Thursday, June 26, 2008

SIRC volunteers orientation held yesterday

Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC) volunteers met with the local Red Cross staff for a half day orientation on various programs offered by the humanitarian organization.

According the volunteers committee chairman, Michael Samani, the aim of the meeting was to familiarize the volunteers (both new and old) on respective programs and services they would give on behalf of the Red Cross.

Yesterday's presentations highlighted the different roles played by various programs towards the operation of Red Cross during normal times and disaster situations.

"In all the programs of the Red Cross, you volunteers are the foundation of our work. Volunteers actually carrying out our activities in times like this and disasters...Even in the recovery phase of the Tsunami of West volunteers are still doing it", said Lorima Tuke (SIRC Disaster Manager).

So it is vital to listen to suggestions from volunteers at all levels where in development planning, activities, and evaluation.

Similar meetings will be held in the future to raise awareness to volunteers in regard to the Solomon Islands Red Cross activities update.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hundreds turned up for Charity Concert

By Niniu Oligao

At the Honiara's famous Cultural Village (commonly know as Arts Gallery) hundreds of music fans flooded it yesterday to watch the Solomon Islands Red Cross Charity Concert. The concert was to raise fund to assist the local Red Cross to sustain its daily runnings and support towards its General welfare program.

The Charity show started at 11.30 am with people slowly went in till afternoon when hundreds flooded the show ground to watch and enjoyed the sounds of their favorite bands performed.

According to the organizing committee it is glad to say the Charity Concert raised huge amount of money to meet its goal yesterday.

And the Solomon Islands Red Cross gives credit to its hard working volunteers, staff and Scouts who helped during the preparation and the duration of the concert. Same gratitude humbly goes to the many bands who freely offered their support for a good cause the SI Red Cross stands for- to help the vulnerable people in our communities by protecting them from sicknesses, negative impacts of Climate Change, Leprosy patients, and victims of burnt houses to be clothed and sheltered.

Especially to the owners of One Drop Band to generously offer their instruments and band to be stage band for the show. Thank you for such good hearts. And finally to the public. SI Red Cross owes you gratitude for your supports in one way or the other during the show yesterday.

And the Solomon Islands Red Cross organizing committee humbly said we are all "Champions of humanity".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Appeal for more blood donors by Sir Waena

By Niniu Oligao

His Excellency the Governor General of the Solomon Islands and Patron of the Solomon Islands Red Cross, Sir Nathanial Waena appealed to more blood donors to come forward and donate blood. This happened during the World Blood Donor Day celebration on June 17, 2008 at the Honiara Referral Hospital compound.

In front of about two hundred people crowded to mark the World Blood Donor Day and nationwide radio coverage Sir Waena emotionally called for a five– minutes of silence to remember the humble ordinary givers of the noble gift of blood to save mankind.

“Blood donors are very humble people who have true love for mankind. And this is a great honor of love.

“Though we live in a world of modern technology but there is no substitute to blood”, Sir Waena said.

According to Sir Nathanial sadly million pregnant mothers and babies died of lack of blood donated. And Solomon Islands has the highest case in the region of pregnant mothers died during deliveries because of blood shortage.

“We have to give generously all the time. If you tried it once, do it again. If you do not give it yet, try it.

“We give it because we want to save another life– not for money or food.

“Thank you to everyone in this country who gave blood.

“Thank you on the behalf of those saved by your blood and their families.

“I on behalf of the Solomon Islands Red Cross and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, I appeal to you to donate blood.

“I appeal to all citizens to donate blood as a good gesture of love to mankind because the blood of Christ shed on the cross at Calvary to save mankind”, Sir Waena appealed.

That is the very reason for SI Red Cross and Ministry of Health honored that Day.

He further commended most senior schools increasingly donated blood. But he appealed to young people to keep blood clean from infectious diseases and drugs.

