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Dafur’s tragedy continues

Security remains highly volatile in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. In May, two members of the Sudanese Red Crescent were killed by unidentified individuals who fired at their ambulance in the area of Kassala, east of Khartoum.

In early April, an ICRC field surgical unit — a fast-response mobile clinic providing surgical care for war-wounded patients in difficult-to-reach areas depending on security conditions — started its operations in Darfur. The unit’s first test was in Dar es Salam, south of Al Fashir in northern Darfur, where a four-member team carried out 36 surgical operations and assisted 41 out-patients in eight days. The ICRC is also supporting polio eradication. Since the beginning of this year, it has managed to immunize more than 99,000 children under 5 against polio. In all, 78,654 children were immunized in Darfur and 20,432 in Southern Sudan.

Meanwhile the ICRC has decided to increase the size and scope of its food aid operation in Darfur by 25 per cent until the end of the year, when further assessments will be made. Owing to the prevailing insecurity and restrictions in movement, considered by the ICRC to be the root cause of reduced food stocks and the depopulation of rural areas, the organization will increase food assistance by some 8,000 tonnes for the remainder of 2005. Around 320,000 people per month — or 100,000 more than initially planned — will benefit from this aid. The ICRC remains focused on assisting those most in need in remote rural areas.

Sudan is the ICRC’s largest operation worldwide. Some 2,000 national staff and 200 expatriates, roughly half of whom are based in Darfur, are working for the ICRC throughout the country.

Olava A. Saltbones ©Norwegian Red Cross

Keeping the pressure on

The “Come closer…” campaign, launched in Panama City, is part of the International Federation’s ongoing global anti-stigma campaign, ‘The truth about AIDS. Pass it on…’. The campaign addresses the marginalization of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). ‘Come closer’ campaign messages include: ‘Hug! Hug! You cannot get HIV by hugging!’

Since the launch in 2002 of the global anti-stigma campaign, the International Federation has implemented targeted activities to reduce stigma related to HIV/AIDS. National Societies have been encouraged to work with PLWHA to adapt global material, such as the stamps campaign, to local sensibilities and implement stigma reduction activities.

With messages like ‘You cannot get AIDS by... being a friend’ and “You cannot get AIDS by... holding hands” on stamp designs, the stamps campaign, which precedes the ‘Come closer…’ campaign, dispelled myths and fears related to HIV transmission.

Today more than 120 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are actively campaigning against stigma and discrimination, as part of their work to promote humanitarian values and protect human dignity.

Thousands flees in Colombia

The consequences in humanitarian terms of the recent fighting in the northern part of the department of Cauca, in south-western Colombia, have been dramatic: over 6,000 people — most of them indigenous — have been displaced, 35 civilians wounded, two children killed and numerous homes damaged or destroyed. The fighting, which began with an attack on the Toribío police station on 14 April, spread in a few days to the neighbouring districts of Caloto and Silvia. The terrorized residents urgently needed food, mats and blankets.

On 17 April, joint ICRC and Colombian Red Cross Society (CRCS) teams supplied emergency aid for the displaced. They distributed 48 tonnes of food and over 2,500 mats and blankets. They also provided basic health care and carried out preventive activities.

Following the attack on Toribío, the indigenous village of Tacueyó in the district of Silvia was on high alert. After hearing an initial explosion on 24 April, many villagers fled. “There were about 180 of us running through the crossfire, many of us barefoot, others carrying children in their arms.” An ICRC/CRCS team travelling in four trucks reached the area a few days later with 18 tonnes of food and 1,000 mats, sheets and blankets as well as hygiene items and kitchen utensils.

According to Luis Evelio Ipia, an indigenous leader from Tacueyó, the residents are torn between staying and leaving: “We want to leave because our lives are in danger but at the same time we don’t want to abandon our homes and our animals.”


Hotel Rwanda

It is not the role of feature films to promote the image of an organization like the ICRC. Films, however serious the subject matter, are first and foremost entertainment, even if they do sometimes try to influence and inform. It was a surprise therefore to see in the film Hotel Rwanda such a poignant portrayal of the activities of the ICRC in what was one of the bloodiest crises in Africa in the 1990s.

It’s often difficult to explain to an outside audience the reality of protecting civilians in armed conflictor restoring family links. But in Hotel Rwanda both activities are portrayed with great clarity through one of the lesser roles in the film, an ICRC delegate.

