International partners pay tribute to DPRK Red Cross on its 70th anniversary

تم النشر: 31 أكتوبر 2016 15:46 CET

By Patrick Fuller, IFRC

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Red Cross Society recently passed a significant milestone when members of the international community and International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners, gathered in Pyongyang this week to celebrate the National Society’s 70th anniversary and recognise its humanitarian achievements over the past seven decades.

Founded in 1946, the DPRK Red Cross has grown to become the countries’ foremost humanitarian actor with 14 permanent branches throughout the country. Its 450,000 volunteers have been reaching an estimated 8.6 million people each year through its humanitarian services and development programmes.

The DPRK Red Cross was first established by President Kim Il Sung as a health and relief organisation to protect the population from various diseases and epidemics such as TB, which were prevalent in the country at the time. As well as training a large number of secondary and primary medical practitioners, including epidemic controllers and nurses, the National Society went on to establish orphanages and nurseries across the country.

Over the subsequent decades it rapidly expanded its organisational structure and its membership, from national down to the grass-roots level and by 1950 it had developed in to a nationwide organisation specialising in health and relief.

During the war in the Korean Peninsula from 1950-1953, thousands of Red Cross nurses were deployed to the frontlines to provide medical care and evacuate the wounded to Red Cross hospitals. The DPRK Red Cross also played a critical role in post-war recovery, providing civilians with food, clothing, bedding and medical assistance through its provincial hospitals and first aid posts.  

Since the ceasefire in 1953, the DPRK Red Cross and Korean Red Cross Society have worked together to connect and reunite family members separated by the war. In August 1972, the first round of inter-Korean Red Cross talks took place and since then, 23,000 people from both sides of the border have been able to meet their loved ones through 20 different face-to-face reunion opportunities and 7 video reunions.

Today, DPRK faces a variety of humanitarian and development challenges including a food security and nutrition crisis which is compounded by recurrent natural disasters, such as droughts, floods and landslides. The countries’ ageing and inadequate water and sanitation structures and health system is also struggling to cope.

To address these challenges the DPRK Red Cross has placed a high priority on disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation, merging its programmes under a single integrated community development programme.

“Across the country we selected 15 vulnerable communities that were disaster prone and economically disadvantaged”, said Ri Ho Rim, Secretary General of the DPRK Red Cross.

“Introducing agro-forestry, installing water supply systems and funding greenhouses for vegetable production are all projects that are boosting local livelihoods, protecting the environment and improving living conditions in communities”.

Representatives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, joined a field visit to Sinyang County where they learned about the productivity of vegetable greenhouses and tree nurseries supported by the Red Cross which are run by the community. They also saw how food processing machinery was enabling community members to improve their livelihoods through the production of a variety of soya and corn based-products.

“We have placed a lot of emphasis on building the capacity of our branches to enhance community awareness around disasters and their risks. The success of our programmes involves the mass participation of communities, good planning and good cooperation between Red Cross branches and local authorities”, said Mr. Ri who also stressed the National Societies’ desire to become self-reliant.

“To ensure the sustainability of its voluntary service, the primary effort should be directed to strengthening our human, material and financial capabilities under the slogan of self–development. Branch development and resource mobilization constitute our main direction for the future.”

The achievements of some of the DPRK Red Cross volunteers were recognised at an event held to mark the National Society’s 70th anniversary during which Junior Red Cross members displayed their musical talents. Two Junior Red Cross members were recognised for the impressive achievement of having planted 5,000 trees each in their respective communities.

Speaking at the DPRK Red Cross Congress which is held every four years, Chris Staines, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies highlighted the important humanitarian contribution made by the DPRK Red Cross since its formation.    

“Since its foundation DPRK Red Cross Society has reliably stood with the people of this country in times of disaster and need showing solidarity, but doing more than that – DPRK Red Cross Society always works for and with communities to find practical solutions to the challenges that they face.”