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In Brief


Drivers’ honour

Through rain, sleet or snow ICRC drivers reach their destination

Every two years, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) awards a special prize to a driver who has displayed outstanding courage. To mark its 50th anniversary in 1998, the IRU has decided exceptionally to award this prize to an organization rather than to a single driver. The award will be dedicated to all the ICRC’s drivers, as a tribute to the acts of courage they perform in their daily work.

Currently, the ICRC has some 300 drivers working for it in the field and manages a fleet of some 2,700 vehicles. The drivers are all highly skilled and dedicated to the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. For them, the risks of war are compounded by other problems: appalling road conditions, stress, fatigue and lack of basic facilities. The honour is therefore richly deserved.

Good formula

Flood water into drinking water

When north-eastern Kenya´s Tana river burst its banks in November, a swirling brown tide swept away homes and infrastructure, depriving thou-sands of people of a water supply. Many resorted to drinking the flood water but, heavily polluted, it brought cholera and dysentery.

The German Red Cross set up an Emergency Response Unit (ERU) on the banks of the Tana, in the flood-hit Garissa district, which cleaned and purified the river’s murky waters to produce up to 120,000 drinkable litres daily. Destined for health centres, displaced people’s camps and a far-flung pop-ulation, for many it spelled the difference between life and death.

The operation ran into trouble, however, when a supply of chemicals destined for the ERU was blocked in transit in Nairobi. There were fears that it might even have to close down.

As stocks ran out in Garissa, delegates Eugen Barton and Connie Koch showed what ERUs are made of. The chemicals in question were iron chloride – used to remove dirt from the water – and a processed carbon material placed inside a filter system. Finding a local supply of alum, a less efficient but acceptable substitute for the specialized iron chloride, did not take long. The carbon required creative thinking.

The only source of carbon in Garissa was charcoal, and the delegates sought a soft one for their purposes. Using a pestle with which local people pound grain, the Germans broke it down, sieved it, and finally sifted it through mosquito netting. The filter system was soon up and working. The water of life flowed again.

The one that got away

Calling all mobile telephone users

During the Council of Delegates in Seville in November 1997, some members of the British Red Cross delegation were sorely tempted to put forward the following draft Resolution:

The Council of Delegates,

Recognizing that the mobile telephone plays a useful role in assistance to victims and vulnerable people in emergency situations,

Regretting that for some persons with low self-esteem its prominent and public use in inappropriate surroundings is a source of self-gratification,

Recalling that before 1997 the Council of Delegates had remained mercifully free of the shrilling of telephones during debates,

Noting that, thanks to incoming calls for delegates with mobile telephones, the 1997 Council of Delegates has at times resembled more a congress of crickets than a meeting of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement,

Fearing that at the next Council of Delegates the ubiquity of mobile telephones will be such that all speakers will be drowned out,

1. decides that in future no person shall send or receive messages on mobile telephones in any place in which plenary or committee or commission meetings of the Council of Delegates are held,

2. exempts from this decision fire, ambulance and police persons, only on occasions when a life-threatening situation exists inside (but not outside) the place above referred to,

3. requests the Standing Commission in accordance with Article 18.4 of the Statutes of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to monitor the observance of this Resolution by establishment of an ad hoc group as provided for in Article 18.7 of the Statutes of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

One of our own

Honour for Federation delegate

Earlier this year, Iain Logan, a senior International Federation delegate, was awarded the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) by the Canadian government in recognition of his work for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement during the Rwanda crisis of 1994.

Iain Logan, currently head of delegation in Papua New Guinea, led the Federation’s Rwanda task force in the field and then in Geneva when the emergency was at its height.

In a congratulatory letter, the Federation’s Secretary General, George Weber, commented: “While the award rightly highlights your work during the Rwandan crisis of 1994, your current tour of duty in Papua New Guinea has also demanded similar levels of diplomacy, drive and determination – the hallmarks of a ‘Logan mission’.”

A nation responds

Koreans give blood in nationwide drive

The financial crisis in South Korea has affected just about every aspect of daily life. For the Korean National Red Cross (KNRC), this has meant that the US$25 million spent annually to purchase blood is not available. A campaign to raise awareness and increase donations of blood nationally was launched last year by the KNRC.
The purpose was to help alleviate the country’s foreign exchange problem by reducing the need to purchase blood components from abroad.

Nearly 5 per cent of the population responded and donated blood for the first time in 1996. This record increase in donors underscores the national effort to limit the effects of the economic crisis.

Young voices for peace

Colombian children make their mark

Three million children across Colombia voted in a peace ballot at the beginning of 1997, in which they called on all sides in the 33-year-old conflict to respect children’s rights to peace, life and justice. Their call was heard by Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta, an East Timorese activist, who learned of the children’s efforts during a visit to Colombia last year. Horta, impressed by the courage of Colombia’s youngest citizens and the success of the children’s Peace Movement, nominated the millions of children who participated for the 1998 Nobel peace prize.

The children’s Peace Movement is supported by the Colombian Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, Save the Children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and numerous youth groups throughout the country. As one UNICEF representative stated: “This nomination represents a call for all governors, organizations, armed groups, families and communities to support these children’s search for peace.”

Starting over

Chilean village rises from the ashes

Chalinga was practically levelled when an earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, hit the region in October last year. The Chilean Red Cross has under-taken an ambitious effort to rebuild the village, and a successful campaign has raised most of the funds needed for this purpose.

In February, a Red Cross truck with building materials for the first houses rolled into Chalinga, raising the spirits of people who have spent months in miserable conditions. The plan is to involve the beneficiaries themselves in the reconstruction.
Rebuilding is taking place in stages. So far, the Chilean Red Cross has raised more than 70 million pesos nationally (approx. 155,000 US dollars) in cooperation with the popular TV channel Megavision. Among international contributors to this operation are the Red Cross societies of the United States, Greece, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland, as well as the International Federation.

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