Journey - Ties that bind : IRCS and ICRC serve humanity together
For many years now, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been working in close cooperation with the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) to carry out a gamut of humanitarian activities across India, during both crisis and non- crisis situations. First Aid training for 14 IRCS districts in Pune, provision of non- food essentials after internal clashes along the Assam-Meghalaya border in India’s northeast, restoring family links during the Bihar floods, Sikkim earthquake and the Uttarakhand disaster and support to Youth/ Junior Red Cross Counselors in 22 schools in Odisha are just a few examples of ICRC- IRCS joint activities.
Every year, the IRCS and the ICRC jointly develop and agree on an annual plan of action, which is primarily implemented by selected IRCS state branches under the guidance of the IRCS National Headquarters with support from the ICRC. Talking about the significance of the partnership, Dr S.P. Agarwal, Secretary General of the IRCS, says, “The ICRC has a rich experience of 150 years, and because of our reach through volunteers across the country, there is great scope for us to work together. The IRCS has been working with the ICRC for many years, since way back in 1920, and there is a lot for us to learn from the ICRC experience.”
ICRC Director-General Mr Yves Daccord, who visited India in March 2013, held discussions with the IRCS leadership — Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, IRCS Chairman and Honourable Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, and Dr S.P. Agarwal — on issues of mutual cooperation, particularly on the commitment to strengthen joint response in case of emergencies in India.
The main objective of this cooperation is to enhance IRCS’s capacity to respond effectively during humanitarian emergencies in the framework of the First Medical Responder (FMR) project and to promote timely Red Cross action in India. The primary areas of support are: provision of Family News Service (FNS), which connects family members separated in emergencies; first aid enhancement; strengthening of Youth/Junior Red Cross activities; promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL); emergency response to victims of crises; and livelihood support for those in need.
The history of cooperation between the two institutions goes as far back as World War II. They also worked together during the two India-Pakistan Wars. Ms Mary Werntz, Head of Regional Delegation, ICRC New Delhi, says, “Our partnership with the IRCS is an important part of our activities in India. There are many instances in history in which the ICRC has provided humanitarian assistance in the country with the support of and in close coordination with the IRCS.”
The ICRC-IRCS plan of action for 2013 incorporated programmes that were implemented at the IRCS state branches of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and the IRCS National Headquarters in New Delhi.
Detailing the roadmap for the future, Ms Werntz says, “The ICRC-IRCS plan of action 2014 represents a new milestone in our cooperation with IRCS as it confirms the commitment of both partners to learn from each other and to enhance the Red Cross response in addressing humanitarian needs in India.”
Major highlights of ICRC-IRCS collaborative activities in 2013
- The ICRC, along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, supported the IRCS in developing FMR project training modules and facilitated Training of Traniers (ToT) for master trainers from 17 IRCS branches at the IRCS NHQ. The IRCS Chairman inaugurated a FMR project in Jammu and Kashmir; the ICRC provided 1,000 First Aid kits to the IRCS for this project
- To ensure preparedness of capacity in first aid, five IRCS state branches — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Odisha — organised Training of Trainers (ToT) for 171 volunteers and two staff. These trainers further trained 480 volunteers for six branches — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Odisha and Nagaland — in basic First Aid training. IRCS Maharashtra also initiated commercial first aid activities in three IRCS district branches
- To promote Red Cross activities in selected schools and colleges, four IRCS state branches organized seven J/YRC counsellors’ training for 270 school and college teachers
- Six IRCS branches — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Odisha and Nagaland — celebrated World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day on 8 May. The focus was on 150 Years of Humanitarian Action to mark the 150th anniversary of the ICRC
- For the management of dead bodies, the ICRC provided 1,500 body bags to support the IRCS NHQ during the Uttarakhand floods. An ICRC staff member, who is also a member of the IRCS National Disaster Water Response Team, was deployed in Uttarakhand during the floods for management of a water purification unit and hygiene promotion
- The ICRC staff facilitated sessions on the Red Cross Movement, International Humanitarian Law, Family News Service and Dead Bodies Management for students of the IRCS Post Graduate Diploma Course in Disaster Preparedness and Response
- The ICRC staff also facilitated sessions on psycho-social support, IHL, FNS and Dead Bodies Management during National Disaster Response Team (NDRT) trainings organized by the IRCS NHQ in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal