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The end of a long wait

The forgotten conflict in the western Sahara resurfaces. On 26 February, 186 elderly and ill Moroccan prisoners, some of whom have been detained for 25 years, were freed by the Polisario Front. The repatriation of these prisoners from Tindouf (Algeria) to Morocco took place in the presence of the ICRC, acting in its role of neutral intermediary and with the agreement of all concerned parties. The Polisario Front, however, still detains 1,686 Moroccan prisoners. ICRC delegates visit them every year and provide medical assistance. The ICRC also enables the prisoners to exchange news regularly with their families by means of Red Cross messages.


Hold on to the future

The effects of the super cyclone known as "cyclone 05B", which struck the Indian state of Orissa in late October 1999, are still being felt today.
The Indian Red Cross, with the assistance of the Federation, is focusing its attention on support to those who were left with virtually nothing, as the seven-metres-high tidal wave caused by the cyclone swallowed the coastal area and swept away households and cattle and inundated the land.
Food assistance remains the first priority. The construction of low-cost cyclone-resistant houses is second on the list. This programme has been initiated in order to help those living nearest the sea, whose houses collapsed during the cyclone, to rebuild their households.
The cyclone-resistant blocks to be used as building material arrived in the village of Siala in the Ersama section of Jagatsinghpur district. Villagers got to work immediately. They repaired the road leading to the village to enable trucks carrying the cement blocks to enter. Professional masons constructed a model house, training villagers to build their own homes. The model house will be put to good use. It will be given to three village orphans, sisters aged 6 to 11, whose parents were killed during the cyclone. As they were left alone by the force of nature, they will, in the future, have at least a house to hold on to.

Mission possible

As the world waited to celebrate the new milliennium at the end of last year, floods destroyed thousands of homes and killed over 10,000 people in Venezuela. Apenas Ilegan, an 18-year-old member of the Venezuelan Red Cross, was one of thousands of volunteers called to help the victims in the north-eastern region of the country.
Ilegan was responsible for helping people locate family members. In the confusion and panic, children became separated from their parents and the elderly desperately searched to find a relative to help them. A free telephone line was set up, manned around the clock by some 30 volunteers; Ilegan was one of them. Over 6,000 tracing requests were registered by the National Society.

Faces of poverty

Poverty in Macedonia has many faces: homeless people in the capital's main park, widows left destitute, the mentally ill crowded into a decaying home, street children and refugees from the Kosovo crisis. These are the beneficiaries assisted by the Red Cross of Macedonia, together with the German Red Cross and the Federation. They are also the faces that inspired Till Mayer, a journalist and photographer currently working for the German Red Cross in the Balkans. The photos can be seen in an exhibition Mayer has put together in the capital of Macedonia, Skopje. The exhibit will also travel to western Europe.
"By its neutral help, the Red Cross can provide a dignified life, which is the main premise of a peaceful existence," says Mayer.



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