World Humanitarian Day Draws Attention to #NotATarget Movement

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross volunteer

The list of civilian killings around the world continues to grow. At least 51 people were killed last week in Yemen when an  airstrike claimed lives of 40 school children and 11 other people. In Syria, 500,000 civilians have been killed in the last seven years and the Syrian Red Crescent has lost more than 60 of its team members to violence since the crisis began. More than 14,000 civilians lost their lives in the ongoing Kashmir conflict.

This is World Humanitarian Day,  meant to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service and to rally support for people impacted by crises around the world. The #NotATarget movement asks world leaders to do everything in their power to protect all civilians caught in conflict zones worldwide.

Although civilians are protected under International Humanitarian Law, every year, thousands of innocent people – children, young, old, men, women, physically challenged, migrants, refugees, aid workers, doctors, journalists and others who work or live in conflict zones lose their lives to the violence.

On this World Humanitarian Day, let’s take a moment and commemorate the daily struggles of these civilians who live or work in war torn areas. Armed conflict affects lives in many ways and leaves long term effects on the victims of war, especially children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) protects the lives and dignity of victims of war, and provides them with aid.  Therefore, on this Humanitarian Day let’s campaign together and make sure that civilians are #NotATarget for political instabilities and armed conflicts. Let’s ensure organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross—and the local Red Cross and Red Crescent societies that work alongside them—are freely allowed to operate with their aid operations in conflict-ridden areas, and that rules of war are followed, especially not to bomb hospitals and schools, kill innocent children and hamper or stop aid operations.

 

Effort to Eradicate Measles Worldwide Continues

By Brad Galvan, American Red Cross volunteer

Although August is National Immunization Awareness Month, the American Red Cross’s work crosses international borders with its Measles & Rubella Initiative, the Red Cross partners with global organizations on this vaccination campaign aimed at reducing measles worldwide.

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Measles, one of the most contagious and severe childhood diseases is very dangerous to those who are not immunized. The disease can be debilitating and even deadly. The only true method to prevent the disease is to protect children with the measles and rubella vaccine.

Jessica Tischler, Director of International Services for the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, said the goal of the Measles & Rubella Initiative is simple: Get children vaccinated to prevent the onset of measles. “It’s worked,” Jessica said. “With the help of partners like the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, more than two billion children have benefited by the vaccine.”  She noted that there has been a nearly 80 percent reduction in cases resulting in more than 20 million deaths potentially prevented from the disease.measles3

Locally, students at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills have been collecting money to fund the measles vaccine, which costs $2 per shot. Since the start of their fundraising effort in 2004, the Gilmour students have raised more than $30,000.  We posted this article about the efforts of the students last year.

All Northeast Ohioans can help protect children in remote villages across the world without leaving their state. Simply text PREVENT to 90999 to give $10 to the Red Cross, donate online, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.  Your gift will help children receive the lifesaving vaccine against measles

 

 

International Youth Day

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross volunteerifat

Over the years, since 1999, a lot has been said about the importance of International Youth Day. Every year, with a different premise, social issues and challenges are brought into the forefront, so that the roles of young men and young women are celebrated as equal partners in change and making the world a better place. But alongside the celebrations is an important reminder to raise awareness about the difficulties and challenges faced by the youth in current times.

This year’s theme is very critical and central to the contemporary debates of world peace and safety. This year International Youth Day is centered on creating safe spaces for youth worldwide.  Some of those spaces can be social, civic or even digital. But can safe spaces be really created everywhere in the world where a large portion of the population is facing war, exile and migration?

The International Committee of the Red Cross is a driving force behind international humanitarian law, a set of rules that seek to limit the effects of armed conflict by offering protection to civilians. It also sets parameters to activities that are accepted or not accepted on the battleground and beyond.

Furthermore, the organization, of which the American Red Cross is a global partner, supports the study of international humanitarian law at the secondary and university levels across the globe by providing training, internships and online resources to people who work on the ground, such as journalists, aid workers, doctors, policy makers, humanitarian practitioners or researchers.

