Republic of South Africa: Wits honours the International Committee of the Red Cross
13-11-2003 News Release
Wits University will recognise the achievements of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the outstanding work it has done throughout the world since its inception, by awarding it the University Council Gold Medal.
The award will be received on behalf of the ICRC by its President, Dr Jakob Kellenberger, during the University’s Health Sciences graduation on November 18. The ICRC will be the fourth recipient of this prestigious award that honours people who have made a noteworthy contribution to the University or have rendered exceptional service to the community.
Previous recipients of the awards are Prof. Malegapuru Makgoba, Dr JHS Ibrahim and Sam Goodman.
The ICRC is a neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian organisation. It is mandated, through the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, worthy successors to the First Geneva Convention of 1864, to protect and assist the victims of armed conflict.
The ICRC owes its existence to the vision and determination of one man, Henry Dunant, who witnessed the horrors that took place in Solferino, a town in northern Italy on June 24, 1859 and decided to take action to care for the sick and wounded of both sides on the battlefield.
As a result of this experience Dunant wrote " A Memory of Solferino " where the ideas of organised relief, leading to the creation of National Societies, as well as the protection of victims and the limitation of the means of methods of warfare, creating international humanitarian law (IHL) in a universal, written and permanent form were born. This was the origin of the ICRC and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The ICRC protects the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and internal violence and provides them with assistance. It directs and coordinates the international relief activities conducted by the Movement in situations of conflict and endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening IHL and universal humanitarian principles.
Currently acting in 80 countries, in both international and non-international conflicts, the ICRC in 2002, among other activities, visited 488, 063 detainees in 2,007 places of detention, completed 1,635 successful tracing requests and reunited 2,320 people with their families. Aid was distributed to 1.5 million people: 132,000 tonnes of food in 69 countries and assistance was rendered in 67 hospitals in 18 countries, treating 2.7 million patients. Water access, sanitation and construction work was carried out in over 40 countries, assisting up to 14 million people and costing 174 million Swiss Francs.
In South Africa, from 1963 to the end of apartheid the ICRC visited thousands of detained persons countrywide, in relation to the security situation and in times of unrest, assisting their families with food and issuing travel tickets to allow people to visit their detained family members. In particular visits were carried out to those detained on Robben Island, at Pollsmoor prison and various other detention places and police stations across the country. This work was acknowledged during a commemorative reunion of former political prisoners in 1995 addressed by former President Mandela.See also : South Africa: ICRC honoured for work during apartheid era