The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement spans 192 countries – almost all of whom are grappling with the coronavirus outbreak. The past two months have thrown up unforeseen and unprecedented challenges for life as we have known it and it will take a while before all of us are able to come out of it. The contribution of Red Cross volunteers – who have risen to this occasion – has been palpable across geographies and time zones. Along with healthcare workers and essential service providers, the Red Cross staff and volunteers are selflessly working day and night to safeguard communities against the dangerous consequences of COVID-19, often risking their own health and their families’. On World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, we salute their commitment to serve humanity and urge everyone to join us in applauding their efforts.
The ICRC regional delegation has been closely working with the National Societies in the region to ensure a unified response to the unfolding crisis. In this piece, volunteers of the National Societies of India, Nepal, and the Maldives give us a glimpse of their work as part of the COVID-19 response.
ASHIMA KAYAL (35)
In addition to volunteering as a socio-economic response instructor, I am part of the water, sanitation and hygiene programme of the South 24 Parganas District Branch in West Bengal. The current situation related to COVID-19 is a challenging one as the disease continues to spread in India as well as in my community areas. I take inspiration from my father and the district headquarters in our collective fight against COVID-19 and have locally formed a young girls’ team to prepare hand sanitisers. This was made possible with the help of personal contributions of our senior IRCS colleagues. Our team distributed hand sanitisers, masks, soaps and demonstrated handwash techniques apart from distributing dissemination material on necessary precautionary measures. We are carrying out awareness campaigns on social distancing in the market areas, banks, at the cooking gas distribution points and ration shops to sensitise as many people as we can. To date, we have reached out to more than 4,300 people. It is the most difficult time for all healthcare workers and frontline volunteers around the world.
SARTHAK SORATHIYA (24)
I manage my own store of hardware products in Rajkot, Gujarat. My decision to come forward to help in this crisis situation was a result of my strong belief that no matter what one’s financial condition is, one can always donate blood and contribute to saving someone’s life. I am fortunate to have parents who are regular blood donors themselves and provide immense motivation to me to keep this tradition alive. I started donating blood on my 18th birthday and have not only continued the practice myself, but also helped arrange blood donation camps of the Indian Red Cross Society district branch in Rajkot. So far, I have donated blood 26 times. As we are coping with serious health needs at present, the role of the Red Cross is especially significant. The Red Cross blood banks can be the difference between life and death as they help people who have an urgent requirement of blood. Since going out right now is not feasible, I am keeping a positive outlook by involving myself in different activities and picking up new skills within the home such as cooking and baking.
SOM PRADHAN (48)
Where there is a disaster, there is Red Cross and its volunteers. NRCS was established with the objective to work in such situations. This is the need of the hour and the NRCS is doing what it should in such a difficult time. Before the lockdown was imposed in the country, we had started COVID-19 awareness raising activities in Ward #2 of Changu Narayan Municipality in Bhaktapur district in coordination with the local authority. We shared information on preventive measures, including handwash and hygiene. Since the lockdown, we have been providing food to about 500 daily-wage labourers. Our sub-chapter has been collaborating with the local authority and other organisations and about 25 Red Cross volunteers have taken up different roles such as cooking, packing, distributing, etc. As a chairperson of one of the sub-branches of NRCS, it is my responsibility to serve those in need. This is a tough period and we have to act responsibly, taking care of our own safety and of those around us.
SALINA RAILA (22)
The COVID-19 outbreak is not the time to be scared but to help each other and provide support in every way possible. I am a student of BSc. in Agriculture and while I am based in Kathmandu, I am actively working with the Red Cross branch in Chitwan. Under lockdown, I am trying to do what I can from the confines of my home. As it is not possible to conduct awareness and dissemination activities in the field, we are utilising the digital platforms to maximise our reach to provide people with accurate information and facts about COVID-19. We had initiated a pilot online volunteering initiative, which received an extremely positive response. So, we continue to engage with communities through this medium. From organising a daily quiz to organising poster-making competitions, we are focusing on people’s psycho-social well-being as well. The World Red Cross Day and this week is an opportunity to reconnect with them. The Red Cross is making a huge contribution to the lives of people by doing everything it can in the present situation. I am happy and proud to see the work of the Red Cross and that is what inspires me to do my bit.
Aishath Nasra (32)
Since the outbreak, I have been involved in carrying out outreach work by dissemination of awareness materials as the acting Branch Manager in Male’ and member of the emergency response teams. We are reaching out to the locals and the migrant community with prevention messages and conducting awareness sessions on COVID-19. I want to help the most vulnerable in the community survive through this pandemic by ensuring their health and mental wellbeing. The volunteers mobilised for outreach work, airport deployment, incident command posts, temporary shelters are also required to be inducted and trained. We are addressing the needs of the volunteers and their safety. At such crucial times the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind and get the support they need without any discrimination. It is also important to stay positive in these challenging time, and I do it by regularly talking to my loved ones.
Mohammad Nasir (28)
At any point of time, and especially in difficult situations such as the present one, all of us need help in one way or another. I am actively supporting the Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) in effectively reaching out to the migrant community by making sure that language does not become a barrier. Apart from spreading awareness and disseminating information on prevention and reducing the risk of COVID-19, the MRC is providing food and other necessities to the community. I am involved in the initiative to repatriate Bangladeshi migrant workers as well as in taking care of those who are currently staying in the school shelter. I am also a co-trainer in the awareness sessions organised for migrant workers. I believe I have a responsibility towards society and that by dedicating the time to help others, I will make someone’s life better. What makes me most satisfied is the understanding that my voluntary work will change lives. All of us dream about a better future for everyone.
Read more about our COVID-19 response: