International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc The website of the international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Fri, 22 Jan 2021 18:03:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.16 12 months of coronavirus in Europe https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2021/01/22/12-months-coronavirus-europe/ Fri, 22 Jan 2021 10:58:25 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=72129 … in this together, with Red Cross Red Crescent By Susan Cullinan, IFRC The moment the first coronavirus case was reported in Europe – on 24 January 2020, in Bordeaux, France – no one could have possibly imagined the monumental scale of the year of loss and struggle ahead. Nor could they have foreseen how […]

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… in this together, with Red Cross Red Crescent

By Susan Cullinan, IFRC

The moment the first coronavirus case was reported in Europe – on 24 January 2020, in Bordeaux, France – no one could have possibly imagined the monumental scale of the year of loss and struggle ahead.

Nor could they have foreseen how Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies stepped up their activities across Europe and Central Asia, enabling them to be at the heart of the response.

Staff and volunteers from the movement have been running first aid tents, delivering critical supplies to the elderly, caring for the sick and dying, at the end of the phone for people unable to leave home. They’ve provided food, shelter, a kind word and a friendly face, supported those who fall through the cracks – the migrants, people on the move, people who are homeless. They’ve provided trusted information.

Kara Tepe camp, Lesvos, Greece, September 2020. Nurses are attending the injuries of small patiens inside the Hellenic Red Cross Mobile Health unit at the Kara Tepe camp.

The numbers are staggering.

More than 12.5 million people across the region have received food and other material aid from Red Cross Red Crescent[1]. More than 2.8 million people have received direct cash or voucher assistance and 1.3 million more received psychosocial support to help them through the tough times.

Red Cross Red Crescent ambulances carried more than 325,000 COVID-19 patients to hospitals. Accurate information was shared to help inform people about the virus and how to stay safe, and an estimated 60 million people in the region have been reached with this messaging.

Rome, Italy, March 2020. Italian Red Cross volunteers are delivering medicine to the homes of vulnerable people in self-isolation.

The breathtaking spread of the virus

With Italy the centre of the first wave, and the first country to go into lockdown, it remained the hardest hit country in Europe for months. Italian Red Cross was the first National Society in Europe to deliver food and medicine to people in quarantine, and ramped up their ambulance service to cope with the escalating number of people infected.

By March Europe was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that on 18 March more than 250 million people were in lockdown in Europe. And now, nearly 12 months after the first case, sadly by 19 January 2021, 30.8 million cases were confirmed and 674,00 people in the region had died. [2]

The Red Cross Red Crescent response needed to be swift. On 30 January the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and the following day the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) allocated funds for a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and a preliminary Emergency Appeal. With its long experience in health emergencies it anticipated COVID-19 could develop into a pandemic with a devastating humanitarian impact and sadly it has shaped up to be one of the world’s most challenging crises, affecting every corner of the region with everyone vulnerable to contracting this virus.

Podgorica, Montenegro, April 2020. The Red Cross of Montenegro has been operating a call center to provide reliable health information and psychosocial support to people.

In line with Red Cross Red Crescent’s unique role as auxiliary to government, and as a community-based and widely-trusted organization, in Europe region the Red Cross movement came up with innovative responses. The Austrian Red Cross developed a contact tracing app. British Red Cross surveyed people on their loneliness and pivoted to provide extra support for those newly alone. The Czech Red Cross trained volunteers to work in hospitals that had become overwhelmed. The Turkish Red Crescent researched people’s knowledge and attitudes towards the virus and pivoted to fill the gaps they discovered. Swedish volunteers helped children with their homework. The Red Crosses of the countries of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia worked together to get supplies across their borders to people in an isolated part of Croatia. Extra support was given to people with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia whose treatment was disrupted by the pandemic.

With the rapid surge in prevention activity, while case numbers grew at an alarming rate, by the end of Spring the situation had improved somewhat.

By summer as numbers plateaued government restrictions relaxed. The movement urged people to stay the course and maintain prevention measures in the face of pandemic fatigue and a sense the worst was behind us.

Valencia, Spain, August 2020. In Spain, help comes on two wheels: Spanish Red Cross volunteers are riding the streets of Valencia distributing masks to the community and teaching people how to use them properly.

Second wave

Sadly conditions deteriorated, leading to a second wave. From late July case and death numbers steadily worsened again. By October, the Europe region accounted for the greatest proportion of reported new cases globally, with over 1.3 million new cases in the last week of October, a 33% leap in cases in a week.

