On World Red Cross Red Crescent Day (May 8) the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) marks 150 years since it was founded. Speaking from the ICRC headquarters in Geneva, Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, said, "This means 150 years of engagement in conflict in which ICRC brought assistance to millions of people."
The conflict in Syria began two years ago and has caused immense suffering, for which no end is in sight yet. There is no let up in the fighting, which remains intense, and living conditions are deteriorating by the second; millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere within Syria or in neighbouring countries. Many of these people are living in exceedingly grim conditions. Tens of thousands are unaccounted for or have been detained. Families have been dispersed: people are searching desperately for their relatives, about whose whereabouts they often have no information at all. Standards of health have declined sharply, medical facilities have been targeted and health-care workers have been killed.
As the violence intensifies and spreads in Syria, some 250,000 people have fled into Jordan, according to Jordanian official sources. About 45,000 Syrians have found shelter in Al Zaatari refugee camp, 15 km from the Syrian border.
Benghazi, May 2012. As he steps onto the tarmac at the airport of his hometown for the first time in 43 years, Abdussalem Al-Naji is overwhelmed by emotion. He is greeted by his brothers, cousins and friends, as well as numerous children born to his relatives in his absence. That morning, Abdussalem was still in his flat in Dattwil, a small, quiet town in the Swiss canton of Aargau.
President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, has just returned from a three-day visit to Syria during which he held talks with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the ministers of foreign affairs, the interior, health and national reconciliation. Mr Maurer also visited areas affected by the fighting in Rural Damascus to witness at first hand how civilians are coping in a context of extreme violence.
As Libya attempts to recover from the conflict last year, wounds remain raw. On the international day of the disappeared (August 30th), thousands of Libyan families still have no answers over the fate of missing family members who went missing as a consequence of the conflict and the former regime.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is appealing to its donors for 24.5 million Swiss francs (nearly US $27 million / 20 million Euros) to help the tens of thousands of people affected by the fighting in Syria. This will in effect almost triple the ICRC's budget for the crisis.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been selected as an official honoree by the 16th Annual Webby Awards for its short documentary depicting the dangerous conditions faced by doctors, nurses and ambulance workers operating on the front lines of Libya's recent armed conflict.