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Gifts galore

For the fourth year running, "Operation Second Christmas", organized by the Swiss Red Cross and the postal service, was a resounding success. Many more parcels (66,000) were sent than last year. Organizers are pleased by the marked improvement in the quality of gifts this year, which included foodstuffs, toys, toiletries and children's shoes. They see this as proof that the appeal is more than a collection of second-hand clothing.

At the Swiss Red Cross's central warehouse in Wabern, more than 250 volunteers gave of their time until the end of January to sort the parcels. Half the presents were destined for Switzerland, the other half for eastern Europe. The cantonal branches of the Swiss Red Cross took care of the distribution to social institutions and needy individuals in their region. At the end of January, a first convoy brought toiletries, foodstuffs such as pasta and rice, toys and children's shoes to Belarus, where the goods were delivered by the Red Cross to children's homes, care institutions, elderly people and families in difficulties.

Havoc in India

It was the worst earthquake to hit India in half a century. At 08.50 on the morning of 26 January, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck, killing thousands upon thousands of people. Volunteers from the Indian Red Cross Society, along with help from the International Federation, were quickly on the scene providing blankets, temporary shelter and desperately needed medical services to the helpless and homeless.

Moved by the scale of the catastrophe many countries offered humanitarian support and solidarity. Both were very much in need through the emergency stage and will continue to be required in the months ahead, as the Red Cross Red Crescent effort in the state of Gujarat shifts from the emergency to the recovery and rehabilitation phases.

Volunteers in Russia

Assisted by hundreds of volunteers from high-school medical colleges, nurses in the Russian Red Cross charity service are providing vital relief to thousands of pensioners. Among Russia's 38 million pensioners, about 1.5 million of them need home care. Last year the Russian Red Cross managed to help 180,000 sick pensioners living alone.

In Voskresensk, near Moscow, the visiting nurses programme has been running since 1995, with volunteers on duty providing some friendly company and welcome home care. The local Red Cross committee is planning to open a training centre for volunteers this year, to extend the programme and reach out to even more elderly people living on their own.

Making Red Cross history

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement shared in celebrating an important landmark with the creation of a single Red Cross Society in Bosnia and Herzegovina late last year. The historic result comes after more than three years of negotiations between the two entity Red Cross organizations: the Red Cross of the Republika Srpska and the Red Cross of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The next steps for the new National Society include international recognition by the ICRC and admission as a member to the International Federation. With its network of local branches and volunteers, the new Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the largest non-governmental organization in the country. It provides vital humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people through Red Cross health and home care programmes, and plays an essential role in the development of communities by promoting humanitarian values and reconciliation among the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.



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