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Movement condemns attacks in Afghanistan

Two separate events in Afghanistan recently highlighted the fact that health workers and relief workers still face significant dangers when carrying out medical work in this war-torn country.

On 16 April, two Afghanistan Red Crescent staff members were killed in a roadside attack in the Khanaqa district in northern Afghanistan, as their clearly marked Red Crescent mobile clinic was travelling to Shiberghan. Two other staff members were injured.

Sayeed Hazarat, 32, a vaccination worker, and Mohammad Najibullah, 45, the team’s driver, were providing medical assistance to people who live in remote areas with little access to health care.

One month later, on 29 May, ICRC staff member Abdul Bashir Khan, 50, was killed during an attack on ICRC offices in Jalalabad. Three other staff members were wounded. Bashir Khan had worked as an ICRC guard in Jalalabad since 2002 and was the father of eight children.

The attack was the first of its kind in Afghanistan against the ICRC. “We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms,” said Jacques de Maio, the ICRC’s head of operations for South Asia.

Bangladesh responds to building collapse

More than 3,000 people were working in an eight-storey building, which housed numerous garment factories, when it collapsed in Savar, an industrial suburb located on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka in April.

Volunteers and staff from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society rushed to the scene and established a mobile first-aid camp to assist the wounded. The volunteers worked alongside other first responders, cutting through piles of steel, iron and concrete to rescue people buried underneath.

Throughout the entire operation, 205 trained Red Crescent volunteers worked round the clock in two shifts. While some searched for survivors, others provided first aid, tried to reunite separated family members or helped with the management of dead bodies.


Photo: ©REUTERS/Khurshed Rinku

Health care under fire

There were at least 921 direct attacks on health-care personnel and facilities in 2012, as well as on wounded or sick patients, according to a recent ICRC report, Violent Incidents Affecting Health Care, published as part of the Movement’s Health Care in Danger campaign. Such attacks were at the heart of recent discussions in the Mexican city of Toluca, where the Mexican Red Cross, the ICRC, representatives of 19 National Societies and other ambulance-service providers called for greater protection and respect for emergency medical personnel. “The medical community alone cannot guarantee safe delivery of health care,” said Karl Mattli, head of the ICRC regional delegation for Mexico. “This responsibility lies in the hands of governments, influential groups and other members of civil society.”



Republic of Korea’s windmill of hope responds to social needs

A new Republic of Korea National Red Cross programme known as the Heemang Poongcha (‘windmill of hope’) initiative strives to raise the quality of life for vulnerable youth, seniors, multicultural families and migrants in the four interlinked areas of livelihoods, health, housing and education. One goal is to match 30,000 Red Cross volunteers to members of these vulnerable groups by 2016, so assistance can reach those in need more efficiently and effectively.

As part of this initiative, the Korean Red Cross has opened two medical centres in its hospitals in Seoul and Incheon, which focus on specialized treatment and financial support for vulnerable people. Multicultural families and migrants, in particular, often face linguistic and economic disadvantages when they seek medical treatment in the Republic of Korea.

Floods hit central Europe

As torrential rains ravaged large areas of central Europe, Red Cross societies in the region responded to some of the worst flooding in decades. At least ten people died in the Czech Republic, while thousands were evacuated from large swathes of Austria, the Czech Republic and south-eastern Germany, where the flood waters damaged infrastructure and caused severe disruption to essential services and transportation.


“You save one soul,
you see the
of one child, it
gives you
for months.”

Syrian Arab Red
Crescent volunteer,
quoted in the
New York Times,
3 June 2013.

IFRC pushes for healthcare access
An estimated 1 billion people still do not have the health services they need because the services are either unavailable or unaffordable, according to the World Health Organization. At the 66th World Health Assembly, held in May 2013, the IFRC called on governments, the private sector and civil society partners to work together to fund and promote volunteerism as an integral part of universal health care. Volunteers play an essential role in bridging the gap between communities and health services, especially in hard-to-reach and underserved populations, according to the IFRC. While governments are primarily responsible for universal health coverage, volunteers can step in when health systems lack adequate infrastructure or human resources.


Humanitarian index

3: Number of countries considered ‘endemic’ for polio in 2013 (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan) down from more than 125 in 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched.
57: Number of countries that fell below the critical threshold of 2.3 physicians, nurses and midwives per 1,000 population, considered generally necessary to achieve an acceptable level of coverage of essential health services.
223: Number of cases of wild polio virus reported globally in 2012, down from 350,000 in 1988, thanks to GPEI efforts.
800: Number of women who die each day during pregnancy and childbirth, mainly due to lack of access to proper health care.
1,250: Number of trees planted by youth as part of a project by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and students in 130 schools across the country to raise awareness about climate change.
700,000: Number of people in and around the Malian towns of Gao, Kidal, Mopti and Timbuktu who received food and other essential supplies from the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross in 2012.
1.12 million: The number of animals treated through the ICRC’s livestock vaccination programme in Mali during 2012.
1 billion: Number of people globally who do not have access to essential medicines.

Sources: World Health Organization, IFRC, ICRC.


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