The national societies doubled down. Many had by now switched to remote and on-line support, however 23 National Societies continued to deliver COVID-safe clinical and paramedical services, including those in Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain and the UK. As well they ran quarantine and testing stations, triage facilities and outpatient fever clinics to support the public emergency medical service, and provided mobile care services.

Some National Societies also supported experimental treatments by collecting plasma from patients who recovered from COVID-19 and had antibodies, and in turn provided this plasma to hospitals to treat very sick patients. Countless training and guidance sessions for staff and volunteers on COVID-19 were helped across the region, on the proper use of personal protective equipment and ambulances cleaning and disinfection.

Prague, Czech Republic, November 2020. The Czech Red Cross has trained thousands of volunteers to work in hospitals, to take the pressure off a strained health system.

Vaccines – a potential game changer

By the start of December, the future started to look brighter. Countries started to plan for the possible arrival of vaccines, but this was taking place against a background of a relentless resurgence in the number of people infected with COVID-19. In the WHO Europe region, there had been more than 4 million new cases in November alone, with the region accounting for 40 % of new global cases and 50% of new global deaths. [3]

The vaccine results have come to be seen a large part of the solutions to containing the virus, but it has brought with it the challenge of countering misinformation and building trust in vaccines, as well as managing expectations that they will bring about a quick end to the pandemic. IFRC has supported local efforts to educate communities about their safety and efficacy.

Glina, Croatia, January 2021. 86-year-old Balen Jaga is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the emergency shelter after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake.

Those hardest hit

In January more evidence came to light of the disproportionate impact the coronavirus was having on older people when the IFRC’s Europe office published the results of a survey[4] which found older people had become sicker, poorer and more alone as a result of the pandemic. It added to a growing body of evidence that coronavirus had harmed the poor and most vulnerable the most, pushing millions more into poverty. [5] Sadly, migrants were also identified in new IFRC research as those least protected and most affected by the pandemic. [6]

Georgia, October 2020. Georgia Red Cross volunteers are delivering food and hygiene parcels, as well as provide information on COVID-19 prevention to lonely elderly people.

And now, as we enter the start of the second year of the pandemic under ongoing harsh lockdowns, many countries are starting to see cases stabilise and even reduce.

This emergency has had significant challenges, including global flows of misinformation and disinformation, response fatigue and system-wide impacts of multiple waves of cases. The Red Cross Red Crescent movement is well-placed to do its part in the regional response given its extensive history with disease outbreak.

And planners in the movement acknowledge that vaccines will not be the silver bullet to end this pandemic alone. Red Cross will continue to work with communities to ensure they are informed about the virus, how it spreads and what to do to keep safe. It’s continuing to advocate for tracing and isolation of people who are ill as a central part of the response. To keep in the fight against COVID-19, the entire population must stick to the preventative measures which have been proven to help stop the spread of the virus – even as a vaccine becomes more widely available.

[1] https://go.ifrc.org/emergencies/3972#actions

[2] https://covid19.who.int/

[3] https://www.euro.who.int/en/about-us/regional-director/news/news/2020/12/whoeuropes-year-in-review-2020

[4] https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/press-release/new-study-finds-coronavirus-left-older-people-poorer-sicker-alone/

[5] https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/2020-year-review-impact-covid-19-12-charts

[6] https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/press-release/migrants-and-refugees-least-protected-most-affected-in-covid-crisis-warns-ifrc-president/

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Mongolian Extreme Winter Season (Dzud): In Pictures https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2021/01/21/mongolian-extreme-winter-season-dzud-pictures/ Thu, 21 Jan 2021 04:34:47 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=72075 Mongolia is facing one of the most extreme winters on record, with temperatures forecast to plummet to lows of -50C for days on end. This has triggered the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to release emergency funds to quickly assist some 2,000 vulnerable herder families.   The extreme winter – […]

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Mongolia is facing one of the most extreme winters on record, with temperatures forecast to plummet to lows of -50C for days on end. This has triggered the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to release emergency funds to quickly assist some 2,000 vulnerable herder families.

 

The extreme winter – known as dzud – threatens the health and livelihoods of thousands of Mongolian herders living in the country’s remote central and southern provinces.

Hence, as a pre-emptive tactic, the Mongolian Red Cross Society has delivered cash assistance and livestock nutrition kits in target areas to assist them in meeting their immediate needs and save their livestock, which is the main source of livelihoods for the people of Mongolia.

 

The widespread cash grants and animal care kits given in anticipation of the extreme winter will prevent major stock and economic loss not only for the country but for families and communities themselves. This is so because horses, camels, goats, cattle and sheep for milk, cashmere, meat, and other livestock products are the only source of income for our herders.

