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.
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
"By its neutral help, the Red Cross can provide a dignified
life, which is the main premise of a peaceful existence,"
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