This has been a truly remarkable year filled with moments of risk, grief and loss, but also unprecedented humanity, kindness and compassion. As we near the end of 2020 and look forward to a better 2021, we take a look back at just a few of the singular moments that really summed up the year and the amazing work done by the 38 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in Asia and the Pacific.
Feature Photo: Indonesia Red Cross Society went door to door in communities that social media rarely reaches to share crucial information and help educate people about COVID-19. Using the unique method of traditional Balinese theatre and costume play called Bondres, professional clowns delivered messages about COVID-19 in an engaging manner to make it easier for people to understand and remember information that could keep them safe and healthy.
Around 40,000 children in 10 districts around Dhaka, Bangladesh were vaccinated under immunisation campaigns for measles and rubella. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society partnered with the government to run the campaigns for more than a month.
They also mobilised their volunteers and resources to raise public awareness on the diseases along with awareness of COVID-19 and how to stay safe from it. With the emergence of COVID-19 half way through 2020, routine health activities slowed down in Bangladesh for a few months, resulting in a few sporadic cases of measles throughout the country.
Intensifying conflict in the Rakhine state of Myanmar forced tens of thousands of people to remain displaced, facing serious health consequences brought on by COVID-19. Myanmar Red Cross volunteers worked hard to share COVID-19 protection and risk reduction tips with these vulnerable communities.
Rescue and Recovery
During the regional rainy season this year, China was hit by severe rains and floods. Thousands of people were displaced across 26 provinces. The Red Cross Society of China deployed 113 emergency rescue teams with close to 12,000 rescuers and volunteers to several affected provinces for flood control and providing disaster relief items including family kits, quilts, coats, tents, rice, cooking oil, and medicines to meet the needs of flood-stricken communities.
The Kakoi river was one of the many in Assam, India that burst resulting in severe floods and soil erosion as it rained continuously in the nearby hills. Kunjor Routlota is one of millions who needed support.
Millions were displaced by the floods and soil erosion and Indian Red Cross volunteers raced to distribute emergency relief to help communities and isolated individuals like Kunjor to withstand worsening conditions brought on by continuous torrential rain during the monsoon season.
Relief and disaster preparedness
Fiji witnessed two devastating cyclones this year – category 4 Cyclone Harold in April and category 5 Cyclone Yasa in mid-December. Both storms roared across the Pacific island nation, destroying homes, disrupting vital infrastructure, and flattening crops.
Like many Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, Fiji Red Cross Society works throughout the year to help ensure communities are prepared for disasters, through helping people understand weather warnings, develop emergency and evacuation plans and kits, secure buildings and structures, and identify safe places for evacuation, while also pre-positioning large quantities of relief supplies ready for distribution. Teams were in action in their communities as the cyclones approached and were some of the first to reach affected communities in the days after they hit.
From Fiji, Cyclone Harold made its way to Tonga causing severe widespread damage of almost 95% of homes in some communities. Recovery from a disaster like this is a long process, but Tonga Red Cross Society mobilised teams to deliver relief items for community rebuilding such as tarpaulins, and 30,000 essential items including hygiene kits, mother and infant kits, and water to affected communities, and was there every step of the way.
The dreadful consecutive typhoons Molave, super typhoon Goni followed by typhoon Vamco, damaged or destroyed more than 305,000 homes in the Philippines.
Philippines Red Cross rescue and relief teams undertook the massive task of providing basic services like water, first-aid, and much-needed psychosocial support to traumatised people and helping to rebuild and re-establish lost livelihoods. They have successfully connected people separated by the typhoons across more than 100 houses affected and buried by the volcanic debris flow due to torrential rain brought on by super typhoon Goni.
Months of severe drought and record-breaking temperatures in Australia fueled a series of bushfires in late 2019 and early 2020 which collectively burned a total of more than 18 million hectares of land including approximately 10,000 buildings, 3,500 homes, and 6,000 outbuildings.
Around 2,800 Red Cross personnel like Jai O’Toole provided psychosocial support to people who lost their homes and livelihoods, and were dealing with emotional distress.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Korean Red Cross volunteers helped their communities deal with rising COVID-19 cases, especially as winter brought frigid temperatures that were made even harsher by strict quarantine restrictions.
Volunteers worked around the clock, preparing hot and nutritious meals on a weekly basis for people in some of the most vulnerable situations . They particularly focused on delivering these meals to the older people living alone and those self-isolating due to COVID-19.
Cambodian Red Cross implemented a five-year long water, sanitation and hygiene project to increase access to clean water for household use, safe water for drinking, basic sanitation and hygiene practices. All of which help to reduce water-borne diseases.
We know you
This is all that is left of To Thi Cam’s home, she is one of millions who were affected by catastrophic flooding in Viet Nam in 2020.
Towards the end of the year, a succession of typhoons – Typhoon Goni, Vamco and Molave – struck parts of the country already suffering from severe monsoon flooding, setting off a series of floods and landslides that buried villages and towns. Teams from the Viet Nam Red Cross provided practical and emotional support for people affected by the flooding and storms, many of whom had lost their homes and source of income.
Belqis, a mother of five, with her husband after receiving cash relief. The Afghan Red Crescent Society is providing cash support to the country’s most vulnerable communities. This immediate cash in hand would mean that people like Belqis and her husband would not have to worry about feeding her five children.
In addition to the health challenges, the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 is devastating in a country where 54.5 percent of the population – or some 20 million people – are living below the poverty line. Besides monetary assistance, communities receive essential items like rice, oil and soap.