Like thousands of other children, Jacqueline and Abyaremyí
were swept up in the exodus that followed the genocide in
Rwanda in 1994, during which some 2 million people fled into
neighbouring Tanzania, Burundi and the former Zaire. The two
children, then aged 10 and 7, were initially lucky enough
to remain with the family unit, which settled in one of the
camps in Kivu in the former Zaire. Their parents died of cholera
two years later, however, and their eldest brother, 14-year-old
Ntaganda, became head of the family.
When the Rwandan army attacked the camps in Kivu a few months
later, Ntaganda was caught up in the rush of people heading
for Rwanda. His four brothers and sisters were left behind.
Abyaremyí and Jacqueline remained together, taken in by a
host family in the Masisi region. As for the others, they
had no idea what had become of them.
"In June the Red Cross people brought me a message from my
brother. In it he told me he has been looking for me for four
years. He had gone back to our little house in Kanzenze [about
50 kilometres from Kigali], where he was living with my other
brother and sister whom the ICRC had brought back a month
ago." Once the various formalities are completed and with
the help of the ICRC, Jacqueline and Abyaremyí, too, will
return to Rwanda to join the rest of their family.
Theirs is no isolated case. Since 1994, thanks to the efforts
of humanitarian organizations, the Red Cross message network
and the active searches of members of their families, more
than 67,000 unaccompanied children have been reunited with
their relatives. Indeed, the ICRC and the Congolese Red Cross
are still finding Rwandan children left to their own devices
or living in host families in Kivu. Between January and November
2000, the ICRC reunited 404 Congolese children with their
families and repatriated 310 children to Rwanda and one to
Troubled times in the Solomons
Since June 1999 internal tensions have dogged the island
of Guadalcanal. Pitted against each other are two opposing
factions: the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), whose forces
are made up of people native to Guadalcanal, and the Malaita
Eagle Force (MEF), grouping armed elements of immigrants from
the island of Malaita.
In close cooperation with the staff of the Red Cross of the
Solomon Islands, the ICRC is carrying out a relief operation
- mainly distributions of blankets and clothing - for the
people displaced by the fighting, estimated at around 5,000.
Priority is being given to medical needs, notably through
assistance to the hospital in the capital, Honiara, and to
rural health clinics, which lack staff and basic medical supplies.
Following an attack at gunpoint during a distribution of
goods on the island of Marapa on 6 October in which one delegate
was wounded, the ICRC suspended its relief activities. More
encouragingly, talks with representatives from the warring
factions aimed at ending the conflict began at about the same
time in Australia.
Out in the cold
It would be hard to get more remote than Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
at the eastern edge of Russia, 9,000 kilometres from Moscow,
the setting for a conference held in September 2000 on the
theme "Severe poverty in the northern territories". Yet go
further, deep into the Arctic Circle, in the farthest reaches
of the Russian Federation, and you will find people living
in the direst necessity, cut off from the rest of Russia and
bereft of even basic coping mechanisms. Over the last decade,
about one-third of settlers from elsewhere in Russia, including
doctors and teachers, have moved from the area, leaving the
indigenous population to cope with severe hardship in an abandoned
The purpose of the Kamchatka Conference, which brought together
senior officials of the Russian Red Cross Society, the Federation,
Russian federal and local authorities, donor countries and
international organizations, was to outline their respective
future roles in these isolated territories in order to make
relief operations for these people more efficient.
"Our urgent task is to help the people isolated from the
main body of Russia, who in the current harsh economic, social
and climatic conditions won't be able to survive without external
support," says Oleg Chestnov, director general of the Russian
Red Cross Society.
The conference participants signed the Kamchatka Declaration,
which recognizes the urgent need for continued assistance
to address both the immediate problems and their underlying
causes. An appeal is being issued with 209,000 beneficiaries
in mind and concentrating exclusively on Russia's northern
territories and the far north-east. Programmes will focus
on support to health centres and to families in need through
the establishment of community canteens.
ARCHI goes forward
In the shadow of the HIV/AIDS pandemic devastating Africa,
the 5th Pan-African Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies went ahead in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in September
2000, with representatives of 51 African national Red Cross
and Red Crescent societies. The theme of the conference could
not have been more pertinent: "The power of humanity - building
a healthy future". The meeting culminated in the Ouagadougou
Commitment, which listed the four areas in which the National
Societies resolved to focus their efforts: the African Red
Cross and Red Crescent Health Initiative (ARCHI) 2010; HIV/AIDS;
food security; and volunteer management.
While the scale of the HIV/AIDS disaster clearly demands
urgent attention, other public health issues are also firmly
on the ARCHI agenda, which was formally adopted at the conference.
The ten-year strategy aims to "make a major difference to
the health of vulnerable people in Africa". ARCHI 2010 provides
the guiding framework on which will be built tangible programmes
to address such Africa-wide health problems as pregnancy-related
issues, vaccine-preventable diseases, diarrhoea, malaria,
acute respiratory infections, accidents and injuries, substance
abuse, malnutrition and poverty. The programmes will be based
on advocacy, health promotion, initial response and community
action and implemented with the support of Africa's network
of 2 million volunteers. An appeal is being launched to secure
the moral and financial support of the rest of the Movement,
governments, supranational and intergovernmental organizations
and other donors.
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