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Hardship in Iraq

The ICRC’s difficult mission in Iraq suffered a terrible setback with the murder of an Iraqi staff member on 13 January. It has not yet been decided how this tragedy will affect the ICRC’s way of working in Iraq. The ICRC was already operating with stringent security measures, basing its delegation and international staff in neighbouring Jordan.

Despite these constraints and widespread and persistent violence, the ICRC continued to work in Iraq throughout 2004. Last year, ICRC delegates visited more than 3,200 detainees held by multinational forces and the Iraqi authorities in the centre and south of the country, making it possible to exchange more than 23,600 Red Cross messages between them and their families. The ICRC also provided drugs and medical materials to some of the hospitals treating people wounded during the hostilities. In addition, the rehabilitation of ten hospitals and 13 health centres was completed in 2004.

The ICRC provided food and other relief for thousands of people who had to flee their homes in Fallujah, Najaf and other cities because of the fighting, mostly in close cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of litres of drinking water were distributed to parts of Baghdad and hospitals in Basrah on a daily basis.

 

© ENZO BONDIONI / ICRC


Ten years at school

Since the beginning of the 1994-95 school year, the ICRC has initiated and developed educational programmes to introduce young people in the Commonwealth of Independent States to international humanitarian law (IHL). These programmes have been gradually integrated into the teaching of a range of subjects from literature to social sciences. Through them, schoolchildren from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan have learned about Henry Dunant, the history of the Movement, the emblem and the basics of IHL.

Each national programme draws inspiration from its particular cultural and linguistic environment. It explores the social references specific to young learners in order to stimulate, through an interactive methodology, the universal reflexes of tolerance and humanity.

In the Cheliabinsk region of Russia, for example, the project — run jointly by the ICRC, the Russian Red Cross and the Ministry of Education — comes in a variety of forms throughout schooling: during four years of Russian and foreign literature and three years of social sciences.

In 2004, the school year got off to a cultural start with an exhibition at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow of children’s drawings depicting armed conflict. The programme in Russia continues to evolve, with the use of more than 8 million manuals and teacher’s handbooks published since its creation ten years ago.

 

© ICRC


Public health history in Togo

The Togo Red Cross Society, through its network of 7,400 volunteers, was a key player in an integrated national health campaign to provide the country’s 900,000 children under the age of 5 with protection from four serious diseases.

Working in 12 districts, Red Cross volunteers did door-to-door and community social mobilization campaigns, informing people about the importance of protecting their children, as well as the location of the vaccination and distribution centres. On vaccination day, a Ministry of Health worker gave each child an oral vaccine against polio and a de-worming tablet called Mebendazole, together with an injection of a measles vaccine. Finally, each child received an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN).

Never before have so many public health initiatives been integrated on such a scale. Of particular importance is the unprecedented distribution of 900,000 ITNs — one for every child under 5, who by simply sleeping under one will be protected from malaria.

Malaria kills about a million children in sub-Saharan Africa each year and costs African countries US$ 12 billion to treat. In many of the countries whose health-care systems are already struggling, malaria constitutes a major burden sapping limited resources.

In Togo, about 60 per cent of hospital admissions are due to malaria and over 80 per cent of the cases are young children.

The success of the campaign will mean that in future the paediatric hospital wards will be far less burdened by cases of malaria and measles. More beds will be available to address other major health issues facing Togo such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

In addition, volunteers spoke with individual community leaders in an effort to get them on board.

Over the next few months, an extensive follow-up — measuring coverage, its impact on disease, cost effectiveness and the impact of the social mobilization campaign — will be done.

Togo Red Cross volunteers will be visiting every home on a monthly basis to make the evaluation and advise families on the proper use of the bed net. In those places where there is new person at risk, such as a pregnant woman, newborn child or a new immigrant with children, Red Cross volunteers will work to help them get vaccinations and a free bed net.

Next year a similar campaign is envisioned in Equatorial Guinea, Niger and areas of southern Chad at risk of malaria.

 

© MARKO KOKIC / INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION

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