Bringing youth together, harnessing their talent and making them speak about their fears and experiences when no one is judging them can be difficult from a practical point of view. Spaces where they can talk openly without the fear of persecution, prison and punishment are hard to create and difficult to sustain. But  as long as there are organizations like the American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross, these initiatives look very much achievable.

If Ever There Was a Time, It Is Now

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Board Member and Community Volunteer Leader

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A Kenya Red Cross volunteer leads the way through flood waters after torrential rains this year.
More than 210,000 people have so far been forced to flee their homes. Red Cross teams are
providing emergency relief, including health services and shelter, even as rising flood waters
continue to wreak havoc. Photo: Kenyan Red Cross

May 8 is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the world’s largest humanitarian network. It is neutral and impartial and provides protection and assistance to people affected by disasters and conflicts…and it sure seems that one day isn’t enough to reflect on these organizations and the services most of us take for granted.

Most Americans know that in times of crisis, the Red Cross is there. We know, inherently, that we will see them and their dedicated volunteers right alongside brave first responders in the midst of it all – from an international humanitarian crisis to a natural disaster, or closer to home, if we or our neighbors are affected by an emergency, such as a home fire.

“The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has a presence in 190 countries, including the United States,” said Jessica Tischler, Director of International Services for the Red Cross Northeast Ohio Region.  “That allows Red Cross Chapters to reconnect people with their families when they are separated by armed conflict, natural disasters, and other crises through our Restoring Family Links service.”

IRCRC

Many people feel we are living in troubled times. They may feel that we, as a nation and a world, are more divided than ever. Interestingly, however, it seems that In the midst of a crisis, people tend to pull together for the greater good. As I read the mission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and their seven fundamental principles, I can’t help but think, ‘‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all set aside our differences and live within these guidelines in our everyday lives?’’

The principles are:

  1. Humanity
  2.  Impartiality
  3.  Neutrality
  4.  Independence
  5.  Voluntary Service
  6.  Unity
  7.  Universality

These principles are the result of a century of experience. Proclaimed in Vienna in 1965, they bond together the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. If ever there was a time to put these ‘golden rules’  into action in our world, our nation, and our communities – it is now.

Happy World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day! I’m proud to play even a small role in this wonderful organization.  Here are some incredible photos to honor the day.  For more information, please visit redcross.org.

 

 

Observing a Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Human Rights Workers

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross Volunteer, Northeast Ohio Region

ICRC Annual Report 2013 - Syria

Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers retrieving dead bodies from the streets of Aleppo. Photo © Syrian Arab Red Crescent/TAYYAR, I.

The Syrian war entered the 8th year just a week back. This deadly war not only led to a loss of over 350,000 lives in the past seven years, but also the displacement of 5.6 million Syrian people.

More than 60,000 of them have gone missing.

Therefore, this war drew to itself the attention and intervention of international humanitarian organizations, the United Nations, and other human rights defenders from all across the world. But the violence in Syria didn’t spare even these aid workers and peacekeepers who worked for these organizations locally.  Many of these aid workers or UN staff members have been either abducted or are missing. Some of these staff members were also the local Syrians. Through 2017 alone, 28 UN staff members have been missing in Syria or have been abducted by different armed gunmen. There are many more missing who work with other aid organizations like the Red Cross/ Red Crescent and ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross).

Wars are always political, but the pain and destruction associated with them is unquestionably personal. Likewise, the pain suffered by the families of these staff members who are missing in Syria and other conflict regions of the world is beyond solace.

Every year, March 25th is recognized as the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members. The commemoration of this day began after the abduction of a UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) journalist Alec Collect in 1985, who was working in the near East for Palestinian refugees. Due to the increasing number of incidents of violence against peacekeepers and aid workers working in different conflict zones all across the world, it has become essential to observe this day.

This day is an international day of solidarity with the families of those who lost their loved ones, and sometimes their only breadwinners. Henceforth, providing a significant reminder every year on this day that measures should be taken to stop the intensified violence against peacekeepers worldwide and stop their enforced disappearances is very critical.

