The idea to start the Red Cross movement was born in 1859, after a bloody battle of Austrian against French-Sardinian troops at Solferino (Italy) witnessed by a young Swiss man, Henry Dunant. Approximately 40,000 men were killed or severely wounded at the battlefield and there was nobody to nurse the wounded or take care of the suffering.
From this traumatizing experience, Dunant pioneered the idea of establishing first aid based national societies to take care of wounded soldiers and civilians during war times in his legendary work, the Memory of Solferino.
“Wouldn’t it be of great importance if there is an approach, during peacetime, to set up the first aid societies whose goal would be to take care of wounded in wartime, by zealous, devoted and well trained volunteers, for such action?” Dunant asked.
In 1863, a committee of five Genevans led by Henry Dunant came together to establish Red Cross. At its very early start, it was the first international aid committee for the wounded at the frontlines of wars and conflicts. Soon after, this name changed to form the International Committee of the Red Cross. The movement’s emblem was a red cross with a white background, an inverted Swiss flag.
Over the next year, 12 governments adopted the First Geneva Convention, a vital step in the history of humanity since this convention envisaged the first aid service for wounded and defined medical services as “neutral” at the battlefield.
The Red Cross Movement therefore includes the International Committee of Red Cross, the National Societies of Red Cross of respective countries and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the World. In other words, it is the embodiment of the three arms of the global Red Cross family.
Dunant’s work steadily expanded since the battlefield of Solferino and set ground for the Geneva conventions of 1949.
Rwanda Red Cross
Established in July 1962, Rwanda Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that acts auxiliary to public authorities as envisaged in the Geneva Conventions that provide for the establishment of such societies in every signatory country.
On 21 March 1964, the government of Rwanda ratified the Geneva Conventions and on 29 December 1964, Rwanda Red Cross was officially recognized by a Presidential Decree. It was however to be recognized internationally as a member of the Red Cross family by the International Committee of Red Cross on 8 October 1982 making the 130th National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society to have been created. There are currently 189 such societies worldwide making Red Cross the World’s largest humanitarian network.
On 8 October 1983, Rwanda Red Cross gained its membership in International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and was able to organize its first General Assembly in 1989.
But as was the case for many other national structures in the country, the war and genocide against the Tutsi of 1994 also had destructive effects on Rwanda Red Cross. In 1995, with the support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Rwanda Red Cross resumed its activities.
In 1997, the second General Assembly was held and preceded a restructuring of the society and the adoption of the decentralization policy of 1999. As a result of this decentralization approach which aimed at taking the Red Cross closer to every Rwandan, the National Society now has a total of 30 local committees accounting for each of Rwanda’s districts.
In 2002, Rwanda Red Cross organized its 3rd General Assembly and adopted the strategic plan 2002-2006. In 2006, a 4th General Assembly took place adopting the subsequent 2007-2011 strategic plan.
During the year 2008, Rwanda Red Cross held the fifth general assembly and its first ever National Youth Council. The youth council paved way for an era of increased youth engagement and participation in governing the National Society. To date, youth have a position in all of Rwanda Red Cross’ decision making organs both at National and decentralized local committee levels.
The mission of Rwandan Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in an impartial way, without any discrimination as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class or political opinions among any other divisions that may arise in society.
Its diverse programs are developed and implemented to alleviate human suffering throughout the country by mobilizing the community.
The specific mission of Rwanda Red Cross is:
- being a leading humanitarian organisation and take part in national plans in preparation for and interventions in situations of emergencies, including armed conflicts and other situations of violence, as well as natural or manmade disasters, arising on the territory of Rwanda;
preventing and alleviating human suffering with complete impartiality, making no discrimination as to nationality, race and ethnic origin, gender, language, religious beliefs, class, political opinions or other similar criteria;
providing community services to the population aimed at reducing vulnerabilities through programmes such as health, prevention of diseases, disaster risk reduction and emergency response, strengthening community resilience, socio-economic reintegration of vulnerable and displaced persons, social protection, education and mutual assistance for the collective good;
supporting the national programme of blood transfusion through community mobilisation towards voluntary blood donation to ensure that adequate blood necessary to supply those in dire need is available;
rendering assistance to the medical services of the armed forces in times of armed conflict;
establishing and implementing programmes aimed at providing humanitarian assistance and aid to members of the armed forces and civilians in distress and the alleviation of suffering in times of armed conflict;
managing its own national network of volunteers and placing it at the service of public authorities and the community for the purpose of re-establishing family links between persons separated by armed conflicts and other situations of violence, natural or manmade disasters or other situations necessitating humanitarian action;
cooperating with public authorities with the view of ensuring the national application of International Humanitarian Law and preventing misuse of the emblems and names of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as well as other distinctive emblems, designations and signs protected by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols;
promoting and disseminating International Humanitarian Law, the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Movement and humanitarian values, and educating the general public on disaster prevention, preparedness and response;
recruiting, instructing and assigning at the headquarter and local committee levels, the human resources necessary to accomplish those tasks entrusted to it, and mobilising volunteers for each activity with the view of reinforcing the capacities of the RRCS at every level;
Cooperating with the components of the Red Cross Movement and with other national and international organisations in the free and independent fulfilment of its activities, in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Movement.
To remain the leading humanitarian society in Rwanda committed to alleviating human suffering and serving the most vulnerable people.
As a member of the International Red Cross Movement, Rwanda Red Cross society, in all its activities, is bound by seven fundamental principles upon which humanitarian values are grounded across the world.
Those principles are Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary service, unity and Universality.
In addition to the seven fundamental principles aforementioned, Rwanda Red Cross also bases on additional values that underlie and guide its various activities.
In any intervention, Rwanda Red Cross respects these values:
3. Better service delivery
4. Plea for vulnerable people
6. Swift rescue action.
7. Open RRC services to the public.
8. Transparency and Responsibility