World Humanitarian Day: Celebrating aid work the world over and story of couple reunited in Manchester

Exclusive by Marios Papaloizou

Celestine walked into Manchester’s Red Cross office in the desperate hope that someone could help in the search for her missing husband.

She had not seen Francoise since they were in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008.

When the case passed through the Red Cross’ head office it was matched with another enquiry made in Birmingham by a man searching for his wife.

The man was her husband and, despite the couple separately travelling nearly 4000 miles, the pair were miraculously reunited in the UK.

The Red Cross’ role in reuniting the couple was crucial. The organisation can offer people who have been separated from their families and loved ones due to armed conflict, disaster, and migration the chance of reuniting.

‘It’s about helping people in crisis whoever they are’ is how Victoria Cooper, a coordinator for international family tracing at the Red Cross, described the work.

This message of general compassion for all humanity is one that not only succinctly describes the work done by the organisation but one that can be perfectly applied to humanitarianism in general.

In an era of emerging instability underpinned by revolutions, political oppression, and war, humanitarian action is as crucial as ever.

Today marks World Humanitarian Day (WHD) – a day designated by the United Nations General Assembly dedicated to recognize humanitarian personnel and those that have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes.

Designated days can often be met with scorn; the cynical implication being that one day is not enough. Certainly this is true to an extent: 24 hours of recognition and awareness of humanitarianism does not solve the world’s problems.

“Humanitarianism isn’t something that you can deal with in one day,” Victoria told MM.

“But, at the same time, I think it is important to have a day like WHD where you’re remembering people that are working within the field and celebrating the people who are doing everything they can to help those that are vulnerable and in need.”

PITCHING IN: Aid workers drop in supplies

For those fortunate enough to live comfortable lives in the UK it may seem as though ‘humanitarianism’ is something that happens in distant war-torn lands.

However the Red Cross, and many other humanitarian organisations, work extensively throughout the UK on a variety of issues; and, with the world in the midst of an economic crisis the domestic and international work done such organisations can provide invaluable support for those who need help.

“We do the work we do because we want to help people and support people in need,” Victoria said.

“The hope is that one day there won’t be any more crises.”

As well as offering humanitarian aid the Red Cross continue to expand their mission of reuniting people separated by crises.

In 2012 alone they took on 1,378 new cases of people searching for loved ones.

In 2011 Robert approached the Red Cross with one such case after losing contact with his brother Wilson who fled Zimbabwe due to political problems.

The Red Cross used their global reach and scoured Europe for Wilson who was found in the Netherlands.

WHD seeks to call attention for actions like this that often go unnoticed but serve to bring incredible joy to the lives of people in need.

WHD was first celebrated in 2009 and, since then, it has grown into a global event.

This year’s theme is ‘The world needs more…’ and encourages people to submit one word that they believe the world needs more of.

For a cynic it will be incredibly easy to poke holes in the celebration of WHD.

The notion that submitting a word online can make any sort of difference is, in essence, filled with theoretical and practical problems.

However, the chance to help make people more aware of the work done by the likes of Victoria – who spends every day trying to reunite families separated by crises – is without a doubt a great thing, even if it is only one day.

For more information on the work done by the Red Cross visit their website

Main picture courtesy of the US Navy, with thanks.

Second picture courtesy of US Army and Petty Officer 2nd Class Byron C. Linder, with thanks.

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