Count to the rescue
by Virginie Miranda
In the Democratic Republic of the
Congo and elsewhere, humanitarian workers risk their lives
on a daily basis. It was this self-sacrifice that a generous
benefactor, Count Maurice de Madre, sought to reward.
Count Maurice de Madre
In the heart of the tropical forest, more than 400 kilometres
from the city of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC), the town of Opala is witnessing an unusual activity
for the beginning of this rainy season. A canoe has just drawn
up alongside the banks of the Lomami River. It is loaded with
bicycles, petrol cans and four tonnes of medicines —
a precious cargo destined for the inhabitants of the remote
regions of the Ikela territory (Equateur province), east of
the former front line. Following the 2002 peace accords, the
soldiers have left the forest, making way for the police force,
but the pre-war supply network is still disrupted and the
roads reduced to muddy paths.
In fact, the whole region has been cut off. In such a context,
you need to be inventive and use any means available to distribute
humanitarian assistance. The motorbike is a must to transport
vaccines. Other medicines are delivered by bicycle, two days
over impassable roads, the only way to reach the six health
centres in need of medical assistance.
"To be a volunteer nowadays is to knowingly and willingly
take risks," emphasizes Jacques Moreillon, president
of the French Fund Maurice de Madre (FFMM). "In anarchic
conflicts, where confusion between combatants and civilians
reigns, the task of volunteers has become more complicated.
They have to be very familiar with their environment without
playing into the hands of one or other of the parties."
Sadly, Henry Dunant's followers can also become victims themselves.
It is for their benefit that the FFMM was established. "Who
deserves it more than those who have risked their lives in
the service of the Red Cross and Red Crescent?" continues
In 1999, in the Uvira region in central DRC, six Red Cross
first-aid workers were shot dead. These men and women left
behind partners and children, completely destitute. The same
year, Akhmed and a colleague were killed in Chechnya when
their vehicle, clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem, came
under attack. Akhmed's widow, who was pregnant at the time
of the incident, had four other children in her care.
Thanks to the generosity of Count Maurice de Madre, these
people have not been forgotten. In May 2002, Akhmed's widow
was given a grant to find a new place to live after her home
was destroyed during military operations, as well as money
to buy two cows to help feed her children. The families of
the Uvira volunteers received financial assistance for their
orphaned children's schooling. It is a small helping hand
such as this that can change lives.
Volunteers and staff regularly put their lives in danger as
they travel to remote areas in places like the Democratic
Republic of the Congo.
©Virginie Miranda / ICRC
As a close friend of the ICRC and its then president, Paul
Ruegger, Count de Madre became familiar with the work of the
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Impressed
by the bravery and courage of its volunteers, he bequeathed
a part of his fortune, 700,000 Swiss francs, to the ICRC,
as well as a mansion on the shores of Lake Geneva to serve
as a convalescence and rest home for humanitarian workers
returning from mission. However, the upkeep of the mansion
rapidly became too costly. In 1973, three years after the
Count's death, the decision was taken, with his family's consent,
to sell the villa. The following year, the FFMM was created.
The board of the FFMM, comprising members of the Count's
family, a Swiss lawyer and representatives of the International
Federation and ICRC, was anxious that any adaptation of the
rules governing the conditions for awarding grants should
be in the spirit of Maurice de Madre's last wishes. These
wishes are set out in Article 2 of the FFMM regulations, whereby
the fund comes to the aid of "permanent or temporary
staff of the components of the Movement, such as first-aid
workers, delegates or nurses who, in the course of their work
or during war operations or natural disasters, have suffered
injury and have thereby found themselves in straitened circumstances
or in reduced health." In cases where people have lost
their lives and left families in need behind, the fund can
also assist close relatives.
the requests is a delicate exercise. Gathering details of
volunteers' accidents or illnesses and the consequences for
their loved ones can prove to be a lengthy and difficult process.
In such cases, the staff of ICRC or International Federation
delegations can act as vital intermediaries for the FFMM secretariat.
They can make contact with the families and supply the necessary
details for the files, enabling the secretariat to check that
the conditions for allocating a grant are fulfilled. They
can also help to assess needs based on the geographic context
and family situation and, where appropriate, suggest the best
form of payment.
The challenge for the fund's manager, Jacqueline Hugentobler,
is to ensure that grants are distributed in a fair and consistent
manner. For resources are not bottomless. "The grants
made by the FFMM can very often make a difference at the individual
level," adds Jacques Moreillon. "This fund is at
the heart of the Movement's mandate: to assist the most vulnerable.
The problem is that it is not replenished. We are therefore
limited and cannot pay out more than the income generated
from the base capital."
Since its creation, the FFMM has given out more than 2 million
Swiss francs worldwide and has built up a capital of 4 million
thanks to its strict management. In 2003, 48 files involving
more than 100 individual cases were handled, nine of which
were concluded favourably. The FFMM has received 24 new requests
from components of the Movement in Afghanistan, Bangladesh,
Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, Liberia,
Nepal, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda
and Ukraine. Some National Societies, however, have never
applied for benefits. The FFMM exists and the members of the
board encourage National Societies to make use of it. These
grants enable families who have endured terrible ordeals to
look forward to a better future.
Virginie Miranda is responsible for audiovisual production
at the ICRC in Geneva.
How to apply to the French Fund Maurice de Madre
The FFMM grants financial assistance in the event of an accident
or illness affecting staff of the Movement who are not otherwise
covered by social welfare benefits. The injury or illness
must be related to their work in the service of the Movement.
The grant can fund medical expenses, physical rehabilitation
or professional reintegration. In the case of the death of
the staff member while carrying out humanitarian tasks, the
FFMM can award financial or material assistance to the family
of the deceased. Application forms for benefits can be downloaded
from the web site, www.icrc.org,
and returned to the FFMM secretariat through an ICRC or International
Federation delegation. For more information,
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +41 22 730 26 96.
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