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Movement responds as Libya conflict intensifies

As civil unrest in Libya escalated into all-out conflict in March, the Movement responded with both direct assistance to people affected by the fighting and with repeated appeals for warring parties to abide by international humanitarian law.

Caught in the midst of the conflict, the Libyan Red Crescent faced the difficult and dangerous task of providing medical and psychosocial care at first-aid posts and over-burdened city hospitals. “I was terrified by the injuries I saw. I was not used to those scenes but I found myself just doing my job,” said one volunteer.

The ICRC was also on the front lines, working closely with the Libyan Red Crescent. While it was unable obtain safe access to western Libya, it was able to send a 20-person medical team to Benghazi in the east and ship more than 180 tonnes of relief goods.

National Societies in Tunisia and Egypt (with support from the IFRC, ICRC and other Mediterranean National Societies) focused largely on assisting thousands of desperate people, mostly migrant workers, fleeing the country.

A joint Movement statement expressed “grave concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation as a result of the escalation of violence and the plight of the civilian population affected by the crisis in Libya and events in neighbouring countries.”

The statement also expressed concern about “recent attacks on Libyan Red Crescent personnel and ambulances” and called on States to respect the rights of and provide services for migrants fleeing the fighting.

Photo: ©IFRC

Tough year capped by more floods

More than 25 natural disasters hit Europe in 2010, making it a tough year for National Societies in the region. “This is twice as many as in 2009,” said Slobodanka Curic, IFRC regional disaster management coordinator. Over half of these disasters were floods, and more than 20,000 people affected received aid from various Movement sources. “We must focus our efforts on early warning and risk reduction, so that National Societies are able to respond more quickly and efficiently,” Curic added.


Thousands displaced from
Côte d’Ivoire

The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire treated dozens of people injured during recent clashes in Duékoué, in the west of the country, where they are continuing to help 12,000 people displaced by violence and political unrest. “We’ve been working continuously,” Côte d’Ivoire Red Cross volunteer and first-aid coordinator Christine Dehe Mahan reported. “At the same time, I’m also trying to find part of my own family.” More than 15,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled to neighbouring countries. In December, the IFRC launched a preliminary emergency appeal for US$ 1.39 million to help the National Societies of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Mali assist the displaced.

Quotes of note

“Aid organizations have to
stand up against this and
say to the regime, ‘We are
the largest organizations
on the planet, we are
powerful NGOs with these
large budgets and we will set
our conditions’, and negotiate
a better deal.”

Linda Polman, who argues
in her book that aid
organizations often fuel
conflict by allowing armed
factions and governments
to control and misuse
relief aid.

“Aid can bring with it very
serious negative side
effects. But really prolonging
war? It’s not often that
an armed group depends
on aid for their survival.”

Fiona Terry, long-time
humanitarian and author
of Condemned to Repeat?
The Paradox of
Humanitarian Action.

For more on this subject,
click here.

Polio outbreak hits Congo Brazzaville

The Congolese Red Cross mobilized more than 700 volunteers in response to a deadly outbreak of the wild polio virus late last year in Kouilou and Pointe Noire, where the disease killed 128 people and paralysed 280. “The volunteers are raising community awareness and calming the population to avoid panic,” said Christian Sédar Ndinga, president of the Congolese Red Cross. “We will also participate in the national immunization campaign, while focusing our efforts on the most affected areas.”

Sun helps provide water in Sudan

In Jonglei state in southern Sudan, close to the border with Ethiopia, the ICRC is using solar power to provide clean drinking water for thousands of people displaced by inter-community fighting in 2009. “More than 55,000 people — almost 20,000 of them displaced — found themselves without enough water,” said Jean Vergain, ICRC regional water specialist based in Nairobi, Kenya. The project uses 420 solar panels to power a series of pumps that draw water from tens of metres below the ground.


Australia responds to floods, cyclone

The first months of 2011 were busy ones for the Australian Red Cross. The National Society was still dealing with the aftermath of massive floods in Queensland when the state was hit by Cyclone Yasi, which destroyed at least 150 homes and left another 650 uninhabitable. In response to the flooding, the Red Cross flew in trained staff and volunteers from across Australia and New Zealand to manage evacuation centres and assist with relief efforts. Leading up to the cyclone, the Australian Red Cross helped out at ten evacuation and recovery centres where more than 5,400 people were assisted.

Photo: ©REUTERS/Anthony Farmer, courtesy

Humanitarian index

59: Number of children reunited with parents due to Restoring Family Links efforts in Haiti since the earthquake, according to the ICRC.
146: Number of Haitian children who registered with the ICRC as not being able to locate their parents after the earthquake.
26,000: Number of volunteers in Ghana who provide a hand-washing service every week at funerals and other social events. [source: The Value of Volunteers, IFRC/2010]
185,000: Number of local volunteers in Burundi who care for the most vulnerable people by providing social and health support, distributing food, and building and repairing homes.  [source: The Value of Volunteers, IFRC/2010]
252.7 million: Total IFRC and National Society expenditure (in US$) in Haiti to September 2010. [source: Haiti Earthquake, One-year progress report, IFRC]
1 billion: Total IFRC and National Society income raised (in US$) for Haiti relief efforts to September 2010. [source: Haiti Earthquake, One-year progress report, IFRC]


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