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China welcomes ICRC

In December 2002, the ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger visited China, where he met, among others, President Jiang Zemin, who is also honorary president of the Chinese Red Cross. Discussions focused mainly on the forthcoming opening of an ICRC delegation in Beijing, whose aim it will be to promote humanitarian law, develop cooperation activities with the Chinese Red Cross and strengthen diplomatic contacts. As a first step, and at the National Society's request, the ICRC will establish a limb-fitting centre in Yunnan province. "We hope to produce 1,000 prostheses a year with a staff of three expatriates and 12 nationals for three years, then hand over the centre to the Chinese Red Cross," says Jean-Marc Bornet, regional delegate for south-east Asia. Over time, some 10,000 amputees — mostly civilian victims of the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979 — should benefit from this rehabilitation service.

Civil war in Côte d'Ivoire

Nearly six months after the eruption of violence, Côte d'Ivoire remains in the throes of civil war. Rebel troops are in control of the whole of the northern half of the country, with an insurgent presence in Bouaké (Mouvement patriotique de Côte d'Ivoire) and in Man (Mouvement populaire ivoirien du Grand Ouest, Justice et Paix).

Since the clashes broke out, thousands of people have fled south to escape the fighting. In addition, according to UNHCR estimates, more than 53,000 people sought refuge in Liberia and some 3,000 in Guinea when the conflict spread to the west of the country in mid-November, while others fled to Mali and to Burkina Faso.

The ICRC, together with the Red Cross of Côte d'Ivoire, responded immediately to the needs of the civilian population affected by the conflict, distributing food and other assistance in the various temporary reception sites. Medical assistance was also provided to several health facilities around the country. In Bouaké, the National Society set up a system of mobile clinics to dispense medical care to the residents of the different districts.

The ICRC is active mainly in the conflict zones and has teams in Yamoussoukra, Bouaké, Korhogo and Man. Moreover, delegates visit people held in connection with the conflict in places of detention under the control of the government and of the rebels.

Red Cross on TV

The ICRC in collaboration with the Russian Red Cross (RRC) have just produced four TV clips to be broadcast on national TV channels, as well as in the regions of the Russian Federation with support of the RRC branches. The project is aimed at positioning the Red Cross as a major humanitarian actor working around the world and in Russia. It should also help to promote public awareness of the Red Cross action in conflict zones and areas affected by natural disasters.

The contents of the clips are mostly generic. They reflect the Red Cross work on assisting tuberculosis patients, conducting aid distribution, performing war surgery, helping victims of natural catastrophes and protecting prisoners of war. One of the TV spots is totally devoted to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Lasting 15 seconds each, the clips are in black and white format with red cross/red crescent symbols in colour which emphasizes the difficulties of Red Cross work. All TV spots end up with the Red Cross sign and short impressive message "Red Cross: Protection, Aid, Hope". National Societies interested in obtaining a copy can contact the ICRC delegation in Moscow.

Cyclone Zoe

Cyclone Zoe, with wind speeds reaching up to 300 kilometres per hour, was one of the most devastating ever to hit the Pacific region. The islands most affected are Tikopia and Anuta in the Solomon Islands, with an estimated total population of 2,000. Aerial survey showed widespread destruction of homes and crops. The Solomon Islands Red Cross, and the Federation working through its regional delegation in Fiji, have been at the forefront of relief efforts.

"It is a miracle that no one died. But with some coastal villages being swept away and immense damage suffered to crops and land, it will take some time for the island and its residents to recover from this," says Jeong Park, from the Federation's regional office in the Fijian capital, Suva.

Relief supplies including food, temporary shelter and blankets were distributed to residents on both islands. In addition, the ICRC provided kitchen utensils, seeds and fishing equipment with the Japanese, Australian and New Zealand Red Cross Societies also offering assistance.

A medical team and a Red Cross volunteer also travelled to the islands to help assess the situation.

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