05 May 2006
Asif Alisiddiqua, a Pakistan Red Crescent Society volunteer, helps villagers load corrugated iron sheets onto a jeep to be driven high up in the mountains of Kaghan Valley. (Photo: Arzu Ozsoy/IFRC)Geneva, Switzerland:
Every year, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement relies on its unique network of more than 90 million volunteers to provide vital assistance and support to over 275 million people worldwide.
These humanitarian heroes, who sometimes risk their lives and often make considerable personal sacrifices in order to help others, deserve the international community’s thanks and recognition for their devotion and tireless efforts.
On 8 May 2006, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Movement’s 183 National Societies will celebrate annual World Red Cross Red Crescent Day by paying tribute to the millions of volunteers who provide universal assistance to people in need.
“Volunteers are the backbone of our work,” said Juan M. Suárez del Toro, the president of the International Federation. “They symbolize the power of humanity and without them, we would not be able to carry out our life-saving emergency activities or fulfil our day-to-day objective of protecting human dignity.”
Suárez del Toro added that the efforts of each and every volunteer had a “very real impact” on communities, while the power of their combined efforts enabled the Movement to “reach beyond borders, bringing help wherever it is needed”.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, said that volunteers also played a key role in ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for the victims of conflict and armed violence.
"In many dangerous conflicts around the world, the ICRC would find it difficult to carry out its work to protect and assist civilian victims, help the wounded, put separated families back together or visit detainees, without the active support of volunteers. Their local knowledge and involvement, and above all their courage, often makes the difference,” Kellenberger said.
Around the world, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are active in a diverse range of activities, from alerting the public to the danger of landmines in Afghanistan to fighting the stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS in southern Africa.
They also regularly come to the aid of millions of people affected by natural and man-made disasters, such as the Pakistan earthquake, the Darfur crisis and hurricanes in the Americas, while providing ongoing support to the survivors of the Asia tsunami.
“Volunteers are the messengers and implementers of our humanitarian mission to millions of vulnerable people around the world,” said Kellenberger and Suárez del Toro said in a joint statement marking World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.
“They reflect the global diversity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and embody the Movement’s universal commitment that humanity must prevail in the face of conflict or catastrophe,” they concluded.