World Blood Donor Day celebration was organized by the SI Red Cross with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and World Health Organization (WHO).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A gift for Life- Blood Donation

(By Urijah Nomi Liligeto, 15 years old, Betikama College Form 3, 2008. A winner of the SI Red Cross Blood Donor Day essay competition)

Many of us may ask question, what is Blood Donation? According to the World Book Encyclopedia, it states that blood donation is when an individual voluntarily has blood drawn, usually for a blood transfusion, to another person. The one reason blood donors say why they give blood is because they want to help others. Some are also paid and in some cases there are incentives other than money. I will be writing on why blood is important for us, how and why we should donate blood.

Blood makes about seven percentage of your body weight. We all have different types of blood and Doctor Karl Landstainer first identified the major human blood groups as A,B, AB, O in 1901. Our blood has different jobs and it helps our body organs to be mobile. For example, we need red blood to carry oxygen to body organs and tissues while white blood cells are the body’s primary defense against infection. These are the reasons why need blood.

In our country today, people need blood and we help them by donating our blood. In our world today, someone needs blood every two seconds and about one in seven people entering a hospital need blood. Anemic patients need blood transfusion to increase their red blood cell levels and children who are treated for cancer, pre-mature infants and children undergoing heart surgery need blood. For these reasons, blood centers often short of blood so it is our challenge to help our fellow men and women by donating blood.

So, you can donate blood by going to the blood centers like Red Cross. You will be helped by people who worked there. Four easy steps to donate blood are by checking your medical history, quick physical check, donate then have snack. The actual blood donation usually takes about ten minutes. The entire process- from the time your sign to the time you leave- takes about an hour.

Many people are scared to donate but not this- you cannot get AIDS or any infectious disease by donating blood and giving blood wasn’t reducing your strength. Just donate blood because you are helping people who are in need of blood.

In conclusion, I just want to say that there is no substitute for human blood. We can be a life saver to someone. In the biblical aspect, we are saved from sin through the blood of Jesus and he became our substitute by dying on that cross on Calvary. So remember, the blood donation is all about life and death, and remember that a pint of your blood may save someone’s life.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Confidentiality: key to the ICRC's work but not unconditional

Confidentiality is an essential tool, which enables the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to reach out to people affected by insecurity, violence and armed conflict. It allows the ICRC to build trust, communicate and influence change. But what happens if confidentiality is broken? An interview with the ICRC's deputy director of operations, Dominik Stillhart.

The ICRC is known – and sometimes criticized – for its confidential approach to dealing with sensitive issues, such as its work in places of detention and its efforts to ensure that the lives and dignity of civilians and other non-combatants are respected. Critics argue that the organization is too secretive and should share its findings publicly, especially when it comes to conditions of detention and treatment of prisoners. Proponents maintain that discreet dialogue is key to protecting and assisting those affected by conflict.

The ICRC firmly believes that confidentiality is an essential tool, which enables it to reach out and maintain access to people affected by insecurity, violence and armed conflict. Confidentiality is what allows the ICRC to build trust, open channels of communication and influence change. But, as the ICRC's deputy director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, explains, confidentiality must be respected in order to be effective.

Why does the ICRC refuse to share its findings with the public?
Our main focus is on improving conditions for people affected by conflict and hostilities, regardless of who they are. We do speak out on some issues and we also offer assessments of the humanitarian situation in conflict-affected countries around the world, but when it comes to addressing possible violations of international humanitarian law, it's very important that we are able to do this primarily in a confidential manner.

For example, we might write a news release about the overall rights of detainees or the humanitarian impact of insecurity and displacement, but we will not speak publicly about individual allegations of abuse or specific violations of international humanitarian law.

In this type of situation – when our delegates observe cases of abuse, need or neglect – they take up their concerns directly with the authorities or other parties to the conflict on the ground. This can mean a range of people – from prison guards and military commanders to rebel leaders and armed opposition fighters. Our aim is to have a confidential dialogue with those who have the power to improve the situation.

The ICRC also works in a lot of places and contexts where outside scrutiny and criticism are often unwelcome. Confidentiality is the key that enables the ICRC to open doors that would otherwise remain shut, giving us access to people in need and places that many other organizations cannot reach.

