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100 million volunteers recognized for successful humanitarian assistance
04 December 2006

Geneva, Switzerland: The 100 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and members around the world are essential to making sure millions of vulnerable people receive effective, timely, sustainable and appropriate humanitarian assistance, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The statement marks International Volunteer Day, celebrated on 5 December since 2001.

“Our millions of volunteers are themselves often vulnerable – they may be living with HIV, or may not always have enough to eat. They know first-hand what vulnerability is, and this gives them extra empathy with the people they are helping, and therefore makes them more effective in their work at the heart of the community,” underlines Federation President Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro. “Our humanitarian principles are not just abstract theories. They translate into practical applications and concrete results.”

The efficiency of volunteer actions has been clearly demonstrated in recent crises such as the hostilities in Lebanon, in July and August, when 5,000 Lebanese Red Cross (LRC) volunteers carried out life-saving actions including emergency medical help, first aid, rescue and evacuation, primary health care and relief distribution. One LRC volunteer, 34-year-old Mikhael Jbayleh, lost his life as he was evacuating several wounded people. Today, more than 1,000 Lebanese Red Cross youth volunteers continue to distribute relief assistance to displaced and homeless families.

Since the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has helped more than 1.7 million survivors, providing vital assistance in the immediate wake of the disaster, as well as longer-term support towards recovery. At the heart of this effort have been more than 30,000 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, who gave their time, many of them putting aside their own grief, to help those who had lost family members, homes and livelihoods to the terrible waves.

In southern Africa, thousands of volunteers are playing a key role in the community-based approach taken by the Red Cross to bring home care to people living with AIDS and to their families, making sure they follow their treatment, bringing them basic medical supplies, food and advice on health and hygiene. These volunteers, many of whom are also living with HIV, are also running prevention campaigns and stand at the forefront of the fight against stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.

“Our volunteers are the key to achieving the International Federation’s Global Agenda, meant to contribute to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Every day, through their solidarity, commitment and motivation, they put volunteerism, one of our fundamental principles, at the service of reducing death, injury, disease and the impact of disasters, as well as fighting discrimination and promoting tolerance,” notes President Suárez del Toro.

With more than half of the active Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers worldwide under 30 years old, the International Federation’s 185 member Societies recently reaffirmed their commitment to promoting youth and volunteering, improving the recruitment, training and management of their volunteers and giving them a greater voice at the decision-making level in the elaboration of programmes.