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Courage and resilience within communities | Reflections on Geneva | Staying connected this Christmas

20 December 2019

  • A look at the courage and resilience we see within our communities during times of extreme weather events.
  • A quick update on the meetings in Geneva.
  • 17 December – Honouring Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues who died in the line of duty.
  • Do something for someone this festive season. Our research on loneliness shows that there is a big jump in people feeling alone this Christmas.
  • Thank you for all the amazing work that you’ve done this year.

Courage and resilience within communities

Hi everyone,

The last weeks have been challenging. We continue to experience extreme weather events with bushfires in WA, the Sunshine Coast and many more still active across New South Wales. Register.Find.Reunite is open, and if you’re affected by the bushfires, or know someone who is, let them know you’re safe and use this service to find your loved ones. 

Our staff and volunteers continue to be an amazing support for the communities impacted, clocking up 6,000 volunteer hours so far at the evacuation centres. With the support of donors we are now also building our support for those communities impacted so far knowing that recovery and rebuilding will take a long time. With these funds we can boost the work we are doing and focus more on recovery including undertaking needs assessments, supporting community events and doing outreach in some areas. 

This week through to today, we’ve put up the Burnt Christmas Tree in Wynyard Park, Sydney which symbolises the shadow of the bushfires, as well as the resilience and recovery of our communities.

The extreme heat and smoke is also impacting many, many people. We have activated our Telecross REDi service in South Australia to check in with those most at risk of the extreme heat. We are also reminding all those we contact what can be done to avoid heat stress.

As of yesterday we have launched a prototype of our live heatwave advice for all of Red Cross people who work with clients. We developed this with the Bureau of Meteorology. We are now using their live data, by postcode, and overlaying it with our client data to determine where there is high risk of extreme heat so that we can target our actions to support people who are at risk of heat stress. We will also be able to use this information to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff and volunteers who are often ‘out and about’ in heat affected areas. 

The impact of heat is all pervasive, impacting everyone. We also know it is very dangerous. Please take the time to inform and educate yourself on how to look after yourself and those around you in times of extreme heat.

ABC New Year’s Eve donation drive for Red Cross
If you’re watching or listening to the ABC on New Year’s Eve, you’ll hear about a special donation drive in support of people affected by this year’s disasters, including the bushfires. Donations will go to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund. Our Melbourne call centre will be open to take calls on New Year’s Eve. It's an amazing opportunity for us to work closely with the ABC who's given us such prime time focus on our work and to assist in fundraising for our Disaster Relief and Recovery funds.

Reflections on Geneva

While in Geneva, we participated in meetings that involved all 193 National Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross Red Crescent, the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent, and a number of delegates from governments around the world. Our team involved four incredible Board members who volunteered two weeks of their time to being part of our delegation.

With 193 Red Cross Red Crescent countries involved there was amazing diversity and perspectives, reflecting our wonderful world of understanding and listening to others and coming to solutions together.  

We discussed critical global issues like:

  • Climate change adaptation and all of its humanitarian impacts from increasing extreme weather events, to worsening conflict, to health, to vulnerable communities and individuals.

“The climate crisis is a daily reality for millions of people.  … We need to be smarter and invest even more in resilience and preparedness, and we need to display more foresight to help us act in anticipation of crisis. … By investing in climate change adaptation, the world can avoid a future marked by escalating suffering and ballooning response costs.” – Francesco Rocca, President, IFRC

  • Epidemics and pandemics, and increasing impact of climate change.

“I fear my community in Samoa could be wiped out in a number of years with something like Ebola.” - Tala Mauala, Secretary-General, Samoa Red Cross. 

  • Migration – the growing scale and complexity, links between conflict and natural disasters, restoring family links, protection, gender and inclusion, internal displacement, data protection and frontier technologies (such as facial recognition).

“…No one is happy to leave their home. It is always a last ditch. Everyone must be treated with dignity and respect. We must advocate – addressing violence, food, security and climate poverty. The risks faced by people on the move are huge – exploitation, no basic services. We must build bridges not walls. We can’t keep silent when people are drowning or being lost. We cannot ignore any more. Saving a life is never a crime. Protect our neutrality so that we can carry out our humanitarian mandate. Our only mandate – save lives, protect humanity.” – Francesco Rocca, President, IFRC

  • Mental health and psychosocial support given prolonged conflicts and frequency of social disruption and disasters.

“It kills nearly 1 million people every year; 25% under 30. No vaccine but can be prevented. It is not HIV, malaria, TB but it is just as real. It is often kept hidden. Every 40 seconds someone dies from suicide. Young people. 1 in 3 people in the world are very lonely. Our most precious asset is to be there all the time on the side of people in need – to care for the invisible wounds that many are living with and unfortunately dying from.” – As Sy, Secretary-General, IFRC.

  • Locally-led humanitarian action – all about being more people and community centred, privileging lived experience in all that we do, enabling community outcomes, volunteer development and support.
  • International Humanitarian Law – issues around ensuring respect, data protection, impacts of technology, new and old power concepts, changing nature of wars and conflict.

We developed collective inputs and action plans for all these matters. We also approved Strategy 2030 which we will all work within over the coming decade. This was approved after a year-long consultation involving over 6,000 people.

Honouring colleagues killed in the line of duty

On 17 December 1996, a field hospital in Chechnya was deliberately attacked at night. Armed men stormed the hospital and murdered six staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A seventh staff member, Christoph Hensch, was shot in his bed and left for dead. He survived and continues to work for the Movement.

Ever since, the International Red Cross Red and Crescent Movement remembers not only those who died that day in Chechnya, but all those who died during the year while performing their humanitarian duties.

This year, 83 aid workers from multiple organisations have been killed around the world and 173 injured or kidnapped while delivering aid in war zones.

On Tuesday, we marked this day solemnly, we mourned our fallen brothers and sisters, and we honoured their service.

It’s also a day to talk about the emblem that is intended to protect them. Under this emblem we will continue to provide relief to the world’s most vulnerable, and strive for peace and humanity. Have a read of this account by Therese Powell, an Australian physiotherapist who has been leading rehabilitation health services in Iraq for the last two years with the ICRC.

Stay connected this Christmas

While we’re busy preparing for the festive period, there are also some amongst us who are experiencing loneliness at this time of year. Our Loneliness Research shows that there’s a 65 percent increase in the number of people who feel low levels of connection during festive season. There’s also significantly more people are feeling disconnected from others, with a big drop in those who said they felt socially connected; 24% compared to 34% in 2018. This Christmas, reach out to someone you haven’t heard from for a while, have a chat with your neighbour, invite one more person to the Christmas table or simply, be kinder on social media – these little things can make a real difference. And if you have some time, have a look at these beautiful images of kindness and humanity – our favourites from this year.

Thank you for 2019

Lastly, thank you for everything you’ve done in 2019. It’s been a big year and we’ve got another big year coming.

Thank you for your support in helping us achieve so much this year. And I’m certain that we’ll continue to do amazing things next year.

I'll be away to spend some time with family and will be back on 13 January. Have a lovely and safe festive holidays.

See you in 2020.