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Aid to the Palestinians

In response to the growing needs of the Palestinian population, the ICRC has stepped up its activities in Israel and in the occupied and autonomous territories and increased the budget for its operation there by 25 per cent, bringing it to 52 million Swiss francs (US$ 42.16 million). The additional funds will be allocated to the nderdeveloped health sector, in particular in the form of support to emergency and other essential medical services of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, which runs four hospitals, 30 primary health-care centres and ambulance services. Other relief programmes have been bolstered, especially those for communities worst hit by the restrictions on movement. Micro-projects providing economic support have also been intensifi ed in the northern part of the West Bank
and in the Gaza Strip.

The spiralling needs and deteriorating security situation is primarily the result of the decision earlier this year to withhold international aid from the Palestinian Authority, and has been worsened by Israeli Military operations in the Gaza Strip since June. The ICRC stated it has no intention of replacing the authorities in their role of public service provider and that it is the responsibility of the occupying power, in this case Israel, to ensure that the basic needs (food, medical supplies and shelter) of the civilian population under its occupation are met.





Tragedy at sea

While many African migrants pass through North Africa in their bid to reach Europe via the Canary Islands, others — mainly from West Africa — try to get to Europe through the oil-producing countries of Central Africa.

On 21 March, a Nigerian boat carrying at least 300 passengers and heading for Port-Gentil in Gabon was shipwrecked off Kribi in Cameroon. Although some managed to swim to shore, more than 200 people died or are missing. The Kribi section of the Cameroon Red
Cross cared for 27 survivors, administering fi rst aid and providing shelter, clothes and blankets. It also buried 180 bodies recovered from the sea by the navy. The ICRC and the International Federation provided the survivors with material and psychological assistance.



Floods sweep Eastern Europe

Rapidly melting snow and heavy rains caused widespread flooding in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and Slovakia in April. The International Federation sent money from its disaster relief emergency fund to support National Society efforts that included distributing bedding, rubber boots, disinfectant, kitchen equipment, hygiene kits, clothing, water and food. In Romania, where fl oods were the worst for more than a century, some families were living on rafts, totally dependent on outside help for food and water. The International Federation sent a fi eld assessment and coordination team (FACT) and launched an emergency appeal to support the Romanian Red Cross, which helped 13,000 homeless Romanians with tents, bedding, food and sanitation.


Java tsunami

The Indonesian Red Cross Society gave emergency medical care and relief goods to people affected by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that triggered a twometre tsunami off the south-west coast of Java on 17 July. More than 600 people have been killed and more than 28,000 people displaced by the disaster. Members of the Indonesia Red Cross’s specialized fiel d-acti on teams, known as satgana, were dispatched from seven Red Cross branches to carry out search and rescue. The Red Cross also sent ambulances and medical staff, along with relief items including food, water, blankets and tents to survivors. In addition, the International Federation sent an assessment team to Pangandaran Beach, the area that was hardest hit by the tsunami.



Mumbai blasts

The Indian Red Cross Society went into action on 11 July after seven explosions rocked Mumbai’s train network during the evening rush hour, killing 186 people and injuring hundreds more. The blasts ripped doors and windows off carriages and threw passengers from trains. Many people suffered severe cuts and burns, while others were in shock. At the request of the Maharastra state government, Red Cross volunteers and staff gave fi rst aid to injured people, transported them to hospital and helped care for patients at Mumbai’s central hospital. Meanwhile, dozens of volunteers helped take bodies to the city’s mortuaries, contacted the families of people who were killed or hurt in the blasts and donated blood.



Red crystal is in!

On 22 June in Geneva, the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent amended the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to incorporate the additional emblem of the red crystal, which now has the same status as the red cross and red crescent. In addition the participants to the International Conference requested that the ICRC and the International Federation recognize and admit the Palestine Red Crescent Society into the Movement. As a consequence of this decision, the ICRC has now recognized the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Israeli National Society, Magen David Adom, and the International Federation has admitted both National Societies. This outcome extends the universality of the Movement to an important area of Red Cross Red Crescent operations and strengthens the operational cooperation of the National Societies with each other and with their international partners in the Movement. The Conference was convened as a follow-up to the diplomatic conference of states in December 2005, which adopted the Third Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, creating an additional protective emblem for the Movement, known as the red crystal. The chairman of the International Conference, Mohammed Al Hadid, declared: ‘‘This is a historical moment for the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. We urge all governments to respect the red crystal, in addition to the red cross and the red crescent.’’

