5 top tips on maintaining mental health from Red Cross first-responder volunteers
We all know that mental well-being is as important as physical health. But how often do we actively take care of our mental health? What can we do to support ourselves and others?
Why not ask some experts? People whose job is to take care of others during and after crises and emergencies.
We decided to ask volunteers from a Honduran Red Cross team that provides medical and mental health services to migrants at a mobile Humanitarian Service Point in Danlí, 92 km southeast of Tegucigalpa.
To do their job, they must take care of themselves. After all, how can you support others if you’re not processing your own emotions in a productive, healthy way?
Here are 5 tips they offered that can help everyone - even if you are not a volunteer - to take care of your mental health, anywhere, at any time:
1. A little help from close ones: Individual and team care.
In emotionally intense situations, it is important to rely on work teams, friends and family. You don't have to face it alone. Sharing experiences and reflecting together helps us deal with the emotional impact of daily work.
"In the team, we are always trying to fill ourselves with good energy and good attitude towards difficult situations. We always try to take care of ourselves physically, and above all to take care of our mental health.
Because we see many cases, aggressive people, without self-control. In childhood care, we can handle a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, and we try to understand but also to take care of ourselves."
Honduran Red Cross
It is necessary to allow yourself to feel and validate all emotions in order to heal, even if they make you feel uncomfortable.
Engaging in self-care practices that involve physical activity and moments of relaxation, as well as resting and spending time in nature, or with people you love, can also help you through painful situations.
2. Someone to lean on: Seek professional support.
Access to information and psychosocial support resources can save lives. Despite the fact that close to one billion people in the world suffer from a mental disorder, stigma and social difficulties make it difficult to promptly seek help and mental health care.
"We rely on our own team, we reflect and share the experiences we have lived through, and that helps us to provide emotional support. But beyond that, there is also a team of mental health professionals that we can rely on."
Honduran Red Cross
Talking about your emotions is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. You may be struggling with what you feel is part of the human condition and there is no shame in doing so. You are just a person going through a difficult time and doing the best you can.
There will always be someone who understands what is happening to you.You can always ask for help.
3. I hear you: Practice active listening
Just as sharing your feelings is beneficial to your mental health. Listening to others in an attentive and respectful way, validating their experiences and emotions, can strengthen your relationships and bonds. It can also provide valuable emotional support, and even more so during crisis and emergencies.
"For me, this time I have being a volunteer has been very eye-opening. Gettingclose todifferent realities and learning what people live through along the migratory route, helped me grow as a mental health professional."
Honduran Red Cross
By practicing active listening, you develop empathy and open yourself to know realities different from your own.
When you see that someone is suffering and having a hard time, let's listen, validate, support and, if possible, accompany them to seek professional help.
4. Keep learning: Look for useful resources.
Training is a powerful tool for understanding and addressing mental health challenges and identifying symptoms and situations that can lead to stress and anxiety.
"In the Red Cross, I was trained from the basics. I learned what the Red Cross was, safety measures for field work, the meaning of our uniforms. I also received training in Psychological First Aid, Restoring Family Links and Protection, Gender and Inclusion.
"We know that in the field we need this knowledge to provide adequate care and to protect ourselves, which is part of the Red Cross training."
Honduran Red Cross
Don't miss the opportunity to strengthen your mental health knowledge and learn how to help yourself and people around you.
Visit our mental health page to find more resources.
5. Support others - support yourself: Volunteer service
By supporting others in times of crisis and emergencies, you not only provide support to those in need, you can also find meaning and satisfaction in your life.
"You see on the news what the people who pass through the Darien go through, they come with their complications, there are people who have even died on the way....
And to see the joy of the adults, when we take care of their children, when they have their medicines and the possibility of healing their wounds, is the most valuable thing. People always leave grateful, giving you blessings".
Honduran Red Cross
The advice and practices shared by Scarlet, Angel, Yaritza and Leonardo show that taking care of our mental health is essential to facing life's challenges and providing effective supportto those in need.
Access to mental health services must go hand-in-hand with actions that guarantee basic needs for all people, whoever they are and wherever they are.
There is no health without mental health.
| Press release
SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC alerts the Mediterranean deadly as ever as Pope Francis arrives in Marseille to commemorate lives lost at sea
Marseille, Friday, 22 September -Almost ten years after a devastating shipwreck off Lampedusa claimed the lives of more than 360 men, women and children on 3 October 2013, the central Mediterranean is as deadly as ever. During his current visit to Marseille, Pope Francis will once again alert the global public to the humanitarian crisis unfolding at Europe’s southern border by commemorating those missing at sea.
In a press conference onboard civil rescue ship Ocean Viking this morning, SOS MEDITERRANEE and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) attested to the heartbreaking situation for people trying to cross the Mediterranean in search of safety.
Jérôme, Deputy Search and Rescue Coordinator onboard Ocean Viking said:
“Last month, we witnessed firsthand the lack of resources to save lives in the central Mediterranean. We conducted the largest ever rescue operation on the Ocean Viking. In 36 hours of nonstop operations, we rescued 623 people. It was clear that there were more people at risk of losing their lives than we could assist. The work we do is vital, but we cannot do it alone.”
The humanitarian needs in the central Mediterranean have been exacerbated by the growing food insecurity in Africa, the conflicts and recent disasters that have struck Libya and other Northern African countries in recent weeks. With no alternative to seek safety, there is no reason to believe that people will stop attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
The main objective of search and rescue efforts is to bring people to safe places where they can access their rights. SOS MEDITERRANEE and the IFRC urge all States to prioritize sea rescue and to uphold maritime law and human rights along Europe’s southern sea border.
Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General for National Society Development and Operations Coordination said:
“IFRC cannot turn a blind eye. Across the globe, people on the move face significant risks to their lives, dignity, and rights. This is a humanitarian imperative that we all have an obligation to address and is why IFRC is responding both on land and at sea. Our humanitarian work aboard the Ocean Viking is a vital part of our mission of protection and alleviating human suffering.”
Sophie Beau, co-founder of SOS MEDITERRANEE and General Director of SOS MEDITERRANEE France said:
“The unfathomable death toll in the Mediterranean this year could have been prevented if the political will was there. Migration deterrence policies and obstruction of civil sea rescue have only led to more human suffering. As a prominent moral and global figure as well as European Head of State, Pope Francis will use his visit to Marseille to recall the moral imperative underlying the laws and conventions that apply at sea: no one in distress should be left to drown.Ten years after the shipwreck off Lampedusa, we urgently call for global sea rescue missions and for the recognition of the valuable support of humanitarian Search and Rescue organisations.”
Note to the editor
As of 2021, the IFRC has partnered with SOS MEDITERRANEE onboard the Ocean Viking. This partnership builds on the strength of both organizations: SOS MEDITERRANEE’s sea rescue expertise and IFRC’s longstanding experience in providing relief, protection and health-related assistance to people in need. Find out more here.
For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Press contact: Méryl Sotty
Media Manager – +33 6 11 74 10 11 [email protected]
Press contact: Edgar Zuniga
Europe Communications Delegate – +36 20 337 7221 [email protected]
From north to south: Honduran Red Cross accompanies thousands of migrants on their return home
Máximo and George are two brothers from Honduras who, faced with unemployment and a lack of opportunities, took the difficult decision to migrate northwards in search of a better future.
Their journey towards their dream life, however, did not go as planned.
"We were stranded, with no money, with nothing, but we kept walking. We had no money for the bus, nothing, but we decided to take the risk. On the way we were assaulted and we were extorted, we almost lost our lives. They pointed a gun at us and told us ‘you pay us, or else we’ll put you in a body bag'," explains George.
Stories like this are sadly all too common along the Central American migratory route. Violence from criminal gangs, rising unemployment and cost of living, among other reasons, are all encouraging people to migrate—not only from south to north, but also from north to south.
Honduras is a territory of origin, return and transit for migrants. Every day, hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, leave the country. Many others cross it on their way to North America, and many others return to the country when they encounter the same problems abroad that they were trying to flee at home.
From January to July 2023, more than 33,000 Honduran migrants like Maximo and George returned to their country, equivalent to almost 160 people per day.
"One of the reasons people return, according to the interviews we have conducted, is to be reunited with their families,” explains Nicol Palacios, Protection Assistant at the Centre for Attention to Returned Migrants (CAMR) in Omoa, north-west Honduras.
“The challenges they face on the migration route have a great influence: suffering violence, the long distances they have to walk, spending the night in the street, not having food or at least not the food they are used to in their country. Tiredness is also another reason why they stop; and if they feel dejected, they decide to turn themselves in to the authorities so that they can be returned to Honduras,” she adds.
From the Corinto border between Honduras and Guatemala, the Honduran Red Cross (HRC) transports migrants and returnees to the CAMR in Omoa, where they receive support from staff and volunteers from the Red Cross and National Migration Institute.
"This Centre gives returnees the opportunity to feel a warm embrace when they return to their country", says Mario Alberto Ávila, Director of the CAMR.
Meanwhile, further south in the small town of Belen, the Honduran Red Cross partners with the local government to run a care centre for unaccompanied migrant children and families returning home.
