2020 has been a year like no other. We've faced a global pandemic, earthquakes, typhoons, explosions, wars, conflicts, floods, fire and social isolation, and 2020 has challenged every one of us. 

But, even in the darkest times, humanity can be found. 

A helping hand, a smile, a cup of tea, supplies, first aid, reassurance, a hug... all these small acts can make a world of difference for people in the most vulnerable situations.

It is these moments that Red Cross Red Crescent photographers have captured. These unique snapshots, our Movement's humanitarian spirit, is what gives us hope.

This photo essay highlights the breadth of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, working day in, day out, across the globe, to support the most vulnerable - being a sign of hope to many.

Bairnsdale, Australia | Australian Red Cross

Extreme temperatures, dry conditions and winds were combined to cause or escalate hundreds of bushfires across five Australian states in an unprecedented fire season earlier this year. Entire communities were evacuated and others became isolated by issues with road access and power. 

Australian Red Cross volunteer Janet and Matt, an affected resident, are standing outside Bairnsdale relief centre on this photo. Janet provided essential psychosocial support to Matt when he came into the centre very distressed after he lost his home to the fires. 

Langfang City, China | Red Cross Society of China

In Hebei Province, the Red Cross emergency rescue volunteer service team in the epidemic prevention and elimination work for COVID-19.

Auckland, New Zealand | New Zealand Red Cross

Weeks before New Zealand headed into lockdown, Red Cross volunteers were already supporting people impacted by COVID-19, offering comfort, care and a friendly ear to Lily and 157 other evacuees from Wuhan, China, staying at the Defence Force training base in Whangaparāoa, north of Auckland.  

Sicily, Italy | Italian Red Cross

On four quarantine ships docked in Sicily, a small team of psychologists from Italian Red Cross is working to support migrants stuck in limbo. The Italian Red Cross team is providing a wide range of different services: health, psychological support, COVID-19 tests, restoring family links (connecting migrants with their families by phone), cultural mediations, distribution of hygiene kits and masks and food distribution.

Western Uganda | Uganda Red Cross Society

Western Uganda was hit by a wave of flash floods after days of heavy rain caused major rivers to burst their banks.

Sam Muhindo, a Red Cross volunteer speaks with residents of Rwangara whose houses have been destroyed by the rising water levels of Lake Albert.

Wellington, New Zealand | New Zealand Red Cross

While most Kiwis stayed home during Alert Level 4 to stop the spread of COVID-19 essential people were allowed to carry on their front-facing work to ensure the country continued to run. These people included former refugees, our Essential Kiwi Legends, including Lin Thuan Cin, a bus driver in Wellington who fled Mynmar many years ago.

Beirut, Lebanon | Lebanese Red Cross

On 4 August, a large explosion occurred in the port area of Beirut, alongside an ongoing fire. The blast rippled through several areas of the capital, shattering windows and doors and wounding many people.  

Lebanese Red Cross’ Secretary General, Georges Kettane, described it as “a huge catastrophe. There are victims and casualties everywhere.”

Following the blast, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement provided life-saving services. 

Lattakia, Syria | Syrian Arab Red Crescent

A Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer visiting the villages affected by wildfires of Rural Lattakia. The response to the fires is also a COVID-19 response as being safe nowadays means also staying safe from COVID-19.

Lake Ōhau, New Zealand | New Zealand Red Cross

New Zealand Red Cross’ disaster response volunteers have been providing support to the people affected by the Lake Ōhau fire, thought to be New Zealand’s largest-ever wildfire, burning 48 houses to the ground.

Albay, Philippines | Philippine Red Cross Society

Super Typhoon Goni, with 225km/h sustained winds and gusts of up to 280km/h upon landfall, is one of the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300 people in 2013. 

The Philippine’s Disaster Management Council estimates the super typhoon will directly affect up to 31 million people, after suffering from three typhoons already this month, and at the same time the country is grappling with the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections in South East Asia, next only to Indonesia.

Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh | IFRC

Rashid Ahmad cannot see, and it has been like this since he was born. Life has been very difficult for him, like many others who fled violence in Rakhine, Mynmar, more than three years ago. Today, Rashid lives in the camps of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, with his wife. 

“To me, I cannot see what is going on around me. But I can feel everything," says Rashid.

Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), with support from the IFRC and other Red Cross and Red Crescent partners, is supporting the most vulnerable members of the displaced community with cash support during COVID-19. 

Tauranga, New Zealand | New Zealand Red Cross

New Zealand Red Cross has distributed a Red Cross Parcel to more than 6,000 Kiwi households across Aotearoa hard hit by COVID-19. Each parcel contained a range of essential goods to bring comfort and hope, including hygiene items, edible treats, blankets and wellbeing resources.  

John Davies, who lives alone, received one of the parcel. “I was so happy to receive this parcel that I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing the box away,” said John while holding the empty Red Cross Parcel, which he had safely kept in his garage.

Izmir, Turkey | Turkish Red Crescent

Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and staff provide life-saving assistance to people affected by the 6.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey's Aegean coast, north of the Greek island of Samos. 

More than 140 Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and personnel were immediately sent to the affected area. Volunteers have been supporting authorities in search and rescue efforts, providing psychosocial support as well as deploying their mobile kitchens with the capacity to serve 25,000 people with hot food.

Afghanistan | Afghan Red Crescent Society

Afghan Red Crescent Society is engaging with communities across the country to provide accurate information about COVID-19. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghan Red Crescent is providing cash support to the country’s most vulnerable communities. In addition to the health challenges, the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 is devastating in country where 54.5 percent of the population – or some 20 million people – are living below the poverty line.

Khartoum, Sudan | IFRC

Altuma Mohamed Yaqub received a kitchen set from the Red Crescent. 

Just north of Khartoum in the Al Tomeniat camp, in Bahri locality in Khartoum state. Altuma Mohamed Yaqub had to leave her home in a rush when the flood washed away her house. The villagers now live in temporary tents in the Al Tomeniat camp, where they are provided with temporary water access and food parcels. Their village was devastated by the recent floods.

Napier, New Zealand Red Cross

Leeanne, her partner Damian and all seven of their kids were in the lounge when the wild weather started to take its toll in Napier on 9 November 2020. As the heavy rain intensified, the floodwater level along their street rose quickly. And with large vehicles continuously driving by causing waves of water toward their direction, it didn’t take long for the water to seep through their doors.

New Zealand Red Cross' disaster response volunteer, Amber McArthur, is providing psychological first aid to Leanne, a key part of our volunteer's work following a disaster. 

Tabasco, Mexico | Mexican Red Cross

Mexican Red Cross continues distributing humanitarian aid to families affected by the floods in Tabasco.

Northern Mali | ICRC

HCCS | Samuel Turpin

Countries affected by conflict are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, a double threat that pushes people out of their homes, disrupts food production, cuts off supplies, amplifies diseases and weakens health-care services, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a new report.

Of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change, the majority are at war. By 2050, 200 million people could need international humanitarian aid every year, double the number in need now.

Christchurch, New Zealand | New Zealand Red Cross

17-month-old Selam blows kisses to her Red Cross refugee support volunteers at the end of a video call.

Red Cross volunteers and staff used video calling and messaging apps to support newly arrived refugee families amid the ongoing COVID-19 response. For Feshale, Atsede and their family who settled in Christchurch five days before the lockdown, our virtual support has brought comfort, friendship, and vital information.

Plimmerton, New Zealand | New Zealand Red Cross

When 69-year-old Evangeline Feleo opened her curtains early morning on Sunday 29 November 2020, she did not expect to see her plants floating in her garden, nor water covering her entire driveway.

The torrential rain that hit the region sent water rushing through many Plimmerton residents’ houses, prompting the evacuation of 15 homes. It also caused damage to more than 100 properties, including Evangeline’s.

For Evangeline, the sight of a Red Cross volunteer came as huge relief.