 

The double impact of drought in the summer followed by harsh winters are what causes dzuds. Without rain in the summer, grass does not grow, and millions of farm animals cannot be properly fed to put on enough weight for survival during the winter. On top of that, farmers are not able to grow sufficient harvests to sustain them through the winter either.

Mongolian Red Cross Society Secretary General Bolormaa Nordov said,

“Dzuds are devastating for the herder families who rely on their animals for almost everything, whether it’s meat and milk for food, or the cashmere and skins they sell to buy supplies or pay school fees. Losing their animals mean they can quickly fall into poverty.”

 

“Simply waiting for disasters to strike is no longer an option. Climate change is bringing more frequent and severe disasters and our anticipatory action approach is helping communities move from reacting after extreme weather events to preparing before these emergencies,” Ms Nordov said.

 

As part of its Forecast-based Financing, approach, IFRC has released nearly 290,000 Swiss francs (about US$ 314,000) from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support early action.

This will allow the Mongolian Red Cross to help herder families in a bid to prevent major stock and economic loss through the distribution of cash grants and animal care kits.

 

The approach is about anticipating disasters and preventing their impact as best as possible in order to reduce human suffering and losses.

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Syrian refugee gets through challenges with power of writing https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2021/01/20/syrian-refugee-gets-challenges-power-writing/ Wed, 20 Jan 2021 07:43:06 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71766 Said loves reading and transforming his personal struggles into stories and poems. Each tells a different story close to his heart about love, loss and the everyday challenges of those forced to flee conflict, like himself. “How can I be indifferent to the suffering of those people injured by bombardments,” he says. “I write about […]

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Said loves reading and transforming his personal struggles into stories and poems. Each tells a different story close to his heart about love, loss and the everyday challenges of those forced to flee conflict, like himself.

“How can I be indifferent to the suffering of those people injured by bombardments,” he says.

“I write about humanity and homelessness. About the ones who were displaced just like us. I feel them and I feel their suffering. These are the people of my country – they are my family.”

Said is a 66-year-old Syrian refugee living in Turkey; he and his family were forced to flee their hometown in Syria’s southwestern area of East Ghouta in 2018.

Said remembers a beautiful life before the war, full of nature and books. Working as a farmer since he was 12, he was growing vegetables and raising livestock. Inside his house, he had a large library, filled with precious manuscripts and books from well-known philosophers.

When a rocket landed on their home in Eastern Ghouta, the whole library was engulfed in flames.

“The fire devoured everything, blew up everything. With all the past, with all the books it had, with all the documents there. It was my legacy and the legacy of my ancestors. And all were gone,” remembers Said.

When the rocket attack tore through his home, he remained under the rubbles with his three-months-old grandchild Jana and shrapnel from the rocket severely injured him and paralyzed almost one side of his body. With barely any time to recover, they were forced out of their village and crossed into Turkey.

Said’s wounds are still fresh. However, writing, reading and time with his little grandchildren help him hold on to hopes of a new life.

“I sit with my grandchildren, they are always with me. We play games together and I tell them stories. I think I am child-like to them,” Said says with a smile.

Starting over in a foreign country with a physical disability was not easy. Now, Said receives small cash assistance each month from the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC, with funding from the European Union. Due to many health problems he and his family have, they use most of the cash assistance to buy medicine.

Funded by the European Union and its Member States under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.8 million of the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The cash assistance enables them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.

This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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Malaysian 2021 Floods: In Pictures https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2021/01/15/malaysian-2021-floods-pictures/ Fri, 15 Jan 2021 05:51:19 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71903 Photos by Fadza Ishak/IFRC and Malaysian Red Crescent Society. Continuous torrential rain in eastern and southern peninsula Malaysia has caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding hundreds of communities and towns. The Malaysian Red Crescent worked alongside authorities as an emergency alert was issued and more than 52,000 people were evacuated when waters rose, reaching […]

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Photos by Fadza Ishak/IFRC and Malaysian Red Crescent Society.

Continuous torrential rain in eastern and southern peninsula Malaysia has caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding hundreds of communities and towns.

The Malaysian Red Crescent worked alongside authorities as an emergency alert was issued and more than 52,000 people were evacuated when waters rose, reaching roofs and second stories within hours of the alert.

 

Tens of thousands of people were badly affected as severe floods hit towns in the states of Terengganu, Pahang, and Johor. Many communities were cut off, surrounded by floodwater.