The film vividly retells the terrible events in Rwanda in 1994, but it is also about a courageous individual triumphing over inhumanity. It is based on the story of one man, Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, who as manager of the Mille Collines hotel tries to save people from the ethnic slaughter. A Hutu married to a Tutsi, he puts himself and his family at great risk in a truly humanitarian cause.

©Ascot Elite

Who knows the Geneva Conventions?

The ICRC has participated in the Gallup “Voice of the People” opinion research survey, which was conducted between June and August 2004. The survey focuses on global issues such as politics, governance and environment. Gallup interviewed more than 50,000 people in approximately 60 countries around the world.

Following the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, it was important for the ICRC to gather quantitative credible information on the way people perceive the Geneva Conventions, their effectiveness and the issue of torture. The key findings are: more than half of the world’s citizens have heard of them. This is most prevalent in Europe and the Americas (60 per cent) than in Asia and the Pacific (43 per cent) and in Africa (35 per cent). However a fairly high awareness of the Geneva Conventions does not necessarily lead to a greater belief in their efficiency: among those who have heard of the Geneva Conventions, only one-third (38 per cent) think that they adequately protect people in wartime. The lowest recognition is in the Middle East and North Africa (26 per cent), followed by Europe and the Americas (36 per cent) and the highest recognition in Africa (52 per cent).

When offered a list of possible activities which might be effective in reducing or eliminating torture of prisoners in relation to war, the highest percentage (68 per cent) believed that visits to prisoners by the ICRC were most effective, ahead of more prosecutions (66 per cent) and greater public awareness (65 per cent). Later this year, Gallup will conduct another opinion survey on the perception of ICRC activities.

©Thierry Gassmann / ICRC

Bridging the digital divide

The International Federation and Microsoft Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) signed an agreement to offer technological support to National Societies, particularly those in least developed countries in Africa and the Middle East. Microsoft will donate software licences, provide technology training to Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and local communities, and offer consulting by Microsoft employee volunteers.

According to Markku Niskala, secretary general of the International Federation, many National Societies have urgent technology needs. Microsoft’s contributions will improve the efficiency of local Red Cross and Red Crescent operations and the ability of National Societies to collaborate more effectively and share best practices.

During the ceremony, Microsoft representative Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO of Microsoft EMEA, said the company was committed to using its products, technological expertise and commitment to responsible corporate citizenship.

“National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are at the front line in disaster response, often on the ground immediately after an emergency happens,” Courtois said. “As a successful global corporation and technology industry leader, we recognize the need to use our resources and influence to make a positive impact on the world. We are honoured to team up with the International Federation on this vital initiative, improving its ability to make a real difference to the lives of people in need.”

©Jorge Perez / International Federation

An online community

Staff and volunteers of National Societies have a huge range of information needs. Which international meetings will have Red Cross and Red Crescent representatives? What is the International Federation’s policy on water and sanitation? What tools are available for teaching people about the Fundamental Principles? Are case studies available that demonstrate the impact of risk reduction in disaster management?

The answers to all these questions and many more are on the International Federation’s extranet, FedNet. FedNet has been created to share knowledge and help communication within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, providing quick access to the information that enables us efficiently to deliver assistance where needed. It contains a wide and growing range of information resources: documents and resources on all aspects of the Movement’s work, contact databases, collaboration tools such as message forums and mailing lists and links to the International Federation’s other information systems, all accessible at a single address and using a single login name and password.

Access to FedNet is open to all staff and volunteers of National Societies, the International Federation and the ICRC. Visit FedNet online at and follow the link “Sign me up!” to request an account. The FedNet development team welcome any feedback, from stories about how FedNet has helped in your work to ideas to improve the system or requests for missing information to be added. Write to with your comments.

A streetcar Named Red Cross

The Geneva branch of the Swiss Red Cross has found an original way of drawing public attention to its work and of raising funds: the city tram, which criss-crosses the city each day, has two messages splashed on its side: “Generosity is a gift” and “Help in the community”. The campaign highlights the range of activities for Geneva’s most vulnerable residents: families (child-minding, supporting the relatives of Alzheimer sufferers), young people, the elderly and alone, and migrants (assistance in integrating and at departure, interpreting, an intercultural library) — work that the Geneva Red Cross has been carrying out for 140 years.

©Thierry Pierre Graindore


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