"All the cases in the centre are tough to listen to, all of them. People come in frustrated and upset because they did not achieve their objective of reaching their destination,” says Gabriela Oviedo from the Honduran Red Cross who runs the care centre.
“What has had the greatest impact on us is looking after babies who are only days or months old; children who don't even know how to speak. We welcome them at the centre and give them the loving treatment they deserve until we can hand them over to their waiting family members," she adds.
Saving lives and addressing the needs of migrants along the Central America migratory route is becoming increasingly urgent. The IFRC's priority in the region is to provide people on the move with quality assistance tailored to the specific needs of the most vulnerable groups—regardless of people’s migration status or the reasons why they’re on the move.
For Marilyn, a young mother from Honduras, it was losing her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then losing her home in floods caused by Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2021 that pushed her to seek a better life elsewhere.
But being separated from her two children, who she left with her mother, was not easy. Marilyn attempted to head to North America several times, but never made it to her destination. During her migration attempts she experienced muggings, hunger, breaking her feet, and a boat capsizing.
"My dream is in about 5 years to have my own house. To set up my own business and for my children to be well, to put them to school. I want them to have better opportunities than I had", says Marilyn.
The IFRC network strives to provide assistance and protection to returnees like Marilyn, Máximo and George who are looking for a better future.
From July 2022 to May 2023, our emergency appeal addressing the migration crisis in Mexico and Central America has enabled the Honduran Red Cross to provide health services, psychosocial support, water and sanitation services, and cash assistance to more than 59,000 people.
As the number of people on the move through Central America continues to rise, the challenge is daunting.But we will continue to defend migrants’ rights and dignity and provide them with vital humanitarian services—whoever and wherever they are.
Learn more about the IFRC's work supporting people on the move.
Saving lives at sea: Ocean Viking ship completes its largest ever rescue in the Central Mediterranean
“I want people to understand that when someone makes this kind of journey it’s because they have no other choice.”
These are the words of Ahmed Bentalha, the IFRC Protection Team Leader on board the Ocean Viking rescue ship. Staffed by teams from SOS Méditerranée and IFRC, the ship patrols the Central Mediterranean – one of the most active and dangerous migration routes in the world – to rescue and support people who become stranded at sea.
Between 10-12 August, Ahmed and his fellow Ocean Viking crewmembers completed the ship’s largest ever rescue operation – saving 623 people from unsafe vessels within 36 hours and helping them safely disembark in Italy.
“The first rescue began at around 8:00am on Thursday 10 August. The second came the following evening at midnight, and after that it was rescue after rescue for the whole day. It was a very hard and intense 36 hours. We didn’t get to sleep at all,” explains Ahmed.
“None of the boats we responded to were seaworthy. The people on board were very distressed. They didn’t have life jackets and were packed into the boats with no space to move. Some boats had started taking on water and people were rushing to get it out.”
The rescues were carried out by SOS Méditerranée search and rescue teams using RHIBs (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats) to bring survivors to the Ocean Viking.
“We got them all on board. There were people everywhere. Some had been at sea for a few hours, others for four to five days. We could see the difference in how tired they looked,” says Ahmed.
“Physically, most people weren’t in too bad a condition. But some were suffering from fuel burns which happen when fuel leaks from the engine and mixes with sea water, causing a chemical reaction which burns the skin.”
Once on board, IFRC teams provide different humanitarian services to those rescued. The medical team, which includes a doctor, nurse and midwife, attends to people’s health needs, while a logistics expert takes care of providing food and essential items.
The protection team, led by Ahmed, registers migrants on board the ship, completes age and family assessments and helps them get in contact with their families.
“Most people we rescued in this operation were from Sudan, but we also had people from Guinea, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries. We had people of 26 different nationalities in total – mostly men and women, but also more than 100 children and ten small babies,” says Ahmed.
The protection team also talks to survivors about international protection and their rights. And for people needing specialist care, such as survivors of sexual violence or unaccompanied minors, Ahmed contacts authorities and other NGOs on land – in this case, in Italy – to arrange additional support once they disembark.
It’s been a trying summer so far for Ahmed and the Ocean Viking. Though winter is a more difficult season in terms of rough weather conditions, the sheer number of people needing support at sea this summer has tested crews to their limits.
And just last month, the crew’s lives were put in danger when the Libyan Coast Guard fired shots in close proximity to a rescue team – the third incident of its kind this year.
“They started shooting – both close to us and around the boat we were trying to assist. We were instructed to leave the scene despite being in international waters. I tried to communicate with them but they only responded by shooting, so we had to leave the area for our own safety. It was scary,” says Ahmed.
Despite the challenges and dangers that crews on-board the Ocean Viking face, Ahmed remains firmly committed to saving lives at sea.
“You reach a point where you feel that you can’t take it anymore. But then each time you hear the ‘ready to rescue’ call from the bridge, you get that rush of adrenaline that keeps you going.”
“The best moment is when we dock at a port of safety and can disembark people because that’s when we can say our rescue is done – that they finally made it to a safe place.”
“As people step onto dry land, they look into your eyes and thank you. Sometimes they hug you and cry. Some people told us ‘because of you, I didn’t die today’. It’s very emotional.”
“Being a humanitarian, seeing people in distress and needing help. That’s what keeps us going.”
The IFRC has been operating a Humanitarian Service Point onboard the Ocean Viking in partnership with SOS Mediterranée since July 2021. Together, we've rescued and provided humanitarian assistance to more than 4,000 people.
SOS Mediterranée focuses on the search and rescue side of the operation, while IFRC teams onboard provide humanitarian assistance (such as health and psychosocial support, food, water and information) to people rescued.
For more information:
Click here to read more about this work.
Learn about our Global Route-Based Migration Programme.
See more photos from this rescue operation.
Visit IFRC GO, our emergency operations data platform, to see real-time data about our Humanitarian Service Point at sea.
Hiding from bullets in a water tank: Kenyan evacuee who fled Sudan shares her story
“I heard the bullets outside when I was cleaning. My boss told me the war had started.”
These are the words of Theresa*, a young woman from Kenya who bravely agreed to share her story with me about fleeing the conflict in Sudan. Feeling afraid for her safety, she asked me to not publish her photo.
Theresa had just started working as a domestic worker with five other young women in a large home in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, when the fighting broke out.
“I was new in Sudan. My bosses left for Egypt and I stayed with five girls and three security. The electricity went off, there was no water, it was too hot.”
She says thieves came into the house, tied up their security and started looking for her and her fellow workers.
“We went and hid upstairs at the top of the house where there was a water tank. The thieves broke the doors, took gold, money, everything in the house. Even my passport.”
“They came upstairs and looked around. We had left a phone and kettle of tea and they said ‘the girls are around and have taken their tea here’.”
“I was inside the water tank. They shot bullets so we would come out, but we didn’t. We kept quiet in that tank of water until they ran away.”
Theresa and her fellow workers fled the house several days later when another group of men came and moved into it.
“I left everything in that house. The road was not safe. The bombs were everywhere. They were shooting, I didn’t care [if I died]. […] I came to my embassy. I stayed there then they brought me to Kenya.”
Theresa is just one of 44 people I met in Nairobi airport who’d managed to get evacuated to safety from the conflict in Sudan.
They drifted through the airport gates in small pairs and groups, collapsing onto chairs that volunteers from the Kenya Red Cross (KRC) had set out for them. “Karibu, you’re welcome” were among the first words they heard.
The group was made up of mostly women – their evacuation prioritized due to the increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. They had come from different countries and had all been in Sudan to work or study.
Social worker and Kenya Red Cross volunteer, Alexina, tells me most of the women and some of the men she’s helped have survived sexual violence. She’s welcomed numerous groups now, and stories like Theresa’s are shockingly similar. People have often fled in a hurry, or their possessions have been stolen en route, meaning they typically have no passports, money or belongings by the time they reach Nairobi.
When they arrive, evacuees first register with Kenya Red Cross volunteers who take their details to help reconnect them with their loved ones. They’re then led to a tent where they can have quiet conversations with trained mental health workers.
Inside the tent, volunteers, including psychologists and a social worker, sit with small circles of evacuees who share their stories of what they’ve been through. This early psychosocial support gives people who’ve been through traumatic situations a chance to start to process what’s happened.
Next is a police table to help them with ID documentation. Then there’s a comfortable welcoming area where people enjoy food and drinks, and a first aid station with medical and hygiene supplies. People can access free phone services, and the Kenya Red Cross runs a bus service to transfer people to free accommodation.
“I’m very happy to be back in Kenya now […] When they were looking for me and I was inside the water tank, I thought that was my day to die,” says Theresa.
After recounting her story, Theresa looks numb and exhausted. I struggle to find adequate words as we say goodbye. She climbs, carrying her one bag, into one of the buses, and I think about what I should have said: “I’m in awe at your resilience, Theresa.”
An estimated nine million people have been affected by the conflict in Sudan. Some 1.2 million people have been displaced internally and nearly half a million people have fled to neighbouring countries.