In many areas where waters have receded as fast as they came, thick mud and muck coated thousands of houses, damaging virtually all households content.

 

Household possessions —  toothbrushes, towels, utensils, pillows, mattresses, furniture and even personal clothes and valuables — were coated with thick mud and muck. 

Cars and large household items were swept away, and damaged beyond repair.

 

When the floods receded, people were devastated by the damage left behind. Homes by the river were among the worst hit, with water sweeping through doors and windows and carrying personal belongings away. Adding to the hardships, the flash floods took place in the middle of a worsening Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Even though the worst of the flash floods have slowly receded, many areas still remain submerged under stagnant waters. The water levels reportedly rose to heights of up to 10 meters, submerging houses, schools, shops, power poles, and other infrastructure. 

 

The Malaysian Red Crescent teams worked alongside local authorities to provide essential relief such as rice, dry noodles, milk powder, dignity kits, detergent and more for the affected communities. In some areas, authorities travelled by boat to reach houses that had been completely isolated by stagnant waters.

 

Loh Chin Sin, 74, returned to his home of  40 years to find all his belongings destroyed. Although these areas experience flooding and mass evacuation every year during the rainy season, this year was far more severe, with more than 52,000 people having to abandon their homes and discard almost all of their belongings. 

 

Some of those severely affected are camped on roadsides and bus stops, waiting for the water to recede.  Malaysian Red Crescent and authorities are providing accommodation at emergency shelters along with food and essential items. 

 

To make matters worse, farm animals of all kinds and pets have been swept away or isolated. Volunteers have managed to rescue those that were thankfully found.

 

The IFRC and Malaysian Red Crescent deployed its staff to work alongside authorities to keep people safe during evacuation and ensure their access to essential relief supplies. Malaysian Red Crescent have been on the ground for months before, conducting COVID-19 related activities to these remote communities in the state of Pahang and Terengganu.

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Opinion: Will migrants and refugees be left out of mass vaccine programs? https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2021/01/07/opinion-will-migrants-refugees-left-mass-vaccine-programs/ Thu, 07 Jan 2021 14:49:59 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71760 By Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen After a brutal year dominated by the coronavirus, 2021 at last promises hope. When mass vaccination campaigns roll out, it will mark a critical turning point in the pandemic. However, vulnerable communities – especially migrants and refugees – run the risk of being left behind again. COVID-19 has exposed and magnified […]

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By Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen

After a brutal year dominated by the coronavirus, 2021 at last promises hope.

When mass vaccination campaigns roll out, it will mark a critical turning point in the pandemic.

However, vulnerable communities – especially migrants and refugees – run the risk of being left behind again.

COVID-19 has exposed and magnified inequalities, destabilized communities, and reversed major development progress made over the past decade.

For the 80 million people who remain forcibly displaced in 2020, the pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges and pushed them into more devastating, vulnerable and exploitative situations.

About 66% of migrants and refugees have lost access to work due to COVID-19, with many losing the sole income they rely on. Many have experienced ballooning debts, which forces many to cut spending on essentials, including health, education or food to survive.

People on the move too often fall through the cracks when it comes to accessing essential health services and we worry the same could happen for the vaccine. People in particularly fragile settings, like displacement camps, have access to fewer basic health care services.

Many barriers exist, including direct exclusion, laws restricting access based on migration status, language barriers and lack of culturally-accessible and appropriate information about the vaccine.

The health and socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on millions of refugee and migrant families for years to come. We must address the many barriers to universal health coverage and ensure that migrants are fully included in national vaccination campaigns.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been at the center of the pandemic, stepping up our support to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, providing access to critical information, health services, psychosocial support as well as helping to mitigate COVID-19’s socio-economic impacts and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable groups.

In Greece and Spain where there have been large number of people arriving, Red Cross has for several years been supporting individuals and families by providing food, water and other practical support so they’re treated with dignity and respect along their journeys.

Through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the European Union and implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC, 1.8 million refugees receive cash assistance every month to help cover their essential needs such as rent, transport, bills, food and medicine. Additional financial support was provided from June to July to help people cope through particularly tough months.

All migrants, irrespective of status, should be protected from harm and have access to health care and the vaccine without fear of arrest, detention or deportation. This includes ensuring COVID-19 testing, tracing, treatment and the vaccine are available and accessible to everyone.

The inequitable distribution of vaccines globally not only threatens to leave the most marginalised behind but also risks undermining our shared health if the virus is left to continue among unprotected communities. The vaccination roll-out must work in parallel with access to critical public health preventative measures.

