When terrorist bombers struck the London
transport system on 7 July, killing more than 50 people and
injuring some 700, the British Red Cross swung into action
within minutes. Ambulances and trained volunteers were sent
to the scenes of the four explosions, helping hundreds of
people caught up in the blasts and providing vital back-up
to the emergency services.
Later in the day, as stressed commuters returned to their
homes in and around the capital, volunteers provided support
and comfort to those in shock after the day’s events.
The British Red Cross’s response to the incident —
the biggest emergency in the capital for many years —
did not stop there. In the days and weeks following the bombings,
the Red Cross has continued to play a major role in providing
practical support and comfort to survivors, the bereaved and
anyone affected in any way.
The Red Cross was the lead voluntary agency at a Family Assistance
Centre set up by the British authorities in the wake of the
attacks, and took over its management soon after. More than
600 people have received support and advice to date. And a
telephone support line staffed by Red Cross volunteers is
still running, providing information and comfort to more than
1,200 callers in the weeks following the blasts.
The British Red Cross was asked by the Mayor of London to
set up and administer the London Bombings Relief Charitable
Fund, which has raised more than US$ 13.7 million for the
families of those killed and the seriously wounded. By the
end of August, US$ 791,000 had been granted to 126 applicants,
and further payments are expected shortly.
The authorities and the statutory services have praised the
commitment shown by the volunteers and staff of the British
Red Cross throughout this period. Martin Flaherty, London
Ambulance Service director of operations and deputy chief
ambulance officer, later wrote to British Red Cross chief
executive Sir Nicholas Young to express his thanks. “Thank
you very much for providing us with the aid that meant that
together we responded not only to the bombings, but to the
needs of other seriously ill and injured Londoners who experienced
emergencies during the hours of the major incident,”
Following the November 2004 Civil Contingencies Act, the
UK government must make provision for the contribution of
voluntary agencies alongside the statutory services in its
emergency planning. After the tragic events of 7 July, the
importance of the work of organizations such as the British
Red Cross cannot be overlooked. The lessons learned from these
attacks will strengthen the response to future emergencies,
whenever and wherever they occur.
On 18 August 2005, the Polisario Front released
all 404 Moroccan prisoners in its custody. They have been
repatriated to Morocco under the auspices of the ICRC, following
mediation by the United States. Their repatriation ends more
than 20 years of internment — some of them were captured
in 1975 — and marks an important step in resolving the
humanitarian consequences of the conflict in the Western Sahara.
For these men who had been cut off from the world for so long,
the visits paid by ICRC delegates during all these years provided
an opportunity to receive news of their families. However,
the first and foremost concern of the released prisoners was
how they were going to be received back home.
Meanwhile the ICRC will pursue its efforts to ensure that
the fate of all those reported missing in this conflict is
discovered, and that families suffering the uncertainty of
not knowing what has happened to their loved ones obtain satisfactory
More than 800 people were reportedly crushed
to death or drowned in the Tigris River on 31 August when
panic spread through the thousands of pilgrims who were marching
towards the Kadhimiya mosque in northern Baghdad to honour
the shrine of Imam Musa Kadhim. A rumour of the presence of
a suicide bomber is said to have sparked the panic. Most of
the victims were women and children. The Iraqi Red Crescent
Society (IRCS) immediately sent 50 volunteers to the scene
of the disaster, where it set up a first-aid post. It brought
in ambulances, four-wheel-drive cars and a minibus to evacuate
the dead and the injured and sent trucks to deliver first-aid
kits and blankets to three hospitals in the area. The IRCS
also delivered body bags, stretchers, bed sheets and further
medical supplies (bandages, plasters, cotton) to the hospitals.
Following the escalation in Tal-Afar, northern Iraq, more
people fled their homes. The IRCS estimates that around 5,000
families have taken refuge in surrounding towns and villages
following the escalation of violence in the city in September.
The IRCS has set up camps around Tal-Afar to host displaced
families and the ICRC has supplied the IRCS’s Mosul
branch with 5,000 individual food baskets, 1,000 jerrycans,
1,000 buckets, 1,000 blankets, 100 tents, 600 kerosene stoves
and 600 hygiene kits. Since the start of the military operation
in Tal-Afar in July, the ICRC has been providing 900 families
with 180,000 litres of drinking water a day.
©REUTERS / THAIERAL-SUDANI, COURTESY
On 13 September, the Swiss government announced
its intention to convene a diplomatic conference before the
end of this year to adopt an additional emblem alongside the
red cross and red crescent emblems. This intention was warmly
welcomed by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
An additional emblem would provide a comprehensive and lasting
solution to the emblem question.
The diplomatic conference would convene the governments of
the 192 states that are party to the Geneva Conventions to
consider the adoption of a third additional protocol to the
Conventions, creating an additional protective emblem. The
new sign is “a red frame in the shape of a square on
edge on a white ground” and would enjoy equal status
in all respects with the red cross and red crescent. It is
known as the “red crystal”.
The additional emblem would be free of any perception of
religious, political or other connotation. It would enable
National Societies that have not been able to use the existing
emblems to become full members of the International Red Cross
and Red Crescent Movement, enabling the Movement to fulfil
its fundamental principle of universality.
The ICRC and the International Federation will continue to
use their existing emblems. So will National Societies. But
in exceptional circumstances, they, and national Red Cross
and Red Crescent Societies, will be able to use the additional
emblem to facilitate their work.
Dunant on screen
The last film about Henry Dunant was more
than 50 years ago. Based on a true story, Red on the Cross
is a fictional adaptation of Henry Dunant’s quest that
resulted in the founding of the Red Cross. The film portrays
Dunant’s five years of efforts to convince the countries
of the world to allow a relief organization to take care of
soldiers who fell on the battlefield, without distinction
for whom they fought. The epic story is a major international
co-production involving Bohemian Films, Télévision
Suisse Romande (TSR, Switzerland), Dune, France 2, Pale Blue
Productions (Austria) and ENTV (Algeria) with the support
of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Written by Claude-Michel
Rome with co-writer and director, Dominique Othenin-Girard,
this 90-minute television film features an international cast,
including Thomas Jouannet as Henry Dunant, Emilie Dequenne,
Jean-François Balmer, Michel Galabru and Tom Novembre.
Red on the Cross will also be available on a DVD with bonus
features including an update of the history of the International
Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.