IFRC statement at the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly #WHA
Mr Chairperson, Director General, Excellencies and colleagues,
On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and its 192-member Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, allow me to congratulate the World Health Organization on the occasion of its 75th anniversary.
Our presence here today is a testament to the vision of the Member State towards WHO’s constitution, who set for it the most difficult, as well as the most relevant objective: achievement of the highest attainable health standard for everyone, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social status.
But it is also a testament to the WHO’s ability to adapt and grow in the face of disasters, war, and crisis, as well as an ever-shifting social, economic and environmental landscape.
As a humanitarian organization founded in 1919, IFRC have faced many of these challenges together with the WHO, and we can be sure that the next 75 years will continue to challenge our abilities. Today, our major challenge of equitable access to health care is more elusive than ever, an issue that can only be resolved through political commitments.
In that sense, perhaps the most relevant questions, looking ahead, is not what new challenges the next 75 years will bring, but how we will face them. Will we work in coordinated partnership to address the social determinants of health, or will we continue working in fragmented manner? Will our policies and actions be defined by communities and local actors or from places hundreds of kilometers away? And will we have the courage to invest in trusted, resilient, and quality health care, or continue to be essentially reactive?
Political and health leaders at this Assembly have opened many doors in the past two years to make way for meaningful change, and these are questions to reflect upon during this Assembly.
More information about the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly, including videos of the event, can be found on the World Health Organization (WHO) website here.
World's largest youth organizations agree new strategic collaboration with the WHO to build a healthier, more equal and youth-led future
Geneva, 13 May 2022 - Today, CEOs and youth leaders from the Big 6 Youth Organizations met with leaders from the World Health Organization (WHO) to discuss the role of young people in leading COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and agree on a ground-breaking strategic partnership and collaboration of engaging young people in future health-related crises.
The partnership agreements signed by five of the Big six are designed to increase multilateral collaboration and put young people at the heart of decision making, whilst the IFRC will use its existing partnership to achieve this goal. This represents an important milestone in the successful collaboration between the Big 6, the WHO, and the Global Youth Mobilization (GYM), a movement of young people taking action to address the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to build back better.
Young people today face an unparalleled time of challenge. In addition to the direct health impacts exacerbated by the pandemic, young people continue to be disproportionately affected by disruptions to education, loss or lack of employment opportunities, domestic and gender-based violence, and mental health challenges.
The new strategic agreements build on the Global Youth Mobilization, a successful initiative launched at the end of 2020 and supported by WHO and the UN Foundation through the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The Global Youth Mobilization enables the rapid disbursement of micro grants to tens of thousands of young people worldwide to help develop solutions to ensure their communities emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. Through the “Local Solutions”, young people are driving change and implementing solutions in response to COVID-19 by taking action through community-based interventions and voluntary services. The initiative is powering change at a national level too through the engagement and activation of Big 6national organizations across the world.
The collaboration between WHO and the Big Six Youth Organizations includes a focus on the areas of mental and physical health, health promotion, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and climate and health.
Commenting on the strategic collaboration, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said:
“WHO is proud to support the global movement to engage and empower young people as a driving force in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with the Big 6 and the United Nations Foundation has provided a unique opportunity to learn from millions of young people and be guided by their enthusiasm and ideas to help communities build back better.
What the Big 6 have achieved in a year through launching and implementing the Global Youth Mobilization is phenomenal and unparalleled in the youth development sector. We look forward to continuing our support through these new partnership agreements and encourage others to partner with the Big 6 and invest in the health and well-being of future generations.”
Anna Segall, CEO of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and Chair of the Global Youth Mobilization, said:
“We believe in young people’s agency and know that with the right support and opportunity they can imagine and lead the solutions to the global challenges we face today.
In coming together through the Global Youth Mobilization, the Big Six Youth Organisations have shown that by listening to young people and providing them with the space and resources to act, our organisations and young people can make a huge collective impact.
We look forward to continuing this vital work through our new strategic collaboration with the World Health Organization. By supporting young people to improve their mental and physical health, sexual and reproductive health and rights and tackle the impact of climate change we can work together to create a better, fairer future for all.”
Meti Gemechu, Youth Board Representative for the Global Youth Mobilization and World Young Women’s Christian Association, said:
"Through the Global Youth Mobilisation, we have proved that we are not the problem but in fact the solution to not just building back from the pandemic but building back better. With innovation, relentless energy and dedication to bettering our communities young people have led the response and recovery efforts. The Global Youth Mobilization is a critical actor in bringing together everyone for a future we want to be a part of."
During the three-day visit the Big 6 shared highlights and recommendations with multinational agencies, institutions, governments, policymakers and corporations to prioritise the needs of young people from the Global Youth Mobilization "Powering Change: Young People Leading the COVID-19 Response and Recovery” impact report.
