Back to Magazine

Previous page



Across the table

On 29 and 30 April, the Red Cross Societies of Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea met and discussed humanitarian issues of joint concern.

Japanese officials asked for assistance in shedding some light on 11 missing Japanese nationals suspected of having been abducted and taken to North Korea. At a previous meeting, the North Koreans agreed that if a missing Japanese were found, Pyongyang Red Cross officials would notify the Japanese Red Cross. The two sides also agreed to continue discussions related to the progress of investigations into the missing Japanese nationals at future Red Cross meetings.

The North Koreans raised various issues of concern, including Koreans who disappeared before and during the Second World War, atomic bomb victims in DPR Korea, and food assistance, sources said.

Stop tuberculosis!

To mark World Tuberculosis Day on 24 March 2002, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), the ICRC made a statement about the disease, which affects many detainees in the Caucasus, in particular in the prisons of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In 1995, in cooperation with the ministries of justice and health in these three countries of the former Soviet Union, the ICRC set up a programme, known as DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course strategy), to combat tuberculosis (TB) in places of detention. This programme includes in particular: the creation of a hospital for detainees suffering from TB staffed by specially trained medical personnel; the establishment of a top-notch laboratory specializing in diagnosis; and a health education programme targeting high-risk groups, primarily detainees and their warders. As a result, in Georgia, the rate of multi-drug resistance has fallen from 21.8 per cent in 1998 to 8.6 per cent today, while the rate of cure is currently 75 per cent.

For more details, consult the ICRC's web site ( and the interview with Philippe Creach, head of the programme in Georgia.

Held accountable

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Save the Children-UK released a report earlier this year, alleging that humanitarian workers from international and local NGOs as well as UN agencies in the west African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were abusing girls under 18. While the allegations remain unverified, the report focused on the use of humanitarian aid and services intended to help refugees as a means of sexual exploitation.
The Federation immediately followed up on the allegations made in the report. Contact was made with National Societies in all three countries to ensure that they were aware of the report and taking the allegations seriously. A review of Federation activities in Guinea and Sierra Leone was also conducted. The review indicated that there is no systematic involvement of Red Cross personnel in these abuses. The possibility does exist that individuals may have engaged in inappropriate behaviour with refugees but everything is being done to put procedures in place that will allow such individuals to be identified and dismissed, and at the same time, to eliminate all possible exploitation of the aid delivery process.
According to the Humanitarian Accountability Project (HAP), an inter-agency project, hosted by the Federation, the extent of the abuses described in the report may be unusual. Their nature is not. It explains that current efforts towards humanitarian accountablity need to go further. "The UNHCR/SC-UK report reminds us all that the efforts under way have not been enough," says Agnes Callamard, co-director of HAP. "Comprehensive protection and prevention requires a rethink of deep-seated organizational and humanitarian assumptions, including core values. In sum, accountability must become the governing principle and practice of humanitarian work."

Reaching into the shadows

The 6th European Regional Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference ended in Berlin on 18 April, with the adoption of a regional strategy on migration and health aiming to reach millions of people deprived of care and social justice.
The plight of migrants and people infected with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were prioritized at the meeting which brought 50 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to Berlin in April 2002. Some 350 participants produced the "Berlin Charter" as well as two plans of action to help those who face abuse and vulnerability in what the Red Cross and Red Crescent defined as "the shadowlands" of Europe.

On the closing day, Didier Cherpitel, secretary general of the Federation, said: "Stigma and discrimination force people into the shadows. The sex trade takes place and drugs are injected in the shadows. We must reach into the shadows to help those who are marginalized and sick, and to stop the terrible exploitation of hundreds of thousands of people every year."

The Berlin Charter approved by the conference contains policy on a range of migration and health issues which will be implemented by two plans of action. The plans include measures to ensure people's basic right to health and access to basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, water and medical help, and to strengthen and develop partnerships inside and outside the Movement.

"Will you still need me when I'm 64?"

"In Africa, it is said that when an old man dies, a library vanishes," explained Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, during an opening speech at the first World Assembly on Ageing in 20 years.The assembly took place in April with hundreds of delegates from the UN, NGOs and governments discussing issues related to older people.
The UN secretary-general, who celebrated his 64th birthday during the assembly, warned that if the issue of ageing was not well managed, it would create enormous social and economic problems for governments, humanitarian organizations and NGOs. Quoting a line from a Beatles song, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?", Annan said new ways of "using the experiences, creativity and knowledge of older people" had to be found.

Since the last assembly in 1982, there has been a seismic change in demographic patterns that are having a huge impact on both economies and the lives of older people across the world. With developed countries experiencing declining population growth and developing countries facing challenges such as the impact of HIV/AIDS on older people, a new plan of action to deal with all the problems was developed.

Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro Rivero, Federation president, in a speech to the NGO forum, said: "We must include older people in solutions for improving their quality of life, since we will achieve more if we find solutions for older people, by older people."

The president praised the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent throughout the world in helping older people. "I could talk for a long time about our Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies caring for older people in their communities, in every corner of the world," he said. But, he added, although the Red Cross and Red Crescent worked to improve the quality of life of all vulnerable groups of society, ageing populations across the world increasingly represented challenges for the Movement and society as a whole.



Top | Contact Us | Credits | Current issue | Webmaster

2002 | Copyright