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The Red Cross is one of the oldest extant humanitarian organisations in the world, with the largest voluntary membership of any organisation with 100 million members in 170 different countries. It has won the Nobel Peace prize four times


The Red Cross movement was founded by a Swiss man Henri Dunant after the battle of Solferino in Northern Italy, where over 40,000 soldiers died or were wounded. He was appalled by the suffering of the wounded and dying on both sides. He organised local people in to groups to help the wounded regardless of their nationality. This event scared him, and caused him to write the book "A Memory of Solferino" in 1862. He expressed the idea of forming "relief societies for training volunteers to care for the wounded in wartime …based on some international Principle".

In 1863 Henri Dunant and four other citizens of Geneva formed the International Committee of the Red Cross I C R C. The first society was formed in Wurtemburg that year. In 1864 the Geneva Convention for the improvement of the condition of the wounded in armies in the field was formed and by 1867 16 countries had signed up agreeing to it. The movement spread quickly across Europe and America showing the success of Dunants idea. The movement also spread into the Islamic world but they used the emblem of the Red Crescent as they associated the cross with Christian beliefs. The two symbols now have equal status and meaning. In 1901 Henri Dunant was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts.

The Irish Red Cross was set up in 1939. Since its inception the Irish Red Cross has been involved in many projects including in 1945 Organised the first Water Safety Campaign and it set up a hospital in St Ló, France after the Normandy town was bombed. Post World War two it raised £12 Million to help Post War Relief and set up the Freedom from Hunger Campaign which was that developed into Gorta. It went on to set up the first Blood Transfusion Service and opened up two hospitals to prevent the spread of TB. in 1965 the Red Cross launched Old Peoples Year which resulted in the formation of Meals-on-wheels, Home Help and Good Neighbour Service. It has been largely involved in helping Refugees from Hungary (1956), Vietnam (1979), Bahi (1985), Bosnia (1993) & Kosovo (1998). In 2005 it raised over €30 million for the Tsunami Relief Effort.

Fundamental Principles

The Principles of the Red Cross are:

The international Red Cross and Red The Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded in the battlefield, endeavours, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering whenever it may be found . Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding friendship cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.
It makes no discrimination as to the nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals. Being guided solely by their needs, and give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.
In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
The Movement is independent. The National Societies, while auxiliaries in the Humanitarian services of their Governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so they can act in accordance with the principles of the Movement.
   The WorldUniversality:
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in which all Societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other is World wide.
There can be only one Red Cross or Red Crescent Movement in any one Country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its Humanitarian throughout its territory.
   Voluntary Service:
It is a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by the desire for gain.

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