Red Cross: Helping in Wartime since 1863


Today is the 153rd anniversary of the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Here are some things you may not have known about the humanitarian organization.

The founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Henry Dunant, was inspired after witnessing the Battle of Solferino during the Franco-Austrian War in June 1859. About 40,000 soldiers were killed or left wounded on the battlefield. Dunant was shocked by the lack of proper medical assistance to help the suffering soldiers. He spent time helping care for some of the wounded. After returning home to Geneva, Switzerland, Dunant wrote about his experience and sent the book to military and political leaders across Europe. In the book, he told the story of the battle and also advocated forming national relief organizations to help wounded solders. He also called for treaties to guarantee the safety and neutrality of the medics and field hospitals.

In 1863, Dunant started the Committee of the Five, which on February 17, became the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded. In October of 1863, a conference was held to draft proposals to improve medical services during time of war. The conference proposed to start “national relief societies for wounded soldiers,” “neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers,” “the use of volunteers for assistance on the battlefield,” “the introduction of a symbol to protect medical personnel,” and the “organization of additional conferences to enact these concepts in international treaties.” A year later, the first Geneva Convention was held.

In 1876, the committee changed its name to the “International Committee of the Red Cross.”

In 1901, Dunant and pacifist Frederic Passy were given the first Nobel Peace Prize. By 1914, there were 45 national relief agencies throughout the world.

The emblem of the Red Cross is an inverse of the Swiss flag. All members of the Committee’s assembly must be citizens of Switzerland.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is focused solely on armed conflicts. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a different group that takes the lead in emergencies that are not the result of war, such as natural disasters.

The International Committee of the Red Cross operates in more than 80 countries and employs about 11,000 people.

Our question, who is the founder of the American Red Cross?

Today is Independence Day in Kosovo, Digital Learning Day, National Cabbage Day and Random Acts of Kindness Day. It’s the birthday of American football legend Jim Brown, basketball legend Michael Jordan and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong.

44 years ago in 1972, the top song in the U.S. was “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green; the No. 1 movie was “Cabaret,” while the novel “The Winds of War” by Herman Wouk topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

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