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.

 

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.

 

Working Locally to Affect Change Globally

By Jessica Tischler, International Services Director, Northeast Ohio Region

Each year, disasters around the world devastate the lives of millions of people.  The American Red Cross is taking action to help save lives by:

-Providing urgent assistance to people affected by disaster in countries across the globe;
-Helping to vaccinate children against measles;
-Investing in disaster preparedness, making communities less vulnerable;
-Reconnecting families separated by international war and disaster;
-Educating about international humanitarian law.

In Northeast Ohio, we are actively engaged with reconnecting family members who have been separated by international war and disaster, and with educating individuals in our community about International Humanitarian Law.

I had the pleasure of recently meeting with Asma Sameen Bangash of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Crescent.  Asma is an attorney based in Peshawar, Pakistan, and serves as a Communication Officer focusing on International Humanitarian Law.  She is visiting the United States as a Fellow in a U. S. State Department-sponsored program, studying U. S. law and policy, and is spending time in Washington and in Cleveland at Case Western Reserve University.

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Jessica Tischler, Director of International Services, Northeast Ohio Region and  Asma Sameen Bangash of ICRC

As a member of the ICRC, Asma interacts with the Red Crescent Society in Pakistan, and expressed an interest in learning about the programs and services offered through the American Red Cross. I was happy to explain to her the many ways in which the Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies, by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors in Northeast Ohio.

For more information about Red Cross International Services, click here.