Red Cross To Help 500 Million Get COVID-19 Shots

 

The Red Cross launched a plan Thursday to help vaccinate 500 million people against Covid-19 in over 100 countries, warning that leaving out the world’s poorest could seriously backfire.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it would throw its weight into the distribution and acceptance of vaccines among some of the hardest-to-reach communities.

The Geneva-based IFRC said it would spend 100 million Swiss francs ($111 million, 92.5 million euros) on the push and was already working with governments in more than 60 countries to see where its help could be the most effective.

“The current lack of equity in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is alarming and could backfire to deadly and devastating effect,” IFRC secretary general Jagan Chapagain told reporters.

He said nearly 70 percent of vaccine doses administered so far had been in the world’s 50 richest countries while only 0.1 percent had been deployed in the poorest 50.

READ ALSO: Outbreak Of UK COVID-19 Variant Detected In Italian Town

“It could prolong or even worsen this terrible pandemic,” Chapagain said, noting that if the virus continued to circulate and mutate in large areas of the globe, even those who have been vaccinated in wealthier countries would not be safe.

He called for richer countries to share vaccines once they had immunised their most vulnerable populations.

Otherwise, “the emergence of variants in far-away low-income countries will shatter the illusion of safety in wealthier countries,” said Chapagain.

The IFRC, which calls itself the world’s largest humanitarian network, said it will bolster national vaccination efforts, including supporting logistics and countering misinformation about vaccine efficacy.

IFRC health director Emanuele Capobianco it was already supporting vaccination campaigns in Austria, Brazil, Morocco and Kuwait, among other countries.

It is also aiming to reach refugees and undocumented migrants.

On Wednesday, the Covax programme to ensure equitable worldwide access to Covid-19 vaccines published its first distribution list.

Some 145 countries are set to receive an initial 337.2 million doses — enough to immunise 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021, with first deliveries expected in late February.

For many poorer countries, the scheme will be their only way of accessing vaccines.

“The equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines between and within countries is more than a moral imperative: it is the only way to solve the most pressing public health emergency of our time,” said Chapagain.

32 Killed In Uganda Road Accident

The Ugandan Flag

 

Thirty-two people died and five were injured on Tuesday when a truck carrying mourners collided with a car and three other vehicles in Uganda, the Ugandan Red Cross said.

The overloaded truck, carrying mourners and a coffin, collided with a car near Kasese in western Uganda shortly before midnight, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita.

“The road is small, it’s under construction and it was dark,” said Nakasiita.

Shortly afterwards, two trucks coming from Kasese ploughed into the crash site and a third coming in the opposite direction, from Bundibugyo, also struck the vehicles and overturned.

“So it made up five cars all involved at the same scene,” said Nakasiita.

Red Cross staff and volunteers worked with Ugandan soldiers to transport the dead and evacuated the five survivors.

Poorly maintained vehicles and unsafe highways are common in Uganda which has one of the world’s highest rates of road traffic accidents.

Fatal collisions are becoming increasingly common and cost the East African nation five per cent of its gross domestic product each year, according to a UN report in 2018.

Surging COVID-19 Deepening Libya Crisis – Red Cross

Libyans go on with their lives in the capital Tripoli on March 10, 2020. According to Libyan authorities, not a single case of coronavirus so far has been recorded in the country which faces Italy across the Mediterranean. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP.

 

Coronavirus cases have skyrocketed 15-fold in Libya since June, the Red Cross said Thursday, warning this was further deepening the dire humanitarian crisis in the conflict-ravaged country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said known COVID-19 cases in Libya had soared from 571 in June to more than 9,000 on Thursday.

“There is a continuous degradation of the humanitarian situation in Libya,” ICRC president Peter Maurer told reporters, pointing out that after nine years of violent conflict, many families have seen any reserves they once had fully depleted.

Maurer, who travelled to Libya earlier this week, said the number of Libyans depending on humanitarian aid to survive had been steadily growing as homes and infrastructure have been destroyed and the economy has collapsed.

The crisis has now been “further accentuated by COVID”, he said.

“Infrastructure all over the country is falling apart,” he cautioned in a statement.