The IFRC has launched two Emergency Appeals in response to this crisis: one to support the Sudanese Red Crescent Society to help people inside Sudan, and another to support National Societies in six neighbouring countries welcoming people fleeing the conflict.
To help people like Theresa, please donate to our appeals by following the links above.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity.
Secretary General speech at the Inter American Conference 2023
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It’s so good to be here in the beautiful Bahamas.
Bahamas —thank you for hosting this conference. I take this occasion to congratulate the Bahamas on 50 years of your Independence.
President Terez Curry, IFRC Vice President Miguel Villarroel, Dr Judith Carvajal, Vice Chair of CORI, GB members and Commission and Committee chairs of the IFRC, George Weber Vice Chair of Standing Commission, Giles Carbonier VP of ICRC, National Society leaders, staff and volunteers and my amazing IFRC secretariat team led by Martha Keys —I pay tribute to all of you who have shown incredible leadership these past few years--through the COVID-19 pandemic and so many other compounding crises.
I thank you all for your focus on doing what is right for the people we serve, and for your unwavering commitment to your communities.
The Americas region is vibrant, teeming with diverse communities and extraordinary resilience.
It is also one of the most unequal regions in the world, hit by a complex web of crises that is driving up humanitarian needs and negatively impacting communities’ lives, livelihoods, and dignity.
The climate crisis with rising temperatures, extreme weather events and environmental degradation are wreaking havoc on communities and their livelihoods, across the region.
Endemic violence has shattered communities leaving scars that last for generations.
It has widened inequality and worsened socio-economic conditions.
It is pushing people to flee their homes and has directly contributed to the most severe migration crisis the Americas region faces in recent history.
Today, 3 out of every 10 migrants or asylum seekers leave their country of origin because of threats of violence.
Sadly, women and children bear the brutal brunt of this terrible crisis.
The tragic and horrifying stories of the people I met who were making the perilous journey across the Darien Gap last August will stay with me forever.
Every day, around 1000 people take this dangerous path in Darien Gap, in search of safety, hope, and new opportunities.
With no political solutions in sight and less resources available, the global humanitarian system is buckling under pressure to meet assistance, and protection needs of people in these circumstances.
But, 35 National Societies in this region, sadly only 34 now, have shown that we can confront these challenges by providing a wide range of services that address the core needs of communities.
From managing blood banks, clinics, hospitals, and ambulances to leading search and rescue operations, supporting people on the move, running nursing institutions, and developing solutions to tackle the climate crisis and violence, National Societies play crucial role.
IFRC is proud to support these efforts through the Disaster Response Emergency Fund, Capacity Building Fund, Emergency Appeals and our annual unified plans.
To address increasing migration needs, we are expanding our Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs) to provide life-saving and inclusive services across migratory routes.
Collectively, we have reached millions:
Over a million people through programmes for migrants and host communities
A further one million people through disaster response,
More than 3.5 million people through health and well-being programmes.
And the millions reached during the COVID-19 response and related immunization efforts.
But we cannot rest on our laurels.
Today we face serious challenges, both in our ability to meet growing humanitarian needs but also in our ability to safeguard our fundamental principles.
In this context, today we gather at this 22nd Inter-American Conference recognizing the responsibility we bear, the solidarity we must foster, and the impact we can create together.
Firstly--The responsibility we bear is our opportunity to contribute to something greater than ourselves.
Our IFRC network is like no other.
We are part of the communities we serve.
And we are the largest, most connected, global humanitarian network.
This sum of local action and global reach makes National Societies effective auxiliaries to their public authorities in humanitarian field.
Our responsibility is to deliver quality humanitarian action that makes a positive difference in people’s lives, that reduces their risks and vulnerabilities, and that enhances their capacities and potential.
We can only succeed if we remain true to our Fundamental Principles.
They are the foundations of just and inclusive humanitarian action.
They are the building blocks of unity, trust, and cooperation in our Movement.
They are our moral compass.
Without them, our credibility is called into question and our ability to deliver neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action is threatened.
We must reassert our Fundamental Principles.
Let’s practise them in our work, speak to them in our discussions, live by them, teach them, help communities, partners and donors understand them.
Secondly, solidarity is at the heart of everything we do across the IFRC network.
Solidarity and commitment to our Strategy 2030 and Agenda for Renewal has enabled us to respond to the multiple crises and disasters in this region, to provide relief to those in need, and to support communities as they recover and rebuild.
Solidarity also means that we stand together as one.
It means that we put the needs of those we serve before our own, and that we work to alleviate their suffering.
Solidarity enables us to leverage our collective resources, expertise, and influence, to reach more people in need, to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and to amplify their voices.
Solidarity is not an option. It is a moral duty. We need this now, more than ever.
Our success is measured by the outcomes we achieve for the people we serve.
In this era of fast paced change and shifting political divides, our focus must be on accountability, agility, engagement, and innovation—which are important elements of our Agenda for Renewal.
For this, the IFRC is working for and with National Societies.
We have invested in scaling up digitalization, risk management, new funding models for greater agility, accountability, and impact to reach to the communities we serve.
We use these resources to foster learning and strengthen National Society capacities, so they are leaders in the humanitarian field, not just in response but in resilience building, data, influence, collaboration, and innovation.
This brings me to our volunteers—the lifeline and heartbeat of our network.
More than 50 percent of our volunteers today are people under 30.
Young people bring with them energy, technological know-how, and innovative solutions.
Let’s harness their skills today, give them opportunities to lead us to a more just and equitable future.
Colleagues, our impact must be about scaling up our delivery, while ensuring the quality, relevance, and sustainability of our actions.
None of the obstacles we face today are insurmountable.
We have the knowledge, the resources, the expertise and the skills to bring about the change.
As Mother Teresa once said – “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”.
Colleagues- just like Mother Teresa, let us all dare to cast a stone across the water that will collectively create millions of ripples to make this world a better place for everyone. Not just for the few but for everyone.
From Sierra Leone to the Darien: migrants cross continents for a better future
Francis Icabba left his home country ofSierra Leone, West Africa, in search of security and new opportunities. Little did he know back then that he would end up crossing entire continents and one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world to find a better life.
His first stop was neighbouring Guinea, after which he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil. There, he found it difficult to settle in due to the language barrier, so he decided to continue his journey and head north.
It took Francistwo months from the time he left Brazilto reach the Darien Gap: thethick, dense, and notoriously dangerousjungle separating Colombia from Panama.
Once there, he embarked upon a six-day trek, prepared with cans of sardines, a small gas stove and some instant noodles to see him through.
He was accompaniedby two pregnant women, on a journey he describes as ''one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life”.
They walked for twelve hours each day without food, as his supplies quickly ran out. The extreme humidity, suffocating heat and constant crossing of rivers and streams forced them to abandon their suitcases along the way.
''The pregnant women we were with had given up. On the way we avoided snakes, rushing rivers and dangerously steep mountains. Everything is green. You have no sense ofdirection and no mobile signal. You just walk and walk. All the people there takethe risk for a better life, but it is a road where hope is lost. I wouldn't advise anyone to go through the Darien Gap.''
The Darien Gap is one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world. Sadly, it is not uncommon for people to die on the route due to the treacherous environmental conditions.There is also a highrisk of violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking and extortion by criminal gangs.
Despite this, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people will cross the Darien by the end of 2023, based on current trends.
People ofmore than 50 different nationalities have been recorded travelling through the Darien. The majority are from Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador, but some come from as far away as India, Somalia, Cameroon and Sierra Leone.
People like Francis who make it through the Darien often arrive in very fragile physical and mental states. To help them recover, the Panamanian Red Cross runs reception centres where they providefirst aid and essentials such as food, safe water, hygiene kits and clothes.
''Arriving in Panama was one of the happiest moments of my life, it is very hard because I had to fight for it. The Red Cross was the first to help us and for me it was a blessing. In pursuit of our dream for a better life, we lost everything. So three meals a day, soap, a towel, a bath, being able to talk to someone or be cared for, that means everything.''
Red Cross volunteersalso offer psychosocial support, as well as maternal and child health services to those who need them. And they can provide Restoring Family Links (RFL) services and WiFi, so migrants can let their families know where they are and that they are safe.
For most migrants, the Darien isn’t the end of their journey, but rather the start of a 5,470 kilometre journey northwards through sixcountries in Central and North America.
But no matter who they are, or where they come from, people on the move in this regionare not alone: they can continue to access similar support from Red Cross Societies, in the form of Humanitarian Service Points, every step of the way.
Nearly 60,000 migrants like Francis received humanitarian assistance and protection from the IFRC network in 2022 thanks to ourProgrammatic Partnership with the European Union.
Implemented by 24 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, including in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador in the Americas, the Partnership helps communities to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies. This includes protecting the safety, dignity and rights of people on the move.
More photos on this topic are available to view and download here.
Darien new record: As migration increases, so must support
According to data from Panama's National Migration Service, 127,168 migrants crossed Darien National Park between January and April 2023, equivalent to more than 1,000 people per day.
