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Bulletin Board


Bridge to the outside

First ICRC visits to Khiam detainees

Ten years after the Khiam detention centre was established in the Israeli-occupied “security zone” in southern Lebanon, a team of ICRC delegates was allowed to enter its walls for the first time. Over a period of two weeks, starting 9 October, four ICRC delegates spoke privately with each of the 191 detainees. An ICRC doctor examined the detainees and assessed the general health conditions in the prison.

The first breakthrough, however, after years of negotiations between the ICRC and the Israeli and prison authorities came at the beginning of 1995 when the inmates were allowed to receive visits from members of their families. (See Bulletin Board, Issue 2-1995).
“More than anything else this had given the detainees back a sense of hope,” says Claire Bellmann, a delegate who took part in the ICRC visit. “Our own visit later provided the added reassurance.”

Her sentiments were echoed in a Red Cross message written by one of the detainees to a relative. “Two weeks ago, we received a visit from the ICRC delegates, each one of us in our cell... They were here to investigate our conditions of detention at all levels... This has been very, very important for me... I met Balthasar [one of the ICRC delegates], who was able to reassure me about my mother, whom he sees often at his office. I asked him to send her my greetings.” l

Seeds for survival

The Movement joins forces in the hills of Badakshan

Badakshan, a poverty-stricken province of northern Afghanistan, has had more than its fair share of war. The region’s distinctive physical characteristics mean that its irrigable surfaces are limited and agriculture is confined to hill slopes left vulnerable to erosion by intensive logging.

Following a joint mission by the Federation and the Afghan Red Crescent, an initial assistance programme was launched in the form of food distributions and financial help to rebuild homes destroyed by floods and landslides. To complete this initiative, the ICRC’s team of agronomists in Afghanistan, in cooperation with the Faizabad branch of the Afghan Red Crescent and in consultation with the Federation, carried out a seed distribution programme. Several tonnes of wheat, barley and pea seeds were rapidly distributed thanks to an ingenious system of coupons.

Returning to evaluate the impact of the programme at harvest time, the ICRC agronomists were welcomed with enthusiasm and gratitude. “First Allah helped us, then the ICRC,” cried the elders of Yalta, an isolated mountain village which can only be reached on foot or on horseback. “Without your help, we would have had to leave our village for another province,” says Gulbandin, a farmer who had come all the way down from his village to greet the ICRC’s evaluation team.

François Grunewald

Food for thought

A restaurant with a humanitarian flavour opens in Manila

The space is limited, but the atmosphere is warm and friendly and the food is delicious. So, despite its small number of tables, the “Red Cross Food House” serves more than 100 meals daily. The restaurant generates a profit of 40 to 60 dollars a day, which goes towards a variety of small-scale projects for some of Manila’s many street children.

Since 1991, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) has been involved in a number of assistance programmes for street children. It also recruits and trains junior health workers from among the street children themselves, who then go out and speak to the kids and assist them with any health or other problems.

A grant of more than USD 50,000 from a private Danish foundation enabled the PNRC to buy and open the small restaurant in August 1995. The restaurant employs a cook and a professional accountant. Otherwise 14 street children and/or junior health workers make up two teams which assist in buying, cooking and serving the food. While eating well and earning pocket money, they learn about economy, business and nutrition.

Eighteen-year-old Daniel Feliciano is an enthusiastic proponent of the project. For years he did “nothing”, but now he spends most of his time in the small restaurant. And with financial support from the project, he has started to study at the hotel and restaurant management school in Manila.

Lasse Norgaard

Ending with a good start

The 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent ended in Geneva on 7 December amid feelings that humanitarian concerns had prevailed over political considerations.

The Conference brought together more than 1,200 delegates representing 142 States parties to the Geneva Conventions, 164 National Societies, the Federation and the ICRC, as well as some 68 observer organisations.

The five resolutions adopted by consensus at the Conference concerned a number of key issues and aim, among other things, to:

- increase international efforts to prevent violations of international humanitarian law and bring the perpetrators to justice;

- condemn sexual violence, in particular rape, during hostilities as a war crime;

- refrain from arming children under the age of 18 and ensure that they do not take part in hostilities;

- condemn the use of starvation and water deprivation as methods of warfare aimed at civilians;

- support efforts to bring about a total ban on antipersonnel mines as an ultimate goal;

- mitigate the negative impact of economic sanctions on civilians;

- recognise the need for the Movement to maintain a clear separation between its humanitarian action and actions of a political, military or economic nature;

- prohibit the forced displacement of civilians and ensure efficient and adequate access for neutral and impartial aid agencies to internally displaced persons and refugees;

- reaffirm the mandate of National Societies as auxiliary humanitarian organisations within their communities and the need for governments to support them while respecting their autonomy;

- encourage non-governmental organisations to abide both by the principles and the spirit of the Code of Conduct in Disaster Relief.

As Ms Astrid Heiberg, President of the Norwegian Red Cross and Chairman of the Conference, observed after congratulating the participants on their work and remarkable team spirit: although the results of the Conference exceeded expectations, the real work, that of turning hope into reality, is only just beginning.

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