To date the Global Youth Mobilization has already resulted in 200,000 young people actively engaged in addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in their local communities. They have been at the forefront of the pandemic recovery, delivering over 260 projects to date in 77 countries and supporting 800,000 community beneficiaries.
For more information contact:
Sam Williams, Global Youth Mobilization, Project [email protected]
Paleni Amulungu, Global Youth Mobilization, Digital Communications, Partnerships and Advocacy [email protected]
Amjad Saleem, IFRC Inclusion, Protection and Engagement Manager [email protected]
Click here to learn more about the IFRC's work in engaging young people around the world.
IFRC statement at the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board 150th session
The IFRC was born in the wake of the 1918 pandemic, and epidemic preparedness and response are part of our DNA.
We have a historic opportunity to reform the global health architecture this year. Let me propose 3 lenses through which we should measure success:
First, epidemics thrive on socio-economic and geographic inequities, affecting levels of trust, access to health services and quality of surveillance - let us not ignore this and over-medicalize our discussions.
Second, it is crucial that domestic disaster laws and frameworks, including public health emergencies, go beyond IHR capacities to be truly comprehensive and inclusive.
Finally, having effective vaccines, tests and treatments available at scale is critical, but it will not ensure their uptake or availability in communities. Community engagement and health systems are key to leaving no one behind.
The IFRC and its 192 member National Societies stand ready to share their legal and health expertise and recommendations to ensure reforms are not only powerful on paper, but transformative in reality.
Click here to learn more about the IFRC's work in health and care.
| 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.
| Press release
WHO/Europe and IFRC sign Memorandum of Understanding to help countries achieve health for all
WHO/Europe and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today reaffirmed and strengthened their cooperation with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ms Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe and Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe jointly signed the MoU. This further cements the existing relationship between the 2 organizations, who have cooperated closely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MoU provides a framework for supporting countries in the Region to achieve universal health coverage through the coordinated efforts of ministries of health, the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and WHO/Europe, including WHO country offices.
Ms Bischoff Ebbesen stated: “Access to preventive measures and response to urgent health needs are crucial priorities, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated. We look forward to reinforcing our cooperation with WHO/Europe to help guarantee health services for all, with a particular focus on supporting the most vulnerable. Together, we must ensure nobody is left behind”.
Dr Kluge said: “The signing of this memorandum of understanding further strengthens the ties between WHO/Europe and IFRC, moving our existing collaboration forward in a range of areas, including: building universal health coverage in communities, promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing noncommunicable diseases, increasing voluntary blood donations and responding to emergencies. Partnerships such as this one are crucial to our impact on the ground and form a vital part of delivering the European Programme of Work”.
Closer cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic
During the pandemic, joint activities and partnerships continue to be of central importance in terms of response and recovery. For example, the WHO-UN-Red Cross COVID-19 Platform has been a key source of information sharing and cooperation.
The MoU captures the commitment of WHO/Europe and IFRC to work together to achieve their common aim: improving the lives of the most vulnerable and reducing or eliminating avoidable inequities in health conditions. This will only be achieved through increasing universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support services.
Building on existing agreements
Through the MoU, the 2 organizations will increase and mainstream collaboration in the following areas: universal health coverage with a focus on community health and access to health services by displaced people; health in emergencies including pandemic preparedness and response, COVID-19 and vaccination; mental health and psychosocial support; ageing and the promotion of healthy lifestyles and NCD prevention throughout the life course; HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; voluntary blood donor recruitment; and evidence-based approaches, innovation and health data management.
The MoU also seeks to enhance and support cooperation among ministries of health, WHO/Europe, and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and to tap into each other’s comparative advantages in promoting health in the Region.
Moreover, the MoU goes beyond previous agreements to ensure lasting and suitable impact by establishing a concrete action plan for cooperation. This was facilitated by a series of technical meetings held immediately after the signing ceremony, and will be followed by annual meetings to better understand the impact of the cooperation, share lessons learned and optimize synergies.
The signing ceremony took place the week before the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, which focuses on the importance of partnerships to achieve the goals of the European Programme of Work 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”.
Contact focal points:
Ainhoa Larrea (+36 70 507 0131 – [email protected]) and Nora Peter (+36 70 953 7709 – [email protected])
| Press release
WHO, IFRC sign memorandum of understanding on emergency medical teams
Geneva, 11 December 2020 - The World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today launched a new collaboration to strengthen the delivery of emergency medical and health services during humanitarian crises.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and IFRC Secretary-General Mr Jagan Chapagain signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on implementing the Emergency Medical Team (EMT) initiative.
“We thank the IFRC for their support from the onset of the EMT Initiative and we look forward to this continued partnership in improving the quality of care in emergencies,” said Dr Tedros. “With the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant increase in emergencies around the world, this agreement could not come at a better time.”
Mr Chapagain said IFRC was committed to working side-by-side with WHO in providing life-saving health services to communities affected by humanitarian emergencies.
