Eighty-five National Societies from countries spanning
Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas gathered
in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for the 5th International Conference
on Home and Community Care for People Living with HIV/AIDS,
in December 2001. The biennial conference focused on the care
and support needs of HIV/AIDS sufferers. Many of the 300 Red
Cross and Red Crescent participants at the conference are
both caregivers and HIV positive themselves and shared their
experiences with some 3,000 fellow conference delegates.
For Alvaro Bermejo, head of the Federation's health and care
department in Geneva, this conference was an opportunity for
National Societies to hear from Red Cross and Red Crescent
caregivers about their needs and the needs of their patients.
"Without care there can be no hope in the prevention
of HIV/AIDS," he stated, stressing that the Red Cross
Red Crescent "are good at managing effective HIV prevention
programmes, but need to do more in terms of advocating against
the discrimination that prevents people from coming out as
HIV positive, and supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers
who care for positive people." Alvaro Bermejo singled
out the National Societies of Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe as
being role models for other National Societies to emulate
in the care of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Spotlight on humanitarian law in Africa
The all-African course on international humanitarian law,
organized jointly by the ICRC and the Centre for Human Rights
in Pretoria in November 2001 brought together 35 students
and young teachers from all over Africa (Democratic Republic
of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius,
Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South
Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
The course, based on a similar one held for the past 20 years
in Warsaw for European participants, was a first for Africa
and provided an overview of the main aspects of humanitarian
law. The interactive format enabled participants to share
individual experiences and to highlight problems specific
to Africa. The course culminated in a round-table discussion
on the dilemma posed by the choice between justice and reconciliation,
using South Africa as a case study.
A child's vision
There is little doubt that the life of a refugee or asylum
seeker is filled with fear, uncertainity and prejudice. In
one reception centre in Greece, an American photographer has
devoted herself to relieving some of the stress facing young
refugees and asylum seekers as they and their family begin
the process of searching for a new home. The reception centre,
run by the Hellenic Red Cross in the town of Nea Makri in
central Greece, offers housing to120 asylum seekers and exiles.
The majority of residents are families coming from Afghanistan,
Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.
In 2001 Barbara Smith began the Refugee Children's Dreams
arts programme. By using drawing and photography, she offers
the children a structured play time in which they can express
themselves, explore their imagination and enjoy being children.
An important objective of the programme is to provide the
children with the tools to help them articulate their feelings
and emotions. As Smith explains, "Many times painful
and sad emotions are released into the innocent spirit of
playful creation. I can see the dramatic changes in socially
isolated children as they slowly begin to release their troubled
Smoky days in Australia
"Bushfires are regular occurrences in Australia,"
says secretary general of the Australian Red Cross, Martine
Letts. "Having said this, when we experience scorching
temperatures and unpredictable fierce winds and the land is
dry from lack of rain, the bushfire season can often get out
of control and develop into a crisis situation." In December
2001, news came through that bushfires were raging out of
control and spreading towards towns and villages leaving behind
black trails of destruction. While some 20,000 firefighters
fought the flames from the ground as well as the air with
water bombing, Australian Red Cross volunteers were immediately
deployed to work with other relief organizations and the state
government in coordinating evacuation procedures for thousands
of people in danger.
The anxious hours that followed turned into days as the fury
of the fires intensified, destroying 1.2 million acres of
land. While more residents were evacuated, the Australian
Red Cross worked with the government's department of community
services in providing welfare and community support to the
victims. Over 70 Australian Red Cross volunteers staffed the
State Enquiry Centre, a service which handles telephone enquiries
from family and friends of victims of disasters. Some 2,000
formal enquiries from people around Australia and overseas
were attended to.
Yet again Western Bellitia is rocked by war as the Parabulem
army and rebel forces come to blows in a conflict fuelled
by greed and ethnic hatred. Thousands of civilian victims
are faced by humanitarian disaster - a challenge for the ICRC
and the international community.
An all-too-realistic scenario, except that Parabulem and
Bellitia do not exist; they are part of a conflict exercise
the ICRC thought up for its first Moot Court competition for
Kenyan and Tanzanian universities held last November in Arusha,
Tanzania, the host city of the International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda (ICTR).
The first part of the contest saw students from six universities
act out the part of ICRC delegates trying to negotiate access
to civilians threatened by war. Later, they had to explain
accurately the conflict in legal terms in front of the 'world
media' - in fact ICRC and ICTR staff. For the final, the competition
moved to one of the courtrooms usually reserved for Rwandan
genocide trials. Facing a high-calibre jury, led by the ICTR
vice-president, Judge Erik Mose, the two best teams argued
over how post-conflict Parabulem should deal with the legacy
of the bloody war. Eventually, the top prize was awarded to
Judge Mose had nothing but praise for the students: "I
think you belong to the great human rights movement, the great
international humanitarian law movement," he told the
finalists. For the students the Moot Court was interesting
but also hard work. "No disrespect to our lecturers,"
said one of them, "but this week we faced a lot more
pressure than we usually do at university." Meanwhile,
the future of Parabulem remains uncertain....
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