The use of the red crystal will also provide additional protection to war victims and humanitarian workers in confl ict situations where the red cross or the red crescent cannot be used. The ICRC, the International Federation and the National Societies might use the red crystal temporarily and in exceptional circumstances. However no state or National Society is obliged to make any change to the emblem it uses. The ICRC and the International Federation will not change their respective names and emblems.




Train of humanity

In Mali, a travelling show was put on to mark International Red Cross and Red Crescent Day (8 May). From 4 to 9 May, the ‘Train of Humanity’ journeyed the length of the 500-kilometre Bamako-Kayes railway line, stopping off at eight points along the way. On board was a team made up of Mali Red Cross and ICRC representatives, two dissemination offi cers from the national army, Malian entertainers and around 30 young volunteers. Cultural performances and fi rst-aid demonstrations introduced tens of thousands of people to the Movement’s Fundamental Principles and the National Society’s activities. Wherever it went, the caravan was given a warm reception. On arrival in Kayes, Malian Red Cross volunteers carried out community services in a prison and a hospital.


Reaching remote Pakistan

Every Friday, a team makes the treacherous trip up the steep and rocky road from the town of Balakot to the high mountain region of Joa Sacha, which is home to an estimated 12,000 people. This is one of several teams of doctors and nurses who travel six days a week to remote areas in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, where they examine patients, carry out vaccinations and distribute life-saving medication to people who survived a deadly earthquake in October 2005.

People come from all over the Joa Sacha area to the mobile clinic, which has a doctor, a nurse and an immunization specialist.

After the earthquake, which killed an estimated 73,000 people, injured 128,000 more and left 3.5 million people homeless, thousands of survivors left their mountain homes to seek help and safety in the valley below. In early 2006, many returned to their homes, where the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and the International Federation are working to provide health care and safe drinking water.

“People live scattered all over the mountainside and many of them are suffering from respiratory disease, diabetes, fl u, abdominal pain, dehydration, tonsillitis and malnutrition,” explains Tasleem Akhtar, an International Federation staff nurse. “They come to us from as far away as 6 kilometres away.”

Tasleem Akhtar says prenatal care is one of the services she provides. “Traditionally, women can only be examined by other women,” she says. “I see up to 50 a day, including many pregnant ladies who come to me for advice.”

Halima, 55, suffers from joint and chest pain and has walked over an hour to be examined by Akhtar.

“Before, I had to go all the way down the mountain to Balakot for help,” she says. “This is my fi rst visit to the clinic and I am very glad to be able to see a lady health worker closer to where I live. It is a great help for women because there are not enough female doctors and nurses in this area.”


On the ball

During football’s World Cup, in June and July, 35,000 German Red Cross fi rstaiders and other volunteers were on hand across Germany to help players and fans at the big matches and at hundreds of parties and side events. The German Red Cross advised fans to drink plenty of water to help them cope with the heat and excitement. The operation, in 800 cities and towns, was the biggest ever undertaken by the National Society.


Improving disaster disaster laws

The International Federation has held the fi rst of a series of meetings to review and improve disaster response laws around the world. The European Forum on International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles, held in May in Antalya, Turkey, brought together more than 70 representatives of governments, the European Union, National Societies, universities, the United Nations and other European organizations to discuss disaster response laws. A key topic was how to ensure a swift and smooth fl ow of aid. International Federation operations director Susan Johnson said it was important to cut red tape. “What we have found is that in too many major operations, relief personnel, goods and equipment are trapped in bureaucratic bottlenecks while affected people suffer from the lack of help,” she said. Over the next year, disaster laws will be discussed at meetings in Africa, the Americas and Asia. Recommendations from the meetings will go to governments at the 30th International Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent in 2007.



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