The Humanitarian Times

April 21, 2000


Special Edition / Red Cross Movement


- WAR-DISPLACED IN AFGHANISTAN WORK WITH RED CROSS TOWARD LIVELIHOOD systems, including a refurbished irrigation canal in Parwan province which the ICRC finished last week. The ICRC is also providing seeds for wheat, potatoes, fruit trees & vegetables, & training.

-RUSSIAN RED CROSS & ICRC EXPANDING COLLABORATION IN CHECHNYA following agreement by Pres. Putin to permit ICRC to visit war-affected areas in Chechnya.

- ETHIOPIA: $1M PROVIDED BY AMERICAN RED CROSS FOR LOCAL-PURCHASE: Local purchase of food aid brings food from one area of Africa, where it is available, to another where sheer food volume is insufficient to prevent malnutrition & mortality. The American Red Cross team leaving for Ethiopia will determine whether Ethiopia or Kenya is the best source.

Local purchase of food supplies has been used in past responses to famine in Ethiopia, & Sudan, but is used infrequently by American aid groups who instead are oriented to the use of free food given by the US Govt, produced in & shipped from the US, under Public Law 480 ("Food for Peace" program). Taking into account taxpayer expenses for PL480 aid, local purchase is a cheaper method of responding to food needs, is faster, more flexible, & helps to encourage cash-strapped local African farmers.

The American Red Cross is working through the Ethiopian Red Cross for distribution, along with the ICRC &Intl. Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies. Earlier this week, the ICRC delivered early supplementary foods in Denan, in SE Ethiopia (Gode), working through village elders.

-MONGOLIAN RED CROSS SOCIETY ASSISTS 40,000 HERDERS SURVIVE HARSH WINTER when 2M livestock have died during extreme winter snow conditions (their health made worse by drought last summer). The Intl. Federation & Mongolian Red Cross have launched a major appeal & are providing food aid to affected rural Mongolian herders.

- MOLUCCA ISLANDS (INDONESIA) MAY BE NEXT LARGE COMPLEX EMERGENCY, due to increasing religious-based violence that has displaced 350,000 persons in the past year. The Intl. Comm. of the Red Cross (ICRC) works with the Indonesian Red Cross to assist victims of violence in Aceh & West Timor

- ARAB STATES PLAN PROGRAMS OF COMMUNITY-AWARENESS ABOUT LANDMINES, they agreed at the first regional Arab landmine conference April 8 in Egypt, co-organized with (& presentations by) the ICRC.




- "THE RED CROSS & THE HOLOCAUST" BY JEAN-CLAUDE FAVEZ who concludes that the Intl. Comm. of the Red Cross "really should have spoken out" about the Holocaust. The text (published in France in 1988 & by the Cambridge Univ Press in 1999) gives balance & insight into the enormously complex relations between the various members of the Red Cross movement (such as the ICRC, the Swedish Red Cross, British Red Cross), the Swiss Govt, the Swedish Govt, the political Jewish World Congress, the quiet American Jewish Joint Distribution Comm, the Nazi Reich, & Western Govts. The author shows the ICRC's employed "from 1943 onwards, a twin-track aid operation, the 1st concern to send food parcels to concentration camps, & the second to target aid more precisely at Jews in countries allied to or satellites of the Reich." The book examines the personalities & pressures involved in the ICRC's failure to more forcefully publicize against the large-scale killings of Jews in concentration camps & concludes that key ICRC leaders lost their nerve, & the movement overall was distracted by focusing on the food aid to concentration camps: "by observing the Red Cross's golden rule that priority should be given everywhere to concrete gestures affording the victim immediate relief rather than the formulation of general principles or comprehensive demands." The author speculates, "Perhaps in choosing between feasible aid & seemingly unrealizable rescue operations, ICRC succumbed not to cowardice or fear but to an excessive respect for its own principles, without asking what new forms its humanitarian policy should take in the particular case of concentration camps." Because it is established by govts, the ICRC was overly attentive to the non-interests western Govts, who themselves did not call attention to the plight of the Jews.

- "GENTLEMEN VOLUNTEERS: THE STORY OF AMERICAN AMBULANCE DRIVERS in The Great War, Aug. 1914 - Sept. 1918" by Arlen Hansen (1996 NY: Arcade Pub ISBN 1 55970 313 X), tells the story of how individuals from the U.S. brought donated ambulances (the new rage in America) to battlefields in France: "a wounded man faced a 10-mile journey with his stretcher strapped to the back of a mule or put on the floor of a hard springless wagon. The volunteers changed all that." Arlen described the tension between the 2 organtn's sponsoring ambulances & personnel: the American Red Cross, & the American Field Service, the former neutral in the war, the later aligned with the French army. Both groups, though, used the Red Cross, as an emblem signifying medical care for victims. The overseas war experience so transfigured these aid workers, that an amazing number of them went on to become major authors of their era; just to name a few: Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, e e Cummings, Archibald MacLeish. Arlen describes how the ambulance drivers were the first to witness the horrors of chlorine gas. "In addition to their introduction to man's inhumanity to man, many of these young drivers were suddenly made aware of their own powerlessness."

- "SURVIVAL IN THE LAND OF DYSENTERY; WORLD WAR II EXPERIENCES IN INDIA" by K H van hHogendorp (1998 Virginia: Sergeant Kirkland's Museum & Historical Society, ISBN 1-887901-24-8) remembers her 1943-5 adventures in Calcutta, Darjeeling & a trip to Burma, working for the American Red Cross, in support of American troops.


April 21, 2000 The Humanitarian Times

* To subscribe (no cost) or un-subscribe, email: