Eritrea to Ethiopia
On 26 November 2004, 200 Ethiopian civilians were repatriated
from Eritrea under the auspices of the ICRC. The group crossed
the border at the Mereb River bridge, between the towns of
Adi Quala in Eritrea and Rama in Ethiopia. Among those repatriated
were eight children and three people returning to their families
in Ethiopia. Acting in its capacity as a neutral and independent
intermediary, the ICRC carried out this operation with the
cooperation of the authorities. ICRC delegates based in Eritrea
and an ambulance team from the Red Cross Society of Eritrea
accompanied the Ethiopian civilians on the first leg of their
journey, from the Eritrean capital Asmara to the border, providing
them with food and water and helping to transport their luggage.
At the Mereb River crossing point, the group was met by ICRC
delegates based in Ethiopia before being placed in the care
of the Ethiopian authorities. The ICRC has been helping people
affected by the recent armed conflict between Ethiopia and
Eritrea to return to their respective countries since June
From 6 to 20 December, a team of ICRC delegates visited all
farmers held in prisons and police stations in connection
with the worsening land crisis in Paraguay. During the visits,
the delegates talked privately with 621 farmers, most of whom
had been arrested by the police and military forces during
their eviction from land they were occupying. The detained
farmers received emergency relief consisting of hygiene items,
cleaning products, kitchen utensils and basic medical care.
The ICRC also set up a mobile phone centre to facilitate contact
between the farmers and their families. The Paraguayan Red
Cross headquarters and its branch offices in the areas visited
provided logistical support for these activities, which took
place in accordance with an agreement signed between the Paraguayan
government and the ICRC in 2001.
Cross goes green
It’s nearly lunchtime and Nguyen Xuan Tuan, 32, has
finished his morning’s work in his shrimp ponds. He
walks home along a dyke that protects his ponds from Viet
Nam’s long eastern coastline. At home, he washes in
warm water which is pumped through a fireplace to heat it.
His house stands at a crossroads, a place where a sea dyke
intersects with an embankment around a pond. Both Tuan’s
home and his livelihood depend on the Giao Lac commune’s
forest of mangrove trees that hide the nearby sea.
For the past ten years the Viet Nam Red Cross, with the support
of the Danish and Japanese Red Cross, has planted 20,000 hectares
of mangroves in eight provinces along a 110-kilometre stretch
of coastline to act as a buffer against the storms and waves
that thrash the dykes protecting the low-lying coastal villages.
The mangroves reduce the water velocity, wave strength and
Every year about 3 million Vietnamese are affected by disasters
including typhoons, resulting in up to 1,000 deaths. And the
number and intensity of storms is predicted to increase with
global warming. Reforesting the coastline is one way to fight
back. Commune chairman Dinh Nguyen Dau says the mangroves
have an added bonus. “This project is very useful, especially
for poor farmers, because it’s created jobs for them.
People take young crabs and shrimps that grow among the roots
of the mangroves. They can replenish their aquaculture from
Further inland, a different sort of greenery is sprouting
along river dykes. So far 35 kilometres of inland-river dykes
have been planted with bamboo. The trees don’t stop
the Red River flooding, bringing much needed water and nutrients
to farms. But the two-metre deep roots of the bamboo protect
the dykes from collapsing, which would ruin roads along the
top of the dykes and flood villages and farms.
for Mongolia’s urban poor
The Mongolian Red Cross, supported by the International Federation
and the British, German and Netherlands Red Cross Societies,
has been expanding its services in urban areas, helped by
its volunteer network. Targeting isolated vulnerable people
as well as the migrants, its homecare projects and social
centres are improving lives and breaking down isolation.
Finding the way through often labyrinthine Mongolian bureaucracy
to state assistance is also critical. The Red Cross helps
people reach it, sometimes linking to medical services or
providing legal advice to ensure they acquire entitlements.
For former herders a major obstacle is simply getting registered.
They do not bring the necessary documents. But unless they
are registered they cannot get state health or social care,
or education for their children.
The number this leaves in social limbo is horrific. Of the
7,000 families in the flood-prone areas of Ulaanbaatar’s
Bayangol district, 3,000 are without state services, reason
for the Red Cross to expand its operations this year, with
British and German backing.
aid in Côte d’Ivoire
The ICRC has completed distributing emergency aid to several
hundred displaced people sheltering east of Bouaké.
After fighting resumed in the north-central part of the country
in November 2004, thousands of people, including many women
and children, fled to the towns of M’Bahiakro and Priko,
south of the “confidence zone”. Though local inhabitants
took some of them in, many others were reduced to living in
makeshift shelters. On 15 and 16 December, the ICRC carried
out an emergency operation to provide 1,153 particularly vulnerable
and destitute people with basic supplies such as buckets,
clothing, mats, soap and kitchen utensils.
The Kobe Conference
In January 2005, hundreds of representatives attended the
2nd World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan.
Participants included representatives from United Nations
agencies, governments, international and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), as well as a delegation from the International
The International Federation’s delegation advocated
for more resources to build community resilience and preparedness,
stressing the importance of supporting community-based actions
to reduce risks and withstand natural disasters.
Tadateru Konoe, vice-president of the Japanese Red Cross,
headed the International Federation delegation. In his speech
at the closing ceremony, he reminded participants of the challenges
ahead. “Our task now is to work with partners to find
ways to transform the encouraging statements made by governments
in the plenary sessions into the concrete action which has
been demanded but not yet framed.”
Mr Konoe underlined the need to set up targets and indicators,
in line with the United Nations’ Millennium Development
Goals, to reduce disaster trends that bring human suffering,
material damage and loss of lives and livelihoods. Decades
of development can be destroyed by a disaster in minutes,
he noted, pointing to the need to address the causes for such
destruction and finding ways of minimizing it. The International
Federation, he said, will continue advocating for political
commitments and actions when the next stages of decision making
“The conference may be over but the work will continue;
2005 must be remembered not only for the aftermath of one
of the most catastrophic events in history, but also as a
watershed in disaster reduction, as it did in Japan ten years
ago,” Mr Konoe said.
During the five-day conference, the Red Cross Red Crescent
delegation participated actively in workshops, exhibitions
and other activities to ensure that the perspective of vulnerable
communities was considered in the final outcomes. The International
Federation participants also lobbied actively for strengthened
legal frameworks to facilitate international disaster response
and for greater preparedness for climate change.