

Kuala Lumpur/Manila, 25 January 2022 – New assessments reveal the full extent of Super Typhoon Rai’s devastation when it slammed into the Philippines a little over a month ago, with the storm destroying or damaging a staggering 1.5 million houses, more than any other typhoon in recent decades. Philippine Red Cross is ramping up its shelter support by transporting table saws, chainsaws and generators to areas hardest hit by the typhoon, including Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, Siargao and Dinagat islands. The equipment is enabling Red Cross carpenters and trained volunteers to transform millions of fallen coconut trees into coco lumber to rebuild safer and stronger homes in the worst-affected areas. Carpenters are training local people in safer house construction, to provide vital wages for families who lost their livelihoods, including the agricultural and fishing equipment they relied upon to earn an income. Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said: “This is a much bigger disaster than the world realised a month ago. People who relied on farming, fishing and tourism can’t earn an income now. Millions of people don’t have a roof over their heads. "Red Cross is supporting 30,000 families with roofing materials like corrugated iron sheets and tarpaulins to protect them from the sun and rain, but we need greater international support to meet the enormous need for safer and stronger homes for millions of people. “The typhoon comes in the middle of a pandemic and a political campaign, which draw attention away from what truly is a catastrophe. This must not become forgotten tomorrow morning.” IFRC Head of Philippine Country Office Alberto Bocanegra said: “It’s a little over one month since Typhoon Rai slammed into the Philippines, yet millions of people still urgently need humanitarian support, including homes, clean water supplies and healthcare. “Assessment data reveals that this Super Typhoon has caused enormous devastation, destroying or damaging more homes than any storm in recent decades. “Filipinos are tough, and they are rebuilding, with support from Philippine Red Cross and other agencies, but more must be done to help people rebuild their shattered homes.” Philippine Red Cross has been on the ground since the super typhoon hit and has already reached 36,000 people with emergency shelter support, including toolkits, construction materials and tarpaulins to help people set up temporary shelters and start rebuilding. Emergency teams are providing kitchen sets, sleeping kits, pillows, mattresses, bedsheets, blankets and clothing. Longer-term support is required to enable families to rebuild their homes safely, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, living on isolated islands and in remote or hard to reach areas. IFRC co-leads the Shelter Cluster Philippines with the Government of the Philippines to assess the typhoon’s impact on households, coordinating and prioritising emergency shelter work with all partners. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is appealing for CHF 20 million to support more than 400,000 people over 24 months. A top priority includes assisting people to rebuild safer shelters, including emergency housing materials and essential items, replacement of destroyed houses, and legal support on housing, land and property issues. For more information, contact: IFRC Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 845, [email protected] IFRC Philippine Delegation: Karina Coates, +61 (0) 404 086 006, [email protected]

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19/01/2022 | Press release

WHO and IFRC partnership aims to build regional capacity in responding to key public health challenges

19 January 2022, Cairo-Beirut – The WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari and the Regional Director of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance collaboration to support countries in the Middle East and North Africa respond effectively to key public health challenges. The aims of the agreement between WHO and IFRC are to strengthen the support provided to countries in order to improve the health and well-being of populations living in emergencies and protect and improve the health of vulnerable groups through ensuring access to essential health services, in addition to strengthening country capacity to provide access to sustainable, affordable and quality health services across the life course. The agreement also aims to strengthen leadership, governance and advocacy for health. During the virtual ceremony, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, expressed his appreciation of WHO’s valued partnership with IFRC. “With a long history of collaboration with IFRC and working together to serve humanity, I am confident that this joint agreement can serve as a roadmap for us to strengthen support to countries and enhance national efforts to address key public health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond in order to meet the urgent health needs of all people in the region. It is a true interpretation of our vision; health for all by all: a call for action and solidarity”. In his opening remarks, Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, IFRC’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said, “Addressing current and future humanitarian challenges requires the strong commitment of all partners and courageous leadership that focus on locally led actions and interdependence. We are honoured to work alongside WHO and leverage our volunteer network to advance progress towards universal health coverage, strengthen emergency response and preserve the dignity of all people.” Dr. Rana Hajjeh, Director of Programme Management at the WHO Regional Office, noted that the memorandum of understanding focused on the health challenges related to emergencies such as outbreaks, epidemics and the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic has been a game changer for all countries and demonstrated the importance of effective preparedness and response to emergencies, and it has highlighted how, we as international organizations, can provide targeted support to countries to help them build capacity and strengthen community resilience.” Rania Ahmed, Deputy Regional Director of IFRC, noted, “Today, the WHO/IFRC agreement is reaffirming our continued commitment to work together to create change that results in a positive impact on people’s lives. Our partnership emphasizes the need to develop policies that respond to community needs and promote effective community engagement and support to shape evidence-based responses that allow results at scale.” The collaborative partnership between WHO and IFRC aims to further build on country progress to achieve universal health coverage and enhance national health systems. It focuses on strengthening regional capacity to effectively prepare for, and respond to, emergencies. One of the top priorities for WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region is to ensure and availability of mental health and other essential health services for all people, including displaced persons and refugees. The memorandum of understanding takes immediate effect and will be implemented with the direct involvement of all national stakeholders and WHO country offices in the region. For more information: Rana Sidani Cassou, IFRC MENA: +41796715751; [email protected] Mona Yassin, WHO EMRO: +201006019284; [email protected] We are honoured to work alongside WHO and leverage our volunteer network to advance progress towards universal health coverage, strengthen emergency response and preserve the dignity of all people, IFRC MENA Regional Director Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi said during the virtual signing ceremony. With this distinctive partnership with IFRC , we can jointly steer the public health agenda at regional, and more importantly, at country level; working together towards achieving Universal Health Coverage, WHO Regional Director Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari said during the virtual ceremony.

