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International Conference takes on change

The humanitarian environment is changing rapidly. The number and impact of natural disasters and related displacement are increasing, while contemporary armed conflicts and other situations of violence are posing new, complex challenges for international humanitarian law (IHL) and health care. Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and National Societies will play a key role in meeting these challenges — and they need better support and protection.

These issues, and others, will be addressed when more than 1,000 people from the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement gather in Geneva Switzerland in late November for the IFRC’s General Assembly, the Movement’s Council of Delegates and the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The Council of Delegates is expected to debate resolutions regarding a Movement position on nuclear weapons, cooperation with external partners and the creation of a guidance document for National Societies working in situations of conflict, among other issues.

When the Movement meets with governments during the 31st International Conference from 28 November to 1 December, it is expected to bring forward proposals to strengthen IHL, improve disaster response through better legislation, address barriers to health care and fortify local humanitarian action through National Societies and support for volunteers, among other topics.

Photo: Felipe Jacome

One for the road: a pledge for safety

Carrying stop signs, megaphones, banners and flyers, volunteers of the Timor-Leste Red Cross positioned themselves at strategic locations around the capital Dili to alert drivers and pedestrians of the importance of respecting the city’s new, well-marked crossings.

It’s just one of the many activities the National Society is engaged in to improve road safety in Timor-Leste, where the number of motor bikes and cars is growing rapidly, leading to an increasing number of road accidents — more than 2,500 in 2010. “Road safety is becoming more and more important in Timor-Leste,” said Cornelio de Deus Gomes, Timor-Leste Red Cross health coordinator.

The National Society is just one of many around the world ramping up activities as part of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020, created by the United Nations General Assembly to reduce road deaths.


Humanitarian funding under pressure

The Haiti earthquake, floods in Pakistan, inter-ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan, prolonged drought and violence in northern Mali and Niger, and conflict in Libya have contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of people urgently requiring help around the world in the last year.

At the same time, funding for humanitarian action is under significant pressure, according to ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger. “Several important donor states have been hit by the world economic crisis, and that is now having an effect on the financial resources available for humanitarian activities,” he said.

In 2010, the ICRC’s expenditures jumped to an all-time high of more than US$ 1.1 billion, according to the recently released Annual Report. The current financial situation has forced the ICRC to reduce its initial field budget for 2011 by US$ 95 million — a reduction of 7.6 per cent from the amount originally budgeted of US$ 1.3 billion.





Quote of note


““What’s hardest is that sometimes these children are dying of illnesses that are very easy to treat in normal conditions. Their parents tell us that they couldn’t travel because of the insecurity.”
Rachelle Cordes,
ICRC paediatric nurse at Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan.


Young reporters take to the field

The eight young journalists who won the ICRC’s Young Reporter Competition already had some interesting experiences under their belts when they applied to the contest. One 22-year-old reporter had written profiles of men and women in Nagorno Karabagh (southern Caucasus) who are still coping with the effects of the war 18 years ago. Another at 23 was the news editor for Liberia’s largest radio station. Another had written about victims of acid attacks in Pakistan.

After winning the competition, five of the young journalists were sent by the ICRC to countries affected by armed violence — Georgia, Lebanon, Liberia, Philippines or Senegal — where they covered local ICRC humanitarian projects. Two of the runners-up collaborated with the reporters in Liberia and Senegal, while the third covered an ICRC project in Pakistan. The photo left, taken as part of one of the finalist projects, shows Marietou Goudiaby who was badly burned when the bus she was riding in hit an anti-vehicle mine in the Casamance region of Senegal.

Rebuilding lives in Bangladesh

When Cyclone Aila hit Bangladesh in 2009, tidal surges of up to 6.5 metres flooded the fertile agricultural land in south-west Bangladesh.

When the waters receded, they left behind salt, ruining the land for agriculture. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, with the support of the IFRC, awarded cash grants to affected people, according to their losses and damage to their homes.

“With this money I started a poultry business,” said Hazrat Ali, who was a day labourer before the cyclone hit. “Today, I have repaid my loan in full and I am able to look after my family.”


Gaza at risk from water-borne disease

Over-population, over-consumption of freshwater sources and under-treatment of the wastewater are posing a serious threat to the environment and public health in the Gaza Strip.

With the inauguration in March of a wastewater treatment plant in the southern city of Rafah, the ICRC aims to provide a long-term solution to water shortages through better water management. “The wastewater treatment technology used here enables us to harness treated water as a resource for agriculture and to replenish the water table,” said Monther I. Shoblak, general director of the Coastal Municipal Water Utility.



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