Fifty years of saving lives and strengthening communities in Tanzania

Published: 30 August 2013 11:29 CET

By Rebecca Lefort, British Red Cross

Happy 50 birthday, Tanzania Red Cross! Hundreds of volunteers are celebrating as the Tanzania Red Cross Society marks its half century. During the past five decades, the National Society has responded to many disasters, improved health care facilities for vulnerable people, and promoted humanitarian values within the East African country.

Alhj Kimbisa, Secretary General, said the society had come a long way in 50 years. “From responding to war to tackling hunger, our dedicated volunteers have always been there when they were needed,” he said. “I look forward to another 50 years of saving lives.”

It was on the eve of 1963 when Tanzania Red Cross Society – then called Tanganyika Red Cross – became independent from the British Red Cross Society. One of the first tasks for the fledgling organization was to overcome the association people made between the Red Cross and ‘mumiani’ (Kiswahili for blood sucking), because of its involvement in blood donor recruitment.

With a lot of education, communities eventually began to see the benefits of giving blood, and as it grew, the Red Cross managed to attract a large number of volunteers and establish a network of branches across the country.

By the 1990s, the organization had become a key player in the fight against HIV in the region, and in 1994, following the genocide in Rwanda, launched an operation to support 500,000 refugees who fled across the border. When the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated many coastal areas of Tanzania in 2004, volunteers and staff responded.

They continue their work today, preparing communities for another possible disaster and inspiring volunteers to take an active part in building and maintaining their capacity to respond should a disaster or health emergency strike.

“I want to thank our amazing volunteers,” Kimbisa said. “Without them none of our work would be possible. Every day they go to enormous lengths to help others and make this country a safer and better place.”