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World Red Cross Red Crescent Day: Whenever, Wherever, Whatever, However!

As Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers we all have our individual mandates and areas of expertise. As the Director of the IFRC Psychosocial Reference Centre – soon to be MHPSS International Movement Hub – my focus is on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and what we like to call the heartbeat of humanity. However, on a day like today it is inspiring to take a moment to reflect on the role and impact of the Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement as a whole – the world’s largest humanitarian entity.

While there is no doubt humanity is alive and well in the hearts of the millions of RCRC representatives across the globe it is equally true that the challenges we face have never been more severe. RCRC staff and volunteers are providing support and assistance whenever needed, wherever needed, whatever the cause of the needs and however its possible to meet them – and the sad truth is these efforts are in high demand.    

In 2024 the whenever, wherever, whatever requires only a simple answer – all the time, everywhere and anything. When children in Gaza wake up to the sound of bombs dropping, the youths in Haiti are hearing the first gunshots in advance of an evening of violence. When a family in Mongolia is counting the dead livestock during a record harsh cold wave, a family in Kenya is seeing their possessions disappear in a flood, and a family in Chile watch their lands ravaged by wildfires. When a mother worries for her children during a cholera outbreak in Central Africa, a son is waving farewell to his mother before embarking on a dangerous migratory journey in South America and a daughter is fainting due to hunger in Sudan. These examples illustrate the complexity and diversity of the challenges humanity faces in a volatile reality but the one thing they have in common is the presence of RCRC staff and volunteers – which leads me to the final point – the however.

When I follow the efforts of frontline RCRC colleagues across the globe the scope of their work and their dedication always fills me with a combination of amazement and respect. Whether is takes making the way by foot to remote villages in the Himalayas to deliver community health, providing first aid to casualties in a Ukrainian town following a drone attack, taking care of survivors on a rescue vessel on the Mediterranean during high seas, or helping local communities in sub-Saharan Africa contain a developing epidemic – our staff and volunteers will be there to assist and support however they can.   

At the IFRC PS Centre we talk about a ‘triple burden’ facing Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers – they are themselves often part of the affected community, they work endless hours to save lives, and they themselves encounter things no human being should have to experience. We do everything in our power to ensure their access to mental health and psychosocial support and we do it with pleasure and pride knowing they are quite literally keeping humanity alive.

Nana Wiedemann

Director, IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support   

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