(Hong Kong, 14 June 2022) In response to the 5th wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the Hong Kong Red Cross (HKRC) provided a series of humanitarian services to support vulnerable groups and people affected, served over 41,000 people and distributed more than 130,000 anti-pandemic supply items. Thanks to The Hongkong Bank Foundation for donating HKD 14 million to support our relief efforts in response to the pandemic, including the "Hong Kong Red Cross COVID-19 Support Hotline" (the Hotline). After analysing service data and concluding our service experience, it is found that almost 40% of citizens who received emergency supplies of the Hotline only have 2 days or less food reserves. Therefore, the HKRC has introduced the "Store Up Strategy" and is calling for the public to save up for a future rainy day, strengthen disaster preparedness, and establish stronger community network in order to get prepared for the possible next wave of pandemic and other emergencies in the future.
Nearly 40% Of Citizens Received Emergency Supplies Only Have 2 Days Or Less Food Reserves
Since 21 February, the HKRC has set up the COVID-19 Support Hotline to serve as a one-stop platform for the latest COVID-19 measures and health information, psychological support, as well as social services information. The programme also provides support on food parcels, COVID-19 prevention kits and rapid antigen test kits, etc. according to callers' needs. Our wish is to tide over every one in the city amidst this pandemic. The Hotline received over 11,400 calls and provided emergency supplies to over 9,500 people.
Ms Bonnie So, Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General of the HKRC stated, "Among those who received emergency supplies, nearly 40% (36%) only have 2 days or less food reserves. Some of the most urgent cases only have 1 day of food reserves at home. However, when the entire family tested positive for COVID-19, they could not leave home to buy more food. This reflects the importance of keeping food reserves. As a result, we introduce the "Store Up Strategy" and is calling for the public to store up for a rainy day so that they can better respond to the potential next wave of pandemic or other emergencies."
On the other hand, the majority of calls are from callers who live in Kwun Tong (15 %), Kwai Tsing (10%), Sha Tin (9%), and Sham Shui Po (8%). According to the "Population and Household Statistics Analysed by District Council District 2021" of the Census and Statistics Department, Kwun Tong, Kwai Tsing, and Sham Shui Po are the three districts with the lowest income median. This shows that low-income families face greater challenges during the pandemic and need support from various sectors of society.
Store Up Three Days Of Food Reserves To Provide A Safety Net For The Family
Apart from the pandemic that leads to home quarantine, frequent extreme weather in recent years also requires us to be prepared for extended homestays due to safety reasons. Ms Cardry Chan, Community Resilience Manager of the HKRC, who in charge the operation of Hotline Centre, suggested, "Considering the constraint of size of most households in the city, the HKRC suggests citizens to keep three days of food reserves at home constantly. The guiding principle for building a food reserve is having a wide variety and nutritious food without being excessive. You can keep an eye on the expiry day, so food items that will soon expire can be consumed first and restocked accordingly. Instant food items should be included other than fresh food, so that it will be more convenient when you are not able to cook or cannot store food in fridge during a power cut. Comfort food, which means fresh food or food you like such as coffee, milk tea, chocolate and biscuit, are beneficial to mental health." On the other hand, medicines for fever, stomach, pain, allergy, sore throat, chronic diseases etc., should be stored according to the needs and medical records of family members.
Moreover, comparing the result of telephone survey on callers of the Hotline collected in May 2022 and one on the public in July 2021 by the HKRC, the public tends to ask for assistance from NGOs and the government instead of friends, colleagues, and schools. In conversations with the callers, we found that some of them have hesitation in seeking help from relatives or friends, because they do not want to be a burden or be rejected. We encourage the public to establish a personal community network. Support from neighbours is essential during time with social distancing measures. It is normal to ask for help from others and we should also offer help to those in need. Care for family members is important too, especially the elderly singletons or doubletons. Family members could take turns to call the elderly. We encourage citizens in the community to spend 3 minutes calling or texting a person each day. If we can all spend time caring for one another, our mental health can be greatly improved. Besides, corporates and organizations are encouraged to support NGOs to enhance disaster preparedness by various means, to strengthen community education, provide emergency supplies or shelters. We believe "Every One Has a Role in Disaster Preparedness". Disaster can be hardly prevented, but we can minimise its effect by building awareness and being well-prepared for disasters.
HKRC Action Against the Pandemic
The HKRC has been providing the following humanitarian services since the beginning of the year to cope with the 5th wave of pandemic:
- Set up "Hong Kong Red Cross COVID-19 Support Hotline" which serves as a one-stop platform for the latest COVID-19 measures and health information, psychological support, as well as social services information. The programme also provides support on food parcels, COVID-19 prevention kits and rapid antigen test kits, etc. according to callers' needs, receiving over 11,400 calls.
- Collaborated with community partners from January to May to distribute over 130,000 anti-pandemic items. Over 30,000 people benefitted, including 4,600 frontline workers, 1,200 foreign domestic workers and ethnic minorities, and 9,800 families.
- Continues with several psychological support services, including the "Stay with You: Supporting People in Quarantine Facilities" programme which provides psychological support packages to those in quarantine facilities, such as quarantine centres and hotels; "Shall We Talk" Psychological Support Service to the public; and collaborate with NGO Forget Thee Not to launch the "Love in the Air" project, which provides psychological support and practical information of funeral arrangements to families going through sudden bereavement, serving near a hundred of cases.
- Shares information on COVID-19 prevention and the HKRC services to the public through the HKRC "Overcome the Pandemic Together" thematic website: www.redcross.org.hk/en/ncov2019.html, social media platforms and outreach channels.
To prepare for the potential next wave of pandemic, the HKRC is conducting the following humanitarian work:
- Prolongs the service period of the "Hong Kong Red Cross COVID-19 Support Hotline", a one-stop platform for the latest COVID-19 measures and health information, psychological support, as well as social services information.
- Provides the 7-Day Prep-for-COVID Packs to 880 elderly and distributes anti-pandemic items to vulnerable groups.
- Introduces Mobile Health Promotion Truck to raise awareness and build life habits of the public on personal hygiene and household safety, as well as develops and strengthens disaster preparedness knowledge.
- Co-organize the Certificate Course in Emergency Planning & Disaster Preparedness with the Hong Kong Jockey Club Disaster Preparedness and Response Institute, to disseminate a set of essential knowledge and skills, so that learners can effectively prepare for, respond to, and recover from various emergencies or disasters.
- Provides N95 respirator fit tests for specific groups and the public and supports care homes through infection prevention and preparedness training.