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It was only five years ago that the “iron curtain” fell. The economic, social and political structures in Russian society began to change by fits and starts and the long journey from a centrally led economy to a market one began. This has been and still is an extremely painful process. New social phenomena such as homelessness, unemployment and poverty among the elderly and large families and the problem of displaced people, migrants and refugees, have become unfortunate facts of life in the Russian Federation.

With its enormous potential of 92 regional and 3,500 local committees, the Russian Red Cross is currently the biggest humanitarian organisation in Russia, offering as much assistance as possible to all vulnerable groups within Russian society. However, due to a shortage of funding and qualified staff, the Russian Red Cross is not able to meet the overwhelming demands of a society in the midst of total transition.

The Netherlands Red Cross feels it is only natural that it should support the Russian Red Cross in its efforts. Nationally, as well as internationally, the Netherlands Red Cross is well prepared for the alleviation of suffering and provision of care for the most vulnerable, with goods, money and professionally trained people.

For the past three years, the Netherlands Red Cross and the Russian Red Cross have carried out activities together for approximately 6.5 million people in 53 regions of the Russian Federation. One should bear in mind that each region on its own is much bigger than the entire country of the Netherlands! The Netherlands Red Cross has provided humanitarian aid worth US$12 million. This aid consists mainly of medicines, medical supplies and food on the one hand, and structural projects for the homeless, the elderly, refugees, migrants and people with little or no income on the other.

An example of an inspiring project is the shelter for homeless children which the two National Societies have set up together – a success which will lead to a second shelter in the near future.

The close cooperation between the Netherlands Red Cross and the Russian Red Cross contributes in some small way to the slow but sure improvement in the circumstances of those who are most vulnerable in the Russian Federation today. For our organisation this is but a noble aim, but for those in need of help this may mean the difference between life and death.

Willem H. Cense, MD
General Director
The Netherlands Red Cross

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