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©Boris Heger / ICRC

Toghether again

On 19 August, an ICRC-chartered plane completed a series of trips transferring 19 unaccompanied children from Kinshasa to Goma and 28 from Goma to the capital. ICRC delegates then returned the children individually to their respective families residing in various provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most of these children, between 3 and 18 years of age, had been living apart from their families as a result of the succession of clashes occurring in the east of the country since 1996.

The reunification of families that have been split, which requires numerous representations and lengthy tracing operations on the part of the ICRC, is organized on a strictly voluntary basis. ICRC delegates first register the children and then locate their families. Next, they restore contact between the two through the Red Cross message network, which operates throughout the country and is run with the help of volunteers from the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Pan African Conference

The 6th Pan African Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was held from 8 to 13 September in Algiers. The African National Societies endorsed an Algiers Plan of Action, which builds on the commitments they made four years ago in Ouagadougou to scale up their work in the fields of HIV/AIDS, health and food security.

The plan of action sets a number of objectives, such as helping to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through education and fighting stigma; supporting government efforts to increase access to antiretroviral treatment; providing psychosocial support to orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS; and ensuring food security and reducing illness and mortality in vulnerable populations. The document specifically calls on National Societies to make better use of their network of volunteers and to establish and strengthen strategic partnerships with governments, UN agencies, the private sector and other civil society actors.

The conference, whose final day was attended by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, under whose patronage the event was being held, agreed that the next Pan African conference would take place in South Africa.


A warrior without weapons

Dr Marcel Junod was born 100 years ago in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He was in his early 30s when in 1935, he was asked by the ICRC to go to Ethiopia where the Abyssinian-Italian war was raging. From 1936, he became head of delegation in Spain, torn by civil war. During the Second World War, Marcel Junod travelled all over Europe, from Berlin to occupied Poland, then to France and the Balkans where he organized a large-scale relief operation in occupied Greece, which was suffering severe famine.

It was in Japan in 1945 that Dr Junod was to be put to the hardest test of all. At 08.45 on 6 August 1945, the city of Hiroshima was obliterated by an atomic bomb. Marcel Junod got there on 8 September, the first foreign doctor on the spot. He brought with him 15 tonnes of medical supplies that he had managed to mobilize through his contacts with the allied forces. For four days he visited hospitals, finding out what had happened, seeing things that went well beyond the scope of human imagination.

After the war, he wrote a book Warrior without Weapons (original French title, Le
Troisième Combattant ), which has since been translated into a dozen languages. In
1959, Marcel Junod was elected vice president of the ICRC. On 16 June 1961 he died of a heart attack while bringing a patient round from anaesthesia. He died as he had lived, devoted to medical work and in the service of others.

©Marko Kokic /
International Federation

A season to remember

Jeanne, Ivan, Charles and Frances will be remembered in the Caribbean as the most intense crop of hurricanes the region has experienced in over a decade. The International Federation launched appeals totalling US$ 8.2 million for victims of the 2004 hurricane season. Throughout the region, the Red Cross responded immediately to the floods, with volunteers participating in rescue operations, and distributing food, water and emergency stocks of relief items.

Few countries were spared. In the Haitian city of Gonaïves, already devastated by violent clashes earlier this year, some 1,600 people died from flooding linked to Tropical Storm Jeanne. The International Federation and the National Societies of Canada, France, Spain and Switzerland sent in a total of seven cargo flights filled with desperately needed relief items, such as plastic sheeting, blankets, food, hygiene articles, kitchen sets and cooking stoves.

Given the amount of relief that arrived in Haiti, the International Federation also set up a logistics emergency response unit, jointly managed by the French and Spanish Red Cross, to facilitate the reception, storage and distribution of relief items.

Hurricane Ivan caused widespread devastation in Grenada, Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands. In Grenada alone, Hurricane Ivan wiped out 90 per cent of the country’s infrastructure, costing some US$ 7 billion, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency. That’s a huge sum for an island with a US$ 500 million-a-year economy. And in Cuba, Hurricane Ivan was the most intense hurricane to have struck the island in the last 50 years.

In the United States, authorities estimate that Florida and other south-eastern states suffered some US$ 12 billion in damages. Millions of people were without electricity for over a month.

And the future is worrisome. Scientists say the Atlantic has settled into a pattern of temperatures and air patterns that is likely to sustain hyperactive hurricane seasons for a decade or two.


Exploring humanitarianlaw

Forty secondary schools in Poland are introducing the Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) programme in the curricula. Following approval by the Polish Ministry of Education and Sport, related to the European Union pledge made during the International Conference in December 2003, EHL is now included in courses on civic education and history for 16 to19-year-old students.

The Polish Red Cross is helping to introduce EHL in schools and manages this year’s pilot project. The ICRC provides technical and financial support. The Polish Red Cross hopes that by the end of 2006, EHL will be part of the curriculum in 800 secondary schools. Poland has joined Lithuania and Croatia as pioneers in the field of international humanitarian law education for young people in eastern Europe. In addition, the Hungarian, Latvian, Romanian, Slovenian and Slovakian ministries of education have committed to developing EHL programmes.


The International Federation’s future

In a dynamic and changing world, where new humanitarian challenges arise constantly, how can the International Federation remain responsive, flexible and effective both today and in the decades to come?

This is the underlying question posed by the “Federation of the Future” programme. This two-year consultation process, agreed to at the last General Assembly, is focusing on global changes and trends that impact on people’s needs and vulnerability and affect the work of the Red Cross, Red Crescent. It subsequently examines ways that the International Federation can adapt the organization to meet the changing needs of its membership and the vulnerable people it serves.

To date, a discussion paper has been produced following numerous consultations with National Societies (available on FedNet). This paper will help orient discussions towards the end goal, which is to make a series of recommendations to the 2005 General Assembly on how to lead the International Federation forward to the end of the decade and beyond.

Your opinions count! If you have ideas and suggestions on how the International Federation can maximize its potential as a global humanitarian organization, please let panel members know. Comments can be sent by e-mail to

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