In response to this announcement,Verónica Martínez, head of the IFRC's humanitarian response in Darien, said:
"The number of migrants arriving in Panama via Darien is growing exponentially. In the last few weeks, we have seen between 2,000 to 3,000 people arriving per day, a figure which is overwhelming the Humanitarian Service Points through which the Red Cross provides assistance."
"The majority arrive in a devastating and inhumane condition. They are injured, dehydrated, with severe allergic reactions, and complications from pregnancies or chronic illnesses. Many have been victims of abuse and violence. The Red Cross provides them with first aid, basic healthcare, and access to water. They also provide information, internet connectivity, and referrals to specialized institutions."
"But these record numbers also strain the basic services in the communities that host the migrant people after their journey through the jungle. In Bajo Chiquito, the number of walkers is sometimes five times greater than the number of local inhabitants, which leads to the collapse of water supply, for example. The water treatment plants installed by the Red Cross there are insufficient."
"Despite all efforts to meet the growing needs, the aid in Darien is becoming insufficient. Migrants, local communities, and humanitarian agencies all need humanitarian assistance to grow exponentially. We need sustained help over time that can adapt to changes in the context and is aimed at saving lives and protecting dignity, like the one provided by the Red Cross thanks to humanitarian aid funding and the continuous support of the European Union, Spanish Cooperation, and other actors*."
"The region is on the brink of a new rainy and hurricane season, which makes it even more urgent for support to arrive as soon as possible. From June to November, the risks faced by migrants on the migration route from Panama to Mexico will also include river floods and storms. The IFRC and the Red Cross network are preparing to face this scenario, but as they warned last March, we need allies. Providing humanitarian assistance remains urgent and is a team effort."
In August 2022, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appealrequesting international support of 18 million Swiss francs (USD 20.3 million) to provide humanitarian assistance to 210,000 people along the migration routes of Central America and Mexico. However, the amount raised so far is around five percent of the total requested.
Click here to access rights-free B-roll and photos from this crisis on the IFRC Newsroom.
*Contributors include the British Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Monaco Red Cross, Dutch Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Simón Bolivar Foundation, and UNICEF.
Honduran Red Cross: Kindness shines bright in local communities
It’s 8am on a peaceful Sunday morning in Copán Ruinas, a small, picturesque town in western Honduras that was formerly one of the most powerful cities in the Mayan empire.
Shopkeepers are starting to open their doors. A scattering of women and children play in the main square. And many locals – wearing their signature wide-brimmed hats – are heading out on their morning walks.
But one man stands out in his bright red vest and cap. A large Red Cross emblem and the words Cruz Roja Hondureña proudly emblazoned on the back. I watch for a moment as he chats to people in the village, who all seem to greet him warmly with a handshake or fist bump.
I catch up to him, say a friendly “¡Hola, amigo!” and learn his name is Stanley. A Red Cross volunteer for more than 22 years, he’s on his way to a meeting with fellow volunteers and staff from around their region. He invites me to visit the local branch later that afternoon to learn about what they do.
And so I did! And the welcome couldn’t have been warmer.
Over lunch, I learned that everyone had come together from across the region to share their stories, knowledge, and experiences of supporting their local communities through various crises and day-to-day challenges.
Let me tell you about three of the people I met: Mirian, Napoleón and Loany.
Mirian is the proud President of the Copán branch and has been volunteering for more than 10 years. Her branch runs the only two ambulances in the whole town, meaning that when someone gets into trouble, it’s her team that answers the call.
She oversees far more than emergency health services, though. Her branch does a lot of work helping local people, including indigenous groups living in the surrounding hills and schoolchildren, to be prepared for crises – such as hurricanes and floods.
Her branch is also supporting the growing number of migrants passing through Honduras on their way northwards, including, amongst other things, through Humanitarian Service Points: strategically located spaces where migrants can access safe and reliable support on their journeys.
“I am motivated by humanitarianism, by seeing how the Red Cross is an organization full of love for others. That we are people willing to give everything. For me, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me – being a member of the Red Cross family,” says Mirian.
Napoleón is based in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city. He’s a former cameraman who has been volunteering as a driver for the Honduran Red Cross for five years.
A couple of years ago, Napoleón was one of many Honduran Red Cross volunteers who responded to devastating hurricanes Eta and Iota that ravaged the region.
He describes driving a large rescue truck through flood water so deep his vehicle nearly washed away. Despite treacherous conditions, he was able to reach and help rescue many stranded people, their belongings, and pets. He also assisted with the massive recovery and reconstruction effort, helping to put people’s lives and homes back together again.
The pride Napoleón takes in volunteering is written all over his face. His smile beams from ear to ear as he talks about supporting his fellow volunteers and rallying them together during a crisis.
“I like being a volunteer because you donate part of your life and you share feelings in helping humanity. It makes you feel good, feel satisfied, to be able to help,” says Napoleón.
Loany is also based in San Pedro Sula, but her role is a little different. She’s not a volunteer, instead she’s employed by the Honduran Red Cross to help volunteers.
She works with local branches, like the one in Copán, to improve their governance, financial management, and resource mobilization, so that their volunteers can provide better care and support to their communities.
While it might not sound as impressive as wading through flood waters to rescue survivors, Loany’s work is no less important. Strong local branches are the bedrock of the IFRC network. Without them, we can’t provide the fast, effective and local support that communities in crisis really need.
With one year’s experience, Loany is a relative newcomer to the Red Cross family. I asked her what working for the Red Cross means to her and whether she plans to continue:
“For me it means love, because wanting to do things well, wanting to help other people who are vulnerable or at risk, makes us give the best of ourselves as people. Now that I’ve entered the world of the Red Cross, I don’t know if I’ll ever leave!,” she says.
At the end of the volunteer meeting, the group disbands, bidding each other fond farewells.
I walk back to the main square in Copán, thinking about a word we often use in the humanitarian sector: ‘localization’.
It’s a jargon term. But what does it really mean?
I realise that, to me, it means Mirian, Napoleón and Loany: three people working hard within their local communities to make life better, safer, and brighter for those around them.
And it means Stanley: a man treading the same familiar streets for years in his hometown wearing his Red Cross vest. A man known, trusted, and respected by his local community, there for them through good times and bad.
West Africa migration: Red Cross offers an oasis of help and hope to migrants in Kolda, Senegal
"They are exposed to violence, exploitation, abuse, security risks, sexual and gender-based violence, and all kinds of dangers along their migratory routes; here we offer them hope, as well as protection, assistance, guidance and counselling”.
This is how Mariama Mballo, a social worker, sums up the work carried out at the Kolda Humanitarian Service Point (HSP) run by the Senegalese Red Cross and IFRC in southern Senegal.
"The Kolda HSP is a centre for listening, psychosocial support, counselling and assistance for migrants. It offers an anonymous, confidential and free space for reception and counselling", says the 30-year-old sociologist by training, who has been working there since February 2022.
Senegal, historically considered a destination country for migrants in West Africa, has become a transit country. Due to its geographical location, migrants, especially those coming from West Africa, pass through Senegal on their journey north to Maghreb countries or Europe in search of a better life.
The importance of psychosocial support
Travelling along perilous migration routes can have a profound impact on both the physical and mental health of migrants.
The aim of the psychosocial support provided in Kolda is to help people on the move regain a certain normality, mental balance and, above all, to encourage people to be active and committed to their own recovery—by finding defence and protection mechanisms that work for them.
When migrants in transit have needs that cannot be met at the HSP, they are referred to other external partner services.
"The key to the project is its volunteers, in fact, they are the 'front door', the ones who first receive the migrants, listen to them and then direct them to the social worker for an active and in-depth listening", stresses Mariama.
Staff working in Kolda can also sometimes become overwhelmed when listening to the experiences recounted to them by migrants during counselling sessions.
“Yes, there are stories that shock us, but we have the capacity to overcome them in order to offer migrants the guidance and support they need," says Mariama.
Meeting people’s wide-ranging needs
People on the move can access other vital assistance, such as food and water, in Kolda. Many migrants who arrive, including women and children, have gone days without food as they undertake their long journeys through often inhospitable areas.
Kolda's volunteers and staff also offer people useful advice and counselling on issues such as human trafficking, regaining contact with their families or the handling of important travel documents.
And, if necessary, migrants can also receive legal assistance, always with the utmost confidentiality and protection, as well as basic help with clothing and hygiene in order to ensure their health and well-being.
"The people who arrive at the HSP are often in a situation of advanced vulnerability, so we do everything we can to immediately meet their most pressing needs," says Mariama.
Volunteers don’t just support migrants. They also carry out intensive work with the local community to raise awareness and knowledge about respect for the rights and dignity of migrants.
This important work is carried out with the utmost confidentiality, always in line with our fundamental principles and the IFRC’s migration policy.
Assistance and protection of the most vulnerable migrants in West Africa
Kolda is just one example of the more than 600 Humanitarian Service Points run by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies along the world’s main migration routes. They are neutral spaces that provide a welcoming and safe environment for migrants to access essential services, regardless of their status and without fear of being detained or reported to the authorities.
Since the launch of the Kolda HSP en 2020, wich includes other small posts in Tanaff, Salikégné, Diaobé and Pata, volunteers have welcomed and supported more than 1,500 migrants.