We ask governments, the private sector, international organisations and civil society to unite towards “a people’s vaccine.” A people’s vaccine should equally protect the affluent and the poor, those in cities and in rural communities, older people in care homes and those living in refugee camps. A global social contract for a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 is a moral imperative that brings us all together in our shared humanity.

We must take concrete action to prevent the exclusion of groups at significantly higher risk of severe disease or death, such as refugees, migrants, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers or those affected by humanitarian emergencies.

Migrants and refugees must not be left behind while the rest of the world recovers: none of us are safe until all of us are safe.

*This opinion piece was originally published on Thomson Reuters Foundation on December 24, 2020.

This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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Volunteers: the cornerstone of the response of the Red Cross in the Americas https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2021/01/05/volunteers-cornerstone-response-red-cross-americas/ Mon, 04 Jan 2021 23:07:42 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71737 In the Americas, Red Cross volunteers have proven to be the cornerstone for responding to communities in the region: carrying out interhospital transfers to COVID-19 patients in Mexico, working to rescue people affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and more. The International Federation has witnessed unprecedented humanity and goodness throughout […]

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In the Americas, Red Cross volunteers have proven to be the cornerstone for responding to communities in the region: carrying out interhospital transfers to COVID-19 patients in Mexico, working to rescue people affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and more.

The International Federation has witnessed unprecedented humanity and goodness throughout 2020: Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have signed up to volunteer in their national societies, proving that even in these darkest times, there are incredible stories of hope.

Volunteering in times of COVID-19

In Mexico, more than 6,641 volunteers have worked in the response to the emergency created by COVID-19 in interhospital transfers, patient care, health education campaigns, and more in the 32 states of the country. In the relief area, many of the paramedic volunteers have decided to isolate themselves from their families, to continue helping in the emergency response, and avoid infecting their loved ones.

 

Volunteers from the Mexican Red Cross are carrying out awareness-raising tasks in Mexico City

“I’ve been living in a rental house for three months with other colleagues,” says Diego Arcos, head of the motorized section of the Mexican Red Cross. “I think the most complicated thing for us in caring for COVID patients is that you don’t see what you’re fighting against, and you don’t see the end of it.”

“I understand the desperation of being at home, the desperation of being locked up, but what we want is to go home, and we are only going to achieve it if people take care of themselves and follow safety protocols: wearing masks, washing hands, using antibacterial gel. If we all follow the instructions that are being put forth by the health sector, not just in Mexico, but also worldwide, we are sure that sooner we will be able to go outside or go home for us working in the response.”

Volunteers like Diego, during this pandemic, have made a selfless, supportive, and humanitarian effort to combat COVID-19: their work has been fundamental in education and prevention tasks, as well as in treating patients suspicious or positive.

Volunteering in Emergencies: Responses to Hurricanes Eta and Iota

Climate-related disasters have not stopped in times of COVID-19: 28 of the 35 countries in the Americas are classified as medium, high, or very high risk in terms of exposure to climate-related disasters according to the latest World Report from Disasters, and hurricanes Eta and Iota that hit Central America and Colombia in November, are an example of the risk in the region. Volunteers from the Americas have been an example of solidarity action in the response to the emergency caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota.

During the month of November, the tropical phenomena ETA and IOTA made landfall in Nicaragua, and then caused floods, landslides, damage to infrastructure, homes and crops in Central America and Colombia, with great damage especially in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.

Volunteers from the Nicaraguan Red Cross distribute kits in the North Caribbean of the country, after the passage of Eta and Iota

In Nicaragua, more than 180 people have been volunteers in Operation Eta and Iota, supporting more than 33,000 people in the North Caribbean areas of the country: Prinzapolka, Bilwi, Waspan, Rivas. As part of the response to the hurricanes, the volunteers carried out tasks for the preparation prior to the impacts of Eta and Iota and humanitarian actions after the passage of both storms, such as: psychosocial support, water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion. In this way, the volunteers of the Nicaraguan Red Cross continue to demonstrate the true commitment of humanity in the movement.

“To help others, it is important to stay united, have a positive mind, be persistent and empathetic. We do everything with love and always committed to health for everyone,” explains one of the psychosocial support volunteers from the Nicaraguan Red Cross.

Volunteers in the Americas, and around the world, have witnessed unprecedented humanity and goodness: they are the engine of humanity, perseverance, and solidarity of the Red Cross movement in every corner of the continent.

