April 24, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is an independent, impartial, neutral organisation with an exclusively humanitarian mission, which is to provide assistance and protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other violent situations. The ICRC also strives to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.
Established in 1863, the organisation’s mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the ICRC is financed mainly by voluntary donations from governments and from national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and employs about 12,000 people in 80 countries worldwide.
Prolonged armed conflict in countries almost inevitably results in damaged infrastructure and disruption of supply in addition to the mass military and civilian casualties. More often than not, health services are compromised in such situations and even if they remain operational, access can be difficult, dangerous or prohibited for parts of the community. This may be compounded further by the sudden increase in emergency cases and the simultaneous loss of healthcare workers. As a result, many normal healthcare needs go unattended. Children and pregnant women do not receive necessary vaccinations, essential prenatal and antenatal care is missing and there are no facilities for treating chronic illnesses or selective surgical cases.
ICRC’s Health Unit activities aim to provide people affected by conflict with at least basic preventive and curative health care that meets universally recognised standards. To this end, the ICRC assists, or in some cases temporarily replaces local health services. Its primary objective is to reduce mortality, suffering, disabilities and morbidity that typically result from inadequate care.
In conflict situations, emergency health needs range from medicines and medical equipment, reconstruction of medical facilities and management or administrative support to the training of additional health workers and assistance from expatriate medical and surgical teams. The long-term rehabilitation and re-establishment of health systems remain pressing long after the conflict subsides.
In emerging or acute crises, when access to medical facilities and provision of care are at risk, the ICRC helps ensure there is continuation of basic health services, First Aid, emergency hospital care and emergency transport. The basic services include, vaccination campaigns, mother and child care, outpatient treatment and dealing with the consequences of sexual violence.
Hospital support is primarily directed at managing surgical, obstetric, paediatric and internal medical emergencies. War wounds that may lead to severe disabilities or amputation are dealt with within the framework of physical rehabilitation programmes.
In chronic crises and post-crisis situations, the ICRC provides more diversified support to ensure continuity of primary health care including health and hygiene promotion and broader immunisation programmes.
The mission of the International Committee Of The Red Cross is nothing less than daunting. To meet their challenging aims and objectives the ICRC continuously recruits staff from different proficiencies including healthcare and trains them so that they always have an adequate number of qualified personnel on hand when an emergency arises.