A formidable challenge (cont.)
The disabled, the mentally handicapped, orphans, illegal migrants, refugees
and asylum seekers, battered women, single mothers, the elderly... The list of
people that depend on some kind of community or social service is long indeed.
The problem of elderly people living alone who just need human contact is now a
problem not only in the highly commercialized world but also in more traditional
societies such as those in Asia and the Middle East. People are living longer,
but this brings with it a new set of needs. With shrinking health and welfare
budgets everywhere, these are the people who are hit the hardest and in some
countries fall outside the safety net altogether.
The millions of children growing up on the streets are perhaps the
most glaring symptom of society's ills. Regarded as . and treated - little better
than vermin, deprived of their childhood and education, they are prey to all
manner of physical and sexual abuse, and drug dependency and HIV/AIDS are rife
Rising to the challenge
For the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent the
scenario described above makes for a daunting agenda. But all is not doom and
gloom. Humans are capable of acts of terrible cruelty and wanton destruction,
but they also have a great capacity for kindness and compassion. Humanitarianism
is the counterbalance to man's inhumanity to man, and there are tools for
meeting some of the challenges involved, on condition there is a strong enough
commitment to use them.
With both an international structure and a local grassroots presence through
its National Societies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is ideally
placed to take the lead in this area. By analysing and monitoring the factors
that contribute to conflicts and disasters, it can look for ways to help prevent
such crises and find better and more effective ways of responding to them.
The Conference is one way in which it will seek to do
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