The 184th birth anniversary of Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was celebrated across the world on 8 May 2012; World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.
A function at National headquarters to celebrate the occasion was attended by Mr. P K Pradhan, Secretary of Health and Family Welfare, Government as Chief Guest as well as Dr. Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India as Guest of Honour. The function was attended by representatives of the embassies of Canada, Japan, Turkey and Sweden, including the Ambassador of Ireland to India. ICRC, IFRC and partner National Society representatives also joined to celebrate the day.
The guests paid floral tributes to Henry Dunant. Padma Bhushan Dr. (Prof.) S P Agarwal delivered the keynote address, explaining that this year's theme for the occasion was "Youth on the move". In his address, Dr. Agarwal gave an overview of the work carried out by the Indian Red Cross in the fields of health, disaster, and water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, in particular the contribution of young people in responding to these challenges. He also highlighted the close cooperation of IRCS with its partners, both international agencies such as the WHO, and Movement partners, such as the Canadian Danish, German and Spanish Red Cross societies, In its role as auxiliary to the Government, he reminded those present that the government of India is the primary partner of IRCS.
Mr. Azmat Ulla, Head of South Asian Regional delegation of the IFRC congratulated the volunteers of Indian Red Cross for their work, especially at community level. Mr. Francois Stamm, Head of Delegation for the ICRC, appreciated the grass-root level initiatives taken by the IRCS in conflict prone areas and in the work of strengthening the Family News Service in the country. As he will soon be departing India for a new post, he also took the opportunity to thank the society for the opportunity to work together and shared that he had no doubt that IRCS will continue to grow even further in the years to come.
Dr. Nata Manabde, referred to the recent meeting of Mr. Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General with the Secretary General of the Indian Red Cross, saying that Indian Red Cross is an ideal partner to work with in fulfilling the humanitarian and developmental objectives of the UN in India. "Effective strategic collaboration and cooperation between the Indian Red Cross and UN agencies would help us to do more, better and reach further in the service of the needy," she said while speaking about the increasing relevance of the Red Cross as an agency with which the United Nations and its agencies could closely work with.
In his address, Shri P K Pradhan commended the work of the Indian Red Cross Society. Reminiscing on the days when he worked in the districts of West Bengal as the district magistrate, he said that he always turned to the Red Cross when faced with difficult problems which had to be handled in a time-bound manner. He appreciated the work of volunteers of the Red Cross in this context as well as their participation during and following disasters, as well as community-focused programmes such as in health matters. He spoke with glowing terms about the Red Cross work in Sikkim following last year's earthquake and commended the society for its swift and comprehensive response when the Government called for its assistance. Speaking further about volunteers of the Red Cross he said "Motivation is important for action." He also shared the efforts of the Central Government to start a National Blood Service by interlinking blood banks and to establish a database of donors throughout the country using connections through both the internet and mobile telephony, making it easier for the public to find out about stock levels of the various blood groups in available. He also informed that the government is actively pursuing the organ donation programme and that a centre will be shortly launched in one of the leading government hospitals in the capital.
The event also show cased the work of the Indian Red Cross Society's youth volunteers through a display of photographs as well as a video presentation depicting the contribution of the young volunteers of the Indian Red Cross Society in reaching out to the community in the fight against HIV and TB and to eradicate social stigma and discrimination caused by lack of understanding of these diseases.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks and was followed by high tea for all attendees.