An important message from the President and Secretary General of the IFRC

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Dear National Society leaders,

As the world continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, our National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies continue to deliver humanitarian assistance to people in dire needs, while they show solidarity and provide support to each other and receive support from our partners. They enjoy trust of local communities due to their long-standing engagement and commitment to reach diverse and most vulnerable groups of our society. It is wonderful to see that humanity shines through and emerges in large parts of the world even during these times of uncertainty and global crisis.  This pandemic brings us closer to the communities we serve, more than before, and these moments of positivity and gratitude keep us going and inspire us to do more and better.

Today, more than 150 years after the founding of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the unique and long-established auxiliary role of National Societies to public authorities remains critical and its service delivery, facing the constantly evolving world and new humanitarian needs, continues to expand.

We witness that even the most advanced healthcare systems are struggling to meet the demands generated by large-scale community outbreaks. Based on our experience from previous large-scale outbreaks and from the initial phases of COVID-19 pandemic, we know there will be large-scale indirect impacts on the health system to provide non-COVID care to the population. In this regard, we see several critical areas, where National Societies can play an important role in support of public health efforts to suppress transmission and decrease the number of confirmed cases: community-level support for COVID-19 patients and their loved ones; clinical and paramedical services to support COVID-19 patients; community health programmes to improve access to non-COVID essential health services; and clinical and paramedical services to maintain or improve access to non-COVID essential health services. All these areas are critical to preventing large-scale morbidity and mortality directly and indirectly caused by this pandemic.

While it is critical that National Societies continue to implement their humanitarian mandate and exercise their auxiliary role to public authorities in the humanitarian field, these new areas of service delivery can be also overwhelming and stretch the existing capacities of National Societies, as certain types of activities of health service delivery are particularly technically challenging.  Thus, it is important to consider areas of engagement based on existing experience, technical expertise and capacity. National Societies with no previous or limited experience in acute patient care can choose to focus on public health measures, such as risk communication, promotion of community-based health and WASH interventions, home-based care, where advised by Ministry of Health, and other community-level services to reduce transmission of the virus and burden on the health system and to help communities to access critical health services for non-COVID needs.

Due to the global nature of this pandemic, there is limited global surge capacity to support National Societies to implement clinical activities for the first time and health Emergency Response Units (ERU) are not designed to provide ICU-level care, such as ventilation support and other advanced health interventions. To provide guidance to National Societies on phase-by-phase health and care interventions and response to COVID-19 pandemic, we have developed Quick Reference Guidance for National Societies for COVID-19 Pandemic Response. In addition, several technical guidance documents on critical areas of response, such as isolation and quarantine, psychosocial support, infection prevention and control, are also available on GO Platform.

We are also launching a Health Helpdesk to provide quick support and technical assistance to National Societies about health and care interventions related to COVID-19 emergency. With a large database of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and guidelines related to health and care, the Helpdesk will run webinars on COVID-19 health topics and provide services in different languages. It can be reached by email

Challenges linked to procurement of medical items and equipment for health activities and interventions have not yet receded, but such challenges need to be considered when deciding the type of activity, we commit upon. Despite the challenges posed to the global surge system in view of domestic engagement, government restrictions and limitations of movement for surge personnel and assets, up to 55 rapid response personnel have been made available by the Red Cross and Red Crescent network to support the response to the pandemic, including 28 rapid response teams providing support remotely. While our disaster law teams continue to analyze restrictions and support in guaranteeing exemptions for Red Cross and Red Crescent staff, we map in-country capacities of our membership to re-direct available staff to COVID-19 response to compensate for limited surge capacity and leverage the whole network as best as possible in our global response to this pandemic.

To demonstrate our global footprint, better capture existing needs and demonstrate global value of domestic work of National Societies, we encourage you to develop and share your domestic COVID-19 response plans and related domestic appeals. In order to streamline and simplify Federation-wide reporting of National Society response to COVID-19, we have launched a new epidemic field report, which captures high level information on context and situation analysis, actions and response by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement at country level.  More than 70 National Societies have already submitted over 200 field reports on their response to COVID-19.

With COVID-19 increasingly affecting countries with ongoing humanitarian crises as well as countries prone to large-scale natural hazards, we must also scale-up our collective action to prevent catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable, especially in the contexts of climate crisis, disasters, conflict and fragile settings. We are extending our support to National Societies in coordination with their in-country Movement partners in order to have solid country-level COVID-19 response plans that articulate the contributions from various Movement partners. Where appropriate, it will also be important to use the tools of Strengthening Movement Coordination and Cooperation (SMCC) to ensure well-coordinated approaches, which includes setting up coordination mechanisms at different levels, issuing joint statements and communication as relevant, and producing information materials capturing the Movement collective action and impact.

The situation changes rapidly and requires us to be agile and informed to adequately respond to the needs of vulnerable people whilst protecting our volunteers who are at the frontline and ensuring they have access to information and resources necessary to respond in the most effective manner. Today we are pleased to announce the launch of the global space called SOKONI” (, which in Kiswahili means ‘market place’, for exchange of experience, knowledge and information among our members. Hosted by the existing Volunteering Development Platform developed by the IFRC Regional Office for Americas, SOKONI serves as the primary public space where volunteers and staff of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can interact on all matters related to COVID-19 pandemic and their response. SOKONI grants immediate access with one-stop registration and provides automatic translation of content in more than 60 languages.

We know that this is a challenging time for all of us, but we continue to witness many manifestations of exemplary dedication and commitment of the volunteers and staff of our National Societies in this unprecedented crisis. We are inspired by the togetherness and solidarity of our network. There is no limit to our togetherness and together we will get through these difficult times.

Yours sincerely,

Jagan Chapagain                                           Francesco Rocca

Secretary General                                           President