Security remains highly volatile in the western Sudanese
region of Darfur. In May, two members of the Sudanese Red
Crescent were killed by unidentified individuals who fired
at their ambulance in the area of Kassala, east of Khartoum.
In early April, an ICRC field surgical unit — a fast-response
mobile clinic providing surgical care for war-wounded patients
in difficult-to-reach areas depending on security conditions
— started its operations in Darfur. The unit’s
first test was in Dar es Salam, south of Al Fashir in northern
Darfur, where a four-member team carried out 36 surgical operations
and assisted 41 out-patients in eight days. The ICRC is also
supporting polio eradication. Since the beginning of this
year, it has managed to immunize more than 99,000 children
under 5 against polio. In all, 78,654 children were immunized
in Darfur and 20,432 in Southern Sudan.
Meanwhile the ICRC has decided to increase the size and scope
of its food aid operation in Darfur by 25 per cent until the
end of the year, when further assessments will be made. Owing
to the prevailing insecurity and restrictions in movement,
considered by the ICRC to be the root cause of reduced food
stocks and the depopulation of rural areas, the organization
will increase food assistance by some 8,000 tonnes for the
remainder of 2005. Around 320,000 people per month —
or 100,000 more than initially planned — will benefit
from this aid. The ICRC remains focused on assisting those
most in need in remote rural areas.
Sudan is the ICRC’s largest operation worldwide. Some
2,000 national staff and 200 expatriates, roughly half of
whom are based in Darfur, are working for the ICRC throughout
Keeping the pressure on
The “Come closer…” campaign,
launched in Panama City, is part of the International Federation’s
ongoing global anti-stigma campaign, ‘The truth
about AIDS. Pass it on…’.
The campaign addresses the marginalization of people living
with and affected by HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). ‘Come closer’
campaign messages include: ‘Hug! Hug! You cannot get
HIV by hugging!’
Since the launch in 2002 of the global anti-stigma campaign,
the International Federation has implemented targeted activities
to reduce stigma related to HIV/AIDS. National Societies have
been encouraged to work with PLWHA to adapt global material,
such as the stamps campaign, to local sensibilities and implement
stigma reduction activities.
With messages like ‘You cannot get AIDS by... being
a friend’ and “You cannot get AIDS by... holding
hands” on stamp designs, the stamps campaign, which
precedes the ‘Come closer…’ campaign, dispelled
myths and fears related to HIV transmission.
Today more than 120 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
are actively campaigning against stigma and discrimination,
as part of their work to promote humanitarian values and protect
flees in Colombia
The consequences in humanitarian terms of
the recent fighting in the northern part of the department
of Cauca, in south-western Colombia, have been dramatic: over
6,000 people — most of them indigenous — have
been displaced, 35 civilians wounded, two children killed
and numerous homes damaged or destroyed. The fighting, which
began with an attack on the Toribío police station
on 14 April, spread in a few days to the neighbouring districts
of Caloto and Silvia. The terrorized residents urgently needed
food, mats and blankets.
On 17 April, joint ICRC and Colombian Red Cross Society (CRCS)
teams supplied emergency aid for the displaced. They distributed
48 tonnes of food and over 2,500 mats and blankets. They also
provided basic health care and carried out preventive activities.
Following the attack on Toribío, the indigenous village
of Tacueyó in the district of Silvia was on high alert.
After hearing an initial explosion on 24 April, many villagers
fled. “There were about 180 of us running through the
crossfire, many of us barefoot, others carrying children in
their arms.” An ICRC/CRCS team travelling in four trucks
reached the area a few days later with 18 tonnes of food and
1,000 mats, sheets and blankets as well as hygiene items and
According to Luis Evelio Ipia, an indigenous leader from
Tacueyó, the residents are torn between staying and
leaving: “We want to leave because our lives are in
danger but at the same time we don’t want to abandon
our homes and our animals.”
It is not the role of feature films to promote
the image of an organization like the ICRC. Films, however
serious the subject matter, are first and foremost entertainment,
even if they do sometimes try to influence and inform. It
was a surprise therefore to see in the film Hotel Rwanda such
a poignant portrayal of the activities of the ICRC in what
was one of the bloodiest crises in Africa in the 1990s.
It’s often difficult to explain to an outside audience
the reality of protecting civilians in armed conflictor restoring
family links. But in Hotel Rwanda both activities are portrayed
with great clarity through one of the lesser roles in the
film, an ICRC delegate.
