Monday, March 10, 2008


In an earlier post, I reviewed the history of the Red Cross—how it was directly responsible for the Geneva Convention, how it has been awarded three Nobel Peace Prizes, how two organizations actually comprise the Red Cross, etc. The Red Cross is one of the world’s great humanitarian organizations and it deserves to be more widely known.

The Red Cross has three official emblems: (1) the Red Cross, (2) the Red Crescent, and more recently (3) the Red Crystal. The map shows the emblems that each country has adopted for its national society.

Countries in red use the traditional Red Cross emblem. Countries in Green use the Islamic Red Crescent. Israel is the only country so far that uses the Red Crystal.

A country has to sign the Geneva Convention before its volunteers can officially become a part of the international Federation of the Red Cross. A country’s national Red Cross is referred to as a national society.

The other organization that comprises the Red Cross is the International Committee of the Red Cross, otherwise known as the ICRC. It is the ICRC that works in areas of conflict. Their members work at great risk to themselves. They work in the war zone. As the conflict ends, the ICRC gradually turns over the task of rebuilding lives to the country’s national society. If there is none or if the society is unable to take on the task itself, other national societies pitch in. 

National societies have a lot of work during peacetime. They address immediate and long-terms needs. There is an emphasis on the latter as it aims to eventually make the population self-reliant.

Immediate needs are:
  1. Disaster response
  2. Emergency shelter, food, and medicine
  3. Restoring family contact
Long-term needs are:
  1. Disaster preparedness
  2. Developing safe water and sanitation sources
  3. Community-based health and care
  4. First-aid training and exercises
  5. Control and prevention of diseases
  6. HIV-AIDS prevention
National societies are also preoccupied with meeting budgetary concerns.
  1. Raising funds
  2. Attracting volunteers
  3. Blood donor recruitment, collection, and supply
Sometimes it is necessary for the ICRC and the country’s national society to stay at a disaster zone for years.

In Bosnia, for example, long after the conflict ended, landmines killed about 50 persons a month. Four years after the Red Cross’s mine-awareness education began, fatalities had decreased to nine victims a month. Similar programs run in countries like Afghanistan and Somalia. Conditions in Somalia are worse. There is no real government and the country is overrun with warring factions. Piracy, as you may know, is a growth industry.” In the midst of this chaos and danger, the Red Cross has been working diligently since the 1980s. It stepped up its efforts in 1992 and has been there ever since, 16 years and counting. The lawlessness has taken its toll on the Red Cross. Since 1991, more than 10 Red Cross volunteers have been abducted or murdered outright. Somalia’s own Red Cross barely exists.

There are numerous ways to support the Red Cross. Contact your local chapter to find out!

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