Round-up: Updates from Belarus and Fiji

By Katie Robinson, Red Cross Insider

The Round-up offers a weekly sample of what our sister Red Cross Societies are working on around the world.

BELARUS: According to 2014 UNAIDS statistics, more than 10,000 of the estimated 29,000 of HIV-positive people living in Belarus were women. Together with other former Soviet states, Belarus is home to the world`s fastest growing HIV epidemic.  While new HIV infections have declined globally, rates have soared in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe by 250 per cent since 2001. Increasing numbers of HIV cases have coincided with the rise of drug users injecting opiates, which has increased since the mid-1990s as a result of the socio-economic crisis that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union.  The Belarus Red Cross was the first organization in the country to run needle exchange programs. Over the years it also developed expertise to provide gender-based services and advice on how to halt the spread of HIV among women.  The vital role played by Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in the region was highlighted at the 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference in Moscow in March. Through their large network of volunteers, National Societies are best placed to contribute to tackling HIV transmission. They effectively bridge the gap between health officials and local communities, also reaching out to the most marginalized groups.

Volunteers and staff from Fiji Red Cross Society are on high alert as heavy rain and flooding affects parts of the countryFIJI: Volunteers and staff from Fiji Red Cross Society are on high alert as heavy rain and flooding affects parts of the country already struggling to recover from Tropical Cyclone Winston.  About 80 volunteers are on standby in the north and west of the main island of Viti Levu, which has been battered by wind and rain for two days. The towns of Nadi and Rakiraki have been without power for two days and are cut off by floodwater, as are many remote villages. More than 1,000 people are sheltering in 69 evacuation centres in the Western and Central divisions.  Flooding can contaminate water sources and provide a breeding ground for mosquitos. Preventing illness and curbing the spread of disease will be vital. Fiji Red Cross is reminding the public to boil all drinking water, wash all raw food in clean water, wash hands with soap after going to the toilet and before eating, and to practice good hygiene at all social gatherings. People are also being warned to stay out of flooded waterways, to avoid the risk of water-borne diseases, and listen to the radio for the latest weather updates and safety messages.  Under its emergency response operation to support families affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston, which struck the Pacific nation on February 20th, Fiji Red Cross is continuing to distribute emergency aid and supplies to families in areas that have not been affected by the floods. 
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