 

For more information, visit the Volunteering Development Platform (VODPLA), where an interactive Volunteering map of activities and projects displays the humanitarian initiatives, activities and projects carried out by volunteers in the region.

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Physical, but not emotional, distance https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2020/12/29/physical-not-emotional-distance/ Tue, 29 Dec 2020 21:40:39 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71697 By Olivia Acosta Diego Gómez is 38 years old, he is an emergency medical technician, and for nine years he has been working as a paramedic in the Metropolitan Committee of the Costa Rican Red Cross, in the Canton of San José, the capital city of the country. Every day he carries out his duties […]

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By Olivia Acosta

Diego Gómez is 38 years old, he is an emergency medical technician, and for nine years he has been working as a paramedic in the Metropolitan Committee of the Costa Rican Red Cross, in the Canton of San José, the capital city of the country. Every day he carries out his duties with an Advanced Support Unit. Together with a driver he transfers patients to the hospital, many of them with symptoms compatible with COVID-19. According to Diego, things have changed a lot since the pandemic began. “Normally we treat emergency medical cases, but with the onset of the pandemic, calls related to the virus increased a lot… there was very little information, and the health system quickly became saturated. We realized that there were many scared people thinking that they had contracted the coronavirus and many felt very lonely and anguished without knowing what to do.”

The service in which Diego works consists of four ambulances and as soon as the urgent care notice arrives, protocol are set in motion to try and determine if the person who is going to be treated could be infected with the virus. The family or the patient reports on their symptoms and checks are done to see if they have had close contact with people with coronavirus. When the team arrives at the patient’s home and the suspicion of possible contagion is confirmed, their transfer to the nearest available medical center is organized. “Many of the patients we serve are older adults with other health conditions, such as obesity or diabetes. The hardest thing is that they have to travel alone in the ambulance and many older people have to say goodbye to their family, because they cannot be accompanied in the context of the pandemic … it is a hard time for them and for us too”.

Diego also tells us that he and three of his colleagues had to quarantine for 15 days, due to contact with a patient who had to be treated in the ambulance for cardiac arrest, and it turned out to be COVID-19 positive.

According to Diego, during the days of isolation his feeling was one of frustration, and then one of vulnerability, “for the first time I saw myself on the side of the sick and that affected me a lot, I had to accept that it is part of the work we do. Now we have new protocols, and all the cases we attend are treated as suspects, until proven otherwise, that is why we use protective filter masks, a surgical gown, protective glasses, etc. I live with my mother who is older, and I always try to respect security measures … even if we have to keep physical distance with our elders, that does not mean that we have to keep emotional distance. It is always possible to show affection over the phone, or exchange virtual hugs over video calls”, he concludes.

The Costa Rican Red Cross has been working on the frontline of this health emergency, so far more than 8000 cases of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients have been transferred and more than 41000 incidents have been carried out for the same cause. Campaigns have also been carried out in communities promoting the implementation of protection measures.

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Picking up the Pieces – Belize one month after Eta https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2020/12/29/picking-pieces-belize-one-month-eta/ Tue, 29 Dec 2020 21:30:22 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71687 By Trevesa DaSilva Belize, 21 December 2020: More than one month after flooding from Hurricane Eta affected Belize, the impact could still be seen in some parts of the Central American country. In some flooded communities, water levels were still relatively high. In other communities, even though the water level receded, the water marks on […]

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By Trevesa DaSilva

Belize, 21 December 2020: More than one month after flooding from Hurricane Eta affected Belize, the impact could still be seen in some parts of the Central American country.

In some flooded communities, water levels were still relatively high. In other communities, even though the water level receded, the water marks on houses and furniture and other items placed out in the sun to dry, were a tell-tale sign of the damages that were wreaked by the rainfall and flooding, first by Eta, then by Iota a couple weeks later.

“I’ve never seen this before,” Larry Jimenez shared as he sat on a stool right outside his home, which was perched on the banks of the Mopan River. “I’ve lived here in Bullet Tree Falls around seven years and this is the worst I’ve seen it [the flooding].

Larry and his family had to evacuate their home when the river behind his house started rising due to heavy and consistent rainfall from Hurricane Eta. They returned days later to everything in their home completely damaged by water, which had covered up to 9 feet of his house. They managed to save a few items including clothes and some important documents before they evacuated, but everything else was water-logged.

Now back home, they are trying to pick up the pieces and still salvage what they can. As Larry relayed the ordeal, his children and niece and nephew sat nearby playing on the remains of a couch outside, which had been damaged by the flooding.