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16/01/2022 | Press release

Tonga: Volcanic eruption and tsunami cuts off country from the world

Kuala Lumpur/Suva, 16 January 2022 - The small Pacific Island country of Tonga has been cut off from the rest of the world after an enormous volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami hit the country on Saturday. All communication lines in the country have been disrupted with no timeframe given on restoration. Responding to one of the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades, Red Cross is mobilising its regional network to provide relief. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “From what little updates we have, the scale of the devastation could be immense- especially for outer lying Islands. We are trying hard to establish contact with our colleagues at Tonga Red Cross and establish the scale and specific nature of the support they need. “Trained Tonga Red Cross teams will be on the ground supporting evacuations in coordination with public authorities, providing first aid if needed, and distributing prepositioned relief supplies. “Red Cross currently has enough relief supplies in the country to support 1200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits.” There are fears that communities may not have access to safe and clean drinking water as a result of saltwater inundation caused by the tsunami waves and ashfall from the volcanic eruption. Shelter is also a concern, particularly for those communities near the coast line. “Local Red Cross teams are well placed to respond quickly to emergencies like this. We are determined to provide the extra resources and support they may need in the face of such a devastating disaster. “With communication channels disrupted one of the priorities for Tonga Red Cross will be to work with our Movement partner, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to restore family links which will help people from all over the world try and find out if their family and friends in Tonga are safe and well.” Update: On 21 January 2022 the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for the Tonga volcano and tsunami. Find out more here. For more information, contact: In Suva: Soneel Ram, +679 9983 688, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Joe Cropp, +61 491 743 089, [email protected] Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]

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06/01/2022 | Press release

Philippines: Mounting health crisis after super typhoon

Kuala Lumpur/Manila, January 6, 2022 - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns of a mounting health crisis in the eastern Philippines after Super Typhoon Rai destroyed hospitals and affected more than 7.3 million people. Philippine Red Cross is scaling up critical healthcare on islands devastated by the typhoon, locally known as Typhoon Odette, to prevent further spread of COVID-19, and deadly waterborne diseases including gastroenteritis and acute watery diarrhoea. There have been more than 400 cases of diarrhoea and gastroenteritis in typhoon-affected areas, with 141 health facilities damaged by the storm, according to Philippine Government agencies. Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said: “Philippine Red Cross health teams are providing vital care at emergency medical tents on Siargao Island, boosting health services at the hospital, which was severely damaged by the typhoon, losing much of its roof. “We’re urgently sending more health teams, hygiene kits and resources, including safe water supplies and water filtration systems to Siargao island, Cebu, Palawan and Bohol, to prevent the spread of disease.” IFRC Head of Philippine Delegation Alberto Bocanegra said: “It is extremely concerning that people have been getting very sick and even dying in areas smashed by this typhoon, which has left millions without access to clean drinking water, hospitals and health facilities. “Red Cross is urgently ramping up healthcare and providing clean water to prevent severe illness and death from diseases like gastroenteritis and diarrhoea.” The IFRC is appealing for 20 million Swiss francs to provide more than 400,000 people with immediate relief, including food supplies, restored access to clean water, and longer-term support to help families rebuild their homes and shattered livelihoods. For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: Asia Pacific Office: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected] IFRC Philippine Delegation, Karina Coates, +61 (0) 404 086 006 [email protected]

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29/03/2019 | Press release

IFRC to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela

Caracas/Panama/Geneva, 29 March 2019— The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has announced that IFRC will have unhindered access to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela to support a major scale up of medical care and other assistance by the Venezuela Red Cross. The announcement comes after a series of meetings this week in the Venezuelan capital Caracas with institutions and humanitarian, social and political groups. Speaking at a press conference in Caracas, IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “The IFRC will be able to scale up health activities across the country in a manner that is independent, neutral, impartial and unhindered, reaching more vulnerable people.” “In a country torn apart by the struggle between powers, the power of humanity has prevailed. This is a crucial step forward in expanding humanitarian services in Venezuela, with a specific focus on health, saving more lives, and alleviating the suffering of vulnerable people who are facing a dire situation.” With IFRC support, the Venezuelan Red Cross currently runs a network of 8 hospitals and 33 medical clinics. It also offers community-based medical screenings, consultations and disease prevention and hygiene programs. The Venezuelan Red Cross has more than 2,600 volunteers working across the country, including 500 who deliver first aid. “As we scale up our operations, we can count on the committed Venezuelan Red Cross volunteers to reach people in need, whoever they are and wherever they are, with health care as the priority,” said Mr Rocca.

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