IFRC


Santiago maps out Red Cross priorities in Americas

Published: 28 April 2003 0:00 CET

Eva M. Calvo in Santiago de Chile

A four-day conference aimed at mapping the future direction of the Red Cross movement in the Americas has closed in Santiago de Chile, by approving two documents on achieving equity in health and a more integrated system for the management of disasters.

The Inter-American Regional Conference, which is held every four years, attracted representatives from the 35 national Red Cross Societies in the Americas, sister National Societies the International Federation, the International Committee of the Red Cross and international organizations such as the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The main purpose of the gathering was to determine the future priorities for the Red Cross network in the Americas, and to identify the need to urgently address the growing vulnerability in the region, caused by poverty, frequent disasters and inequities in health.

“We in the Red Cross can achieve great changes through social mobilisation, first aid, community education, women’s health and maternal and child health, as well as through a courageous response to HIV/AIDS,” said the president of the International Federation, Juan Manuel Suarez del Toro, during the closing ceremony, in which the Chilean minister of Health, Pedro Garcia, also participated as a guest.

The central themes of this 17th Inter-American Conference have been health and disasters. Two documents – on “Equity and Health in the Americas” and “Reducing risks and improving coordination: toward an integrated system for the disaster management” – were approved after intense and fruitful debates as the guidelines for the coming years.

In terms of health, the Red Cross committed itself for the next four years to face the humanitarian challenges in the region by establishing national strategies and programmes that identify inequity in health. It will also integrate and coordinate the different health-related programmes with community-based disaster preparedness programmes and organizational development.

Health indicators in Latin America have generally improved, but increasing disparities exist between the countries of the region and between different population groups within each country. Health indicators clearly establish that health status is directly related both to poverty and to the distribution of income, and it is the most vulnerable - women, children, the elderly, disabled and geographically isolated populations – that are most affected.

At the same time, the Americas is a region where, over the last decade, large-scale natural disasters, often related to climatic change, have had a huge impact on development in the poorest countries.

The national Red Cross Societies of the region committed themselves in Santiago to consolidate and develop an integrated disaster management system, as well as consolidating, extending, updating and developing community disaster preparedness education programmes.

Another element of the “Santiago Commitment” is to incorporate rehabilitation, reconstruction and development activities at the very start of the disaster response phase, basing them on vulnerability and risk analysis. These actions, it as agreed, should be focused on real development in disaster affected communities, and not simply a return to pre-disaster conditions.

“We make a difference through our volunteers, their work and passion,” Suárez del Toro stressed. “With your network of volunteers working at grassroots level, the Red Cross national societies are well placed to identify the specific interventions required to redress the inequities in their own communities.”

Migration and youth violence were also discussed during the Santiago Conference, taking into account the humanitarian challenges that the region is facing in relation with this two topics.

“The Red Cross is increasingly aware of the humanitarian challenges that the growing phenomenon of migration poses,” said the president of the International Federation.
“It gives me pleasure to see that this conference, like those in Manila and Berlin before it, has reaffirmed the right of every individual, whatever his or her legal status, to enjoy basic human rights, including the right to health” he added.

Súarez del Toro emphasised the commitment, indeed the obligation, of the Red Cross members to promote peace as well as the values of tolerance and non-discrimination. In the “Santiago Commitment”, the Red Cross Societies urge governments to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of all people living in the region, without exception.

Related links:

XVII Inter-American Conference of the Red Cross
Inter-American conference - Chilean Red Cross site
Programmes in the Americas
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