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Central Asia’s Street children

Since the fall of communism, state institutions in Central Asia have struggled to cope with thousands of children who have been neglected and abandoned by their parents, and live on the streets. In Kazakhstan, many of the street children come from poor families, where alcohol and drug addiction is rife. “Until the late 1990s, no one talked about this problem,” explains Sholpan Ramazanova, health coordinator for the Kazakh Red Crescent Society, which runs orphanages itself and assists state orphanages. “Street children were taboo. Over the past few years we have been helping state-run orphanages, running classes for the children, and providing clothes and food as well as funding.” The Red Crescent also supports programmes for older children. In the northern city of Kokshetau the Red Crescent runs a canteen for children from disadvantaged families.



©CLAIRE DOOLE / INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION


Floods and cholera in Africa

In January 2007, several African countries were hit by severe floods that killed dozens of people, left thousands homeless and destroyed crops. Heavy rains worsened a deadly cholera outbreak that began in 2006. National Societies provided emergency help including chlorine tablets, tents, hygiene articles, jerrycans and tarpaulins, and monitored the situation. The International Federation released US$ 216,000 from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund for Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Meanwhile, heavy rains hit many areas of drought-stricken Kenya, sweeping away crops and flooding homes. Several International Federation emergency response units were flown in to back up the Kenya Red Cross Society’s urgent aid work.

 


©REUTERS / GRANT NEUENBURG,
COURTESY www.alertnet.org


Together for humanity

On 8 May, World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will launch a new slogan, “Together for humanity”. As well as being the theme for this special day, it will be the official slogan of the Movement for the next four years. Together for humanity emphasizes the importance of working in partnership to help the most vulnerable people. The scale of the humanitarian challenges facing the world requires a coordinated response. On 8 May, the Movement plans to call on the world to work together for the sake of humanity, so that their combined efforts can reduce the impact of natural disasters, disease, poverty, conflict and stigma. But the slogan is not just words. It reflects the Movement's efforts to work together for humanity in its partnerships with communities, fellow humanitarian agencies and donors, and in its actions with the millions of National Society volunteers who help more than 277 million people every year. Together for humanity will also be the theme of the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, to be held in Geneva in November, 2007.

 


Deadly typhoon season

Super-typhoon Durian, which struck the Philippines at the end of November 2006, killing 554 people and damaging or destroying over half a million homes, was just one of a series of storms that brought heavy rain, strong winds and massive flooding to 62 of the country’s 79 provinces between September and December. As well as rescuing people and giving first aid, the Philippine National Red Cross assisted tens of thousands of people with water, shelter and other essentials. The International Federation launched an emergency appeal to help rebuild homes and restore water and sanitation. In response to the increasing frequency and ferocity of storms, the National Society started a long-term disaster preparedness and planning project. It also launched “Power Text”, a system that uses mobile phone text messages to send alerts and receive reports from across the nation.

 


©REUTERS / ROMEO RANOCO, COURTESY www.alertnet.org


Raising funds and awareness

As part of a fund-raising drive, radio presenters from Belgium and the Netherlands toured ICRC and Cambodian Red Cross Society projects that help landmine victims and other disabled people. In December 2006, 3FM DJs and their colleagues at Studio Brussels broadcast for a week from public squares in Belgium and the Netherlands. Reports from Cambodia introduced listeners to some of the people who would be helped by their donations. More than US$ 6.5 million was raised for the ICRC’s worldwide physical rehabilitation programmes and its Special Fund for the Disabled. “A prosthesis isn’t expensive but for many in Cambodia it’s the difference between being able to support your family and living in poverty” explained Eric Corton, who launched the campaign.

Meanwhile, Australian singer/songwriter Greg Arnold has written a song about not closing one’s eyes. “I know myself that it can be tempting to look away or turn off the radio or television when I see a disturbing image or listen to the news about a dreadful event happening in the world. This human dilemma is what the song is about. The message is: ‘Don’t close your eyes!’” Arnold says the Movement is made up of individuals who refuse to close their eyes or turn their backs. His song can be ordered through the regional ICRC delegation for the Pacific (com.suv@icrc.org) or downloaded from the Australian Red Cross web site (www.redcross.org.au).