It was set up as part of the 'Assistance and protection of the most vulnerable migrants in West Africa' project. Funded by the European Union, the project covers different busy migratory routes through Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali, Niger and Senegal. In addition to the National Societies of these countries, the project also involves the IFRC, Spanish Red Cross, Danish Red Cross and Luxembourg Red Cross.
For more information, visit our migration and displacement webpage to learn more about the IFRC’s migration policies, programmes and operations
Humanitarian Service Points
Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs) aresafe, welcoming and strategically located spaces where migrants and displaced people can access reliable support from Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
| Press release
Survivors stranded at sea: SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC call for maritime law to be respected
The Ocean Viking – a search and rescue ship chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – rescued 234 women, children and men from six boats in distress in the central Mediterranean between October 22 and 26.
“People rescued in the central Mediterranean by ships should and must be allowed to disembark in a Place of Safety within reasonable time as is the case for search and rescue operations conducted by authorities and merchant ships. The ever-worsening blockages faced by rescue ships in this stretch of the sea since 2018 are discriminatory and unacceptable. Keeping survivors onboard ships hostages of political debate longer would be the result of a dramatic failure of European members and associated States,” says Xavier Lauth, SOS MEDITERRANEE Director of operations.
“The people rescued are absolutely exhausted, dehydrated, with psychological distress, and some requiring immediate medical attention. We provided health care, food, water, hygiene items, psychological first aid and opportunity to call and connect with family members. But they cannot afford to wait any longer, this uncertainty is making the situation unbearable with stress growing day by day. They urgently need a port of safety,” says Frido Herinckx, operations manager with IFRC.
People’s right to promptly disembark in a Place of Safety suffers no debate. The current blockage in the disembarkation of the search and rescue operations are grave and consequential breaches of maritime law. The international convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) frames Search and Rescue obligations to States and shipmasters in great detail, from the obligation to respond to and coordinate search for boats reported in distress, to the obligation to assign a “Place of Safety as soon as reasonably practicable”. All circumstances are considered, including the obligation for most able to assist States to cooperate in order to identify a place of safety for disembarkation; the obligation to provide assistance “regardless of the nationality or status of such persons” (Chapter V - Reg 33.1- amendment 2004), as well as the fact that “status assessment of rescued persons” should not “unduly delay disembarkation of survivors”. IMO RESOLUTION MSC.167(78) (adopted on 20 May 2004)
As per maritime conventions, the Ocean Viking informed relevant maritime authorities at all steps of the search and rescue operations and asked for the designation of a Place of Safety.
We must prioritize and cooperate in search and rescue operations for people on the move regardless of their status, including through clear, safe and predictable disembarkation mechanisms for rescued people.
SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC urge EU members and associated states to respect maritime law, cooperate in the designation of a Place of Safety for the survivors on Ocean Viking and put an end to the suffering of hundreds of men, women and children.
| Press release
Eight days waiting onboard Ocean Viking amid overwhelming medical needs: SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC call for 460 of survivors’ right to disembark
Marseille/Geneva/Budapest, 2 September 2022 - 460 women, children, babies and men are stuck in limbo waiting to disembark. Some with overwhelming medical needs have been stuck onboard eight days after being rescued on the deadly Central Mediterranean. SOS MEDITERRANEE and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are calling for these survivors’ right to disembark in a Place of Safety without further delay.
Within just 60 hours, the Ocean Viking—a search and rescue ship chartered by SOS MEDITERRANEE in partnership with the IFRC — faced more distress cases than ever before. The crew found and rescued people from ten unseaworthy, overcrowded boats on the world’s deadliest sea migratory route since 2014, the Central Mediterranean. The search and rescue ship remains stranded at sea waiting for the survivors’ disembarkation.
The team is facing an overwhelming number of medical cases, including exhaustion, dehydration, and untreated skin infections and wounds. Other survivors are facing chronic medical conditions and two 9-month-pregnant women were evacuated.
“We have never experienced such level of severe medical cases on board Ocean Viking before. The survivors were found in the middle of high seas in unimaginable situations. In a desperate attempt to find safety, they were near to die at sea, either by drowning, or by dehydration. Per maritime law, their rescues will only be completed when they will have reached a Place of Safety. The current blockade for their disembarkation must find an end without further delay,” says Xavier Lauth, SOS MEDITERRANEE Director of Operations.
Every day that passes, the needs of those on board grow. Francesco Rocca, President of IFRC said:
“The sheer number of people rescued in such a short time with such severity of people’s conditions onboard only shows us that the situation is getting so much more desperate for those seeking safety and protection. We cannot continue to face this same challenge over and over again. We need longer term solutions – including a commitment for safe and regular pathways to protection and safety while also ensuring access to protection for those arriving spontaneously.”
SOS MEDITERRANEE and IFRC call on European members and associated States to show solidarity, observe maritime law and guarantee fundamental human rights. The wait and suffering of the 460 survivors onboard Ocean Viking must end immediately.
Note to editors:
The Ocean Viking rescued 466 women, children and men in ten rescue operations between August 25 and 27. Among the survivors are over 20 adult women, including several pregnant and over 80 minors, 75% of whom are unaccompanied.
On August 29, two 9-month-pregnant women had to be urgently medically evacuated. They were transferred onto an Italian Coast Guard patrol vessel with four of their relatives (two sisters and their two children, including a 3-week-old little girl).
Despite having contacted relevant maritime authorities at all steps of the search and rescue operations, the Ocean Viking was left alone, with no coordination nor information-sharing from relevant maritime authorities. Four of the unseaworthy and overcrowded boats in distress were spotted via binoculars from the bridge of the Ocean Viking. The distress alerts of the six other boats were relayed by civil NGOs such as the civil network Alarm Phone, the aircrafts of the NGOs Pilotes Volontaires and Sea-Watch, and the sailing vessels of the NGOs Open Arms and Resqship. The Ocean Viking informed relevant maritime authorities at all steps of the rescues and sent requests for the designation of a Place of Safety as soon as possible after each operation, as per maritime law.
Recently, a new shipwreck was reported by the International Organisation for Migration. Two bodies of deceased persons were retrieved by Libyan Coastguards and 19 people were reported missing by the six survivors of this tragedy on August 27, the same day Ocean Viking teams rescued 198 survivors from five boats in distress. Since 2014, almost 19,811 people are known to have perished in the central Mediterranean. That’s 80% of the deaths recorded in the whole Mediterranean Sea.
SOS MEDITERRANEE rescued 36,789 people since the beginning of its operations in 2016, with Aquarius and Ocean Viking. A total of 7,266 people were rescued by the Ocean Viking since she started operating in August 2019. Since September 2021, IFRC teams participated in ten patrols on Ocean Viking and helped rescue more than 2,700 people.
While the SOS MEDITERRANEE team focuses on search and rescue at sea, the IFRC team focuses on providing humanitarian post-rescue services, including medical care, first aid, psychosocial support, relief and protection.
For more information, please contact:
IFRC In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, +1 202 603 6803, [email protected]
IFRC in Budapest: Nora Peter, +36 70 265 4020, [email protected]
SOS MEDITERRANEE International & Operations: Laurence Bondard / +33 6 23 24 59 93 / [email protected]
| Press release
IFRC: 210,000 migrants need urgent life-saving assistance and protection in Central America and Mexico
Panama City, 1 August 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is ramping up its response to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and protection to 210,000 people on the move by land northwards through Central America and Mexico.
Along migratory routes, many people suffer accidents and injuries, face extortion and sexual violence, or disappear and are separated from their families. Others are killed or die from disease or environmental conditions.
According to official data, since January 2022, there is a concerning increase in the number of migrants and refugees in Central America and Mexico compared to previous years. Irregular migration has increased an 85% in Panama, 689% in Honduras, and 108% in Mexico. If this upward trend continues in the coming months, an estimated 500,000people* would require humanitarian assistance.
Roger Alonso, IFRC Head of Disaster, Crises and Climate Unit, said:
“Local Red Cross teams, from Panama to Mexico, confirm that dramatic spike in the number of migrants moving northwards. We are especially concerned for women, children, the disabled, older people, and LGBTQI migrants. They are at extreme risk and need medical and mental health assistance, access to food and water, information, connectivity, and resources to cover vital expenses such as paying for safe places to sleep.”
Most of the migrants and refugees in transit through the region are from Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti. Nationals from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico also continue heading north. The main reasons for migrating include improving their income, escaping violence, reuniting with family members, and recovering from the impact of recurring disasters and extreme weather events.
In Panama, in June 2022 alone, 15,000 migrants crossed the perilous Darien Gap – 500 people per day. Out of every 100 of them, 16 are children. In Costa Rica, 441 persons a day entered from Panama in May 2022, an increase of 158% compared to April 2022. Nearly 24,000 Cubans arrived in Nicaragua from January to May 2022, while in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico there is a significant increase in the number of returnees.