Wouldn't it be more effective to expose abuses publicly?
Confidentiality does not equal complacency. Just because we don't speak out publicly on some issues, doesn't mean that we are silent. The ICRC is quite tenacious when it comes to following up on allegations of abuse, and we're ready to take our concerns all the way to the top if necessary, including heads of state or government, in order to put a stop to it.

The ICRC regularly reminds those involved in conflicts of their obligations under international humanitarian law. From insisting on the need to spare civilians during military operations to facilitating the release of hostages by armed opposition groups, we work very hard to keep up a dialogue with all sides to any given conflict.

This is far from easy, and improvements don't always come about as quickly or smoothly as we, or the victims of abuse, would like them to, but it's a tried and tested approach that enables us to help those affected by armed conflicts.

The ICRC does not share confidential information with the media or other third parties, nor does it consent to the publication of such information, because there is always a risk that our observations could be exploited for political gain or instrumentalized by one side or another.

By discussing serious issues, such as abuse or ill-treatment, away from the glare of public attention, governments and non-state actors are often more likely to acknowledge problems and commit to taking action.

The ICRC opts for a behind-the-scenes approach because this has helped us achieve results on many occasions. However, we know that this is not the only effective method of tackling abuses of international humanitarian law.

Would you ever consider waiving your confidentiality rules?
Discretion can have its limits, and the ICRC reserves the right to speak out, publish our findings or stop our work in exceptional cases. For example, if a detaining authority issues excerpts from one of our confidential reports – without our consent – we reserve the right to publish the entire report in order to prevent any inaccurate or incomplete interpretations of our observations and recommendations.

Similarly, if, after repeated requests, prisoners continue to be mistreated or if we are prevented from working according to our recognised operating procedures, we may suspend detainee visits or our operations and publicly explain the reasons.

If it's clear that our confidential approach isn't working – for example, because a government or rebel group simply refuses to take our concerns seriously, and that we've exhausted all other avenues of discourse, we can and will take action by expressing our concerns publicly. The decision to speak out is never taken lightly but it's important to remember that confidentiality is not unconditional.

What do you mean by "operating procedures"?
To ensure that our analysis is as complete and unbiased as possible, the ICRC follows a set of rules when visiting detainees, regardless of the circumstances.

ICRC delegates must be able to speak in total privacy with every detainee held. This is important because our confidentiality isn't limited to the authorities. If a detainee gives us permission to talk about his or her concerns with the authorities we will do so… but never without the detainee's consent.

As part of the rules, our delegates must also be able to inspect all cells and other facilities. Visits must be allowed to take place as often as the ICRC requests and for as long as people are held in detention. In addition, all detainees must have the opportunity to write to their families using the Red Cross message system and to receive Red Cross messages from their loved ones.

Another important element of our criteria is that ICRC delegates are allowed to conduct confidential discussions with the camp authorities before and after each visit to raise concerns and make recommendations where appropriate.

The ICRC also individually registers the identities of detainees, which makes it easier to monitor what happens to them and prevent disappearances.

Each year, we visit more than half a million detainees in around 75 countries. These standard criteria apply in all of the places where we visit prisoners. If restrictions are put on this way of working, we sometimes have no choice but to suspend our work until these rules are once again respected.

What happens if your reports are made public?
It's the people we are trying to help who may suffer most when our confidential findings wind up in the public domain.

If this happens, the authorities could stop us from visiting certain people or places, making it impossible for us to help them. It can take a very long time to build back trust and regain access.

In the meantime, it's the people who look to the ICRC for protection and assistance, including detainees, displaced groups and families torn apart by war, who bear the brunt of our absence.

What about lawyers and judges – can they read your reports?
If the ICRC marks a report as confidential, it means that it is intended only for the authorities or parties to the conflict to whom it is addressed. We object to any sharing or publication of this information without our consent.

The ICRC knows that it is a privilege and a responsibility to bear witness to what happens during times of war and conflict, and we understand why courts might want to use our findings as evidence or ask us to testify.

