Since July 2014, Red Cross volunteers in Guinea have faced an average of ten attacks a month by people mistrustful of their activities to help end the Ebola outbreak. Photo: Moustapha Diallo, IFRC
Joint Statement by ICRC Director-General, Yves Daccord, and IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is deeply concerned about the recent spate of attacks against its volunteers and staff. In the last month alone, two volunteers and one staff member were killed in Sudan. Volunteers have been attacked in Myanmar, and in Guinea teams fighting Ebola are being attacked by community members on average 10 times a month due to misinformation and stigma. In the Central African Republic and elsewhere, the emblems have not been universally respected and in some cases have even been targeted. In Syria, 47 volunteers have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict.
Risking their lives for the community
Volunteers and staff risk their lives for their communities every day. They do so believing they are under the protection of the red cross and red crescent emblems, which international law recognizes as visible signs of humanity and neutrality in wartime and peacetime alike. As humanitarian workers displaying these emblems, they should be spared from attack and granted safe passage. Unfortunately – unacceptably – this is not always the case.
But ensuring effective protection for volunteers and staff is increasingly difficult. Various factors are placing them at risk, such as the protracted nature of current crises, the multiplication of armed actors and a widespread lack of respect for international humanitarian law. Moreover, civil wars often stretch beyond country borders, with ripple effects that dismantle communities, destroy the social fabric and create volatile environments in which volunteers and staff strive to carry out their life-saving work.
Respect and protection needed
Humanitarian needs generated by today’s crises are huge. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff play a key role within their communities helping to alleviate the human cost of these crises. Without respect and protection from all parties, they cannot perform that unique and essential role safely. Countless crisis victims and survivors rely on them for help, and are at risk because these workers are prevented from doing their jobs because of safety concerns.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as a whole – 189 National Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross – calls for State and non-State parties, armed forces and groups, and individuals, communities and thought leaders to support Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff as well as other humanitarian workers everywhere. We call on all parties to conflicts to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law and respect Red Crescent and Red Cross aid workers by granting them safe and unrestricted access to all people in need.
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