This day is also a reminder for other people who are not directly linked to conflict to work towards world peace. This day is a reminder that wars do no good to anyone. This day is a reminder that it’s a war that creates refugees. It is a war that leads to enforced disappearances and killing. It is because of a war that we lose our loved ones.

 

Local Volunteer Has International Ties

Ifat

Editor’s note:  Ifat Gazia is a new Red Cross volunteer now based in the US. She was born and brought up in the conflict zone of Kashmir. She is a researcher who reports on human rights issues in her native land.

Photo provided by Ifat Gazia

Born and brought up in the largest militarized zone on earth, I grew up listening to stories of not just violence and killings but also of strength, courage and empathy. That is how we as Kashmiris were very empathetic towards each other and to the rest of the world, that usually visited us as tourists.

Kashmir is known for its conflict, and in spite of all the war and suffering the people have to go through on a daily basis, it is also known for its warm hospitality. Being occupied, killed, disappeared, raped, orphaned and tortured by the foreign powers did not leave us bitter and weak. Instead, it increased our strength and intellect. Made us realise that all we have is us and we need to stand up for each other time and again.

There has been a tradition of oral memory deeply rooted in our culture. I grew up hearing stories from my elders and later on started telling the same. Alongside, I understood the value of human empathy at a very young age. I also learned the will to defend our rights and the power to fight for the same.

The storyteller in me pushed me to pursue journalism, which I eventually realised wasn’t something I was really happy in doing. The reason was simple, reporting wasn’t enough. I did write stories but that was it. I didn’t see the impact. And just writing the stories wasn’t helping anyone anymore. People I interviewed for my stories tied their hopes to me and it wasn’t their fault but I did consider it my fault somehow for not delivering up to their expectations. That is when I changed my course of work and studied more about Human Rights, International Political Communication, Development, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Media so that I can get into an organisation which actually works for making lives of common people better.

I recently moved to the USA for further education and got to observe the amazing work of American Red Cross very closely. The type of empathy and care the staff and volunteers have for their communities is really uplifting. Thousands of volunteers respond to emergencies and disasters every year, keeping their personal priorities aside. This is why I decided to volunteer for Red Cross and try to help with any skills I have got while I am here.

5 Ways to Support World Humanitarian Day

5ways

Sign the petition to protect civilians trapped in conflict
Visit www.worldhumanitarianday.org to sign the petition demanding that civilians in conflict are protected – encourage your colleagues and counterparts to add their
names.
• Share the #NotATarget campaign on Social Media
Download a social media graphic from our repository http://bit.ly/WHDcomms17 and post it with the following sample tweet to your social media accounts:
On #WorldHumanitarianDay, I stand up for civilians trapped in conflict. They are #NotATarget. Sign the petition at WorldHumanitarianDay.org Visit OCHA’s Twitter (twitter.com/UNOCHA) and Facebook (facebook.com/UNOCHA/) accounts to share the
#NotATarget messages.

• Organize your Stand Together event
Invite your colleagues and partners to stand together in solidarity with millions of civilians trapped in conflict. We have prepared #NotATarget signs for you to print and
hold during the event. (See the guidelines for organizing a Stand Together.)

• Join a Stand Together event
Across the world, the UN and partners will be organizing Stand Together events. Contact an OCHA office in your country to see what is being planned. In New York, on Friday 18 August, you can join the the UN ‘Staff Stand Together’ at 11:30am at UNHQ and the public event in Times Square at 4:00pm. Similar events are being planned across the world. Together we will reaffirm that civilians caught in conflict are #NotATarget and demand global action to protect them.

• Record a Facebook Live video with the #NotATarget filter
Starting from 18 August, visit UNOCHA’s Facebook page where you will find a link to the #NotATarget filter. Access the filter and record a live video, narrating the story of a person trapped in conflict.

The American Red Cross is a part of the global network dedicated to relieving human suffering. Learn more here.

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