Red Cross launch Europe-wide campaign to highlight the world’s silent disasters

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Geneva/Brussels – 18 February 2013 : The vast majority of global disasters and humanitarian emergencies are at risk of being underreported, unsupported or simply forgotten, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns today. Growing concern about many of the world’s ‘silent disasters’ comes as the IFRC and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) launch a campaign to raise awareness about these emergencies - events which are never silent to the individuals and families affected by them.

“An average of 91% of Red Cross and Red Crescent disaster responses are too small or medium sized disasters, the majority of which never get any coverage in the global media,” says IFRC Secretary General Bekele Geleta. “Each year, the IFRC and its Red Cross Red Crescent partners provide assistance to millions of people affected by disasters most of the world never even knew about.”

As part of the 4-week long awareness campaign, the IFRC, ECHO and the Red Cross in 12 European countries will draw public attention to various silent disasters around the world. The campaign features a number of silent disasters that have impacted Asia but which failed to attract international attention. These include a tropical storm that struck in Bangladesh, an extreme cold wave in Mongolia, floods and food insecurity in Cambodia and an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in Viet Nam.

“Small-scale disasters may not reach our TV screens, but they still cast painful blows to millions of people every year, destroying their homes and livelihoods," says EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva. "Working together - the European Commission, IFRC and European Red Cross National Societies – we bring relief to people facing silent disasters. We do hear their voices and they do hear our message – that thanks to the solidarity of Europeans, we can offer them a bridge to hope and a chance for a better future."

"Our joint efforts are more important than ever, as climate change, urbanisation and population growth are pushing up the number and impact of disasters,” she added.

Research indicates by 2015 more than 375 million people per year are likely to be affected by climate-related disasters.

“We need to help people around the world to be more prepared for such crises” says Mr. Geleta. “Our experience shows that one of the best and cost-effective ways to lessen the impact of disasters is through preparedness activities which help those living in disaster-prone areas to be more resilient and recover faster.”

The official launch of the Silent Disasters Campaign will take place at the European Parliament in Brussels at 12h30, with participation from the European Parliament, European Commission, European governments, humanitarian organizations and journalists.

For further information about the campaign, visit

For Red Cross enquiries, please contact:

Virginie Louis, IFRC Media Relations in Brussels, +32 495 51 15 77

Jessica Sallabank, IFRC Media Relations in Geneva, +41 79 948 1148

For Commissionner Kristalina Georgieva, please contact:

David Sharrock, Spokesperson, European Commission, +32 2 296 89 09