“People have little electricity, drinking water, sanitation, or medical care in the middle of a growing pandemic.”

Maurer said he had met with Libya’s eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar and with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli.

He said they had “long conversations on all aspects of humanitarian activity”, adding that he had stressed the importance of following international humanitarian law and protecting civilians.

“Despite the political and military and strategic confrontation, what I saw in my now third visit to Libya in the past two years, was an increasing readiness to engage” with ICRC, he said.

Libya has been in chaos since a Western-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Haftar launched an offensive in April 2019 to seize Tripoli, but after 14 months of fierce fighting, the Turkish-backed pro-GNA forces expelled his troops from much of western Libya, and pushed them eastwards to Sirte, a gateway to Libya’s rich oil fields and export terminals.

While there remains a dire need to find a political solution to Libya’s conflict and multiple crises, Maurer said there seemed to be a growing appreciation of the need to facilitate the work of humanitarians on the ground.

He also said ICRC had recently been able to resume visits to detention centres in Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli run by the justice ministries of the two opposing administrations.

While the organisation had yet to gain access to other places of detention, he said his discussions showed he had received positive signals that this could soon be possible.

AFP

Young Girl Rescued From Lagos Explosion Site

 

Emergency officials have rescued a three-year-old girl from the rubble at the Abule-Ado explosion site in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area.

The young girl is simply identified as Favour.

Chairman, Nigeria Red Cross Society (NRCS) Lagos branch, Adebola Kolawole while explaining on Monday how Favour was rescued said she was found amidst the rubbles during rescue operations on Sunday night.

READ ALSO: PDP Seeks Rejig Of Emergency Response, Recognition Of Rev Sister Alokha

She added that Favour’s mother sustained a head injury from the incident and her brother too was injured.

Kolawole explained further that favour’s mother in her semi-coma state gestured to resue officials that Favour was her daughter.

She added that Favour’s mother on Monday morning regained her consciousness and woke up asking for her daughter.

“Favour will soon be reunited with her family,” Kolawole added.

Favour’s rescue brings relief to many at the scene as emergency operations continue.

Reps To Partner Red Cross On IDPs

 

The House of Representatives will partner the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) over the state of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila made this known while receiving ICRC delegation led by the organisation’s head in Nigeria, Mr Eloi Fillion, on Thursday in Abuja.

Gbajabiamila noted that the collaboration was necessary to ease the sufferings of displaced persons, following the Kampala Convention on IDPs which he believes will go a long way in addressing their plights.

“We’re more than happy to collaborate with you. I’m glad you’re working with my Special Assistant on IDPs. He has a lot of zeal for the work. We always look forward to collaboration such as this.

“Nigeria is a signatory. If the House domesticates it, I think the different states have to do the same. We’ll try and see how we can get it domesticated,” he stated.

According to him, a situation where some international conventions demand that organisations such as ICRC could provide assistance to both soldiers and insurgents at the same time would not augur well for the country.‎

On his part, Mr Fillion said the ICRC would want to collaborate with the House in a number of areas to achieve its mandate in Nigeria, calling for the domestication of the Geneva Convention and the Kampala Convention on IDPs.

‎He said the international community has given ICRC ‎specific mandate to deliver humanitarian service, saying they are independent and neutral in carrying out their mandate, stressing that the organization will organise a workshop ‎where all issues relating to its activities.

Lebanon Protest: Man Sets Himself On Fire

Lebanon is on the verge of economic collapse amid political paralysis and an ongoing protest movement.

 

A man in Lebanon tried to self-immolate during a protest in Beirut on Saturday, the Lebanese Red Cross said, before protesters extinguished the flames.

Protesters in Riad al-Solh Square smothered the flames with jackets and blankets, an AFP photographer said.

The man, who did not lose consciousness, was evacuated in a Red Cross ambulance.

“A man set fire to himself, a Lebanese Red Cross team intervened,” the organisation wrote on Twitter.

The official ANI news agency reported that a man in his forties had doused himself in petrol before setting himself alight.

While the reason for his action was not known, Lebanon is on the verge of economic collapse amid political paralysis and an ongoing protest movement.

On Saturday, dozens gathered in the central Riad al-Solh Square for another demonstration against the country’s ruling elite.

