REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach, Courtesy
Marid's day of tragedy
On 11 March, a series of explosions occurred
during early morning rush hour in three different train stations
in the Spanish capital Madrid, leaving almost 200 people dead
and over 1,400 injured. Volunteers and staff from the Spanish
Red Cross worked tirelessly to help those affected.
The Spanish Red Cross transported the injured to hospitals
and deployed five mobile blood collection units in response
to an appeal for blood donors. First aid kits, body bags,
stretchers, blankets and other relief items were made available
from Red Cross stocks.
Around 900 Red Cross volunteers provided medical care, psychological
support and answered calls at a tracing centre. The Red Cross's
coordination centre received more than 8,000 calls seeking
information on relatives and offering help or blood donations.
The International Federation and its member National Societies
showed their solidarity with the Spanish Red Cross. Juan Manuel
Suárez del Toro, International Federation and Spanish
Red Cross president, welcomed all the expressions of comfort
and sympathy that had been received from around the world
in response to this terrible tragedy.
at the instigation of the ICRC, the Geneva Humanitarian
Forum (GHF) is an association whose keystone is an Internet
portal, in English, open to all.
"Geneva is home to the largest concentration of humanitarians
in the world. But do they really interact and work together
on issues of common concern to the humanitarian community?
Similarly, do the humanitarians and the academics, who show
a growing interest in humanitarian affairs, put their resources
in common to tackle some of the big issues of our time? Not
often enough! The ambition of the GHF is to help Geneva pull
together all these talents in order to become the centre of
excellence in humanitarian affairs," says the ICRC's
Jean-Michel Monod, president of the GHF. The GHF was established
in July 2003 with the support of the ICRC, the Geneva International
Academic Network (GIAN), the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and is partly financed
by the Swiss Confederation. In February, a first electronic
conference took place on the theme of water and conflicts.
For more information about the services provided by GHF,
AIDS prevention in Myanmar
The life of a long-distance truck or bus
driver can be a lonely one. Myanmar drivers can end up in
the middle of the night at some junction on the border with
Thailand or China, with hours to kill until their vehicle
is serviced or until it's time for their next run. With cheap
sex on offer nearby, it's no wonder the men are in one of
the high-risk groups for HIV/AIDS. "Drivers are working
away from home. Many have multiple sex partners and they're
unlikely to use condoms," says Tun Aung Shwe of the Myanmar
Red Cross Society, explaining why the organization chose to
work with drivers.
It's hard to know how many people in Myanmar are HIV-positive.
The government says the number is 177,000, but UNICEF estimates
that the figure is around half a million.
To motivate bus and truck drivers to keep safe, the Red Cross
relies on peer group pressure. The organization trains drivers
and people they work closely with, such as ticket sellers,
to lead small group discussions with their colleagues about
To date, the Red Cross has reached 2,400 out of an estimated
3,400 drivers, aged between 25 and 55, at the bus and truck
terminals in the capital, Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon.
In June 2003, the Red Cross expanded the HIV/AIDS peer education
programme to bus and truck terminals in remote regions and
is also taking it to jail wardens, trainee police officers
and civil servants in Yangon.
the sting of measles
Did you know that there are African killer
bees in Texas, USA? The HoneyKids, along with their organizer
(and uncle) Virgil Grandfield, do. The HoneyKids live in the
Texas hill country near San Antonio and they raise and breed
honeybees, of which about half are killer bees. Grandfield
divides his time between working as an overseas delegate for
the Canadian Red Cross, and living in Texas. During his time
in Texas, he also organizes the HoneyKids, and has recently
involved them with fund-raising for a measles initiative.
They sell jars of honey and donate half of the proceeds to
the measles initiative that helps vaccinate African children
The motto on their honey jars is, Gloria in tenui, a phrase
from the Roman poet Virgil's Georgics on the art of beekeeping,
which means "glory in the little things". This group
is by no means doing something little; in two months they
have raised almost US$1,000 for the measles initiative, which
is enough money to vaccinate 1,000 children. Grandfield recalls
their first celebration after their first sale in September
2003 when they "shouted their heads off, 'We saved over
200 kids! Over 200 kids!'" That day the HoneyKids raised
over US$200 for the measles initiative.
Gassmann / ICRC
for children in war
Initiated in 1997, the ICRC and Union of
European Football Associations (UEFA) partnership is taking
a majorstep forward by associating the ICRC's children in
war initiative with the European championship tournament,
EURO 2004, in Portugal. Some 16 national teams are involved
in this prestigious football competition. A cumulative audience
of 7 billion people are expected to watch the 31 matches from
12 June to 4 July 2004. This unique opportunity allows the
ICRC to highlight the need to protect children living in conflict
areas. The focus will be on reuniting children with their
families, assisting them in their physical and psychological
recovery, meeting their basic needs, and campaigning against
the use of child soldiers.
Pierluigi Collina — one of football's leading referees
— was appointed last November. Three more international
referees followed his lead — Anders Fisk (Sweden), Markus
Merk (Germany) and Lubos Michel (Slovakia). Referees play
an essential role in ensuring that players on the field respect
the rules of the game. Likewise, the ICRC strives to ensure
that parties to a conflict respect the rules of war, partly
to limit the impact of conflict on children. The pool of referees
will personify respect for the rules of football, providing
a powerful international channel for this vital humanitarian
message throughout the competition. The UEFA/ICRC campaign
to protect children in war is gaining momentum across Europe.
National Red Cross Societies whose countries have qualified
are joining the campaign. These include Britain, Denmark,
Sweden and, of course, Portugal. Initially, solidarity centred
on a football event. Now solidarity is taking on a new dimension
as other members of the Red Cross "family" - like
the Icelandic Red Cross - rallies to the cause, even though
they did not qualify for EURO 2004.
Caring for one's own
A fund to address the unprecedented challenge
that HIV/AIDS is posing to the work of the Red Cross Red Crescent
has been launched by the International Federation and represents
another step forward in the organization's efforts to support
its volunteers and staff living with AIDS.
The Masambo Fund will provide access to antiretroviral therapy
to Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and staff, many of whom
are working on the HIV/AIDS front line, but are dying through
lack of treatment. "We estimate that there must be at
least 200,000 people in our organization who are living with
HIV/AIDS. This poses an enormous challenge — not only
to our ability to carry out our humanitarian mandate, but
also to the survival of our organization," said Razia
Essack-Kauaria, International Federation Governing Board member
and secretary general of the Namibian Red Cross. "This
fund is an emergency measure for us until global efforts to
increase access to treatment are truly up and running. We
simply cannot afford to lose any more of our people,"
The fund is named after a long-serving staff member of the
Zimbabwe Red Cross's home-based care programme which provides
support to families living with HIV/AIDS. Masambo died in
late 2001 but it was her story, presented to the International
Federation's General Assembly shortly afterwards, that led
to the decision to create such a fund.
It is hoped that with a minimum of contributions, at least
300 people will be helped to receive treatment initially.
Each person will be guaranteed five years of drug supplies
with priority given to people in countries where there is
no other funding option.
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