across Horn of Africa
Unusually severe floods swept across Ethiopia
in August, killing more than 600 people, and destroying thousands
of livestock and more than 42,000 hectares of crops. Risks
included food insecurity and deaths from watery diarrhoea.
Ethiopian Red Cross Society volunteers were involved in search
and rescue, distributed relief goods and gave psychosocial
support. In neighbouring Sudan, 9,000 families along the Nile
and Blue Nile had to leave their homes after floods destroyed
more than 7,000 houses, damaged schools, shops and clinics,
and left large swathes of farmland under water. Sudanese Red
Crescent staff and volunteers helped rescue people, handed
out emergency stocks and helped set up sources of clean water.
The International Federation launched emergency appeals for
both disasters to raise funds for shelter and blankets, kitchen
equipment and mosquito nets, and to build latrines and safe
©CANDACE FEIT / REUTERS, COURTESY www.alertnet.org
comfort after quake
In Klaten village, 200 children sit glued
to their seats as Indonesian Red Cross psychosocial support
workers use puppets to help them deal with their fears. “Please
take me to the bathroom, mum. I’m very afraid,”
says the child puppet. “Why?” asks its mother.
“Because I’m afraid after the earthquake,”
she responds. The children stare at the spectacle. There is
recognition and laughter. The show is part of a programme
aimed at helping children and their parents cope with their
fear and grief following the earthquake, which struck the
region of Yogyakarta on 27 May, killing more than 5,700 people
and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Coordinator Ibu
Agnes Widyastuti, 24, encourages children to talk about the
quake. “They’ll have good memories of this day,
the singing, the puppets and they’ll take away good
experiences to do with the earthquake. I believe they can
find happiness again.”
©PHIL VINE / INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION
Intermittent fighting in
parts of northern and eastern Sri Lanka has persisted, resulting
in casualties and displacement. By the end of September, the
number of internally displaced people was estimated to be
200,000. Road traffic between the Jaffna peninsula and the
rest of the country has been cut off since 11 August. The
population on the peninsula is enduring the hardships of isolation
and their concerns have focused on whether food supplies will
reach them regularly. Most of the estimated 40,000 displaced
people in Jaffna are living with host families or in school
buildings, community centres or abandoned private houses.
They have received food from the government and private donors.
Following a recent assessment, the ICRC has supplied them
with hygiene items.
Since June 2006, the ICRC has increased its assistance in
conflict-affected areas and has provided essential household
items for 60,000 people and distributed medical supplies to
12 hospitals and other health-care facilities in the north
and east. It is also supporting the Sri Lanka Red Cross mobile
clinic services which are providing displaced families with
basic health care in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts.
Meanwhile, the ICRC continues to visit people arrested for
©NG, NORMAN / ICRC
Since August 2006, the situation in the
Gaza Strip has continued to deteriorate. At the same time
rockets from inside Gaza have continued to fall on Israeli
territory, threatening civilian lives and property.
In a week-long operation launched by the Israel Defense Forces
in early November in Beit Hanoun, over 90 Palestinians were
killed and hundreds wounded, including many civilians. On
3 November, two Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) paramedics
were killed while performing life-saving work in Beit Lahiya,
south-west of Beit Hanoun. In the early hours of 8 November,
18 people, including 14 women and children were killed and
some 60 people were wounded during Israeli military operations.
The ICRC urged Israel to respect its obligations under international
humanitarian law which prohibits attacks on civilians. "Any
civilian loss of life further fuels the conflict and generates
more loss, suffering and grief," said Dominik Stillhart,
ICRC head of delegation in Israel and in the Palestinian territories.
Since August, the ICRC has facilitated the movement of ambulances
operated by the PRCS and the Ministry of Health so the wounded
could be safely evacuated and treated. It also provided the
Ministry of Health with essential medical supplies to treat
On 13 August, the ICRC's family visit programme for Palestinian
detainees held in Israeli prisons resumed. As of 8 November,
3,040 family members visited 1,392 detainees in Israeli places
of detention. Also, the ICRC kept in touch with the relevant
authorities and various Palestinian groups in order to gain
access to captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
©JEAN MOHR / ICRC
China was battered by a series of ferocious
typhoons, floods and droughts that killed an estimated 2,200
people and forced 13 million to evacuate between May and September.
While families in southern China struggled to recover from
severe flooding that also destroyed farmland and killed animals,
people in northern and western areas suffered a severe drought.
Nineteen million people had to draw on polluted water sources
for drinking. The Red Cross Society of China and the International
Federation gave first aid, food, blankets and tents to people
made homeless by the rains and launched an emergency appeal.
©STRINGER SHANGHAI / REUTERS,
©PAUL YEUNG / REUTERS,
Swedish shoppers are asked
to round up their purchases and give their small change to
the Swedish Red Cross, in a new collaboration with major clothing
chains that turns salespeople into Red Cross ambassadors.
