Friday, May 6th, 2011
To mark World Red Cross Red Crescent Day this Sunday, 8th May the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is calling for greater recognition of the sizable contribution volunteers make in a world increasingly confronted by challenges linked to such adversities as natural disasters, disease, war and other armed violence, poverty, hunger and climate change.

"Volunteers are one of the greatest assets communities have when a crisis occurs," said Tadateru Konoé, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which helps people affected by natural and man-made disasters, health emergencies and migration.

"They know the language and the lay of the land. Very quickly, they can size up the situation, roll up their sleeves and get to work. We saw recent examples of this kind of rapid response following the earthquake in Japan and the storms that ripped through the southern United States.

“But let's not forget all those other volunteers who are working on a day-to-day basis to improve the lives of others, whether by delivering meals, visiting sick patients, helping out in schools or replanting trees.

“There's simply no way of measuring just how many lives volunteers save or enrich, or how much human dignity they help restore, each and every year."

“Volunteers provide an invaluable service to countless communities around the globe, yet often their sacrifice and dedication are underappreciated and go unrecognised.

Chief Executive of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner says “During the recent floods, cyclones and fires in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia Red Cross volunteers assisted more than 27,000 people in evacuation and relief centres.

“Our volunteers also supported many others in recovery centres and by going door-to-door to visit people in their homes.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, with an estimated 13 million active volunteers among its supporters, the world's largest humanitarian network, is demanding greater respect for its volunteers' safety and well-being.

World Red Cross Red Crescent Day provides an opportunity not only to mark the achievements of volunteers, but also to remind us that they must be allowed to safely carry out their work and not be attacked.

Volunteers are at the forefront, and often in the front line of emergency response. Just in the last few months they have been doing a tremendous and admirable job of responding to the fighting in North Africa, from Cote d'Ivoire to Libya and beyond. Several volunteers have been injured while trying to help others. Volunteers are not protected by bullet-proof vests or armoured vehicles. They must be allowed to do their work safely.

Disasters will continue to happen. War and other situations of violence, natural and technological disasters, hunger, disease, and discrimination are the reality of our humanitarian landscape," says Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which works to protect and assist victims of armed conflict and other violence.

One of the greatest resources we have in addressing these challenges are volunteers, and that's why we're using World Red Cross Red Crescent Day this year to pay tribute to their invaluable service."

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Bruce Wardley

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