However, this could endanger those people, who have placed their trust in us by telling us about their often very painful experiences. If that information becomes public, they – and perhaps even their families – could face punishment or retribution.

When documents are leaked, it can also jeopardize our ability to continue working in a particular country or context, and compromise the safety of our colleagues.

This is why the ICRC has developed a long-standing practice of confidentiality. As a result, states cannot ask the ICRC to testify or serve as a witness before their domestic courts. This testimonial immunity has been confirmed by a number of domestic and international tribunals, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

More than 80 countries have also specifically recognised this immunity by treaties or legislation. In addition, the Rules of Procedure and Evidence for the International Criminal Court (ICC) stipulate that the "ICRC retains the final say on the release of its information". No other organizations were granted this privilege and the ICRC feels that its testimonial immunity underscores the importance of confidentiality as the cornerstone of our work.

Are you personally convinced that you can make a difference by working this way?
I know we can because I've seen it happen many times. Sometimes we manage to influence one situation more than another, and it can be a slow process. Our delegates know that even if progress doesn't happen right away, sometimes it's simply enough to "be there".

You can see it in the eyes of a prisoner sitting in his cell. You can see it on the face of a mother trying to feed her children in the midst of war. When there is very little hope to cling to, just knowing someone cares can make a difference.

What I know for sure is that trust isn't built overnight. It requires time, dedication and persistence to establish a constructive dialogue with people who don't often like to hear what we have to say. But more often than not, they do listen and I see this as reason to believe that confidentiality will continue to stand the test of time.

Source: www.icrc.org.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Story of Survival

From international Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies "Stories of Survival" feature issue.

During the 6.8 magnitude earthquake which devastated Algeria in May 2003, Adlene Melkoo, a 24 years old Algerian Red Crescent volunteer, worked with his bare hands to drag out people buried under tons of rubble. Removing dead bodies day in day out and knowing that more lives could have been saved took a great emotional toll on him.

"Normally, I work part time as a garbage collector on the night shift, so I am used to checking what's on the ground. This time, the ground was covered with bodies, blood and limbs. Brand new buildings crumbled like biscuits. Those that date from the French period didn't budge an inch, and some of them are 150 years old. Some modern-day builders bear a terrible responsibility.

Not that long ago, I was assisting in rescue efforts in Reghaya, a small town near the capital Algiers, when we heard a noise from the rubble of what was a ten-storey building. With just our hands as tools, we removed the rubble stone by stone. Each minute counted. We didn't know if we were digging the right direction. The voices were either too low or covered by the screams of anxious relatives.

And we found a mother and her two sons. The mother was dead, the boys alive. It was the most beautiful and the saddest moment I ever experienced. The mother had been holding her two children when the wall collapsed on her back. Her body protected her sons. We pulled out the boys. They were crying, traumatized, and didn't understand why their mother was sleeping and not answering their calls.

It was too late when we reached her.

The faces of Ahmed, 5, Melek, 7, and their dead mother come back to my dreams every night. The shouts of these children and the fear I had of reaching them too late make my breathing heavier and my nights darker.

Before handing over the boys to their father, I held them in my arms to make sure that they were really alive. A huge wave of happiness instantly invaded my soul, replacing the sadness I had been feeling since I pulled out the dead body of an 11-year-old girl from the rubble in Boumerdes, 50 km east of Algiers. We heard her screams. She managed to tell us her name: Sabina. But it was too late when we reached her.

Today noise is an essential element in my life. I need to be where there is the buzz of people; it's my way to forget how many friends I lost. I also need to forget that in Ain Taya hospital I had to step on bodies lined up on the floor because there was no place to walk.

Who to blame? Nature? The government? The lack of preparedness? The huge traffic jams which caused delays as distressed relatives flocked to the disaster area? Or the power shortages that hampered the rescue efforts? Whatever: the death toll has risen above 2,200, with more than 10,000 injured.

Before the earthquake, I thought that my salary was the only thing that mattered. Today I don't think about money any more. I think about things that could help me forget the sadness I've been through. But I have the most precious gift: the joy of rescuing Ahmed and Melek".