| Press release
IFRC warns that the growing heatwave in Europe could have tragic consequences
Budapest, 14 July 2022 - Extreme temperatures have spiraled countries into dangerous heat waves and wildfires across Europe. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) urges cities and communities to prepare to avoid a further disaster.
Since May, Europe has been among the fastest “heat wave hot spots” in the world. Forecasts show no sign of abating. Many parts of western Europe are experiencing extreme temperatures and countries like Portugal are battling raging wildfires, impacting thousands of people.
“With the climate crisis, this heat is part of our ‘new normal’,” says Maarten Aalst van, Director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. “These deadly events are now more frequent and more intense.”
In the past ten years, climate- and weather-related disasters have killed more than 400,000 people, affected 1.7 billion others and displaced an average of 25 million people each year world-wide.The people most at risk of heat waves include older people, children, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing health conditions. Heat waves have cascading impacts in other areas of society, such as reduced economic output, strained health systems and rolling power outages.
Staff and volunteers from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across the region are supporting communities preparing for and impacted by the heat waves. At the same time, teams are responding to the devastating wildfires most notably in Portugal, but also Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Turkey brought on by the extreme heat.
“Many have had to evacuate their homes with the few things they can carry," saysAna Jorge, President of the Portuguese Red Cross."Our medical teams are focused on ensuring people are getting to safety, providing critical health care to those suffering from burns and other injuries and providing them with a bed to sleep in and the necessities as they decide their next steps.”
With heat waves becoming more likely around the world as the climate crisis worsens, more preparedness and early warning systems are required to reduce and manage the risks.
“People are not always aware of the dangers of heat. But when communities understand the risks and take simple measures to prepare for it, they can prevent unnecessary tragedies,” says van Aalst. “We urge cities and communities to prepare and take the necessary steps to save lives, now and in the long term.”
For more information and to arrange an interview:
In Budapest: Corrie Butler,[email protected]+36 704306506
In Athens: Georgia Trismpioti, [email protected] +30 6971809031
Note to Editors:
IFRC’s Heat Wave Guide for Citiesand Urban Action Kitare resources for city officials, urban planners and community organizations to anticipate and plan for extreme urban heat and reduce deadly risks.
C40’s Urban Cooling Toolboxprovides approaches to lower urban temperatures and reduce the impact of the urban heat effect; the Heat Resilient Cities Benefit Toolhelps city planners and decision-makers quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of adaptation actions.
A heat wave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures and often high humidity. Extreme heat can cause shock, dehydration and other acute illnesses, and worsen cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
There is now a mountain of evidence that climate change is increasing the occurrence of deadly heat waves. For instance, scientists have concluded that climate change has made the 2022 heat wave in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely, the 2019 heat wave in western Europe at least 10 times more likely, the 2019-20 heat wave in Australia that contributed to the devastating bushfires 10 times more likely, and that the extreme heat in the northwest US and Canada in 2021 would have been virtually impossible without climate change. For details, see for instance, the World Weather Attribution analyses.
| Press release
IFRC urges governments and humanitarian partners to protect lives ahead of an active hurricane season in the Americas
Panama/Geneva, 31 May 2022 —The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up preparedness actions ahead of another above-average active Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean. The IFRC urges governments and humanitarian stakeholders to protect lives by investing in early warning systems, forecast-based solutions, and coordinated disaster response plans.
From 1 June to 30 November 2022, North America, Central America, and the Caribbean expect between 14 to 21 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six hurricanes of category three or higher. The IFRC and its network are working to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with the effects of heavy rains, landslides, and floods that these weather events may cause during the next six months.
Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, said:
“The region may face up to six major hurricanes, but it takes just one single storm to destroy communities that are already grappling with poverty, inequality, and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, hundreds of local Red Cross teams in more than 20 countries are sharing early warning messages and coordinating preparedness measures with local governments and community leaders.
In parallel, the IFRC is combining weather forecasts with risk analysis to take early actions ahead of hurricanes rather than simply responding to events. This approach allows us to anticipate disasters, decrease their impact as much as possible, and prevent suffering and the loss of lives and livelihoods.”
The IFRC is paying special attention to the needs of women, children, migrants, and returnees, who are suffering from overlapping crises in Central America. This region is still recovering from the pandemic and hurricanes Eta and Iota, which left 1.5 million people displaced in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala alone.
In Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti, vulnerable communities exposed to hurricanes and storms are also at highest risk of food insecurity due to the current global food shortage crisis.
In this challenging scenario, the IFRC is advocating for regulatory frameworks that favor the agile delivery of humanitarian aid to areas affected by disasters. It has also prepositioned humanitarian goods in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and across the Caribbean to provide immediate response to the humanitarian needs for up to 60,000 people in both the Pacific and Atlantic coastal zones.
According to the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, the 2022 hurricane season in the Atlantic, and the Caribbean Sea is predicted to be more active than normal due to the influence of the La Niña climate pattern. This phenomenon is active for the third consecutive year and causes sea temperatures in this basin to be above average. This condition allows for more active development of hurricanes, as seen in 2020 and 2021.