 

Teresita Madrill explains how the flooding affected her home in Maskall Village in Belize district

Over in Maskall Village in Belize district, Teresita Madrill explained that the water had risen over her knees and while she has seen her community flooded before, this is the first time in years that she has seen it like this. “It has definitely gotten worse. We had to move out and stay with family members elsewhere until the water went back down,” she stated. She said when they returned, they could hardly go in the house. Since then, while she has managed to clean up most of the house, some items were damaged.

Her husband and son are a wooden sculptor and carpenter respectively and the wood they used were also drenched and had to be tied to trees in the yard, so they did not float away. Since the water receded, the wood pieces have been laid out in the sun to dry so they could still be used.

 

 

Joel Sutherland shows the impact of the flooding on his home in Scotland Halfmoon, Belize district

 

For Joel Sutherland and his family in Scotland Halfmoon in Belize district, the experience was unexpected. “It was a very frightening situation for us, the water just continued rising and when we got up in the morning, the entire yard was flooded,” he shared as he pointed to the water which had settled in his yard. “I have three canoes because I am a fisherman, so I use them for fishing, but they came in very handy with the floods, as I used them to take my family from the house, across the water to the road,” he added.

The Belize Red Cross has been responding by assisting with damage assessments and distributing well needed items such as food packages, cleaning kits, blankets, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, jerry cans (water containers) and COVID-19 kits in several of the affected communities.

Lily Bowman, Director General of the Belize Red Cross, stated that these same communities have also been feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Belizeans have been experiencing challenges even before the hurricanes with COVID-19 and the Belize Red Cross had been helping families by distributing food packages, especially to those who lost their income as a result of the pandemic,” she noted.

Now, the response must be merged.

“With the flooding, we find that we have to be doing a dual response – attending to the needs of those impacted by the flooding while also carrying out our COVID-19 response activities, all while trying to ensure the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries,” she explained.

Additionally, through a partnership with UNICEF Belize, US Embassy Belize and the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), the Belize Red Cross recently assisted in distributing food and hygiene packages to communities in Cayo district which were also impacted by the flooding.

Larry’s family was one of those who received packages. “I really appreciate the help from Red Cross and partners, it’s helping us a lot because right now things are hard,” shared Larry, who usually does maintenance at a resort, but with COVID-19 and now the floods, he has not had much work.

When asked what is next for him and his family, in a true spirit of resilience, Larry replied, “we can’t just leave ourselves and do nothing, we have to keep going, we have to go forward.”

The Belize Red Cross, which is a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), will continue providing relief and recovery assistance, with IFRC’s support, to over 1000 families (approximately 5000 persons), to help them pick up the pieces and recover from Eta.

The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.

 

 

For more information or to arrange media interviews, please contact:

In Belize: Lily Bowman, Belize Red Cross Director General – mailto:bzercshq@btl.net | +1 501 627 8801

In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva, IFRC Communications Officer – trevesa.dasilva@ifrc.org | +1 876 818 8575

In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, IFRC Regional Communications Manager – susana.arroyo@ifrc.org | + 506 8416 1771

The post Picking up the Pieces – Belize one month after Eta appeared first on International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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Volunteering in the midst of adversity https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2020/12/29/volunteering-midst-adversity/ Tue, 29 Dec 2020 21:12:32 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71654 Red Cross volunteers affected by Eta & Iota help others cope By Trevesa DaSilva Belize, 21 December 2020: It is said that ‘in times of adversity and change, we really discover who we are and what we are made of’ and this was evident in the aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Belize, where […]

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Red Cross volunteers affected by Eta & Iota help others cope

By Trevesa DaSilva

Belize, 21 December 2020: It is said that ‘in times of adversity and change, we really discover who we are and what we are made of’ and this was evident in the aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Belize, where Red Cross volunteers impacted by the floods, were on the frontline helping others who were also affected.

Jenine Kerr, Belize Red Cross CDRT member and NEMO volunteer takes a moment from her shelter duties to spend time with her twins, Jordan and Jordany.

 

Jenine Kerr from Burrell Boom Village in Belize District stayed in the shelter in her community after her house was flooded. After receiving training from the Belize Red Cross approximately two years ago under the Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT) training programme, Jenine forms part of a cadre of volunteers equipped to help in times of disasters. However, in this instance, the disaster literally hit home.

“I was home when [the floods from] Hurricane Eta started affecting Belize. We got a lot of rain and the river kept rising and eventually my house got flooded out and [I had to go to] the shelter,” shared Jenine.

