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Headed for disaster

Just around sunset, on 18 October 1998, a train approaching Kafr El Dawar station, south of Alexandria, was to be diverted onto a storage track to allow the French express to Cairo to pass. It derailed and entered the station at high speed smashing everything in its path. Consequently 46 people died and 77 were wounded, among whom 42 who lost their limbs.

The Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) branches in Beheira and Alexandria immediately went into action. The relief committee and youth volunteers were called into action, a 24-hour emergency response centre was set up, and a working group was formed to visit families of the victims.

Suzan Moubarak, president of the ERC, visited the wounded in several hospitals in Alexandria, Kafr El Dawar and Beheira, met with ERC officials and discussed medical and social care for the families of the dead and wounded. Following a needs assessment, the ERC provided wheelchairs for the wounded and financial assistance to the most vulnerable families. Action was also taken to find employment opportunities, in coordination with governmental and other non-governmental organizations, to the families who lost the breadwinner in this tragedy.

Reaching out across the sea

A small two-room apartment on the eighth floor of an office building in down-town Macau is bringing Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) services direct to an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 overseas migrants. It is the first of what the PNRC hopes will be several such offices offering much-needed psychosocial services to overseas Filipino workers around Asia and the Middle East.

“We are here to help,” Leonor Ines Luciano, chairwoman of the board of governors of the PNRC, told a group of Filipino migrants, who had gathered in a Macau school to hear about the project. “The Red Cross is a sharing organization.”

Many of the Macau Filipinos live and work in the hotel district, the women as maids and the men as security guards. The PNRC office gives them a friendly face to turn to in case of problems.

A recent study commissioned by the Federation’s regional delegation in Kuala Lumpur concluded that while migration tends to benefit both host and home country as well as the migrants themselves, it also leaves individual overseas workers exposed to abuse and mistreatment.

Often, they end up in the twilight zone of semi-legality because of documentation problems that may stem from inability to get a birth certificate or other papers from home. For this reason, it is expected that much of the work of the Philippine Red Cross Liaison Center in Macau will be to connect the migrants with authorities and family in the home country.


The emergency medical and ambulance services (EMS) of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) is extending its scope of activities. Following the donation of five ambulances by the ICRC, the European Community Humanitarian Office and the the city of Düsseldorf (Germany) last November, the EMS is now functioning in Gaza, in addition to its current programmes in the West Bank.

A training centre was set up in Khan Younis, several training courses for emergency medical technicians (EMT) and a modern radio communication network have been implemented.

Today, the 45 ambulances respond to an average of more than 2,000 calls each month, providing assistance to victims of traffic accidents, heart attacks, strokes, work accidents, burns, poisonings and birth delivery cases as well as those injured in clashes.


The newly revamped Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva is now operational. Martin Griffiths has been appointed executive director of the centre and is responsible for daily management. An old hand at humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths will have to implement two essential objectives: to develop a dialogue in which all players concerned by humanitarian issues can exchange experiences around informal round tables and to promote sustainable solutions to humanitarian problems.

A new chapter

The ICRC delegation and the Jordanian Red Crescent, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, have introduced a chapter on the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the history textbook of the Tawjihi class –Tawjihi is the senior grade in secondary education.
The information about the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement covers the last chapter of the textbook called “Modern Arab and World History”, which includes basic historical background information on the modern world, Arabs under colonialism, the post-independence Arab world, the establishment of Jordan, democratic institutions in Jordan, modern world ideologies, contemporary economic and military pacts and coalitions, international and regional organizations, and independent humanitarian organizations.

Currently a total of 34,000 students are enrolled in the
Tawjihi class.

Books of the world – a world of books

For five years now, the Geneva branch of the Swiss Red Cross has been carrying out an original experiment. It has set up an intercultural library for the many foreigners, in particular refugees, living in Geneva. The project aims to facilitate integration and mutual acceptance among people of different cultures in the region. Divided between two centres, the intercultural library boasts some 10,000 books in 115 languages. Most of the books are either gifts from private individuals or donated by publishing companies or the National Library. So why not also look to National Societies as a potential source of material? “That is one avenue that we are currently exploring,” says Karin Ducret, who is in charge of the library.

50 banners to depict 50 years of Geneva Conventions

The Geneva Conventions, which stipulate rules and regulations in warfare, were signed in Geneva on 12 August 1949. Exactly 50 years later, the ICRC plans to bring together on 12 August 1999 a group of internationally renowned figures, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to issue a solemn appeal. This appeal is to reflect the concerns and expectations of thousands of men and women who have suffered the tragedy of war.

That same day, an exhibition of 50 large banners, created by the Geneva-based artist Françoise Bridel, will be inaugurated. These banners depict excerpts from the Geneva Conventions or quotes from men and women affected by war against a backdrop of confronting images.

The 50 banners will be suspended on walls of various buildings in the centre of Geneva and its surrounding areas. In addition, more than one hundred streamers will be displayed in Geneva’s principal streets and public squares. The banners and streamers will be on exhibition for almost three months until 6 November 1999, the end of the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Tackling violence head-on

In keeping with its ideal of stopping hostility of every kind, the French Red Cross has joined the "Group of Six". This group brings together six associations that have resolved to fight violence in all its guises: not only well-publicized urban violence, but also violence hidden behind closed doors in families and institutions.

This alliance of six large associations, the Salvation Army, ATD Quart-Monde, the French Red Cross, Emmaus France, Secours Catholique and Secours Populaire Français, has set itself the goal of raising public awareness of the need to find long-term solutions to violence. To launch the initiative, the "Group of Six" designated 1 and 2 October 1999 as "days of non-violence". These two days will provide an occasion for the media, families, schools and businesses to celebrate and reflect on ways to mobilize against violence.

Thanks to this coalition, study groups have been created and a huge network activated, greatly increasing the impact of each association's actions, in particular those of the French Red Cross's urban moderators, who are working to combat inner-city violence by establishing close relationships with young people.

Networking relatives

For the past year, the Somali Red Crescent (SRCS) together with the ICRC have restored links between family members separated by the ongoing conflict in Somalia.
Family messages are collected or distributed in urban areas home to large numbers of internally displaced people such as Hargeisa, Mogadishu and Kismayo. Thousands more are exchanged with the help of other National Societies, such as the Kenya Red Cross, which transfer messages from Somali refugees in camps to relatives across the border. Tracing requests are also handled with the support of the the BBC Somali service, whose regular braodcasts of messages have enabled many Somali to locate relatives successfully. Overall, 29,000 family messages were exchanged last year.

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