Last year, Swedish shoppers bought clothes worth US$ 825 million
before Christmas and this year the campaign, ‘Round
Up!’, aims to cash in while people’s wallets are
out. Swedish Red Cross head of communications and fundraising
Johan af Donner says the idea that shoppers’ spare change
can make a difference in the world is very appealing.
©SWEDISH RED CROSS
The worst floods in decades killed an estimated
130 people and left up to a million people homeless across
central and western parts of India between June and September.
Violent rain storms and flash floods destroyed villages and
crops, severed transport routes, drowned thousands of cattle
and contaminated water supplies. In coordination with other
agencies, the Indian Red Cross Society helped rescue people
and distributed clothing, kitchen items, buckets, towels,
blankets and sheets.
©AMIT DAVE / REUTERS, COURTESY
Islam and humanitarian law
Forty-two religious leaders from 32 Afghan
provinces took part in conference on Islam and international
humanitarian law held at the headquarters of the Afghan Red
Crescent Society in Kabul from 18 to 20 September. During
this event, organized jointly by the ICRC and the Afghan Red
Crescent, similarities and differences between Islamic values
and humanitarian law were discussed with a view to ensuring
that the victims of the intensified conflict in Afghanistan
were better protected and assisted.
At a time when a sharp increase in the violence in Afghanistan
is having dire consequences for large segments of the population,
the discussion with the religious leaders in the light of
Islamic values was timely. “Close contacts with leaders
is critical if we want to be accepted by all and create the
security conditions we need to carry out our activities,”
explained Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan.
Debate focused on basic rules of humanitarian law, like the
obligation to protect wounded people, detainees and civilians
and to come to the aid of war victims. “Islam has rules
similar to those of international humanitarian law. However,
it has different sets of rules for different situations. The
work the ICRC does to treat the wounded and sick, protect
detainees and transport mortal remains is in accordance with
the Islamic tradition,” said Mufti Habib-ur-Rahman,
lecturer at the Faculty of Theology in Khost, south-eastern
As part of its ongoing dialogue with scholars and other intellectuals
from the Muslim world, the ICRC has held three similar meetings
in Pakistan (2004), Yemen (2005) and Morocco (2006), and is
planning to hold more events of the same kind in the near
©OLIVIER MOECKLI / ICRC
Ecuador’s Mount Tungurahua erupted
on 16 August, damaging houses, destroying crops and forcing
people to evacuate. Clouds of gas and molten rock destroyed
everything near the mountain. The Ecuadorian Red Cross provided
first aid, basic health care, face masks, protective glasses
and psychosocial care to support those who lost not only their
belongings but also their work and livelihoods. Fearing a
worse disaster, Red Cross staff and volunteers were on standby
for any subsequent eruptions. The International Federation
launched an appeal to help 5,000 affected people for five
months. The appeal will fund hygiene and cleaning materials,
food and community-based education on disaster risk reduction.
In addition, 1,400 children will be helped to deal with the
trauma caused by the catastrophe.
©Photo credit: GUILLERMO GRANJA / COURTESY
on cluster munitions
History has shown cluster munitions to be
inaccurate and unreliable, with severe consequences for civilians.
They regularly fail to detonate as intended and create a long
legacy of civilian injury and death. Laos and Afghanistan
have been dealing with the consequences of cluster munitions
for decades. More recently, scores of Lebanese civilians have
fallen victim to unexploded cluster munitions used in the
armed conflict which took place in July and August 2006.
The ICRC recently called for effective action to reduce the
threat posed by cluster munitions. In its statement to the
Third Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional
Weapons, it called on governments to prohibit the use of cluster
munitions against military objectives located in populated
areas, to immediately end the use of inaccurate and unreliable
cluster munitions; not to transfer these munitions to other
countries. The ICRC also offered to host an international
expert meeting in early 2007 for the purpose of identifying
the elements of a possible international humanitarian law
treaty to better regulate these weapons.
Chechnya to Daghestan
Ten families of displaced persons from
Chechnya living in Daghestan were able to start their own
businesses this year through ICRC sponsorship.
In Khasavyurt, Aminat Shakhmirzaeva has just opened a cafe
after receiving a refrigerator, a gas stove and tables and
chairs. Aminat and her daughter fled Chechnya during the conflict
and settled in Daghestan. Although the cafe is located in
a relatively quiet street, Aminat has a good number of visitors
every day. “In the beginning, I was wondering if I would
be able to manage,” she says. “Making food for
people is not easy — it has to be tasty, served quickly
and should not cost much.” As it turns out, the cafe’s
clientele highly appreciate her cooking. The most popular
meal is kurze, Caucasian ravioli. “I now have the opportunity
to earn a living. I do not make big profits, but I receive
regular income. It allows me to think about my future and
that of my daughter,” she says. So far 150 families
have been given a new lease of life, while over 20 project
proposals are currently under study.