Resilience amidst immense loss and suffering: The first six months of 2023 in photos

Resilience amidst immense loss and suffering: The first six months of 2023 in photos

From the devastating Türkiye-Syria earthquake to the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the eruption of fighting in Sudan, the first half of 2023 saw humanitarian needs skyrocket across the world.

Together with our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners, our teams have been on the frontlines of conflicts and crises, providing lifesaving relief and advocating that parties to conflicts respect international humanitarian law. These photos capture some of that work as well as the incredible resilience communities have shown amidst immense suffering and loss.

Yemen: Overwhelming joy as detainees return home

In mid-April 2023, upon the request of the parties engaged in the conflict in Yemen, we successfully facilitated as a neutral intermediary the release and transfer of 973 individuals who had been detained in connection to the ongoing conflict.

One former detainee, Yasser, could barely contain his excitement as he yelled joyfully while talking to his mother over the phone for the first time in over a year: "Mother! I'm at the airport! Boarding on the plane in half an hour. I'm coming to Sanaa!"

Turkiye-Syria: Deadly quake worsens humanitarian crisis

Communities in Syria have lived through more than 12 years of a deadly armed conflict and a devastating earthquake that caused further humanitarian suffering earlier this year, leaving a trail of destruction as thousands of buildings collapsed, and tens of thousands of lives were lost. Among those affected was Suliman, featured in the photo below, who tragically lost his younger brother to the devastating quake.

Our team in Syria focused on delivering humanitarian relief to survivors of the quake. More than 30,000 people received canned food and relief items in collective shelters in Aleppo, Latakia and Hama, including blankets, mattresses, solar lights, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets.

Conflict in Sudan: Relief amid despair

Amid heavy combat that has devastated Khartoum for many gruelling weeks, a glimmer of relief emerged as 300 children and 71 dedicated caretakers from Mygoma Orphanage were successfully evacuated on 7 June 2023. The destination: Wad Madani, located approximately 200 kilometres away.

There was a general feeling of relief, as people knew they were headed towards safety, away from the sounds of gunfire. Yet, grief shadowed the moment as nannies and workers left behind their homes and years of dedication, uncertain of what lay ahead.

Since the start of the fighting, thousands of people have been displaced within Sudan's borders, and tens of thousands more have found refuge in neighbouring countries such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chad and the Central African Republic. In the photo below, patients board an ICRC flight evacuating war-wounded civilians, from Adré, Chad at the Sudanese border, to N'Djamena. Patients in need of maxillofacial and neurological surgery were set to receive treatment after days of anxiety and uncertainty.

The international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine

The recent increase in military operations in the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine - as well as the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam - brought additional threats, especially for communities living on either side of the frontline. We were on the ground, helping those in need.

From the first day of the flooding, we worked hand-in-hand with Red Cross Ukraine and authorities to serve emerging needs, with a particular focus on access to clean water and mine safety. This emergency assistance included tons of chlorine solution, large-capacity water pumps and tanks, thousands of jerry cans, as well as food and medical items.

The ICRC is working with its Red Cross partners and other humanitarian actors, as well as authorities at the regional and local levels, to assess and respond to longer-term needs. We have already started supporting upstream communities to develop short-term coping mechanisms and will be supporting authorities in finding alternative water sources in selected locations.

Igniting the flame of self-sufficiency in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the weight of decades of armed conflict, dwindling incomes, scarce job prospects, and the harsh realities of climate change are taking an unbearable toll on families struggling to survive. From January to June 2023, we stepped up to support over 28,000 individuals with multipurpose cash assistance, providing a lifeline to meet their most essential needs. We also created opportunities for over 3,000 people through cash-for-work initiatives, empowering them to earn a vital income and safeguard their livelihoods.

Mexico: Helping people find answers about missing loved ones

For more than 150 years, the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network has been working to clarify the fate of missing people. Given their proximity to their communities, National Society staff and volunteers, with the support of the ICRC, often play a key role in supporting families in the search for missing or separated loved ones.

Olga Blanca Mondragón, speaks to an ICRC staff member about her husband, Lenin Bladimir Castañón Rodríguez, who disappeared in Chilpancingo on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. His body was located and delivered to his family days after this photo was taken.

Delivering food kits in Colombia

Decades of armed conflict have left 8.8 million victims in Colombia. Urgent humanitarian challenges include: supporting communities affected by violence, helping the families of missing people, and advocating for the protection of migrants.

In the rural area of Chocó, we delivered 700 non-perishable food kits to six Afro-descendant communities, victims of confinement related to violence. After three days of travelling along the Cajón and Taparal rivers, we reached the rural communities of Sipí and Nóvita, where we delivered the kits to 986 people who now have basic elements for their nutrition.

Support for sexual violence survivors in Tigray

Despite its prohibition in international law, sexual violence remains widespread and prevalent during armed conflicts and other situations of violence. In Tigray, we have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Women's Association of Tigray, which manages a safe house housing sexual violence survivors. We help by covering running costs and offering material assistance like dignity kits, bedding, furniture, recreational items for mothers and children, cleaning supplies, and other essential items. Additionally, we ensure the provision of family link services for protection within the safe house.

How we help detainees in Somalia

As Muslims around the world ushered in the holy month of Ramadan, detainees in Somalia were also able to join in the spirit of the occasion. In that time, close to 4,000 detainees across 12 places of detention across the country received food for the traditional iftar menu, including goats, dates, lentils, milk, sugar, a mix of spices, cooking oil, tomato paste and tea leaves.

Some of the detainees are pictured below enjoying a board game. Games like dominos and cards are popular pass times inside places of detention.