crisis in Ethiopia
Food production in Ethiopia is reported to be 20 per
cent lower than the national average of the past five years,
and 90 per cent lower than 2001 in the worst-hit lowland regions.
Acute food shortages are expected to peak between the end
of the dry season in March and the first harvest of 2003 in
July. The food crisis is due to the combined effects of poverty,
severe drought and ongoing armed violence. The ICRC is extending
its urgent preventive action in Ethiopia to assist the most
vulnerable people. The action is targeting to assist up to
800,000 people and is being carried out in close coordination
with other national and international humanitarian organizations,
the Federation, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), the
United Nations and its specialized agencies, in particular
the World Food Programme, non-governmental organizations active
in the country and the Ethiopian government's Disaster Preparedness
and Prevention Commission.
Central African Republic: Rapid Red Cross response
Within days of the latest attempt to overthrow the
government in the Central African Republic on 25 October 2002,
the ICRC and the national Red Cross mobilized their joint
forces to come to the aid of the victims of the tensions.
With ICRC support, the management of the National Society
trained several groups of volunteers to carry out the most
urgent tasks. One of these required the exhumation and reburial
of some 20 bodies that had been hastily buried and were at
risk of polluting drinking water sources. As a preventive
measure, the Red Cross volunteers also set about cleaning
and disinfecting more than 200 wells. Meanwhile, other volunteers
assessed the needs of people whose homes had been looted or
damaged by the fighting, as well as those of people who had
fled to safer districts of the capital Bangui. More than 4,000
people were provided with blankets, buckets, soap and plastic
An African safe haven
Since 1996, the Tanzanian Red Cross, with support
from the Federation, provides health services, water and sanitation
to more than half a million refugees living in 14 different
camps in Tanzania.
Tanzania has a proud history of hosting refugees. While most
of the eight neighbouring countries have experienced civil
war, Tanzania has been a haven of relative peace and political
At the same time Tanzania is one of the poorest countries
in the world, with half of the population living below the
poverty line. The presence of some 670,000 refugees has become
an immense burden, especially in the Kigoma area, where they
make up one-third of the population.
"In Europe people are refusing to take refugees, because
they think refugees are a big burden. Yes they are, but still
we have an obligation to receive them. And even if we are
not too well off ourselves, Tanzania has done that so far.
But we definitely need support from outside," explains
Tanzanian Red Cross secretary general Adam Kimbisa.
When the Federation unveiled its annual appeal for 2003,
Tanzania was the African country earmarked to receive the
biggest single support of US$ 4.2 million, much of it destined
to help refugees.
The Dominican and the Haitian Red Cross are reaching
across their common border to bring assistance to the victims
of natural disasters.
At the end of last year, a team from the Haitian Red Cross
arrived in Santo Domingo, the capital of the neighbouring
Dominican Republic, to procure kitchen sets and other relief
supplies for the victims of floods and landslides in south-western
Haiti. With funds raised from donors locally, the Haitian
team was able to obtain the needed goods, assisted in the
procurement process by the Dominican Red Cross.
This is the latest in a growing number of initiatives strengthening
the cooperation between these two National Societies, whose
countries share the island of Hispaniola in the north-western
Caribbean. The two countries, apart from their shared geographical
location, are exposed to a common set of challenges and problems
a spiralling rate of HIV/AIDS infection (Haiti being
the worst-affected country in the Caribbean), areas of entrenched
poverty, and exposure to recurring natural disasters such
as the annual hurricane season. In both 2001 and 2002, the
southern districts of Haiti were badly affected by tropical
storms and hurricanes, and the recent visit to Santo Domingo
by the Haitian team was part of the response to these disasters.
Lifeline in Somalia
Life expectancy in Somalia is 47 years; every day
45 Somali women die as a result of complications during pregnancy
or childbirth; only one in ten infants is fully immunized
against all major diseases; nearly 15,000 new tuberculosis
cases are registered every year.
These are figures one might expect from a country ravaged
by over a decade of war. But they would probably be even worse
if it were not for a nationwide network of 49 Red Crescent
clinics, which represent the only reliable source of basic
health care for thousands of Somalis.
"In a country without a health infrastructure and with
the worst health indicators in the world, the work of the
Somali Red Crescent is invaluable, as it serves nearly one
million beneficiaries every year," said Ahmed Gizo, head
of the Federation delegation in Somalia.
Gizo was speaking during a meeting in Nairobi held under
the auspices of the Somali Red Crescent, the Federation and
the World Bank on Community Health Services in Somalia.
The meeting, the first of its kind, was attended by United
Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and members
of the diplomatic community.
It is being seen as an important step towards building closer
partnerships for the creation of a coherent and sustainable
health system in Somalia. "Without an appropriate and
adequate public health network, health conditions will remain
appalling, and may even deteriorate as unsustainable, externally
driven health programmes are abandoned or closed," warned
Nur Hassan Hussein, Secretary General of the Somali Red Crescent
in first aid
The British Red Cross is working towards having the
widest and largest reach in first-aid education in the United
Kingdom by 2006. An estimated 40 per cent of first-aid education
will be delivered through community development models.
Community development involves targeting individuals and
communities to receive first-aid education on the basis of
how vulnerable and excluded they are. Those vulnerable and
excluded communities for example, groups with special needs
and ethnic communities are often more susceptible due to
their circumstances and ones where accidents occur more often.
This approach to first-aid education will typically involve
identifying a target group, developing pilot activity, and
following it with a rollout of learning to other areas with
similar needs. For example, the British Red Cross pilot training
programmes to promote first aid for young people with special
needs have already been set up. Seven pilot sites have been
secured, including one in Leicester with a special needs youth
group, and one in Edinburgh with a school for students with
hearing impairments; two others in Lanarkshire and Northern
Ireland will follow.
Community first aid with ethnic groups will help reduce accidents,
disease and death; reduce exclusion and address health inequalities;
assist communities to build sustainable capacity, and will
help raise awareness of the community's vulnerability.
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