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Assistance for Conflict Victims

The International Committee of the Red Cross is an impartial, neutral and independent organisation whose exclusively humantrain mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. It direct and coordinates the international relief activities conducted by the movement in situation of conflict. It also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

The ICRC owes its origin to the vision and determination of one man, Henry Dunant at Solferino a town in Northern Italy on 24th June 1859. Dunant a Swiss citizen, who happen to pass through a place where the Austrian and French armies were locked in bitter battle and after 16 hours of fighting, the ground was strewn with 40,000 dead and wounded. He was horrified by the sight of thousands of soldiers from both armies left to suffer for want of medical care. He appealed to the local to help him tend the wounded insisting that soldiers on both sides should be treated equally.

Dunant published a memory of Solferino in which he made two solemn appeals for relief societies to be formed in peace time, with nurses who would be ready to care for the wounded in war time. He also appealed for volunteers who would be called upon to assist the army medical team services to be recognised and protected through an international agreement. In 1863 a charitable association known as the Geneva Society for public welfare set up a five-member commission to consider how Dunant’s ideas could be made a reality. It was at the Geneva conference on 26th October 1863 that the distinctive emblem a red cross on a white background, the reverse of the Swiss national flag was adopted and the Red Cross came into being.

Modern day humanitarian emergencies are characterised by out breaks of extreme violence frequently directed against civilians. These often coincide with or are the indirect cause of other crises such as famines, epidemics and economic upheaval. The combined effects may put the civilian population in extreme peril their coping mechanism stretched to the limit and in dire need assistance.

The primary aim of ICRC assistance is therefore, to protect conflict victim’s lives and health to case their plight and to ensure that the consequences of conflict disease, injury, hunger or exposure to the element do not jeopardize their future, while emergency assistance saves lives and mitigates the worst effects of conflict. The ICRC tries always to keep sight of the ultimate aim of restoring people’s ability to provide for them.

Assistance may take a variety of forms depending on the region and the nature of the crisis. It may include the provision of food and or medicine, but usually builds on the capacity to deliver essential services such as the construction or repair of water supply system or medical facilities and the training of primary health care, staff surgeon and prosthetic/orthotic technicians.

In certain conflicts, unlawful tactics may be used by either side, such as blockades on food and other essential goods, obstruction of water supply and deliberate destruction of crops and infrastructure. In such cases before providing assistance, the ICRC attempts to prevent or bring an end to violations by drawing the parties’ attention to their responsibilities under international humanitarian law. Before beginning any assistance programme the ICRC makes a careful assessment of what each groups needs in the context of its own environment so that the aid is appropriate. In addition the ICRC make sure that supplies are distribute in compliance with the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality.

In its constant quest to improve the quality of its action, the ICRC monitors each programme throughout and adopts it as the situation evolves and when it is over, evaluates the lesson learn and ways to do better next time. The ICRC’s evaluation policy applies to every sphere of its activities not just relief operation so that it can provide the best response possible to the multifaceted needs of conflict victims.           May 2007

Temjenkaba is based in Kohima, Nagaland. Article Source: DIPR, Nagaland