In this challenging context, the IFRC has launched a 28 million CHF** Emergency Appeal to support 210,000 people on the move during the next 12 months. Red Cross Societies in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico will provide migrants, refugees, and returnees with health care, mental health support, access to water and sanitation services, and cash for them to cover essential needs, such as accommodation or food.
Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, said:
It is unacceptable that migrating continues to cost people their dignity and their lives. This is why we are scaling up our current response and standing up our vital emergency support along migratory routes. We call on governments, our partners, and donors to join this humanitarian action. Protecting people migrating in a desperate situation and defending their rights, disregarding their status is a humanitarian imperative and a collective duty. The devastating socioeconomic effects in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, continuing political crises, and disasters will continue to ramp up exponentially population movements. The challenge ahead of us is titanic.”
The Red Cross’ response will prioritize attention along the routes where most migrants and displaced persons face bureaucratic barriers, hostile climates, stigma, discrimination, violence, insecurity, and even loss of life. The support will be provided through the Red Cross network of 20 Humanitarian Service Points*** in Central America and Mexico. These are neutral, safe spaces—whether fixed or mobile—where people on the move can access health care, psychosocial support, and information, among other services.
In Panama, for instance, the Humanitarian Service Point provides migrants crossing the Darien Gap with first aid, health care for pregnant women and children, psychosocial support, clean water, access to mobile phones, and information about the risks and services they may find along their journey. People who require specialized health support are referred to public services. With migration flows increasingin the region, this model will continue to save lives and reduce suffering.
The IFRC and its network will also work with origin, transit, and host communities to address environmental-, climate-, and livelihood-related issues that may trigger population movements.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, [email protected]
In Panama: Maria Langman, [email protected],+507 6550 1090
In Geneva: Jenelle Eli, jenelle[email protected],+1 202 603 6803
*The 500,000 people possibly affected have been estimated taking into account irregular crossing entries and reports from July to December 2021, considering a 45% increase scenario (most countries are above 100% increase ) and at least one aggregate of 173,176 from January to June 2022.
***Six in Guatemala, eight in Mexico, five in Honduras and one in Panama.
IFRC scales up cash assistance to people impacted by conflict in Ukraine
Three months into the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has distributed financial assistance totalling more than 4.3 million Swiss francs to thousands of people on the move.
IFRC Head of Emergency Operations for the Ukraine response, Anne Katherine Moore, said:
“The longer the conflict continues, the greater the needs become. The cost of basic necessities, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, is rising. Increases in the cost of fuel and apartment rentals are also being reported. Millions of people have lost their jobs and their savings are dwindling. Through a new mobile app, we have been able to ramp up our support to help people facing these financial challenges.”
The new technology makes it possible for the IFRC and responding National Societies to reach people at scale and to deliver cash assistance digitally. Successfully introduced in Romania, the mobile app allows refugees to self-register for assistance online, negating the need and cost involved of having to travel to a central location.
The app will soon be expanded to Poland and Slovakia, where cash assistance is already being provided through more traditional methods such as in-person registration, as well as Ukraine and other neighbouring countries.
“This is the fastest we have ever delivered cash at this scale. It has the potential to be a game-changer for our work not just in this response, but also in future operations,” Moore continued.
Cash assistance is a dignified and efficient way to support people impacted by the conflict, allowing them to purchase items specific to their individual needs, while also supporting local economies. It is one part of our integrated and wide-ranging Red Cross and Red Crescent response to the conflict that also includes the provision of health care, first aid, psychosocial support and the distribution of basic household necessities.
Speaking about next steps, Moore said: “There is no short-term solution to the needs of the more than 14 million people who have been forced to flee their homes. We know that even if the conflict was to end tomorrow, rebuilding and recovery will take years. People have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and access to timely healthcare. The IFRC, in support of local National Red Cross Societies in the region, will be there helping people now, and in the months and years to come.”
Watch: our response 3 months on
During the past three months:
Together, we have reached more than 2.1million people with life-saving aid within Ukraine and in surrounding countries. This is 1 in 10 people who had to flee their homes because of the conflict.
Along the travel routes within and outside Ukraine, we've set up 142 Humanitarian Service Points in 15 countries to provide those fleeing with a safe environment. There, they receive essential services like food, hygiene items, blankets, clothing water, first aid, psychosocial support, information, and financial assistance.
In total, we distributed 2.3 million kilograms of aid.
71,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are responding to the crisis.
| Press release
IFRC president: Ethnicity and nationality should not be deciding factors in saving lives
New York / Geneva, 16 May 2022 – President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Francesco Rocca calls on states to step up to their responsibility to save lives, no matter where people are from, ahead of the first review of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM).
Mr Rocca says: “When I was in Marrakech for the adoption of the GCM I made a statement that the world’s approach to migration is painfully broken – but that the GCM can fix it. As we begin the first review of the progress made since then, I am sad to say that this has not been the case so far. Not enough changes to policies and practices to ensure safe and dignified migration have taken place, and many more lives have been lost due to that failure to act.”
On the world’s deadliest sea migration route, the central Mediterranean, the number of deaths has in fact increased since the GCM was signed. The Ocean Viking ship, operated by SOS Mediterranée with IFRC providing humanitarian services on board, saves people in distress on this route.
“We need to carry out this work as state-coordinated search and rescue is absent in the area,” says Mr Rocca. “Our teams have already saved 1,260 people in the nine months we’ve been operating.”
The Ocean Viking is one of the 330 Humanitarian Service Points (HSPs) in 45 countries that supports the ambitions of the GCM, providing assistance and protection to people on the move irrespective of status and without fear of reprisal. The Romanian Red Cross implements HSPs in Bucharest to support people fleeing Ukraine, providing information, food, water, hygiene items and financial assistance, while the Hungarian Red Cross has been operating a HSP at the Keleti railway station 24/7 to welcome people arriving from Ukraine by train with information, food, hygiene items and baby care products.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colombian Red Cross Society has implemented HSPs at the border with Venezuela, offering essential services like healthcare, while Libyan Red Crescent volunteers have provided support to migrants and displaced people, operating HSPs that provided access to information, food, and other necessities, as well as restoring family links services.
At the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF), the IFRC is calling for individual and collective efforts on search and rescue; ensuring access to essential services for migrants regardless of status; scaling up support to people affected of climate related displacement; and the inclusion of migrants in all aspects of society and decision making.
“The political, public and humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis has shown what is possible when humanity and dignity comes first, when there is global solidarity and the will to assist and protect the most vulnerable,” says Mr Rocca. “This must be extended to everyone in need, wherever they come from. Ethnicity and nationality should not be deciding factors in saving lives.”
Listen to the recording of Francesco Rocca's press briefing at the UN in New York.
To schedule an interview or for further information:
In New York: Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 4367, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, +41 79 895 6924, [email protected]
En route to Europe I didn’t fear death—only dying without trying
This piece was originally published in Politico, here.
I sought safety. That was my destination. I wasn’t thinking of European cities or towns. I just wanted to be safe.
That’s why I left my country. It’s why I didn’t stop in those nearby either—I had to keep moving. First through Sudan and Libya, then on a wooden boat across the Mediterranean Sea, where I was eventually picked up by a rescue ship.
More than 10 years have passed since then, and I live in Italy now. But through my work, I find myself reliving that experience over and over.
The most important part of my job is telling the people we rescue: “You are safe.” It’s as if I’m also telling their mothers, telling their brothers and sisters and all their villages too. I celebrate this moment with them; I celebrate their lives with them. Because too many others never get to hear those words.
In the last few months, we’ve seen tremendous solidarity with those fleeing the war in Ukraine; it is incredibly inspiring. Yet witnessing the overarching willingness to help victims of this crisis, while so many who flee suffering and persecution elsewhere end up at the bottom of the sea, raises the question: do human lives really carry such difference in value?
It was never my first choice to undertake such a dangerous journey to seek safety so far from home. But the lack of available legal channels to access international protection made it my only option — it was a necessity. And while states argue about migration policies and practices, for us volunteers, it is simply about saving lives and alleviating suffering.
When I left Eritrea 20 years ago, fleeing compulsory military service and forced labor programs, I didn't know where Europe was, what it was like or how to get there. It also didn’t occur to me that I was saying goodbye to my family, and my country, for the last time. Like my brothers and sisters in Ukraine today, my only concern was avoiding bullets. And I am one of the relatively few from my part of the world fortunate enough to reach a place of safety in the end.
When I was travelling through the desert in Libya, I remember seeing a group of people—women, men and children—lying crumpled on top of each other, naked. I asked the driver why they were naked, and he told me that their car had broken down and they had burned everything to try and attract attention, including their own clothes.
What is the use of clothing anyway, when one is facing death? They were just some unknown people, who came into the world naked and left naked. People so off the radar they had to burn everything in the hopes of being seen.
Still, even that was not enough.
You meet merchants of death in Libya too—those who organize the trips to leave by boat, who are your only hope of escaping that hell. When you experience how horrible life there is—the prisons, torture, gangs and slave markets—you are not afraid of death, only of dying without trying.
When I finally reached the coast and went toward the waiting boat, I could barely walk from both the fear and hope. I saw mothers throwing their children onto the boat and following after them. I did not wonder why a mother would throw her child inside this small boat. I was sure that whatever she had seen must be more terrible than the sea and its darkness.
