The wind in their sails
The French city of Nice was host to the Eighth Conference of Mediterranean
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in May, with 23 National
Societies taking part. The three-day deliberations focused
on the major issues of water and assistance to migrants. Offshore,
the role of young people was highlighted in an unusual way:
nine teams composed of young people from 17 Mediterranean
countries took it in turns from mid-January to sail around
the Mediterranean aboard the yacht Don du Vent, a 1943
ketch, arriving in Nice to coincide with the conference. The
82 young people selected for this exercise had previously
experienced insecurity, instability or conflict in their home
countries. By taking part in the nautical manoeuvres in sometimes
difficult conditions, they had to develop a spirit of mutual
assistance and collective endeavour. At each port of call,
the crews were greeted by representatives of the local Red
Cross or Red Crescent, who introduced them to the activities
of their National Society. According to Dr Marc Gentilini,
president of the French Red Cross, the exercise showed that
"beyond our beliefs and sense of belonging, it is possible
to live together and to make the people of tomorrow understand
that things are going to change".
A better way forward
Africa's needs and Africa's future in the coming decade in the fields of
public health and food security will be at the heart of the Fifth Pan
African Conference, due to be attended by the continent's 53 National
Societies in September. The meeting in Burkina Faso is expected to approve a
10-year health strategy and related calls for action intended to help
reverse the negative public health trends in Africa. Based on the
two-year-old African Red Cross Red Crescent Health Initiative, or ARCHI
2010, it will focus on major issues such as HIV/AIDS and childhood
Commitment to promoting healthy behaviour and community-based health
interventions to assist the most vulnerable are at the core of ARCHI 2010's
long-term support. "This conference is taking place at the right moment
to help National Societies in Africa look at new strategies," says
conference coordinator Richard Hunlédé.
"The Ouagadougou declaration will be a response from the African community
to Strategy 2010."
The plan of action will include an African food security strategy.
"The message is the impact Red Cross Red Crescent activity can have in
dealing with food security," adds Hunlédé. "Supplying food and
water to the most vulnerable, the provision of seed, capacity building in
terms of disaster preparedness - all these come under food security and the
Red Cross Red Crescent can make the difference."
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited ICRC
headquarters on 22 May. They were greeted by the institution's president,
Jakob Kellenberger, an ICRC delegation and representatives of the
International Federation. The ICRC president took the opportunity to thank
the Emperor and Empress, their family and the people of Japan for their
support to the ICRC's humanitarian activities. Georges-André Cuendet,
president of the Empress Shôken Fund, expressed the fund's gratitude for
the five million yen donated by the Emperor and Empress to mark their visit.
The fund was created in 1912 to promote relief activities in peacetime.
Since then it has been financed by donations from the imperial family, the
Japanese government, the Japanese Red Cross and the Japanese people.
Violence in Maluku
Thousands of people have fled their homes because of the religious
violence pitting Christians against Moslems in the south of the Indonesian
province of North Maluku. Tens of thousands are now living in camps that
have been set up on the nearby island of Sulawesi and many more are believed
to be displaced within the Moluccas themselves. At the beginning of April,
an ICRC team consisting of medical staff and relief and logistics
specialists opened an office in Ternate, capital of North Maluku. Since May,
with the Indonesian Red Cross, they have distributed family parcels
containing clothes, essential household items and hygiene products to more
than 40,000 displaced people. Medical supplies were also flown by an
ICRC-chartered helicopter to various health facilities in Halmahera island
in North Maluku.
Licence to kill
It is a daily disaster, a major health problem, and it is getting worse,
much worse. "It" is the number of road crashes around the globe,
especially in developing countries - they have a third of the vehicles but
three-quarters of the fatalities. An alarming estimate now puts the number
of injured and disabled worldwide at more than twice previous figures -
between 23 and 34 million people per year.
"These statistics are horrific," says Brett Bivans, coordinator
of the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) which was set up by the World
Bank and launched last year to try to improve road safety. "There are
known solutions in the West, and while the situation is improving in the
OECD countries it is deteriorating in developing countries."
The vast majority of people killed in road accidents last year - up to 85
per cent - were in developing and transition nations. How many deaths?
Between an estimated 750,000 and 880,000. "It is unacceptable to see
nearly a million lives lost a year and the figures rise over time as
motorization continues to increase," adds Bivans.
The GRSP, which is based at the International Federation's Secretariat in
Geneva, is focusing on a pilot project covering 15 countries. "The new
approach is one of local partnerships including governments, civil society
National Societies are actively involved in tackling the growing menace
of road accidents, for example with first-aid training to help the victims
and by promoting safe driving through information campaigns. They need to be
- unless effective action is taken it is forecast that within two decades
road accidents will be the world's third most significant burden on health.
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