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Red Cross – A Ray of Hope


Red Cross

 S. Sivakumar*

Red Cross Day falls on 8th of May. Back in 1963 the American President John F Kennedy reminded the world of this selfless movement and exhorted men and women to become part of this movement.
"Today as the Red Cross embarks upon its second century of service, each of us has an opportunity and an obligation to become a part of this humanitarian tradition. For only through our help is this important work made possible." : President John F. Kennedy on the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross Movement, 1963.
Polio and Malaria - Joint Exercises
            Let us recall the significant contribution of   Indian Red Cross towards the Global Polio Eradication Programme in India. The country reached a major milestone in the history of polio eradication on 13 January, 2012, where we witnessed a 12-month period in which no case of polio was recorded. Indian Red Cross volunteers and staff played a noteworthy role in the dissemination of information to the general public, about the importance of preventing, controlling and eliminating the virus that causes paralysis, muscular atrophy and permanent deformity among children, on account of polio. The Indian Red Cross has also implemented Polio Programmes in the States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where Polio had high prevalence.
            April 25, is observed as the World Malaria Day, the theme being “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria". The Indian Red Cross supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 2010-11 had implemented the Malaria Prevention and Control Programme in the two high malaria prevalence states of Andhra Pradesh  and Odisha. The objectives were the distribution of 40,000 LLIN (Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets) in two states and supplemented government efforts and by dissemination of knowledge about malaria and raising awareness especially at the community level.  Among other activities, the volunteers made visits to households, engaged in interactive sessions with the community members about health and hygiene, stressed on early detection signs and symptoms, cautioned on protective measures to be taken and thus educated the community imparting adequate knowledge regarding this killer disease. The Governors of the States of Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands congratulated and lauded the efforts and achievements of the Indian Red Cross Society.
 Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad's Recognition
            The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad speaking on an earlier World Red Cross remembrance day, said volunteers were the backbone and spirit of the Red Cross Movement. He was a great votary of voluntary blood donation and has had an opportunity to notice firsthand, the yeomen service rendered by volunteers in the wake of cloud burst tragedy at Leh that had occurred in August, 2010.  People ofLeh still cherish the two sanitation units set up by Red Cross volunteers.
Blood Storage Units - Upgradation
            Regarding the upgraded Indian Red Cross Model Blood Bank, Dr. S.P. Agarwal, Secretary General, said that the Society collects 85% blood from voluntary donors and aims to achieve 100% voluntary blood soon. He added, the latest equipments such as automatic Elisa & serology processor, cold-room to store 2000 units of whole blood at 4 degree Celsius, storage of 5000 units of frozen plasma at -40 degree Celsius, equipments for component separation, transfusion transmitted infectious markers are being added. He added with hope that with the procurement of a mobile blood collection van, the society would help in achieving the target of 100% voluntary blood donation.
Functioning in Indian States
            Indian Red Cross Society's, Nellore District Branch (Andhra Pradesh) renders service to the community through Health activities and Medical Camps. It has an active Vaccination Centre and a Blood Bank,is involved with a Spastics Centre,has undertaken a Cancer Project,runs an Aids clinic, educates men on Disaster Relief and provides opportunity for youth by giving them a chance of joining Junior Red Cross/Youth Red Cross. It also has a Pinakini Gandhi Ashram which stands second only to Gandhiji’s Ashram at Sabarmathi at the National Level.
            The Kottayam (Kerala) Red Cross Branch has been involved in multifarious welfare activities in the areas of health and social welfare. Red Cross Nursing and Employment Scheme (RCNES)  is a project aimed at catering to the needs of the nuclear family in modern times, Red Cross Nursing Training Course is given every month for selected men and women. Supplying of free medicines to poor patients as per the prescription of doctors from all over the district is another noble act of this Centre. A well furnished service counter is functional at the Medical College, Kottayam. The Kottayam Red Cross Branch maintains a directory of willing blood donors. They have also conducted numerous eye donation awareness camps all over the district
            Junior Red Cross (JRC) is active in Tamil Nadu. A two day JRC training camp was organized atMelakottaiyur where 172 Juniors and 32 Counsellors from 54 schools participated. Sessions were covered on History of Red Cross, Eye donation, Personality Development and culminated with Cultural activities by Juniors. Officers from Educational Districts like chief Educational Officer & District Educational Officer also participated in this two day camp. A three day Training camp for JRC students was conducted from 1.3.2012 to 3.3.2012 atUsilampatti involving 205 Juniors and 20 counsellors from 23 schools in which sessions were covered on history of Red Cross, Global Warming , Aids Awareness, First Aid & Road Safety. 
History of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
            Young Swiss businessman Henri Dunant was the pioneer of the "Red Cross" activityHe was appalled by the condition of the wounded soldiers he happened to see in the battlefield of Solferino in Italy in 1859, during the Franco-Austrian war. He arranged relief services with the help of the local community immediately. What had occupied his thoughts, the aftermath of that war, became a book - A Souvenir of Solferino written in French, published in 1962 and became a passionate appeal against the inhumanity of war. Even today it is one of the most vivid and moving accounts of war, ever written. It suggested that a neutral organization be established to aid the wounded soldiers in times of war. Just a year after the release of this book, an international conference was convened in Geneva to consider the suggestions of Henry Dunant and thus the Red Cross Movement was born. International Red Cross Movement was established by Geneva Convention  Act of 1864. The name and the emblem of the movement are derived from the reversal of the Swiss national flag, to honor the country in which Red Cross was founded.
Indian Red Cross Society  
            During the First World War - 1914 - India had no organization for relief services to the affected soldiers, except a branch of the St. John's Ambulance Association and a Joint Committee of the British Red Cross. A bill to constitute the Indian Red Cross Society, independent of the British Red Cross, was passed on 17th March 1920 and became an Act in 1920. On 7th June 1920 , fifty members were formally nominated to constitute the Indian Red Cross Society and the first Managing Body was elected from among them. Tamil Nadu Branch has partnership with the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies through the National Headquarters and individuals and philanthropists in supporting its activities. In fact, the Indian Red Cross Society is auxiliary to the Government.
The Task Ahead
One word would suffice, participation. In fact, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi has a comprehensive Post-Graduate Diploma Course in Disaster Preparedness and Rehabilitation, under the aegis of the Red Cross Society which seeks to provide opportunities to obtain specialized qualification which has recognition on a global perspective and also provide a platform to professionals to build up capacity for training. One could become a member of this Society by visiting the url words of John F Kennedy still keeps ringing in one's ears and has its relevance even today.
The Red Cross often steps in when nobody else can, performs onerous tasks and plays a unique role based on its international standing. And for this reason it gives us, the entire humanity, a ray of hope.

May 8th  is Red Cross Day.


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