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Guinea-Bissau: humanitarian aid will during Carnival

01-03-2010 Feature

Carnival is the most popular festival in Guinea-Bissau. Each year, thousands of people celebrate for four days straight in the streets of the capital Bissau. In addition to its traditional first-aid posts, the ICRC this year helped the Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau set up a service for children who became separated from their parents during the festivities.

Muninato sleeps well waiting for her mother come and get her. 
In each case, a form is filled out with details about the identity of the parents and the children. 
In previous years, many lost children were taken either to radio stations or police stations, places where there were no facilities to receive them. So this year the Red Cross Society decided to include a reunification service for the Carnival, and trained volunteers to provide it. They were able to reunite two dozen children with their parents.

Issufo Conta, headed the operation, explained that volunteers (equipped with stretchers, sheets, blankets, mats, chairs, and mobile telephones) were placed at key positions in the city, ready to receive lost children, the injured and the sick. " What we did was transfer all children found to the central Red Cross post. The children often arrived hungry, so we fed them, then they played or slept on the mats until their parents arrived. " Radio stations helped by announcing that children had been found and that the parents should to the Red Cross with identification.

Aua Baldé became separated from her little girl Muninato. " It was on the third day of Carnival, " she says. " I was very worried. Muninato is only two and doesn't speak yet. I looked for her at Rádio Jovem, in the Cala-boca police station and in other places. I couldn't find her anywhere. After many hours of searching, I finally found her thanks to the Red Cross. "

The volunteers also gave first aid to 22 people who had fainted or were injured. The most serious cases were sent to Simão Mendes hospital.

Carnival was a success for the Red Cross Society of Guinea-Bissau. However, there was not enough equipment to serve the entire city. Above all more cars would have made possibl e a larger operation.