 


©ICRC

 



Logistics prize

The International Federation has won the prestigious European Supply Chain Excellence Award for 2006. Its entry outlined how it operates in a disaster response situation, presented its logistics tools and resources, and detailed its global supply chain services. The International Federation won the public sector and not-for-profit category and was also proclaimed the overall winner for 2006. “It is very inspiring and encouraging for our team that our efforts in the field of humanitarian logistics have been recognized with such a prestigious award,” says Birgitte Stalder-Olsen, head of the logistics department at the International Federation’s secretariat in Geneva. “The International Federation has been acknowledged as having a world-class supply chain that can compare with the best services in both the commercial and humanitarian aid worlds.” The International Federation has logistics centres in Dubai, Panama and Kuala Lumpur, logisticians in delegations all over the world, as well as a team of specialists in its Geneva secretariat. It can also deploy emergency logistics teams to operations anywhere in the world.

 


©OLAV A. SALTBONES / INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION


Help in Iraq

As bomb attacks and military operations continue in Iraq, the ICRC is providing the Al-Kindi Teaching Hospital in Baghdad with enough medical and surgical supplies to treat more than 100 wounded people. Similar assistance has been delivered to the Hilla Surgical Hospital and the Khanaqin Hospital outside the capital.

“With attacks being carried out daily, it is as if Baghdad were in a constant state of emergency,” said Dr Adel Al-Shammari, the director of the 370-bed Al-Kindi Teaching Hospital. “Our surgical wards are always full and working conditions are extremely difficult. Of the 208 surgeons who used to work here, only 40 or so are still on duty today. We will have no respite as long as violence continues.” Poor security conditions hamper adequate medical services. Meanwhile, in March, ten Iraqi Red Crescent Society staff were still missing after their abduction on 17 December with 17 other employees of the Society’s offices in Baghdad.

In February the International Federation launched an appeal for US$ 8.3 million to assist 300,000 vulnerable people in Iraq, after an assessment showed 12 million Iraqis living below the poverty line and dependent on food aid. The appeal will cover health care and emergency relief items including clothing and clothes, blankets, kitchen utensils, stoves, jerrycans, mattresses and tents. The funds will also train more than 2,000 staff and volunteers and 46,000 schoolchildren in first aid, and will pay for polio immunization for 100,000 children under 5 years of age.

 


©REUTERS / KAREEM RAHEEM,
COURTESY www.alertnet.org


Nigerian gas explosion

Teams of Nigerian Red Cross Society volunteers responded to a massive gas pipeline explosion on 26 December that claimed at least 260 lives in Ilado, a village some 40 kilometres east of the city of Lagos. Red Cross volunteers were among the first on the scene, quickly establishing a base of operations, evacuating survivors, and providing first aid and psychological support. Three Red Cross ambulances also arrived quickly and were used to take survivors to nearby hospitals. The incident is the latest in a string of similar explosions that have claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.

 


©REUTERS / AKINTUNDE AKINLEYE, COURTESY www.alertnet.org


Violence in Guinea

In January and February more than 70 people were shot dead by security forces during a series of general strikes. Protests were accompanied by increased looting and banditry. The Red Cross Society of Guinea, with the support of the ICRC and the International Federation, rescued wounded people and assisted hospitals, giving help to several hundred people. To ensure that its humanitarian operations were accepted by all, the National Society broadcast messages on local radio stations and worked with religious and traditional institutions to explain its work and the Fundamental Principles that govern it, in particular the principles of impartiality and neutrality.

“Guineans have been severely affected by the crisis. Dozens of civilians have lost their lives and hundreds more have been wounded,” said Georg Cunz, head of the ICRC delegation in Guinea. In
February he called on all Guineans to “respect the Fundamental Principles that protect people in situations of violence” and reminded law-enforcement forces that the “use of lethal weapons is limited to what is strictly necessary to protect lives”.

 


©REUTERS / SALIOU SAMB, COURTESY www.alertnet.org www.alertnet.org


Haiti floods

Geography and geology have exposed Haiti to constant threat from natural disasters — floods and hurricanes being the most frequent. Their effects, which are exacerbated by the degradation of the environment, can be deadly. In late 2006, Tropical Storm Chris and Hurricane Ernesto caused extensive flooding. The Haitian National Red Cross Society sprang into action, evacuating people to shelters, giving first aid, and distributing relief items and water. The International Federation launched an emergency appeal for US$ 523,000 to give 17,500 people relief items, such as hygiene articles, kitchen utensils, blankets and mosquito nets.



Enforced disappearance

A new United Nations convention on enforced disappearance was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006. This treaty fosters new hope for the victims and their families, who have pushed for a convention that explicitly prohibits enforced disappearance worldwide. This new convention provides a number of safeguards to people deprived of liberty, such as registration and the right to communicate with their family and counsel. “No war, no emergency, no national security imperative can justify enforced disappearance,” said ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger during the ceremony to open the treaty for signature in Paris on 6 February. The convention will come into force 30 days after the 20th state has signed it.

 


©F. JOLI / ICRC


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