However, being displaced did not stop her from executing her duties: “I have been helping out in the kitchen. We sanitize on a regular basis; because of COVID-19 we have to keep the place clean, especially because we have a lot of children around,” shared the mother of 5-year-old twins, Jordan and Jordany.

 

 

 

Kimberly Seguro (right), Belize Red Cross CDRT President and NEMO volunteer discuss shelter plans with Belize Red Cross staff, Charletta Rowland (left) and Jessie Young.

Kimberly Seguro, also from Burrell Boom Village, is the President of the CDRT in her community and was also impacted by Eta, two years after her family was subjected to another catastrophe.

“I was affected by a fire two years ago and I was able to rebuild … and now the flood came and destroyed the flooring [of the house]” she noted. However, despite the calamities she experienced, Kimberly is grateful for the training from the Belize Red Cross. “During the fire, I knew what to do and because I knew what to do, lives were saved. Our home was not saved but lives were saved,” she highlighted.

Kimberly added that the CDRT training also came in useful after Hurricane Eta: “Here at the shelter, we know how to take care of ourselves and take care of the entire village. We assess the other families and ensure that they get assistance from the Belize Red Cross to meet their needs.”

 

 

Herlet Bull, Belize Red Cross volunteer assist with registration duties at the shelter

Herlet Bull lives with her husband in Lemonal Village in Belize District and not only was her home impacted by the floods but her husband, who is a farmer, lost all his crops. They retreated to a shelter close to their community, where Herlet helps with cleaning, cooking and anything else she can.

When asked how she has managed to still help others even in her time of adversity, Herlet explained: “Although I lost everything, as a volunteer with the Belize Red Cross, I would still like to help people because they were affected too. We help each other; they help me cope with it and I help them cope with it.”

The Belize Red Cross continues to assist families impacted by the hurricanes and has received support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to further help improve the lives of over 5000 people over the next four months. With the help of its volunteers, the Belize Red Cross will continue distributions of food and hygiene kits, promotion of disease prevention measures, as well as roll out a cash and voucher assistance programme for the most vulnerable.

The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.

 

 

For more information or to arrange media interviews, please contact:

In Belize: Lily Bowman, Belize Red Cross Director General – mailto:bzercshq@btl.net | +1 501 627 8801

In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva, IFRC Communications Officer – trevesa.dasilva@ifrc.org | +1 876 818 8575

In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, IFRC Regional Communications Manager – susana.arroyo@ifrc.org | + 506 8416 1771

The post Volunteering in the midst of adversity appeared first on International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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IFRC Statement in support of the CVF “Midnight Survival Deadline for the Climate” initiative https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/2020/12/28/ifrc-statement-support-cvf-midnight-survival-deadline-climate-initiative/ Mon, 28 Dec 2020 12:28:54 +0000 https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/?p=71614 The climate crisis is a humanitarian emergency. Every day, we are seeing the growing impacts of climate change. In the last months alone, we have seen millions of people’s lives and livelihoods affected by hurricanes and typhoons in Central America and throughout South-East Asia. Our recently published IFRC World Disasters Report “Come Heat or High Water: Tackling the Humanitarian Impacts of the Climate Crisis Together” found […]

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The climate crisis is a humanitarian emergency. Every day, we are seeing the growing impacts of climate change. In the last months alone, we have seen millions of people’s lives and livelihoods affected by hurricanes and typhoons in Central America and throughout South-East Asia.

Our recently published IFRC World Disasters Report “Come Heat or High Water: Tackling the Humanitarian Impacts of the Climate Crisis Together” found that, in 2019, 77% of all disasters that were triggered by natural hazards were classified as climate or weather related. In the future, we expect extreme climate and weather-related hazards to further increase in number, intensity and variability.

Though we are living in a climate crisis, we don’t have to accept that climate disasters are inevitable.  We can make a difference now, by scaling up climate action today and by becoming more “climate smart”, meaning that we systematically use climate science and forecasts more intelligently to enable people to anticipate, absorb and adapt to climate shocks, and limit our climate and environmental impact.

This is why the IFRC supports the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s “Midnight Climate Survival Deadline for the Climate” initiative and its call for enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions under the UNFCCC mechanism. Only by scaling up our collective actions today can we reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement and reduce the humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis.

At the IFRC, our first priority is – and will always be – to support the communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks and who have the least capacity/ability to manage those risks.

The time to act is now. We look forward to working with partners to tackle the climate crisis together. Let us not miss our chance.

The post IFRC Statement in support of the CVF “Midnight Survival Deadline for the Climate” initiative appeared first on International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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