For more information, please contact:
Susana Arroyo Barrantes - Comms Manager Americas,[email protected]
María Victoria Langman - Senior Comms Officer Americas,[email protected]
Trevesa Da Silva - Comms Officer English & Dutch Caribbean, [email protected]
| Press release
Scientists confirm climate change already contributes to humanitarian crises across the world
Geneva, 28 February 2022 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls for urgent local action and funding, particularly for those most vulnerable, to combat the devastating humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis confirmed in today’s report by world’s climate scientists.
For the first time, the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published today notes that climate change is already contributing to humanitarian crises in vulnerable contexts. In addition, climate and weather extremes are increasingly driving displacement in every region of the world.
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“The IPCC report confirms what the IFRC and its network of 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have already witnessed for years: Climate change is already disrupting the lives of billions, particularly the world’s poorest who have contributed the least to it.”
“The global response to COVID-19 proves that governments can act decisively and drastically in the face of imminent global threats. We need the same energy and action to combat climate change now, and we need it to reach the most climate-vulnerable communities across the world so that they have the tools and funding to anticipate and manage risks.”
The report, authored by more than 200 climate experts, reaffirms the key principles that the IFRC network has been calling for to tackle climate change; that local action is key in tackling climate change and that responding to disasters after they happen will never be enough to save lives and combat a crisis of this magnitude.
The latest science confirms, with very high confidence, that climate impacts and risks exacerbate vulnerabilities as well as social and economic inequities. These in turn increase acute development challenges, especially in developing regions and particularly exposed sites, such as coastal areas, small islands, deserts, mountains and polar regions.
Maarten van Aalst, coordinating lead author of the report and Director for the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre said:
“This report is a flashing red light, a big alarm for where we are today. It tells us in unequivocal scientific language that the window for concerted global action to secure a liveable future is rapidly closing. It demonstrates that all the risks we were concerned about in the past are now are now coming at us much faster.”
“But the report also shows that it is not too late yet. We can still reduce emissions to avoid the worst. Alongside, we’ll have to manage the changes we can no longer prevent. Many of the solutions, such as better early warning systems and social safety nets, have already proven their value. If we raise our ambition to adapt to the rising risks, with priority for the most vulnerable people, we can still avoid the most devastating consequences.”
Notes to editors
National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies not only respond to disasters when they occur, but also play a critical role in preventing hazards such as floods and heatwaves from becoming disasters. Working at the front lines in communities before, during and after disasters, they know what is needed to respond to climate crises and help communities prevent and adapt to the rising risks of climate change. The IFRC aims to support member National Societies to reach 250 million people each year with climate adaptation and mitigation services to reduce suffering and vulnerability.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
In Geneva: Caroline Haga, +358 50 598 0500, [email protected]
Rights-free b-roll and images related to this press release are available to download and use here.
| Press release
IFRC warns human-caused climate change made record-breaking heatwave 150 times more likely, putting lives at risk
Geneva, 8 July 2021 - Recent rocketing temperatures are having a severe impact on millions of people and putting lives at risk, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned.
Last week’s record-breaking heatwave in parts of the US and Canada, would have been virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change. This is according to a rapid attribution analysis by an international team of leading climate scientists and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. The analysis found that climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, made the heatwave at least 150 times more likely to happen.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:“Right now, we are witnessing heat records topple as temperatures rise, with terrifying consequences for millions of people around the world.
“We are responding on the ground, and thanks to our investment in anticipatory action, we are able to better prepare for these crises.”
From wildfires and drought to heat exhaustion and serious heat-related health risks, communities across the globe are struggling to cope with the increased temperatures and frequency of heatwaves.
“The Red Cross and Red Crescent network cannot combat the devastating impact of the climate crisis alone,” added Rocca. “There must be a concerted global effort to deal with the climate emergency, which represents the biggest threat to the future of the planet and its people.”
National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are working with those hit hardest by the current heatwaves and those who are most at risk from soaring temperatures - including older people, homeless people, people with COVID-19 and underlying health conditions, those living in isolated areas, and refugees and migrants.
The Head of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Maarten van Aalst, said: "Heatwaves topped the global charts of deadliest disasters in both 2019 and 2020. Here we have another terrible example - sadly no longer a surprise but part of a very worrying global trend. Many of these deaths can be prevented by adaptation to the hotter heatwaves that we are confronting in the Americas and around the world.”
In the US, American Red Cross teams are working in cooling centres and shelters to support people escaping the dangerous heatwaves, while the Canadian Red Cross is on hand to work with emergency services to respond to deadly wildfires.
In Europe, Red Cross volunteers are providing health and social care support to older and vulnerable people put in danger by the scorching temperatures.
In Pakistan this year, some of the hottest temperatures on record have scorched areas of Sindh province and Pakistan Red Crescent health teams have been helping people, including bike riders and others exposed to extreme heat as they are compelled to work outside earning daily wages.
In Afghanistan, the Afghan Red Crescent and the IFRC are working together to provide urgent cash and food assistance for more than 210,000 people, as one of the worst droughts in decades threatens the food and water supplies.
In the Middle East, Red Crescent Societies, including those in Iran, Iraq and Syria, have been responding to the drought affecting the lives of millions of people. In Saudi Arabia, the Red Crescent has organized a nationwide campaign on mitigating the health hazards caused by the temperatures climbing up to 50C.
