Anitta Underlin, representing Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC Under Secretary General for Management, IFRC
Date: Monday, 23 October, 2017
Event: Bangladesh/Myanmar Pledging Conference
Location: Geneva, Switzerland

The stories from the hundreds of thousands of displaced people that have arrived over the last two months challenge even the most hardened of our teams. This is a deeply harrowing situation, and a situation of raw desperation, and one that I will witness myself on Wednesday. I am told by my team on the ground that I am in for a huge, deep shock.

I am honoured to speak on behalf of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

Local actors such as the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, auxiliary to the Government of Bangladesh, do not get to pick and choose which disasters or crises they respond to. They are always there, on the side of those in need. It is these local volunteers and their communities who, without question or hesitation, are responding to those who are suffering, in solidarity, irrespective of their own problems and challenges.

28 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, the IFRC and the ICRC are supporting the tireless work that the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is doing around the clock, in the searing heat and amidst the torrential downpours. The IFRC has been supporting the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to respond to this emergency since December last year, when we launched our first appeal.

We quadrupled this appeal in August to 12 million Swiss francs and we have today increased the appeal to 33.5 million Swiss francs.

Our global response, with more than 80 specialists from 25 countries, includes specialized response units and coaching to local responders, focusing on life-saving humanitarian assistance and gender-sensitive protection. Among them is a 60-bed field hospital that has world class surgical capacity, supporting the whole spectrum of health issues from injuries sustained on the journey to complicated pregnancies, providing assistance to displaced people and host communities.

Down the road from the hospital we are taking a leading role at a transit centre for new arrivals, many of whom have walked for two weeks and sat at the border for days. Our staff and volunteers are providing water to severely ill babies and squeezing mouthfuls of a nut paste for starving toddlers and the elderly.

We are also present in Rakhine state, supporting the Myanmar Red Cross Society, and working alongside our partners at the ICRC. We are providing much needed humanitarian assistance to all people affected by the violence, and strengthening the capacity of the Myanmar Red Cross Society to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, with mobile health teams and relief items.

However, we must honestly look to the long term.

We cannot have lost generations of affected people living in camps. Any returns must be voluntary, safe and dignified.

People deserve to have a life; they need to be able to move freely and safely; they need to have access to work and education. We need to support them to recover what is dearest to them, their human dignity. The only viable future is the one when people wake up in the morning without fear of whether they will see the end of the day.

On behalf of the IFRC and our 190-member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, I am asking you, our partners, to invest more significantly in strengthening the capacity of those on the ground, including the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. I would also like to commend the compassion and generosity of the Bangladesh Government and host communities for allowing us to jointly help those in need, especially while one third of Bangladesh is affected by floods.

Speech data

National Societies


Humanitarian diplomacy, National Societies


Anitta Underlin, Elhadj As Sy