Protests began on October 17, mobilising hundreds of thousands of Lebanese demanding an end to corruption and incompetent leadership.

Lebanon’s financial situation, already precarious before the protests, has deteriorated markedly since. In recent weeks, thousands of people have lost their jobs or had their salaries slashed.

Several cases of suicide have been reported in recent days, with financial difficulties believed to be a motivating factor.

In February, a Lebanese man died from severe burns after setting himself on fire at his daughter’s school over a fee dispute with the management.

The World Bank has warned of an impending recession that may see the proportion of people living in poverty climb from a third to half the population.

Unemployment, already above 30 per cent for young people, would also increase, it has said.

Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri asked Arab and Western allies for financial help on Friday.

An $11 billion (10 billion euro) aid package pledged at a conference dubbed CEDRE in Paris in April 2018 has not been unlocked by donors for lack of reform.

 

AFP

Afghan Taliban Rescind Ban On Red Cross

 

The Afghan Taliban rescinded a months-long ban on the International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) working in areas under their control Sunday and restored security guarantees for those working for the organisation.

The militants and the ICRC “consented to following the old agreement on top of new promises in humanitarian aid leading to the Islamic Emirate granting ICRC permission of resuming their activities,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement.

Taliban fighters were instructed to “pave the way for ICRC activities and be mindful of security to this committee’s workers and equipment,” it added.

“We welcome the acknowledgment of our humanitarian principles and renewal of security guarantees to enable us (to) work in #Afghanistan in favour of people affected by the armed conflict,” Schaerer Juan-Pedro, head of ICRC in Kabul said on Twitter.

In April the insurgents banned both the ICRC and World Health Organization (WHO) from carrying out relief activities in areas under their control and revoked security guarantees.

The Taliban did not mention the WHO in the announcement, which it said came following talks with ICRC in Doha.

In August last year, the Taliban temporarily withdrew safety guarantees for the ICRC, accusing the international group of failing to meet its mission obligations to monitor detention conditions in Afghan jails and provide medical aid to Taliban prisoners.

As fears of increased violence soar with presidential elections approaching later this month, Afghan troops and Taliban insurgents have been engaged in heavy exchanges across Afghanistan, with several militant-controlled districts in the far north falling to government forces.

The Taliban continue to strike Afghan installations at will after the militants issued their own vow to continue fighting after US President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled negotiations that aimed to pave the way for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan following 18 years of war.

Boko Haram: 22,000 Missing In Northeast Insurgency – ICRC

 

Nearly 22,000 people, mostly children, are missing as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, the Red Cross said on Thursday.

The jihadist uprising which started in 2009 has killed more than 27,000 people, displaced some two million, and spilt over into neighbouring countries, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement that the nearly 22,000 Nigerians constituted the highest number of missing persons registered with the organisation in any country.

Some 60 percent of the total were minors at the time they went missing, meaning that thousands of parents do not know where their children are and if they are alive or dead, according to the Red Cross.

READ ALSO: Three Killed As Troops Rid Borno Village Of Terrorists

“Every parent’s worst nightmare is not knowing where their child is. This is the tragic reality for thousands of Nigerian parents, leaving them with the anguish of a constant search,” ICRC President Peter Maurer said at the end of a five-day visit to Nigeria.

“People have the right to know the fate of their loved ones, and more needs to be done to prevent families from being separated in the first place,” he said.

During the visit, Maurer met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, senior government officials, civil society and business leaders.

He also spoke with family members affected by conflict in the northeastern cities of Maiduguri and Monguno, many of whom have missing relatives.

The Red Cross said that some families were often separated while fleeing attacks, while others have had loved ones abducted or detained and do not know their whereabouts.

“The ICRC works with the Nigeria Red Cross and other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in the region to trace missing people by showing photographs, calling out names and going door-to-door in camps and communities,” the statement said.

“So far, 367 cases have been solved since ICRC received its first cases in 2013, underscoring the immense challenges that come with finding missing people and reconnecting them with their families in Nigeria,” it said.

Nigerian army chief Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai said on Tuesday the military had done a lot in the war against the insurgents, but admitted that humanitarian efforts were being hampered.

