World Red Cross Day overshadowed by pandemic concerns

World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is observed amid concerns about the future. The leadership of of the humanitarian aid organizations fears a decline in donations due to the coronavirus pandemic, which could impact its work in refugee camps where infections have been reported.

By Stefan J. Bos

Friday's World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day was overshadowed by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 4 million people are known to have been infected by the virus. More than 270,000 coronavirus related deaths have been reported.  

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, now fears the pandemic will spread in overcrowded refugee camps, including in the Middle East. "We have been worried over the last couple of weeks in particular, and we have had intense negotiations with host governments of refugee communities," he said.

"That is to ensure that a lifeline of services to those communities is maintained while governments, of course, have to take restrictive emergency measures, " he explained. "So I am worried that these humanitarian spaces would shrink if we would see more important numbers coming forward with regard to infection rates in particular within refugee communities," Maurer stressed. 

Paying tribute

Amid the turmoil, people around the world paid tribute to the Red Cross volunteers for their contribution to helping those in need. World Red Cross day is observed on May 8 because it's the birthday of Henry Dunant. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate founded the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863.

Maurer, its current president, is worried that donations to the organization will decline as countries are trying to overcome the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. "I am, though, concerned that when I see what governments are spending in order to save their economies, to respond to COVID within their own context, that many of our donors have been affected by COVID,” he admitted.

"Many have increasing bills in their budgets to look for their own people. So there is an expectation that funding will become very problematic towards the end of the year or even in 2021, " Maurer warned. 

However, despite the uncertainty the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have made clear they want to continue their humanitarian and medical work under challenging circumstances ranging from disaster areas to war zones based on principles such as humanity and impartiality.

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08 May 2020, 17:13