ICRC’s year in pictures, 2021: War expands, a volcano erupts, athletes shine, and families reunite

ICRC’s year in pictures, 2021: War expands, athletes shine and families reunite

The year 2021 saw desperation, upheaval, pandemic concerns, and reasons to smile. Increased conflict in Ethiopia and a volcano’s eruption in DRC meant increased suffering. People in Syria sought to move forward with their lives, while a new day in Afghanistan still brought huge hunger and health needs. Athletes on a podium reminded us that the effects of war can linger for a lifetime, while COVID-19 gave families in conflict zones another health hurdle. And a radiant woman in Cameroon exchanged a job washing dishes with her baby on her back for her own micro enterprise.

Conflict in Ethiopia

People take shelter in a school in Axum, Ethiopia after fleeing their homes due to fighting.

As frontlines shifted quickly in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions throughout the year, the ICRC has had to constantly adapt its operations in a challenging environment, negotiating its way with regional and local authorities. Two main concerns: reaching out to people in need as well as ensuring the security of the Red Cross staff.

The colour of hope

A dress shop called New Look gives a touch of colour – and hope – to a heavily damaged building in Darayya, Syria.

In 2021 Syria entered its 11th year of conflict, more than a decade of pain, loss, and turmoil for people across the country. Despite the trauma, grief and uncertainty, Syrians are trying to rebuild their lives.

A vanishing lifestyle

Mahamadou Ousmane, a farmer, just outside Timbuktu, Mali, has lived the brutal effects of climate change firsthand. "Fields used to stretch as far as the eye can see. We even had fish, but now the fishermen are gone because of the drought. and the canoes have been turned into firewood," he said. Farmers are facing failed harvests. Pastoralists are fighting to keep their herds alive. "Not a day goes by without conflict between livestock herders and farmers," said Mahamadou. "There's not much space, and everyone wants a bit of what there is."

Working for and with communities

Workers from the community study a construction plan during a cash-for-work programme to build 30 toilets in a village in Bukidnon province, the Philippines.

Clashes between regular armed forces and armed groups in this region push people to find shelter in far-away villages where infrastructure may not be sufficient.

Despite insecurity, the displaced go back to their fields to gather food or harvest crops.

Living under a volcano

The eruption of the Nyiaragongo volcano in late May wreaked havoc in the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

People moved several times out of fear of a second eruption or after having lost their homes and fields to the lava flows. This crisis has exacerbated existing humanitarian needs arising from the armed conflict and other recent emergencies caused by COVID-19 and the Ebola virus.

A grim milestone

People come to grieve their loved ones in the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, Brazil.

In June, the country crossed the sad and heartbreaking milestone of 500,000 deaths due to COVID-19.

Each death represents a parent, grandparent, children, sibling, friend, or loved one.

Just do it!

Athletes smile on the podium after participating in Gaza's first Amputee Cycling Tournament organized by the ICRC and the Palestinian Paralympic Committee, an event that promotes social inclusion of people with disabilities through sports.

Over the past 15 years, this densely populated strip of land has endured four major military operations and countless outbreaks of violence and unrest. The last one, in May, resulted in non-stop airstrikes in Gaza, and rockets reaching big cities in Israel.

Landmines and unexploded bombs and ammunition pose a lethal risk. In the past three years, at least one UXO-related accident has been reported each month in Gaza.

Highly vulnerable children

A teenage inmate in Mopti Arrest House, Mali.

Detention for adults can be stressful and dangerous. For children, it can be even worse. When visiting places of detention around the world, the ICRC pays particular attention to the wellbeing of minors, notably by ensuring that they are not physically detained with adults.

Surviving against all odds

A team of doctors at a COVID-19 health center supported by ICRC takes care of a patient in Aden, Yemen.

After seven years of conflict, the healthcare system in Yemen is on its knees. Many hospitals and health centers lack staff, drugs and other supplies, leaving them unable to cope with conflict casualties as well as basic healthcare needs.

Together at last

Two young children from Ivory Coast are reunited with their parents at the airport in Milan, Italy thanks to our joint effort with the Italian Red Cross and the Ivorian authorities. They were separated from their parents after the latter had to flee Ivory Coast in November 2015.

Helping families reunite is some of the most rewarding work we do.

We are not leaving

On the road to Faizabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan Province.

In Afghanistan, prices of food, fuel, and medicine have increased in 2021, disrupting access to essential services. Aid is practically frozen, salaries are not being paid and banks are struggling to function. This comes against the backdrop of decades of conflict, months of drought, and a global pandemic. As winter sets in, nearly half of the Afghan population is facing acute hunger.

Times are changing for millions of Afghans, but their needs remain immense.

Dignity recovered

Maïramou Souleye, 35, resettled in Maroua, Cameroon, in 2014. She left Amchidé, a small village close to the border with Nigeria, and never returned. She has no choice but to escape the fighting that is still affecting the Lake Chad region.

"I didn't know anyone in Maroua. I slept outside with my baby, near a gas station. During the day, my baby on my back, I used to wash dishes in the restaurants," she explained.

Today she sells doughnuts and fries, thanks to ICRC's financial support for small business projects.

The year 2021 saw desperation, upheaval, pandemic concerns, and reasons to smile.