“Large swathes of the northeast of the country remain completely inaccessible to humanitarian organisations. People have also been displaced by fighting many times, making them harder to find,” he added.

Ebola In DRC ‘Spreading Faster’ – Red Cross

 

The Red Cross on Thursday sounded the alarm Thursday over Ebola’s increasingly rapid spread in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the latest outbreak of the virus has killed more than 700 people. 

Eighteen new cases were confirmed on Tuesday alone, the highest single-day figure in the eight-month outbreak, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a statement.

“The bottom line is that Ebola is now spreading faster, and many people are no longer seeking care,” IFRC’s director of health and care, Emanuele Capobianco, said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Libya Fighting: 56 Killed, 266 Injured In One Week – WHO

“It is clear that some vulnerable communities do not trust Ebola responders,” he added.

Poor security owing to the presence of several armed groups, coupled with the resistance of some communities to seeking treatment, has hampered the fight to stem the spread of the disease.

The DRC declared its tenth outbreak of Ebola in 40 years last August in northeastern North Kivu province before it spread into the neighbouring Ituri region.

The current outbreak is the second worst to date, the deadliest being a 2014 epidemic in West Africa which killed more than 10,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization’s emergency committee is due to meet in Geneva on Friday to decide whether the outbreak amounts to “a public health emergency of international concern.”

It held off making such a declaration at an initial meeting in October, but concerns have mounted since, notably from Doctors Without Borders, which recently warned that the response was failing to contain the epidemic.

AFP

 

Red Cross Warns Mozambique Cyclone Survivors Of Worsening Health Situation

Residents stand on rooftops in a flooded area of Buzi, central Mozambique, on March 20, 2019, after the passage of cyclone Idai./ AFP

 

Survivors of a powerful cyclone that pummelled southern Africa were to begin receiving emergency medicine, food and tents on Tuesday as floodwaters receded, while the Red Cross warned of “a ticking bomb” of disease in the storm-struck region.

Cyclone Idai smashed into Mozambique’s coast, unleashing hurricane-force wind and rain that flooded swathes of the poor country before battering eastern Zimbabwe — killing more than 700 people across the two nations.

The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Elhadj As Sy said Monday “we are sitting on a ticking bomb” as he called for renewed efforts to address the worsening health situation.

As logistical conditions improved and roads to affected communities have been reconnected, the full scale of the humanitarian crisis has been revealed for the first time since disaster hit on March 15.

More than two million people have been affected in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi where the storm started as a tropical depression causing deadly flooding which displaced nearly a million people.

Hundreds are still missing in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“The conditions for rescue are improving. Yesterday a road reopened which was really important to allow officials to work and rescue,” Mozambique’s Land Minister Celso Correa told reporters on Monday.

READ ALSO18 Killed As Floods Ravage Iran Provinces

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Sebastian Rhodes Stampa also said Monday that 30 aid missions were flying in while others were going by road “so we can really deliver volume”.

“We are packing food and shelter now — they will go out (Tuesday) both north and south,” he said.

In New York, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock launched an appeal to provide Mozambique with $282 million to help with relief efforts over the next three months.

Lowcock told reporters that similar campaigns would be instigated in the coming days for Zimbabwe and Malawi.

– ‘Children looking for their parents’ –
Buzi, one of Mozambique’s worst-hit towns located 30 kilometres (19 miles) southwest of the city of Beira, became reachable by road on Monday — for the first time since the storm hit.

“It will now be much faster to deliver aid,” Stampa added.

In Buzi, survivor Joao Zacaria said that “one man who had 40 cows lost them all. Forty, can you imagine!”

IFRC head Sy, who had just returned from the region, warned of a “high risk of water-borne diseases” like cholera and typhus — as well as malaria, which is endemic in the region.

A procession of mourners carried the coffin containing the body of Tomas Joaquim Chimukme, who was killed by the cyclone, through saturated marshland outside Beira.

Many of those attending wore open sandals in the water which was ankle-high.

The UN has warned that stagnant water in many areas, decomposing bodies and the lack of sanitation in overcrowded shelters in Mozambique could create breeding grounds for such diseases.

The government has already identified some suspected but unconfirmed cases of cholera, Sy said.