As the number of climate-related emergencies increase globally each year,the IFRC and its National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are increasing their support to the most vulnerable communities around the world.
In 2020, 75 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies received nearly 37 million dollars to support 109 emergency operations - the majority of which were floods and cyclones in the Asia Pacific region and Africa.
 Link will be live from 00.01am CET 8 July 2021
| Press release
At least 51.6 million people doubly hit by climate-related disasters and COVID-19, new analysis by IFRC reveals
New York, Geneva, 23 September 2020 – New analysis published today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre reveals that at least 51.6 million people worldwide have been affected by floods, droughts or storms and COVID-19.
The pandemic is increasing the needs of people suffering from climate-related disasters, compounding the vulnerabilities they face and hampering their recovery.
At least a further 2.3 million people have been affected by major wildfires and an estimated 437.1 million people in vulnerable groups have been exposed to extreme heat, all while contending with the direct health impacts of COVID-19 or measures implemented to curb its spread.
The analysis, which quantifies the overlapping vulnerability of communities, shows that out of 132 identified unique extreme weather events that have occurred so far in 2020, 92 have overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing media at the United Nations headquarters in New York ahead of the High Level Roundtable on Climate Action, IFRC President, Francesco Rocca, said “These new figures confirm what we already knew from our dedicated volunteers on the frontlines: the climate crisis has not stopped for COVID-19, and millions of people have suffered from the two crises colliding. We have had absolutely no choice but to address both crises simultaneously.”
Across Asia and Africa, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have responded to widespread and, in many cases, unprecedented flooding that has inundated communities, swept away houses, wiped out food supplies and disrupted livelihoods. Cruelly, COVID-19 has hampered response efforts, for instance by increasing the burden on already stretched or limited health systems and preventing affected people from seeking treatment for fear of catching the virus.
In the Americas, Red Cross volunteers have been on the ground providing food, shelter and relief items to people affected by deadly wildfires across the western United States, as well as preparing communities for, and responding to, ongoing hurricanes and tropical storms in the region.
“IFRC is uniquely placed to support people living through climate-related disasters and COVID-19 thanks to our network of almost 14 million local volunteers who have remained steadfast in their communities, even as many international organisations had to retreat. They have worked tirelessly to rise to new challenges – from distributing personal protective equipment to adapting evacuation spaces to support physical distancing. Never have I seen a stronger case for localised humanitarian action,” said President Rocca.
Climate Advisor with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Julie Arrighi, said: “While not all climate-related disasters have a direct link with climate change, it is unequivocal that due to global warming we are facing a more volatile climate with more weather extremes. COVID-19 has exposed our vulnerabilities like never before and, as our preliminary analysis shows, compounded suffering for millions of people affected by climate-related disasters.”
Reflecting on the global response to COVID-19, IFRC President Rocca said: “The massive global investment in recovering from the pandemic proves governments can act decisively and drastically in the face of imminent global threats – we urgently need this same energy on climate, and it is critical that the recovery from COVID-19 is green, resilient, and inclusive if we are to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable communities.”
Download the working paper:
Climate-related extreme weather events and COVID-19: A first look at the number of people affected by intersecting disasters [1.1 MB]
| Press release
IFRC’s first ever virtual climate summit, Climate:Red, is happening everywhere on 9-10 September
Geneva,8 September 2020 –Climate:Red, a fully virtual and truly global climate change summit, is bringing youth champions, activists, indigenous leaders, scientists and government ministers together on 9 – 10 September 2020 for 30 hours of innovation, ideas, and action to tackle the climate emergency.
The summit has been organised by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to mobilise support for climate action, and encourage the sharing of ideas and experiences. The event will run for 30 consecutive hours to allow people in all time zones to get involved, and is open for everyone to join.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “While the world’s attention has been turned to COVID-19, the climate crisis continues to unfold. Climate change is already a humanitarian crisis, and the scale of the suffering it causes will only get worse."
“The Red Cross and Red Crescent is committed to massively scaling up our climate action, and this summit will mobilize our global network to meet those commitments. Climate:Red is also an opportunity to engage with and inspire an enormous network of change agents.”
Climate:Red has a crowdsourced programme with around 200 sessions and speakers. In addition to leadership, staff and volunteers from the Red Cross and Red Crescent network, the summit will feature leading scientists, government ministers, CEOs, youth champions, climate activists and people in remote communities driving climate change initiatives every day.
High-level speakers include His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Honorable Casten N. Nemra, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of the Marshall Islands; Michael Köhler, Deputy Director-General, Directorate-General European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (DG ECHO); Krista Mikkonen, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Finland and many others.
The vast range of sessions also demonstrate the diverse, cross-cutting and far-reaching nature of Red Cross and Red Crescent climate work. For instance, there will be a roundtable discussion with indigenous leaders from around the world, messages from young Red Cross and Red Crescent climate champions, an ignite talk about the role of art in raising awareness about climate change in Sudan, and a variety of interactive panels, workshops, virtual games and live podcasts.
During the event, the shortlisted candidates of the Climate:Red innovation competition will pitch their ideas and new ventures to address climate change in the Innovation Pitch Tent open on Thursday 10 September at 13:30 CEST. The audience can vote for their favourite, and competition winners will receive funding to help implement their ideas.
The full schedule with all speakers and sessions is available for registered attendees in climate.red. The summit is open to all members of the public, and all of the main stage sessions at climate.red will be available in English, French, Arabic and Spanish.
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said: “We always envisaged Climate:Red summit as our first fully virtual global event, and I hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to join the summit across its 30 hours of ideas and inspiration.
“Climate change affects us all, no matter who we are or where we’re living. We need to talk to each other, and support each other, if we are to rise to the many challenges and overcome them. Climate:Red will help us do this by creating a space for learning, sharing, exploring and strategizing on how we can scale up our climate action.”
Climate:Red Summit starts on Wednesday 9 September at 12:00 CEST in the Climate:Red platform: https://climate.red
| Press release
Red Cross calls on people to check on neighbours and loved ones during dangerous heatwave
Budapest/Geneva, 29 July 2020 – As temperatures soar across Europe, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling on the public to check on neighbours and loved ones who might struggle to cope with the searing heat.
According to European meteorological offices, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Romania can expect temperatures in the mid to high 30s during the week., with Paris and Madrid forecast to reach around 40°C on Friday.
To prevent loss of life, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is urging people to check in on their vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends while following COVID-19 safety measures.
IFRC’s acting health coordinator for Europe, Dr Aneta Trgachevska, said: “Some older people are unable to spend on things like air conditioning. They may be socially isolated. When coupled with thermoregulation problems, reduced water intake and physical ability and chronic diseases, there could potentially be a large at-risk group.”
IFRC is also concerned about the potential compounding impact of COVID-19 during this period of soaring temperatures, said Dr Trgachevska:
“Managing the impact of heat and COVID-19 at the same time poses a challenge to frontline workers, health care systems and local communities. The spread of COVID-19 will not stop in summer. On the contrary, it increases the risk of extreme heat by compromising our usual coping strategies.”
People who would usually visit public places like parks, libraries and shopping malls to find refuge from the heat may be reluctant to leave their homes due to fear of infection. For the same reason, some may be afraid to seek medical care for heat stroke.
“While self-isolation is advisable for vulnerable people during a pandemic, during a heatwave it could be life-threatening, especially for people living alone without home cooling systems. To make sure our loved ones and neighbours stay safe, we should check on them daily via phone or video calls. If you need to physically help someone, make sure to follow hygiene rules, such as wearing a mask and washing your hands upon entering someone’s home,” explains Dr. Trgachevska.
People who are most vulnerable to heat stress are also those most at risk of COVID-19, including people older than 65, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions, prisoners and marginalized groups such as homeless people and migrants. Due to the pandemic, health workers and first responders are also more prone to heat stress as they need to wear personal protective equipment.
Across Europe, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff are on high alert to support communities during summer. The Austrian Red Cross operates cooling centres in malls. It also has a mobile app to help people stay safe with a real time heat map and list of cool public places. In Spain, Red Cross volunteers are helping people with disabilities to enjoy a dip in the sea.
In Monaco, volunteers are regularly checking in on isolated older people via daily phone calls or physically distanced home visits, and in the Netherlands, they go door-to-door to distribute life-saving information. In several other countries, including Italy and the UK, Red Cross teams are reaching out to vulnerable groups to inform them on how to stay protected from both the heat and COVID-19.
Heatwaves can have a catastrophic human toll. In 2003 an estimated 70,000 people died during a record-breaking heatwave in Europe. Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of heatwaves globally.
Some tips to stay cool and safe:
Close drapes and shutters during the hottest parts of the day to reduce direct sun exposure
When it’s cooler outside, open windows on opposite sides of the building to create a cross-breeze
Avoid cooking food indoors during the hottest hours of the day
Unplug large electronic devices that produce heat
Use an electric fan and set a bowl of cold water or ice in front to create a cold breeze
Wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothes
Avoid exercise and strenuous activities during the hottest hours of the day
Drink plenty of cool water, avoid alcohol and caffeine
Some medicines may reduce tolerance to heat. Get medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.
Stay connected, listen to the weather forecast and adapt your plans if necessary
Follow social distancing guidance when using shared outdoor spaces such as parks and beaches
Ask for medical help in case of signs of heat-related illness.
Download the heatwave guide developed by the Red Cross Red Crescent climate centre
IFRC releases forecast-based funds against impact of super cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh
As super cyclone Amphan heads towards the West Bengal-Bangladesh areas, Bangladesh Red Crescent has triggered the release of forecast-based funds from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to reduce the storm’s impact on vulnerable communities living in the nine coastal districts of Bangladesh.
According to the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) in Bangladesh, more than 14.2 million people are in the path of the cyclone, of which 7.2 million are women and 1.4 million are children. This has put these communities at a dual risk amid the existing COVID-19 pandemic.
This forecast has triggered the pre-agreed release of 134,317 Swiss francs (138,000 US dollars) from IFRC’s designated fund for anticipatory action, Forecast-based Action by the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).
The funding will help support more than 20,000 vulnerable people with emergency dry food and drinking water, first aid, safety equipment, and transportation facilities to cyclone shelters, as well as support precautionary measures against COVID-19 through the disinfection of cyclone shelters and provision of personal protective equipment sets.
IFRC Head of Bangladesh Country Office Azmat Ulla said:
“In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been working tirelessly alongside local authorities, sharing early warning information and pre-positioning relief supplies, as well as having teams to support evacuations as super cyclone Amphan approaches Bangladesh.
“With the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, we are enabling communities to take all sorts of preparedness measures to reduce the loss of life and livelihood in the coastal districts including the camps in Cox’s Bazar, where around one million displaced people reside in temporary shelters. Forecast-based actions mean the communities no longer wait for a cyclone to hit, rather anticipate it and act early.”
“We have seen many mega cyclones in the past that have brought massive devastation in this region. This funding allows Bangladesh Red Crescent to take actions to reduce the impact of such an event.”
Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people take early actions ahead of cyclones rather than only having access to support after they have been hit.
The goal of Forecast-based Financing is to anticipate cyclones, decrease their impact as much as possible, and reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is reached. As part of this mechanism, an Early Action Protocol for cyclones outlines which anticipatory measures the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society will implement to reduce the cyclone’s impact. This work is developed by National Societies with the technical support from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.
Bangladesh Red Crescent Society Secretary General Md. Feroz Salah Uddin said:
“We are scaling up our preparedness measures and early actions to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are in the direct path of cyclone Amphan. The current COVID-19 crisis is slowing our efforts down, but our volunteers are not stepping back from reaching out to the most vulnerable communities.”
Over the past 10 years cyclones have affected more than a million people in Bangladesh, causing death and injury, destroying homes and undermining livelihoods.
The Early Action Protocol for cyclones in Bangladesh has been revised considering the current COVID-19 epidemic. While the priority remains to move people to safe shelters if an evacuation order is issued, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are taking action to help prevent further outbreaks, including sharing hygiene information and items, identifying alternative evacuation spaces to enable physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting cyclone shelters.
This is only the second time IFRC’s early action funding mechanism has been used after over 210,000 Swiss francs were released to Mongolia Red Cross in January 2020 based on the forecast of an extreme winter season. The funding provided cash grants to vulnerable herder families to help protect their livestock and livelihoods.
German Red Cross is providing technical expertise and funding support to the Forecast-based Financing project and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. Head of German Red Cross’ Bangladesh Office Gaurav Ray said:
“The impending cyclone, Amphan, is putting the lives of the most poor and vulnerable families at risk. By taking forecast-based early actions well ahead of the cyclone, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is setting a precedent, especially in the face of this dual crisis. Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers and the Cyclone Preparedness Programme will play a critical role in alleviating the distress faced by communities at risk.”
Read the Bangladesh Cyclone AmphanEarly Action Protocol for Cyclones and the early action protocol activation announcement for Cyclone Amphan.
The Forecast-based Action by the DREF was established with support from the German Red Cross and the German Government Federal Foreign Office.
Study: Climate change increased chance of "extreme fire weather" by 30%
Climate change increased the chance of the “extreme fire weather” witnessed in Australia over the past few months by at least 30 per cent, says a new analysis by World Weather Attribution scientists.
The true figure could be “much higher” because models underestimate the trend in heat extremes – one of the main factors making up indicators of fire danger.
If global temperatures were to rise by 2°C, the study adds, the fire-weather conditions experienced in summer 2019–20 “would be at least four times more common as a result of human-caused climate change,” a WWA press release says.
The researchers, from Australian, European and American universities and research institutes = including the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre - used an international Fire Weather Index first developed by Canada and France and adapted for use in Australia and other countries.
They compared present-day conditions, with more than 1°C of global warming, to the climate as it was around 1900, focusing on heat and periods of very low rainfall.
Heatwaves like Australia’s this summer “are now hotter by 1–2°C than they were around 1900”, the WWA release says; the scientists did not, however, “directly link the recent record low annual rainfall nor the driest month of the fire season with climate change.”
The Australian Red Cross, which to date has raised the equivalent of nearly US$ 30m for its humanitarian response to the fires, has described the episode as “extraordinary times with extraordinary responses”.
Climate Centre Director Professor Maarten van Aalst, a joint author of the WWA study, said today: “Climate change is already making our global humanitarian work more difficult; we’re facing bigger risks and more surprises.
“This study shows that these rising risks are reflected in the huge losses inthe Australian bushfires that it will take even a wealthy, well-prepared nation a long time to recover from.
“Adaptation and resilience are criticalbut on their own are not enough: reducing emissions is also crucial.”
The WWA scientists, who say the chief aim of their methodology is to provide findings relatively quickly after an extreme event, have are submittingtheir results to the scientific journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, where it will be available for open peer-review.
Story: Alex Wynter, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
| Press release
“200 million people in need, US$20billion to respond” – new report estimates escalating humanitarian cost of climate change
New York, 19 September 2019 - A new report by the world’s largest humanitarian network warns that the number of people needing humanitarian assistance every year as a result of climate-related disasters could double by 2050.
The Cost of Doing Nothing – published today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – estimates that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of storms, droughts and floods could climb beyond 200 million annually – compared to an estimated 108 million today.
It further suggests that this rising human toll would come with a huge financial price tag, with climate-related humanitarian costs ballooning to US$20 billion per year by 2030, in the most pessimistic scenario.
Speaking in New York, in the run-up to the UN Climate Action Summit, IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“These findings confirm the impact that climate change is having, and will continue to have, on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. It also demonstrates the strain that increasing climate-related disasters could place on aid agencies and donors.”
“The report shows the clear and frightening cost of doing nothing. But it also shows there is a chance to do something. But now is the time to take urgent action. By investing in climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction, including through efforts to improve early warning and anticipatory humanitarian action, the world can avoid a future marked by escalating suffering and ballooning humanitarian response costs,” said Mr Rocca.
The Cost of Doing Nothing builds on the work and methodology of the World Bank’s Shock Waves report, and draws on data from the UN, the EM-DAT International Disaster Database as well as IFRC’s own disaster statistics. The report shows that we are facing a stark choice. No action and costs are likely to escalate. Take determined and ambitious action now that prioritizes inclusive, climate-smart development and the number of people in need of international humanitarian assistance annually could in fact fall to as low as 68 million by 2030, and even drop further to 10 million by 2050 – a decrease of 90 per cent compared to today.
Julie Arrighi, an advisor at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, and one of the main contributors to the report, said:
“In this report, we present some of the potential consequences should the global community fail to step up ambition to address the rising risks in a changing climate. It also shows some of the potential positive outcomes if indeed the global community takes action now to build resilience, adapt and address the current climate crisis
“We hope that this report helps build momentum during the upcoming Climate Action Summit and beyond to increase investment in inclusive, climate-smart development – including reduced emissions, but especially renewed efforts to adapt to the rising risks,” Ms Arrighi said.
Click here todownload the full report.
To download b-roll of climate-related disasters, including interviews with people affected by them, as well as Red Cross climate experts discussing the report, please visit: www.ifrcnewsroom.org
| Press release
MEDIA ADVISORY: Europe heatwave - Red Cross experts available
Geneva, 22 July 2019 – Red Cross climate experts are available to discuss the potential humanitarian impact of this week’s European heatwave, as well as the simple and affordable steps that can be taken to protect lives.
Temperatures are expected to climb to record levels over the coming days, placing huge pressure on health and social welfare systems across the continent, and potentially threatening the lives and well-being of vulnerable people.
Red Cross experts can highlight some of the concrete measures that individuals and authorities can take to reduce the potential humanitarian impact of the heatwave. They can also discuss the clear links between climate change and heatwaves and share findings from the Red Cross’ recently released Heatwave Guide for Cities.
Available experts include:
In New York: Julie Arrighi, Red Cross climate expert and one of the authors of the Heatwave Guide for Cities.
In Geneva: Tessa Kelly, Climate Change Coordinator, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
| Press release
Heatwaves: urgent action needed to tackle climate change’s “silent killer”
New York, 16 July 2019 – A new resource launched today in New York will help cities prepare for heatwaves – extreme weather events that are among the world’s deadliest types of natural hazard.
Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Francesco Rocca, said:
“Heatwaves are one of the deadliest natural hazards facing humanity, and the threat they pose will only become more serious and more widespread as the climate crisis continues.
“However, the good news is that heatwaves are also predictable and preventable. The actions that authorities can take to save lives and significantly reduce suffering are simple and affordable.”
The new Heatwave Guide for Cities from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre offers urban planners and city authorities an authoritative summary of the actions they can take to reduce the danger of heatwaves, which are defined as a period of time when temperatures, or temperature in combination with other factors, are unusually high and hazardous to human health and well-being.
Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the global temperature record have occurred since 2001. Several serious heatwaves have killed tens of thousands of people worldwide during this period, including the 2015 heatwave in India that killed around 2,500 people, and the 2003 heatwave across Europe that lead to more than 70,000 deaths.
The people at greatest risk of heatwaves tend to be those with pre-existing vulnerabilities, including elderly people, very young children, pregnant women, those with medical conditions, and people who are socially isolated.
“Heatwaves are silent killers because they take the lives of people who are already vulnerable,” said Rocca. “It’s vital that everyone knows how to prepare for them and limit their impact.”
Around 5 billion people live in regions where extreme heat can be predicted days or weeks in advance.
Examples of the actions that cities can take include establishing systems to warn people ahead of anticipated periods of extreme heat; strengthening health systems to reduce the risk of them being overwhelmed during a heat crisis; conducting community awareness campaigns; establishing cooling centres/telephone helplines for vulnerable people in need of help, treatment and support; and “greening” cities and urban centres, for example by planting trees, protecting open green spaces, and introducing car-free zones.
The influence of climate change on heat extremes was evident again in Europe in June when cities across the west of the continent recorded record temperatures – an event that scientists believe was made at least five times more likely by climate change.
Note to editors
The Heatwave Guide for Cities has been produced by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in collaboration with more than 25 partner institutions including ICLEI, Arizona State University, Met Office, John Hopkins University, USAID, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the World Meteorological Organization and World Health Organization Joint Office for Climate and Health, Thomson Reuters Foundation and the cities of Cape Town, Kampala, Entebbe, Ekurhuleni and Phoenix. It can be downloaded here.
| Press release
MEDIA ADVISORY: Heatwaves – New Red Cross initiative to tackle climate change’s “silent killer”
New York/Geneva, 11 July 2019 – Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), will give a press conference at 12:30 Tuesday 16 July in the Press Briefing Room of the United Nations in New York.
He will present new Red Cross guidelines to help cities prepare for heatwaves - extreme weather events that are now one of the world’s deadliest natural hazards.
He will also discuss the humanitarian consequences of climate change and the first-hand experience of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers who are responding to the increasing frequency and severity of heatwaves and other extreme weather events.
Bangladesh: How Forecast-based Financing supported objective decision-making in advance of Cyclone Fani
When a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society receives a forecast of an imminent extreme weather event, one of their most urgent tasks is to decide what action to take in anticipation of a possible disaster.
In the case of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, this decision-making process has become clearer and more straightforward, thanks to its improved use of scientific information, as was shown in recent weeks before the arrival of Cyclone Fani.
Since 2015, the Bangladesh Red Crescent has been using a Forecast-based Financing (FbF) approach with support from the German Red Cross. As a result, when Cyclone Fani approached, decision-makers could rely on an established system which provided them with robust forecast information and served as a basis to decide, when and where to act and with what resources.
The Bangladesh National Society, with support from the German Red Cross and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, had developed an Early Action Protocol for cyclones. This plan clearly defines forecast thresholds and details which early actions are needed, and where, to protect the population.
In the days before Cyclone Fani made landfall, the Bangladesh Red Crescent set up an Activation Committee in line with its established procedures for activating the Early Action Protocol. Its role was to continuously review the meteorological data and decide if according to the forecast information the trigger for activation was met. The Activation Committee is chaired by the Deputy Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent and also includes experts from the Cyclone Preparedness Programme, the Climate Centre, German Red Cross, and IFRC. Activation of the Bangladesh EAP is being funded by the IFRC’s financial mechanism to support early action, the Forecast based Action by the DREF, which was created in May 2018.
Based on the forecast information, the local branches in the coastal districts activated their control rooms, mobilized their resources, volunteers and officials for early warning and preparation of evacuation shelters. Eight members of the National Disaster Response Team were deployed in four districts (Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat and Barguna) to support the activities being conducted. In two districts, local branches with German Red Cross support also undertook a rapid stock-taking of local markets to ascertain if they were able to supply the food and relief items that would be required in case of an activation.
In addition, a database of the cyclone shelters, markets and accessibility was used by all stakeholders in preparation for Cyclone Fani. The database had been developed by the FbF project and proved to be very useful in preparing districts in the cyclone’s path for evacuation, and in obtaining real-time information from the shelters through the contacts listed.
The Activation Committee met several times before deciding not to activate the Early Action Protocol, as the forecasts did not meet the trigger that had been defined in the EAP and all the data and analysis suggested that the forecasted impact could be managed with resources from the local branch. Had the Committee decided for activation, the EAP Implementation Committee was there to coordinate and implement the EAP and districts were ready.
Thanks to the work on FbF, there was a clear framework for decision-making and the systematic monitoring of forecasts allowed the preparations to focus on those districts that were later affected by rains, using resources efficiently.
All these actions as well as the structures for coordination demonstrate the importance of forecast-based financing in supporting readiness activities and bringing all affected parties together to take anticipatory action.
IFRC at centenary climate and health conference in Cannes: a call for ‘inspiration, resolve, leadership’
The major global conference on climate and health organized by the French Red Cross in the Mediterranean city of Cannes ended yesterday. Described as “the first humanitarian COP” by Jean-Jacques Eledjam, President of the French Red Cross, in an opening address, the two-day World Conference on Health and Climate Change was aimed at linking global ambitions to the experience of the Red Cross and Red Crescent network and its partners.
Some 400 officials, academics, humanitarians and other concerned people from the all over the world took part in 15 debates, including Laurent Fabius, President of France’s Constitutional Council who was also president of the COP21 climate talks that secured the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The Cannes conference was timed to commemorate the centenary of the IFRC, created as the League of Red Cross Societies by the American, British, French, Italian and Japanese Red Cross in 1919, shortly after they had also met in Cannes’s historic Théâtre Croisette to coordinate their work.
On Tuesday IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy said he hoped the conference would “start planting the seeds for the next visionary 100 years”.
In a keynote address he began by commiserating with the French people over the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Mr Sy said it was no longer possible to deny the impact of climate change on the “triptych of people’s lives, livestock and livelihoods”.
It was also going to be “the source of the conflicts of tomorrow [which will] no longer be around mineral resources but a commodity as simple and easy as water”.
Mr Sy told the Cannes audience: “Today the scale and magnitude of the issues of yesterday are in no way comparable. The numbers are not the same; the frequencies are not the same; the severities are not the same.
“We are more equipped today than ever before, but I’m not sure that we have the same sort of inspiration, the same resolve, or the same leadership.” Now, he argued, it was time to “communicate a sense or urgency that people need these things”.
For the Red Cross and Red Crescent, he added, “where it matters most, we have to be there all the time, and all the time beside people in need – before the shocks, before the outbreaks, and also during, and most importantly after”.
Mr Sy also argued that “we cannot always blame climate change” for the “doom and gloom” abroad in the world. “Maybe we should start where it matters most, with each of our individual behaviours,” looking at consumption patterns, how we care for each other, or not, and how we plan our communities and cities.