The film vividly retells the terrible events in Rwanda in
1994, but it is also about a courageous individual triumphing
over inhumanity. It is based on the story of one man, Paul
Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, who as manager of the
Mille Collines hotel tries to save people from the ethnic
slaughter. A Hutu married to a Tutsi, he puts himself and
his family at great risk in a truly humanitarian cause.
Who knows the Geneva Conventions?
The ICRC has participated in the Gallup
“Voice of the People” opinion research survey,
which was conducted between June and August 2004. The survey
focuses on global issues such as politics, governance and
environment. Gallup interviewed more than 50,000 people in
approximately 60 countries around the world.
Following the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, it was important
for the ICRC to gather quantitative credible information on
the way people perceive the Geneva Conventions, their effectiveness
and the issue of torture. The key findings are: more than
half of the world’s citizens have heard of them. This
is most prevalent in Europe and the Americas (60 per cent)
than in Asia and the Pacific (43 per cent) and in Africa (35
per cent). However a fairly high awareness of the Geneva Conventions
does not necessarily lead to a greater belief in their efficiency:
among those who have heard of the Geneva Conventions, only
one-third (38 per cent) think that they adequately protect
people in wartime. The lowest recognition is in the Middle
East and North Africa (26 per cent), followed by Europe and
the Americas (36 per cent) and the highest recognition in
Africa (52 per cent).
When offered a list of possible activities which might be
effective in reducing or eliminating torture of prisoners
in relation to war, the highest percentage (68 per cent) believed
that visits to prisoners by the ICRC were most effective,
ahead of more prosecutions (66 per cent) and greater public
awareness (65 per cent). Later this year, Gallup will conduct
another opinion survey on the perception of ICRC activities.
Bridging the digital divide
The International Federation and Microsoft
Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) signed an agreement to
offer technological support to National Societies, particularly
those in least developed countries in Africa and the Middle
East. Microsoft will donate software licences, provide technology
training to Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and local
communities, and offer consulting by Microsoft employee volunteers.
According to Markku Niskala, secretary general of the International
Federation, many National Societies have urgent technology
needs. Microsoft’s contributions will improve the efficiency
of local Red Cross and Red Crescent operations and the ability
of National Societies to collaborate more effectively and
share best practices.
During the ceremony, Microsoft representative Jean-Philippe
Courtois, CEO of Microsoft EMEA, said the company was committed
to using its products, technological expertise and commitment
to responsible corporate citizenship.
“National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are
at the front line in disaster response, often on the ground
immediately after an emergency happens,” Courtois said.
“As a successful global corporation and technology industry
leader, we recognize the need to use our resources and influence
to make a positive impact on the world. We are honoured to
team up with the International Federation on this vital initiative,
improving its ability to make a real difference to the lives
of people in need.”
An online community
Staff and volunteers of National Societies
have a huge range of information needs. Which international
meetings will have Red Cross and Red Crescent representatives?
What is the International Federation’s policy on water
and sanitation? What tools are available for teaching people
about the Fundamental Principles? Are case studies available
that demonstrate the impact of risk reduction in disaster
The answers to all these questions and many more are on the
International Federation’s extranet, FedNet. FedNet
has been created to share knowledge and help communication
within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, providing
quick access to the information that enables us efficiently
to deliver assistance where needed. It contains a wide and
growing range of information resources: documents and resources
on all aspects of the Movement’s work, contact databases,
collaboration tools such as message forums and mailing lists
and links to the International Federation’s other information
systems, all accessible at a single address and using a single
login name and password.
Access to FedNet is open to all staff and volunteers of National
Societies, the International Federation and the ICRC. Visit
FedNet online at http://fednet.ifrc.org and follow the link
“Sign me up!” to request an account. The FedNet
development team welcome any feedback, from stories about
how FedNet has helped in your work to ideas to improve the
system or requests for missing information to be added. Write
to firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.
A streetcar Named Red Cross
The Geneva branch of the Swiss Red Cross
has found an original way of drawing public attention to its
work and of raising funds: the city tram, which criss-crosses
the city each day, has two messages splashed on its side:
“Generosity is a gift” and “Help in the
community”. The campaign highlights the range of activities
for Geneva’s most vulnerable residents: families (child-minding,
supporting the relatives of Alzheimer sufferers), young people,
the elderly and alone, and migrants (assistance in integrating
and at departure, interpreting, an intercultural library)
— work that the Geneva Red Cross has been carrying out
for 140 years.