“That is the reason why I am raising the alarm. Many of these water-borne diseases are a great risk, but they are preventable,” he added.

“The worst thing is the children crying and looking for their parents… It is heartbreaking,” he said, adding that it remained unclear how many children may have been orphaned.

Medical services in the affected region were stretched even before the cyclone hit and according to aid group MSF, Beira hospital’s operating theatre sustained serious damage. As many as 17 health centres have lost their roofs, it added in a statement.

The South African military has deployed several aircraft to the affected area and an EU-funded World Food Programme chopper is supporting rescue and recovery efforts.

Flooding Now A ‘Major Emergency’ In Nigeria, Says Red Cross

 

The Red Cross says Nigeria is facing a “major emergency” with tens of thousands of people displaced by recent flooding at risk of hunger and disease if help does not get to them as soon as possible.

“Many of the 200,000 people who fled flood waters are now leaving displacement camps but some of them are finding nothing but destroyed homes and farmland”, Secretary General for the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Abubakar Kende, said in a statement on Thursday.

Some 200 people died in floods across 12 states after the rivers Niger and Benue burst their banks earlier this year.

“The world is ignoring a major humanitarian crisis. Nearly two million people have been affected by this flooding disaster… This is a major emergency,” the Red Cross said.

“If the world continues to ignore the humanitarian needs created by this flood disaster, the consequences are likely to be far-reaching,” it added.

It said unless concerted action was taken, the story of loss and death will be repeated.

“Research shows that the impact of climate change combined with rapid population growth in Nigeria’s fast-growing cities will increase the risk of disasters. We know that Nigeria will continue to face devastating floods like this at an ever-increasing rate.”

The humanitarian agency said although flood waters had receded, another crisis looms large.

“The worst-affected communities rely solely on agriculture as a source of food and income. With no crops expected from the flooded lands for months, thousands are facing the threat of hunger which is one of the causes of vulnerability to diseases,” it added.

The nation suffered one of its worst flooding disasters in 2012 when hundreds of people lost their lives and about two million were left homeless in 30 of the 36 states.

Execution Of Hauwa Liman ‘Has Broken Our Hearts’ – Red Cross

Execution Of Hauwa Liman 'Has Broken Our Hearts' – Red Cross
Hauwa was abducted along with two other aid workers in March 2018.

 

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was heartbroken when it got the report of the execution of Hauwa Liman.

ICRC’s Regional Director for Africa, Patricia Danzi, disclosed this in a statement on Tuesday, a day after the news of Hauwa’s death broke.

“The news of Hauwa’s death has broken our hearts,” she lamented while asking government authorities to intensify efforts towards tackling terrorism in the country.

“We appealed for mercy and an end to such senseless murders. How can it be that two female healthcare workers were killed back-to-back? Nothing can justify this.”

Hauwa is the second health worker to be killed by the insurgents in one month.

The terrorists abducted her in an attack on Rann, a town in Borno State, on March 1, 2018.

She was captured together with her colleagues – Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, and Alice Loksha.

Saifura was killed on 16 September, while Alice remains in captivity, along with Leah Sharibu, the Dapchi schoolgirl abducted by the insurgents in Yobe State in an invasion in February.

Hauwa and Saifura worked in a healthcare centre supported by the ICRC, while Alice worked at a centre supported by UNICEF.

ICRC said it made sustained and committed efforts to secure the release of the three healthcare workers but to no avail.

It added that these included a last-minute plea for mercy on Sunday to the Boko Haram faction – Islamic State West Africa Province group.

Danzi said, “Hauwa and Saifura’s deaths are not only a tragedy for their families, but they will also be felt by thousands of people in Rann and other conflict-affected areas of north-east Nigeria where accessing healthcare remains a challenge.”

“We urge the group holding Alice and Leah to release them safely,” she pleaded.

The ICRC said Hauwa was killed by her captors “in a despicable act of cruelty”.

It added that the 24-year-old was full of life, becoming a midwife at an early age.

According to the organisation, people who knew her described her as a sociable, dynamic and enthusiastic woman who was much loved by family and friends.

It noted that Hauwa was truly dedicated to her work, helping vulnerable women in her family’s home area.