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.

 

Preventing the Spread of Diseases

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has provided vaccination to more than 1.1 billion children in the fight against measles and rubella.

The American Red Cross, United Nations foundation, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and World Health Organization started the Measles and Rubella Initiative in 2001. Since then, Red Cross and its partners have vaccinated children in more than 80 developing countries.

Measles Vaccination Campaign

Measles Vaccination Campaign

In 2011, measles claimed an estimated 158,000 lives. This makes it a leading cause of death and disability among young children worldwide. This disease is highly contagious and includes the risk of developing other health complications, including pneumonia, blindness, diarrhea, and encephalitis. Measles are most common in younger children from the age of five to adults over 20. 95% of measles deaths occur in low income countries with poor health systems.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a mild disease but can be serious for pregnant women and their children. If affected, women will give birth to a child with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). More than 1000 children globally are born with CRS each year. In many developing countries, parents do not have access to medical service that can protect their children from this fate.

Measles and rubella and CRS are preventable. The Measles and Rubella Initiative is making great strides to bring vaccines that are safe and effective to dense populations where the virus will stop circulating. Vaccinations in these areas can lead to the elimination of measles and rubella.

The American Red Cross is providing technical and financial support to 12 African countries through measles and rubella vaccination campaigns. Red Cross volunteers go door-to-door in communities to educate parents, encourage participation in the campaign, and help with registration or comforting a child.

With less than $1, you can vaccinate one child and support this effort. With help from your friends, classmates or coworkers, you can vaccinate an entire village. To donate, click here or visit redcross.org for more information.