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In Brief


Flooding the world with red cross pins

World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 1999 will see a flood of small cardboard pins on the streets of cities around the world as Red Cross volunteers ask for donations from the public in return for a small red cross lapel badge. The aim is to raise the profile of the Movement globally, raise money for individual societies, and mobilize the volunteers and supporters of the Red Cross Red Crescent.

This campaign follows four pilot projects organized in 1998 by the Communications Forum of the Movement, a small group of Movement-wide communicators set up by the Council of Delegates in 1995. The pilot projects, held in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sri Lanka and Uganda, aimed to test whether the very successful pins campaign conducted every year by the British Red Cross could be extended to other societies. The result was a very resounding “yes”. The National Societies concerned demonstrated that they could raise profile, money and mobilize their supporters with the pins. As a result the Communications Forum decided to try and globalize the event over the coming years.

In May 1999, eight million pins will be used by over 60 National Societies. They cost about 4 US cents each, so even poorly-funded societies can raise money by asking for donations on the street, in offices and in shops. Even if the average donation were only 10 US cents, the society would more than double its investment. With celebrity support and volunteer mobilization, the impact can continue beyond the 8 May itself.

The other important gain is that it is a very visible event which all societies can join and which, if globalized, would put World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day in the spotlight as never before. Over 700,000 pins were donated by wealthier societies to enable less well-off ones to participate. Unfortunately no crescents were donated or purchased in 1999. But these are early days and societies are only just beginning to realize the potential of the campaign. So why not 20 million pins in 2000? And 50 million in 2001? The challenge is there; the benefits for the Movement enormous.

First World War legacy

One of the most horrifying practices used in the conflict in Sierra Leone is the amputation of limbs and hands of civilians. During the last year, hundreds of people have been mutilated. Those people who have lost their hands go through enormous suffering, entirely dependent on family members to assist them with the daily tasks of eating, drinking, washing or getting dressed.

Until earlier this year when it was forced to leave, the ICRC was running an independent surgical clinic in Freetown to provide medical treatment for people who have been victims of mutilation. The hospital specialized in complicated surgical cases, teaching local doctors and special reconstructive surgery. To help people who have lost both hands, an old surgical procedure, the so-called Krukenberg intervention created during the First World War, has been revived at the hospital. Through this surgery, pincers are formed with the two forearm bones and the muscles. A prosthesis is inserted which allows the patients to grip again. Followed by intensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy, the patients can regain a high level of independence and basic manual skills.

For a good cause

As part of its effort to promote awareness of humanitarian principles and commemorate the 75th anniversary of the National Society, the youth section of the Japanese Red Cross has launched an original campaign in favour of mine victims in Cambodia.

The ‘used telephone-card collection drive’ was started in January 1997 in cooperation with NTT (Japan Telephone & Telecommunication Co. Ltd). Anyone who returns a used card to NTT is then given cash which is to be donated to the campaign for Cambodian mine victims. The campaign slogan is “You can support one artificial leg with 1,000 used-telephone cards”. By February 1998, approximately 3 million cards were collected and eventually exchanged for 10,400,000 yen, equivalent to US$75,000. The youth section of the Japanese Red Cross has every reason to be proud as it meets its double target to assist mines victims and raise public awareness about the Movement and its seven principles.

Helping the host

The water system in Uvinza, a bush town about 100 kilometres east of Lake Tanganyika, wasn't working. The electric motor which drove it had been stolen and now the town had a power crisis. Electricity had always been supplied by the local salt factory, but the factory could no longer afford to.

The Uvinza branch of the Tanzania Red Cross sent an SOS to the nearby Lugufu refugee camp, a sanctuary for Congolese run by the National Society with International Federation support. While caring for the refugees, the operation has sought to extend health and water services to local communities. A solution was soon found. A diesel engine once used to grind maize in Lugufu was adapted to turn the town's pump, and once the system was up and running again it was overhauled as well. Leaks were sealed, broken valves and taps replaced, and a supply restored to 32 public water points.

Reported Federation water/sanitation delegate, Gary Hopf, “The work has benefited 15,000 to 20,000 people. It has cost 4,290 Swiss francs, or less than 0.29 francs per beneficiary. That is money very well spent.”

Red Flag and Red Cross

On the eve of the 42nd anniversary of the Hungarian uprising in October 1956, the ICRC regional delegation for central and south-east Europe, in cooperation with the Hungarian Red Cross, presented the Hungarian translation of the book of Isabelle Vonèche Cardia: Hungarian October: Between the Red Flag and the Red Cross. The event took place on 16 October, in the ‘Writers’ Bookstore’ in the centre of Budapest. The book was introduced by François Bellon, head of the regional delegation, in the presence of representatives of the International Federation, the Hungarian Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations as well as members of the diplomatic corps. By publishing the book in Hungarian, the ICRC underlined the significance of the operation performed in 1956 and 1957 for the Hungarian population affected by the events. For the ICRC, this mission was the most significant one behind the ‘iron curtain’ during the Cold War.

The slow and silent famine continues

“The situation is critical. A generation of North Korean children is scarred for life, malnourishment is common and we need to continue to mobilize resources to prevent an even greater catastrophe,” said Dr Astrid Heiberg, president of the International Federation, following a visit to the country late last year.

Surveys done by UN agencies indicated that the final harvest for 1998, while better than the previous year, was still insufficient. It was estimated that there is enough food for eight months. The situation of young children, according to one survey, was of particular concern with malnutrition found to be widespread among this group.

In 1998, the Federation supplied 853 hospitals and clinics with essential drugs. This year, it plans to supply 1,609 institutions with medical supplies reaching more than five million people – one quarter of the population of the Democractic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The programmes are carried out in cooperation with the DPRK Red Cross.

“It is time for a wake-up call to the international community,” said Margareta Wahlström, Federation under-secretary general for disaster relief, who accompanied Dr Heiberg. “We must continue to provide immediate and meaningful relief to a population that is wasting away because of hunger and disease.”

Lifting the taboo

What can be done to help people understand the serious physical and psychological consequences of genital mutilation on women and young girls? How do you make people aware that this practice, so much a part of African custom south of the Sahara, can be a serious health risk for women? These questions, as yet unanswered, served as the trigger for the organization of a workshop on female genital mutilation, organized by the Federation’s regional delegation in Abidjan, with the participation of nine National Societies – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

Female genital mutilation is a delicate problem because of ancestral and religious beliefs. The reasons are sociological and cultural, and sometimes economic. In some societies, the practice of excision is an expression of a cultural, social or sexual identity. A girl who has not been excised is marginalized from the rest of the community. She is isolated because in the eyes of society, she is not yet a woman. The practice of excision is a means of controlling a young girl’s sexuality.
Kiéssé Emilienne, coordinator of the regional gender programme, explains that the primary objective of this meeting was to associate the National Societies with the efforts to combat this practice in their respective countries and to set up a plan of action in cooperation with the NGOs and other bodies already active in the field.


In the English-language version of the 4/98 edition of Red Cross, Red Crescent magazine, an error was made in the title of the box on page 6. It should read “The Red Cross in the former Yugoslavia” rather than “The Red Cross in Yugoslavia”. The editors apologize for any confusion as a result of this omission.

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