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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