We set out at night. Eventually, the time comes when you can’t see anyone, not even yourself, but the prayers, crying and moaning remain. At that moment, the sounds of children are the only source of certainty that you are still alive.
We were at sea like this for three days until the rescue ship found us.
One might ask why someone decides to go through all this. But just look at what is happening in the countries people are coming from: the suffering caused by conflict, hunger, poverty, climate change and many other factors that are often present in their surrounding countries too.
And those who leave don’t just do it for themselves—they’re an investment for their families and communities. One of my friends sends the money he earns back home to build a school in his village. Another one has funded access to safe water. The money that migrants around the world send home is three times more than what comes from aid.
The Ukraine crisis and the response to it have now shown us what is possible when we put humanity first, when there is global solidarity and the will to assist and protect the most vulnerable. This must be extended to everyone in need, wherever they come from.
Nobody should have to experience what I have been through—in my own country, on my migration journey or when I arrived in Europe.
Everyone deserves to hear the words, “You’re safe.”
| Press release
Survivors on rescue ship Ocean Viking urgently need to disembark in a place of safety
Marseille/Geneva/Budapest, 18 February 2022 – Since Monday, 14 February, the Ocean Viking has been waiting with 247 rescued people on board to be assigned a place of safety. Despite 5 requests to the relevant maritime authorities, the ship has yet to receive instructions on where to disembark those rescued at sea as rough weather has taken a toll on the health of the survivors on board.
The 247 people were rescued from distress at sea in five separate operations in less than 36 hours last weekend and earlier this week by the Ocean Viking, a rescue ship chartered by European search and rescue organisation SOS MEDITERRANEE and operated in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Michele Angioni, Search and Rescue Coordinator for SOS MEDITERRANEE on the Ocean Viking, says: “We have performed five rescues in less than 36 hours several days ago in the Maltese and Libyan search and rescue regions and received no coordination from maritime authorities, despite numerous emails and calls. After this intense weekend, we went through a storm with waves up to 4 meters and winds up to 30 knots.”
Among the 247 rescued people are 53 unaccompanied minors as well as a 5-month-old baby. Some of the survivors show signs of torture, like 19-year-old Amath* from Senegal, who left for Libya with his brother when he was only 9 years old. Amath told the crew that he left Senegal ten years ago to find work in Libya. There he was jailed ten times, beaten often by guards or police – having scars all over his back. He also said that he was shot in the leg while trying to escape.
“After the rescues and once recovered onboard the Ocean Viking, we treated cases of fuel inhalation, fuel burns and skin infections,” says Johanna Jonsdottir, IFRC nurse.
“Since then, survivors have suffered from seasickness and consequent dehydration, headaches and stomach-ache. We see that the psychological condition of people is worsening because of the standoff. Some survivors have old wounds, such as burns, twisted ankles, gunshots and suffer from back pain after being beaten,” adds Eila Rooseli, IFRC medical doctor.
Many of the rescued people have explained to teams on board that for them, the only way to escape Libya was to attempt the perilous crossing of the central Mediterranean in an unseaworthy dinghy, even though they knew of the risks.
However, according to maritime law, a rescue is only formally completed once the survivors are disembarked in a place where their lives are no longer threatened and their basic needs met. Too often, survivors have to spend extended periods of time on rescue ships before being allowed to disembark.
“The lack of SAR coordination and of a predictable disembarkation mechanism has been putting the lives and health of survivors at risk for several years. This can no longer be the norm. A ship is not a sustainable place for survivors to remain on. We need a Place of Safety for men, women and children to disembark without further delay,” Search and Rescue coordinator Michele Angioni adds.
*Name has been changed to protect the individual's privacy
For more information, contact:
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
In Budapest: Hannu-Pekka Laiho, [email protected], +358 40 5257126
In Budapest: Nora Peter, [email protected], +36 70 953 7709
From SOS MEDITERRANEE:
International & Germany: Julia Schaefermeyer / +33 6 12 52 15 69 / [email protected]
France: Morgane Lescot / + 33 6 11 74 10 11 / [email protected]
Italy: Francesco Creazzo / +39 347 815 1131 / f.crea[email protected]
Switzerland: Eva Ostendarp / +41 79 239 99 13 / [email protected] (German) and Elliot Guy / +41 782 38 74 04 / [email protected]
| 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
| Press release
IFRC launches multiregional plan to ramp up humanitarian assistance to migrants and displaced people
Geneva, 26 August 2021– The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched today a three-year plan to extend humanitarian assistance and support to migrants and displaced people along the migration routes of greatest humanitarian concern in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, three regions facing some of the most complex and critical migration dynamics in the world.
As a global humanitarian network with a presence in 192 countries and 14 million community-based volunteers, the IFRC witnesses every day the enormous suffering that many migrants and displaced people face along their journeys.
Xavier Castellanos, IFRC Under Secretary General, National Society Development and Operations Coordination, said:
“Migrants and displaced people are taking increasingly dangerous routes, both across land and sea. During their journeys, they face significant risks and challenges: many are abused and face exploitation – others face protection risks, including child abuse, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking. We are extremely concerned that migrants and displaced people are not able, at all stages of their journey, to access what they need most – such as food, water and sanitation, shelter, and healthcare. Our multiregional humanitarian assistance plan aims to bridge this gap”.
The IFRC multiregional plan brings together humanitarian operations of 34 National Societies across Africa, the Middle East and Europe and focuses on delivering humanitarian assistance and protection to over 2 million people and more than 500,000 individuals from host communities every year. In order to extend humanitarian assistance to a growing number of people in need, the IFRC is appealing for financial support totalling 174 million Swiss francs over three years.
The plan also includes assistance and protection to people in distress at sea on the Central Mediterranean route. Through a partnership with SOS MEDITERRANEE, a European maritime and humanitarian organization operating in the Mediterranean Sea, the IFRC will provide life-saving support to people rescued at sea as of early September 2021. SOS MEDITERRANEE will conduct search and rescue operations at sea, while IFRC will provide post-rescue support — including medical care, psychological support, protection and basic necessities — to the people who have been safely brought onboard the Ocean Viking. The IFRC team includes medical doctors, a midwife and professionals who can provide psychological support and assist those who are particularly vulnerable and in need of special protection, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking.
The long-standing commitment and experience of the IFRC network in providing assistance and protection to all migrants all along their migratory journeys allows for an integrated and comprehensive response, based on people’s needs and vulnerabilities. Our principled approach to migration, as well as our global presence along migratory routes, mean that we are uniquely positioned to provide humanitarian assistance and protection at all steps of migrants’ journeys – in countries of origin, transit and destination.
To learn more about the plan, download the document(pdf, 18 Mb).
For more information and to set up interviews, contact:
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]
| Press release
IFRC: Inclusive vaccination and protection measures urgently needed to stop the new pandemic waves in North Africa
Beirut, 02 August 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Middle East and North Africa, is concerned that the increasing COVID-19 transmissions in the region could spark a domino effect with catastrophic health, social and economic impacts, unless vaccination rollouts are stepped up and protection measures reinforced.
Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia reported the greatest number of new cases in the past weeks, with Tunisia reporting the greatest increase in new reported deaths. Concerns for the future are mounting as variants continue to spread, health systems are on the verge of collapse and the vaccination rates in the Middle East and North Africa region continue to lag dangerously behind.
Dr Haytham Qosa, Head of IFRC MENA Health Unit, said:
“Leaving countries behind on vaccines will only serve to prolong the pandemic, not just in the region, but globally. Many countries are facing other vulnerabilities, including conflict, natural disasters, water shortages, displacement, and other disease outbreaks. This makes people even more vulnerable to the devastating impacts of COVID-19. This alone should be a reason enough for global solidarity to ensure equitable vaccine access in the region. At a global level, vaccine equity is key to reducing the likelihood of variants and saving lives by limiting the spread of the virus. This is the only way we can truly end this pandemic.”
The Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 response since the outset. IFRC has been supporting the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in MENA with:
Efforts to accelerate vaccination campaigns in support of the national vaccination plans.
Provision of cash assistance, food parcels, hygiene kits, and masks to affected people.
Provision of medical supplies including oxygen concentrators, ventilators & generators, and PPEs to local health authorities.
Monitoring of the vaccination campaigns for quality, standards, fairness and equity.
Technical support with risk communication and community engagement.
Despite lofty rhetoric about global solidarity in terms of vaccine equity, there is a deadly gap in the global plan to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines. In MENA region, only 10 doses per 100 people have been administered in many countries, including Libya, Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq. In Syria and Yemen, there has been less than one dose per 100 people.
Dr Hosam Faysal, Head of IFRC MENA Disasters, Climate and Crises Unit, coordinating the IFRC response to COVID-19, said:
“The new waves of the pandemic remind us that the battle against it is unfortunately not yet over. However, it also highlights the critical role of the our Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers as trusted local actors who are able to quickly response to new surges of cases. Across the region they are working tirelessly to support health system, help protect communities and ensure vaccines make it into arms of the most vulnerable. But without more vaccines, there cannot be vaccinations.”