“This MoU will allow us to standardize our emergency health response work and provide increased support for National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which play such a crucial role in emergency response,” Mr Chapagain said. “We are very committed to working together with WHO to provide quality emergency health services that communities desperately need in times of crisis.”
The MoU, also known as the Red Channel Agreement, is the culmination of years of collaboration between IFRC and the WHO Emergency Medical Team Initiative.
The new agreement will bring more synergies to health emergency response between the two international organizations, particularly in technical standards, accountability, and coordination.
It aligns the IFRC’s system with that of the WHO Emergency Medical Teams global classification system, in doing so recognizing the IFRC’s Emergency Response Units as EMTs and heightens the involvement of IFRC teams and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the capacity building efforts of the EMT network.
| Press release
Red Cross and Red Crescent urges continued vigilance amid alarming resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe
Budapest,26 June 2020– As a resurgence in COVID-19 cases is reported in many parts of Europe and total deaths on the continent near 200,000, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) calls on communities to continue practising safety measures to prevent a deadly further spread of the virus.
“None of us is safe until all of us are safe,” said Dr. Davron Mukhamadiev, IFRC’s regional health and care coordinator. “Despite the easing of restrictions and summer weather, it is critical that we all continue to adhere to health and safety measures to avoid a ‘second wave’ across Europe.”
“Without effective and sustained community-based epidemic control measures, the pandemic will remain in communities and further peaks can be expected until the virus is eradicated.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases are recorded in Europe every day and more than 25 countries have seen an increase in new cases in the past two weeks. The top ten countries with the most significant increases are Croatia (2,680%), Iceland (+900%), Slovakia (+311%), Kyrgyzstan (241%), Bulgaria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Israel and Luxembourg.
In recent weeks, many European countries have begun easing public movement restrictions or ending ‘lockdowns’. Combined with warm and sunny weather across many parts of the region, there is fear that people forget to practise the safety measures that are of critical importance to preventing a deadly resurgence.
“There are simple, yet effective precautions all of us should continue to take so that we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe,” said Mukhamadiev.
“Hand washing, physical distancing by remaining two metres apart from other people, proper use of face coverings and avoidance of large crowds are the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers across Europe have been working around the clock to provide critical and accurate information on COVID-19 and its prevention. Teams continue to do so as restrictions are eased to help keep communities stay healthy and safe, and prevent further resurgence of cases.
Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in 54 European countries are also providing health care and ambulance services, distributing personal protective equipment, disinfectants and water to health care services, delivering food, medicine and hygiene items, supporting in temperature checks at ports of arrival, running telephone hotlines and providing mental health and psychosocial support to those in distress.
Key health and safety measures everyone should practise include:
Frequently wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and immediately throw away the tissue. Cough into your elbow if a tissue is not available.
Maintain at least a one metre distance between yourself and others, and avoid crowded places.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Anyone with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should seek medical care according to their national recommendations and stay at home and self-isolate.
Follow your local Ministry of Health’s guidance on the use of masks and face coverings.
| Press release
COVID-19: IFRC, UNICEF and WHO issue guidance to protect children and support safe school operations
GENEVA/NEW YORK, 10 March 2020 – The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) today issued new guidance to help protect children and schools from transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The guidance provides critical considerations and practical checklists to keep schools safe. It also advises national and local authorities on how to adapt and implement emergency plans for educational facilities.
In the event of school closures, the guidance includes recommendations to mitigate against the possible negative impacts on children’s learning and wellbeing. This means having solid plans in place to ensure the continuity of learning, including remote learning options such as online education strategies and radio broadcasts of academic content, and access to essential services for all children. These plans should also include necessary steps for the eventual safe reopening of schools.
Where schools remain open, and to make sure that children and their families remain protected and informed, the guidance calls for:
Providing children with information about how to protect themselves;
Promoting best handwashing and hygiene practices and providing hygiene supplies;
Cleaning and disinfecting school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities; and
Increasing airflow and ventilation.
The guidance, while specific to countries that have already confirmed the transmission of COVID-19, is still relevant in all other contexts. Education can encourage students to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, in school, and in their community by talking to others about how to prevent the spread of viruses. Maintaining safe school operations or reopening schools after a closure, requires many considerations, but if done well, can promote public health.
For example, safe school guidelines implemented in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the outbreak of Ebola virus disease from 2014 to 2016 helped prevent school-based transmissions of the virus.
UNICEF is urging schools – whether open or helping students through remote learning – to provide students with holistic support. Schools should provide children with vital information on handwashing and other measures to protect themselves and their families; facilitate mental health support; and help to prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to be kind to each other and avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.
The new guidance also offers helpful tips and checklists for parents and caregivers, as well as children and students themselves. These actions include:
Monitoring children’s health and keeping them home from school if they are ill;
Encouraging children to ask questions and express their concerns; and
Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose.