American Red Cross
In late August 1945, a young man named Fritz Bilfinger was the first ICRC delegate to reach Hiroshima after the city was devastated by an atomic bomb. “Conditions appalling,” he wrote in his first telegram to the ICRC’s representative in Tokyo, Marcel Junod. “City wiped out. Eight per cent of all hospitals destroyed or seriously damaged…Effect of bomb mysteriously serious…”
Just as Japanese Red Cross Society nurses and doctors were dealing with a horror beyond their imagination, Bilfinger had come face to face with the unknown, a situation far beyond any of his previous experiences.
The archives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and many National Societies are full of stories that echo Bilfinger’s struggles. Artefacts, letters, photos and drawings revel an ongoing effort to find solutions in extreme, often hostile conditions.
Thanks to the courage, hard work and humanity of those volunteers, delegates and staff over the last 150 years, the humanitarian of the 21st century has a worldwide network of colleagues and a body of knowledge and law that now backs up and protects (albeit imperfectly) their efforts.
But even in today’s world, which boasts a vast humanitarian sector, we still face many unknowns. the need for courage, humanity and innovation is as great as ever. Just as Movement founder Louis Appia drew meticulous sketches of rolling stretchers and ambulance wagons in order to share best practices with fledgling relief societies, today’s delegates and volunteers are solving complex problems with new ideas and the creative use of the latest technology. Movement efforts to share evidence-based first-aid procedures and best surgical practices, develop early warning systems and track disease via cell phone networks are just a few examples.
This edition of the Red Cross Red Crescent magazine, which commemorates 150 years since the official creation of the ICRC, is dedicated to these humanitarian innovators: volunteers, delegates and staff how have worked tirelessly to make the world a more human place. They come from all walks of life, but their common humanity has compelled them to act even in the face of grave challenges.
We hope you will take some time to review through this special edition of the ICRC Magazine! We will be sharing more of these stories over the next few weeks.