‘Images and stories’
In other IFRC engagement in Cannes, International Federation President Francesco Rocca, in his opening address on Monday, said global action on climate is growing “and this is a very good sign. But the fact is that interest is not keeping up with the rising risk.
“We in the Red Cross and Red Crescent have the responsibility to raise the profile of the issue of climate change, take action to address the rising risks, and prepare for the important [global] discussions” later this year.
IFRC Director of Health and Care Emanuele Capobianco outlined its four-point policy on plugging gaps to achieve universal health care: expanding human resources and the volunteer base, going the “last mile” to reach the most vulnerable communities, fighting epidemics – some of them now climate-related, and instituting financial protections.
He earlier tweeted that he had travelled to Cannes from Beira, Mozambique with “images and stories that are a stark reminder of why this conference is important.”
Detailing some anticipatory financing mechanisms already in use in the humanitarian sector, such as German-supported forecast-based financing, Under Secretary General for Partnerships,JemilahMahmood said it was vital to leverage finance for “the ‘perfect storm’ of climate change and poverty and their health consequences”. Moving from reactive to anticipatory finance, she argued, was key.
Monday’s opening session heard an impassioned plea for greater ambition on climate from Alex Pinano, President of the Marshall Islands Red Cross, the global Movement’s newest National Society: “We don’t want two degrees. We want 1.5 or we will become the nomads of the Pacific. Our home, our paradise, will disappear.
Climate Centre Director Maarten van Aalst facilitated a specialist workshop on adapting to heat waves in urban areas where participants expressed their strong commitment to raise ambition to address what was described as “among the biggest killers” among natural disasters.
Karine Laaidi of Public Health France said heatwave plans including national early warning had reduced mortality dramatically since 2003, although it was still in the hundreds and even thousands annually.
She said that key interventions included the need to further raise awareness of risk, including among vulnerable elderly, and ensure people look after each other – both areas where organizations like the Red Cross Red Crescent can play a key role.
Discussions also highlighted that there is a huge gap in awareness and even basic data in many developing countries, though mortality and economic impacts are equally significant.
On Monday, Nick Watts of the Lancet Countdown research collaboration told the conference that 157 million more “heatwave exposure events” happened to people globally in 2017 – an increase of 18m over the previous year, with 153 billion hours of labour lost – an increase of 62m.
Report: Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
Forecast-based Financing: Early Action Protocol in place to protect Peru’s alpaca herders
The Red Cross and Red Crescent’s first ever Early Action Protocol funded by IFRC’sForecast-based Action by the DREF – which will useforecast-based financingto support herder families in the high Andes region of Peru – is now in place and ready for activation.
The protocol is designed to help herder families to protect their lives and livelihoods during periods of extreme cold weather. The early action will be activated based on a five-day climate forecast, which will give the Peruvian Red Cross a period of four days to act before the start of an extreme cold wave.
This EAP was developed by the Peruvian Red Cross with support from the German Red Cross, the German Foreign Office, IFRC and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and is designed to shift humanitarian action from response to anticipation – a shift that could save lives and dramatically reduce costs compared to traditional emergency relief.
| Press release
IPCC report: Climate change already making humanitarian work harder, less predictable, more complex, says IFRC
Geneva, 8 October 2018 –Climate change is already making emergency response efforts around the world more difficult, more unpredictable and more complex, according to the world’s largest humanitarian network.
This warning from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) coincides with the launch of a UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report that sets out the predicted impacts of both a 1.5°C and a 2.0°C rise in the global average temperature by 2099.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “More than half of our operations are now in direct response to weather-related events, and many others are compounded by climate shocks and stresses. If this is the situation now, then it is difficult to comprehend the scale of crises confronting vulnerable communities in a world that is 1.5°C or 2.0°C hotter.”
In 2017, IFRC and the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network responded to over 110 emergencies, reaching more than 8 million people. More than half of these were in response to weather-related events.
National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are also bearing witness to rising climate displacement. Weather-related events displaced 23.5 million people in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
Mr Rocca said: “In a 1.5°C-warmer world, more extreme-weather events will affect everyone. But it will be especially cruel for communities that are already struggling to survive because of conflict, insecurity or poverty.
“We are already working with some of these communities to help them anticipate and adapt to what might be to come. These efforts need to increase significantly. A higher proportion of global climate finance needs to be dedicated to helping these communities adapt to changing risks. Currently, not event 10 per cent of funding does this.”
Dr Maarten van Aalst, a climate scientist and director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre based in The Hague, added: “Climate remains at the centre of the international agenda. In 2018, we have seen lethal heatwaves and wildfires across the Northern Hemisphere, including in unexpected places like eastern Canada, Japan and Sweden. A rapid analysis in July by an international group of climate scientists showed that in some European locations climate change made the heatwave at least twice as likely.”
Today’s IPCC report sets the scene for COP 24 which opens in Katowice, Poland on 3 December. Mr Rocca said: “COP 24 must deliver a rigorous rule book for how to implement the Paris Agreement. No one can afford half measures; our future existence depends upon it.
“IFRC welcomes this IPCC report. We hope this leads to action. Millions of lives – and billions of dollars of disaster response – are at stake.”