Notes to Editors
Algeria: In the past 4 weeks, we have seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections. In response to the latest peak, the Algerian Red Crescent (ARCS) has scaled up the COVID-19 activities quickly once the numbers climbed up to alarming level but the situation is far from over. More than 2 million people have already been vaccinated by ARCS doctors and nurses not only in cities but also in remote areas. Many vaccinations centers have been opened recently to reach the national target set by authorities to reach 20 million people by the end of 2021.
More than 20,000 ARCS volunteers are fully active:
Supporting authorities in the vaccination campaigns.
Distributing 2 million masks since the start of the pandemic and 100.000 hygiene kits for families living in remote areas.
Providing Oxygen concentrators to hospitals in the “hot Spot” areas.
Tunisia: In the past weeks, Tunisia registered its highest number of daily COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic as the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads and vaccine availability remains low. The health care system is struggling to cope especially the intensive care departments that are full and doctors overburdened by a rapid outbreak of cases and deaths. Tunisia has one of the highest per capita death rates in the world. Vaccinations have been slow. As of 29 July 2021 and according to WHO, of the 11.7 million population, 1.677446 million were vaccinated with at least one shot (14.1% ) whereas 934,004 ( 7.9% ) are fully vaccinated.
The Tunisian Red Crescent as auxiliary body to the public authorities has been scaling up its response to the increased humanitarian needs and focusing on supporting the health system in country with risk communication campaigns, homecare provision of Oxygen concentrators as well as the provision of PPEs such as masks and other materials to front-line health workers.
3,000 volunteers deployed from 24 branches all over the country continue raising awareness campaigns, helping population registering on the E-Vax platform especially the elderly, migrants and people in most distant rural areas, providing at the same time food and hygiene kits assistance. In almost all vaccination centers, TRC volunteers assist health workers in checking registration, appointments, and onsite immediate post vaccination monitoring.
In the past two weeks, the IFRC, Qatar Red Crescent and Kuwait Red Crescent have shipped more than ten tons of medical equipment, including oxygen concentrators, ventilators, personal protective equipment and sanitizer to the Tunisian Red Crescent.
TRC has reached 10 million people since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak by raising awareness campaigns in public places and institutions, conducting screening and triage, and managing queues in front of public facilities and vaccination centres.
Morocco: There is a sharp increase in cases in the past 4 weeks. 40% increase in the number of COVID-19 infections in week 29 compared to the previous week. As of 14 July, only 27% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The Moroccan Red Crescent has mobilized more than 2,000 volunteers to support the vaccination campaigns alongside MRCS doctors and nurses. In addition, 5,000 volunteers are active in 75 branches all over the country to sensitize the population about the importance of vaccine and reinforce the respect of risk communication messages. In support from IFRC, MRCS distributes food, medicines, hygiene items, masks to communities in urban settings an in remote areas reaching at least 190,000 households.
The pandemic is affecting the mental health of the population. 150 volunteers trained on psychosocial first aid, manage the hotline to listen to community, provide emotional first aid, receive requests for medicines, food, etc.
Libya:The COVID-19 pandemic is adding another layer of crisis on years of armed conflict in Libya that has led to a weakened health care system, a dire economic situation, a lack of basic services and serious humanitarian conditions suffered by migrants transiting to through the Mediterranean. Libya is currently witnessing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, where on the 13th of July it recorded its highest daily rate of COVID 19 infections with 2,679 new cases, a 161% increase compared to the previous week. With the low rate of vaccination, these concerning figures promises a serious wave that can further shatter the country. To combat this wave, Libya has imposed new precautionary measures to curb infection rates that included the closure of the borders with neighbouring Tunisia on the 8th of July, the closure of coffee shops and restaurants, the banning of weddings and funerals and the halting of public transportation for two weeks.
The Libyan Red Crescent Society (LRCS), in coordination with IFRC, has been supporting host communities and migrants with food, hygiene items, health services, child protection, Humanitarian Service Points for Migrants and the engagement in Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) activities around COVID-19 prevention and the importance of immunization against the disease The LRCS is playing a key role in managing vaccination sites all over Libya with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The LRCS has directly reached 35,500 persons in its response to COVID-19 through support from the IFRC.
For more information
In Beirut: Rana Sidani Cassou, Head of Communications, IFRC MENA, +96171802779 [email protected]
| Press release
IFRC launches emergency appeal to join SOS MEDITERRANEE’s life-saving mission as deaths soar in the Mediterranean Sea
Geneva/Marseille, 19 July 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal to provide life-saving assistance to people in distress in the Central Mediterranean Sea. IFRC teams will join maritime and humanitarian NGO SOS MEDITERRANEE’s crew on board the Ocean Viking rescue ship as of August 2021.
Lives continue to be needlessly lost in the Mediterranean Sea, particularly on the long and treacherous Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Europe. Already 792 people are known to have died on that route while trying to reach Europe in the first half of 2021, three times as many as in the same period last year. The actual number of casualties is likely to be much higher.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, it is still critical to move to the Mediterranean Sea to save lives and protect human dignity. It is unacceptable that people are still dying at sea, on Europe’s doorstep: this is a clear failure of the international community. This is why we decided again to take our vital emergency support out to sea, and we call on our partners and donors to support this operation.
“No one should be forced to leave their home, their community, their beloved because of poverty, violence, food insecurity and any other effects of climate change. No one should die searching for safety. We are proud to start this new mission, but we also call on the EU and its Member States to urgently increase search and rescue operations.”
The SOS MEDITERRANEE crew of search and rescue professionals will be joined by an IFRC team as of August 2021. IFRC will provide post-rescue support, including first aid, medical care, psychological support, food, dry clothes, blankets, toiletries and information to the people who have been safely brought on board the Ocean Viking. The IFRC team will include medical doctors, a midwife and professionals who can provide psychological support and assist those who are particularly vulnerable and in need of extra protection, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking.
“Being joined by the Red Cross and Red Crescent network onboard the Ocean Viking is an honour and a new milestone for our organization. IFRC’s commitment to reaching out to people in distress at sea through this partnership highlights the absolute necessity to try and save lives in the Central Mediterranean,” says Caroline Abu Sa'Da, General Director of SOS MEDITERRANEE Switzerland.
“Our partnership will be based on shared values and humanitarian principles upholding our duty to rescue at sea, a duty enshrined in maritime law and longstanding sea faring traditions – a duty that has been relentlessly damaged over the past five years in the Central Mediterranean. International humanitarian organizations such as ours are only plugging the rescue gap left by States in the area: it is not enough. To save as many lives as possible, we urgently need a coalition of European States and maritime actors willing to conduct lawful and humane rescue operations.”
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of two million Swiss francs to support the operation. 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.
 IOM: Missing Migrants Project
| Press release
Red Cross: Providing services and protection to migrants in Central America is a humanitarian imperative
Panama/Geneva, 15 January 2021 – The Red Cross is preparing to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants ready to depart Honduras for Guatemala as part of a 'migrant caravan'. More than 4,000 thousand people are expected to join the caravan that will depart from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula today at 5:00 am local time.
The Honduran Red Cross will support up to 6,000 migrants departing from the northern and southern zones of the country. Humanitarian Service Points will be enabled at the point of departure in the city centre of San Pedro Sula, as well as along the migration route. These spaces will provide access to essential services, such as water, face masks, pre-hospital care, information about safety, security and COVID-19 prevention, as well as means of communication for migrants to keep in touch with their families.
During their journey, people are exposed to dehydration, injuries, and fainting. Often, they also lose contact with family members. Providing support and protection is a humanitarian imperative, especially to vulnerable migrants, such as children, youth, women, indigenous populations, elderly, disable, and LGBTQI people.
At the Guatemalan side of the border, ten Humanitarian Service Points are currently being set up along the border and the migration route. Red Cross volunteers specially trained to work in this context are ready to provide protection and holistic humanitarian assistance to 4,000 people, including psychosocial support, higyene kits, clean water, and information on self-care and COVID-19 prevention.
Martha Keays, Regional Director for the Americas at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “The potential exclusion of migrants from the COVID-19 prevention plans is concerning. It isourduty, as the world’s largest humanitarian network, toensure thattheyare not forgotten. The authorities in the places of origin, transit and destination, as well as international organisations, civil society and the migrants themselves should work hand in hand to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Migrants have been disproportionately affected by the impact of COVID-19. Many of them have been unable to comply with the preventative measures necessary to keep them healthy and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, due to limited access to essential services – such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene - as well as poor and unsafe living and working conditions. They have also been hit the hardest by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The combination of COVID-19, social exclusion, discrimination, violence, and climate-related disasters happening at the same time, with a magnitude rarely seen before in Central America, poses new humanitarian challenges. Eta and Iota have destroyed livelihoodsacross a region that was already facing an economic crisis and where the income of thousands of families had already been severely depleted due to the pandemic. People are at risk of resorting to coping strategiessuch as selling their animals and properties,eating less food, andabandoning their hometowns to look for new ways of generating income.