In this period of uncertainty and unpredictability, the Red Cross staff and volunteers across the world have been on the frontlines to save lives of people affected by the unprecedented pandemic. The ICRC regional delegation based in New Delhi is closely working with the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to deliver a unified response to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the country.

Thousands of volunteers of IRCS state branches are working tirelessly in the districts across the country. They are delivering health and sanitary resources as well as essential food items. They are proactively engaged in dissemination of information on disease prevention and health education – covering frequent handwash, respiratory etiquette, social distancing, use of alcohol-based hand rub, and masks, among others.

Red Cross volunteers in Manipur distribute essential relef to a beneficiary associated with the ICRC-supported livelihood project. ©IRCS

Delivering critical services

Yahia Alibi, Head of the ICRC regional delegation in New Delhi, said, “This is a moment of uncertainty and growing humanitarian needs. Containing COVID-19 requires a collective effort globally and at the country level. We are working in close collaboration with the Indian Red Cross Society in New Delhi and with its state branches across the country to provide support. More than 40,000 volunteers across the country are on the frontline delivering a wide range of critical services from awareness to community kitchens and support at isolation centres. Kudos and respect to all the IRCS volunteers for their dedication, courage and humanitarian spirit. In this time, where we need the voluntary service most, the IRCS volunteers are demonstrating that widespread social mobilisation is key to address this crisis.” For the safety of Indian Red Cross Society volunteers, the ICRC has provided 4000 masks, 4000 gloves, 1500 jackets, and 1000 body bags as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

RK Jain, Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross Society, said, “Indian Red Cross, with a network of over 1100 branches, is working shoulder to shoulder with the local administration to deal with COVID-19 pandemic in different parts of the country. Around 40,000 volunteers are engaged in advocacy, awareness, community surveillance and delivery of essential items to the needy. Efforts have also been stepped up to provide uninterrupted supply of blood.”

The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies is supporting the IRCS response. Udaya Regmi, Head of IFRC office for South Asia in Delhi, said, “IFRC is working closely with the Indian Red Cross Society to complement Government assistance and support to communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On 26 March 2020, IFRC issued a Revised Emergency Appeal to provide the necessary support globally to National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies in responding to the pandemic. The Emergency Appeal includes a provision for support to the Indian Red Cross Society.”

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Information as aid

The ICRC regional delegation is also consistently providing ‘information-as-aid’ support and distributing posters to the Indian Red Cross Society and other partners in the country with relevant messages on hygiene, social distancing and community awareness especially for persons with disabilities as well as safety measures for healthcare workers, first responders and forensic professionals who are involved in managing the dead.

For daily updates on Red Cross activities and response to COVID-19 in India, follow ICRC New Delhi @ICRC_nd and Indian Red Cross Society @IndianRedCross.