Coronavirus the biggest humanitarian disaster since WWII: Red Cross

Mother and child wearing medical masks
Mother and child wearing medical masksprostoolehDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The global coronavirus outbreak is heading towards the biggest humanitarian disaster since the Second World War, the Red Cross fears. "The Covid-19 pandemic is a crisis on a scale that we don't know yet," Robert Mardini, head of the International Red Cross, said to RTL Nieuws. "Everyone around the world is somehow affected by the crisis, personally and professionally."

The Dutch branch of the aid organization already took action in the Netherlands, focusing mainly on collecting protective equipment for healthcare workers and supporting the elderly and the vulnerable. Volunteers at Red Cross helplines offer a listening ear to people who are lonely, or afraid. But according to the Red Cross, the problems go much farther than that.

According to Frido Herinckx, who coordinates global relief efforts for the International Red Cross, this disaster is different than anything we've seen before. "A 'normal' disaster is confined, such as an earthquake in a specific area. Then we, for example, send mobile hospitals and help to one place. But at the moment, the whole world is facing the same crisis and it is questionable whether others can send help."

The impact on a country like the Netherlands, with its high quality healthcare system, is already enormous, Herinckx said. "It is hard to imagine what happens if the virus also gains a foothold in areas where hospitals have been destroyed and where basic things like clean water and soap are not available. Let alone intensive care beds and respiratory equipment." In the north of Mali, for example, over 90 percent of all medical facilities were destroyed in conflict. "How can we expect them to test and treat people with the coronavirus?"

The Red Cross opened Giro 7244 last month to raise money for aid with the coronavirus. Almost 700 thousand euros have been raised so far, but that is not nearly enough. The Red Cross thinks it will need 758 million euros to help vulnerable people worldwide and prevent the spread of the virus. "Because it is so unpredictable where the virus will emerge first, it is important that we can act as quickly as possible," Herinckx said to the broadcaster. "Because will there be an outbreak in Syria, South Sudan or Yemen in two months? Or everywhere at once?"