Greece: Wildfires Emergency Appeal n° MDRGR003


This Emergency Appeal seeks a total of some 2 million Swiss francs on a preliminary basis to enable the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societis (IFRC) to support the Hellenic Red Cross (HRC) in delivering assistance and support to approximately 7,100 people for nine months, with a focus on the following programmatic areas: health; livelihoods and basic needs; protection, gender and inclusion; disaster risk reduction (DRR) and National Society capacity enhancement. Community engagement and accountability (CEA) and protection elements are included in all areas of interventions. The planned response reflects the current situation and information available at this time of the evolving operation and details will be made available in the Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA).

The disaster and the Red Cross Red Crescent response to date

23 July 2018: Several wildfires break out in forests and villages across the country, primarily in the areas surrounding the capital of Athens. A state of emergency is declared, and assistance from the EU requested. The HRC immediately started to provide first aid services to affected people.

24 July 2018: The HRC’s National Disaster Response Team (NDRT) is deployed, together with the Emergency Health Unit, the Emergency Psychosocial-Support Unit and the Mobile Health Unit. 26 persons are found dead close to the seaside by Red Cross Samaritans.

25 July 2018: As the death toll rose, people start responding by donating massive amounts of items in kind such as burn creams, medicines, biscuits etc. to HRC and other humanitarian actors.

26 July 2018: The death toll reaches 83 people and more than 187 persons are reported to be injured, with many in critical condition. The HRC continues to provide first aid and other health related services, Psychological First Aid, Restoring Family Links (RFL) services as immediate response to the disaster.

31 July 2018: The IFRC issues an Emergency Appeal, based on the request of HRC, seeking 2 million Swiss francs to support 7,100 people for nine months.

The operational strategy

Needs assessment and beneficiary selection

As of 30 July, the death toll has reached 91 people, and more than 187 persons have been reported to be injured; and many remain in critical condition. 700 people have been rescued through the sea by the coast guard and the navy, after being forced to flee to beaches to escape the flames. Residents in the coastal region west of Attica were requested to abandon their homes, and hundreds of people have been evacuated. It is estimated that the total exposed population is 4,118 people. More than three thousand homes and houses have been assessed in both Eastern and Western Attica – with 841 of them being completely destroyed. This number is expected to increase as the assessments continue. Besides the ongoing damage assessment done by engineers of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation, a joint assessment is currently being considered by the municipality, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the Red Cross. Considering the necessity for a more detailed needs assessment, HRC staff is in contact with a variety of stakeholders in the field to receive the latest information on the current situation, including updates on where evacuated people are located.

HRC has been responding to immediate needs since the fire broke out, but as the fires are put out and infrastructure is slowly being restored and the needs for recovery are emerging, HRC is looking to understand how to complement the actions provided by the government.

Based on the information received from the municipality, and on an initial assessment of the National Disaster Response Team of the HRC, as of now, the needs of people affected include both short-term and long-term recovery. The immediate needs include shelter for the people who have lost their primary residence. As the damaged site is a relatively small geographic area with mostly upper-class holiday homes, insurance policies are in place and support is planned by the government. Community disaster preparedness efforts can prevent similar situations in the future in the area and also elsewhere in Greece – a country that is hit frequently by smaller and larger disasters that require a more proactive approach from communities.

This emergency response operation has allowed the HRC to utilise their recently enhanced disaster response mechanism. Starting with a Preparedness for the Response (PER) self-assessment, the National Society has been developing several actions during 2018 to strengthen their emergency coordination and overall operational capacity. The actions include, developing of emergency response structures, contingency planning, training of emergency response team and other volunteers and they enabling the staff and volunteers to provide better assistance to those in need. This Appeal operation aims at supporting the continuous effort of the National Society to increase their readiness and keep strengthening disaster response mechanism. Furthermore, disaster preparedness training, enhancing the response capacity of branches and a PER post operational analysis will be conducted to monitor the progress so far and adjust the preparedness for response plan of action.

There is a need for support in health-related issues, especially for those with chronic conditions that depend on regular check-ups and continuous treatment. Health problems are related to those who exposed to the wildfires, such as burns (from severe to minor), respiratory complications due to exposure to smoke, eye irritation as well as fear and stress. People with acute or chronic health problems include elderly people reluctant to leave their homes or being unable to do so due to mobility restrictions. One of the most emergent needs of the people is psychosocial support. The loss and damage rate of this fire has had a vast impact on the psychological status of the people affected but also to the entire communities where the fire occurred. There is a need for provision of psychological first aid to address the immediate effects of the fire. The identification of missing people is also a priority for the affected communities. There is a need to provide psychosocial support services (PSS) and should include activities by mental health specialists to support the people affected by the fires, their relatives and the general community.