Maldivian Red Crescent rises from the Tsunami

Published: 18 August 2009 0:00 CET

Necephor Mghendi, IFRC information and reporting delegate in Maldives

The Maldives has joined 186 other nations with Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies to become the latest country to establish its own National Red Crescent Society. This follows the successful conclusion of the first General Assembly of Maldivian Red Crescent on Sunday, 16 August, in Male’, the island nation’s capital.

The inaugural General Assembly was held three months after the Maldivian Red Crescent Law, which provides the new national society’s legal foundation, was ratified and enacted. The ceremony to inaugurate the Maldivian Red Crescent was officiated by the President of the Republic of Maldives, HE Mohamed Nasheed, who said that the work to establish the Red Crescent had been ‘laborious’. He also stressed how the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami had prompted the need for a National Society. Acknowledging the work carried out by the Red Cross in the aftermath of the Tsunami, he said, “no Maldivian is unaware of the extent of what I call a beautiful piece of work done by the Red Cross Red Crescent in the Maldives.”

First volunteers for the Maldivian Red Crescent

The General Assembly elected the first governing board of the Maldivian Red Crescent. Nine members were elected, with the tenth appointed by the government, in line with the national society’s statues. The board members were elected from amongst 80 representatives drawn from Male’ and the country’s atolls. They include men and women, young and old, nurses, teachers, shopkeepers as well as divers, mechanics and business people. The board and representatives make up the first registered volunteers of the Maldivian Red Crescent.

As part of their orientation, members of the Maldives Red Crescent Interim Planning Group have already visited the Philippines and Sri Lanka to learn from their sister National Societies in Asia.

Agisa Moosa, a 36-year-old mother of two who unsuccessfully contested the national society’s first vice president position, had a strong message to the elected leadership. “We have to commit ourselves to nurture and raise the Maldivian Red Crescent as we would raise our own kids, otherwise we will not succeed in enabling it fulfil its objectives.”

Great ideas are born out of crises

Delivering the keynote address, Abbas Gullet, secretary general of Kenya Red Cross Society, noted that the Maldivian Red Crescent has been founded on the same idea born 150 years ago when Henry Dunant was moved to assist victims of a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy. “Experience has proved that through every crisis, a country or a national society emerges stronger and a great idea is born,” he said. “The only difference is that in Solferino, the disaster was man-made, but in Maldives’ case, the tsunami was a natural occurrence”.

Need for continued support

The head of IFRC’s Asia Pacific Zone Office, Alistair Henley, assured the new National Society of the full support of the IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as it strives to fulfil the ten conditions for recognition by ICRC, upon which it can become a full member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. He urged the new National Society to take the lead and define its path ahead, saying, "We will be ready to accompany you on the journey you've just begun, not only on developing programmes and projects to continue assistance to the population, but also in technical aspects of the recognition process."

He added that he hoped the Maldivian Red Crescent “will go from strength to strength” and requested partner and sister National Societies to step forward and provide it with the much-needed support, building on the momentum created by tsunami interventions.

Also in attendance were senior government officials, the head of the IFRC's tsunami unit, Al Panico, representatives from the American and Canadian Red Cross societies, and representatives from the sister national societies of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Blood donations

On the eve of the General Assembly some 19 people comprising General Assembly members, IFRC Maldives country office staff, and members of the interim planning group donated blood to the country’s largest public hospital, the Indra Ghandi Memorial Hospital. Others registered as blood donors and committed to donate blood on a regular basis. Their voluntary gesture was in response to a call from the hospital that its blood reserve was running low.

Shaira Banu, a 36-year-old mother of two, was one of the donors. “I have always liked to assist in humanitarian causes, so today I got a chance to do so by donating blood”, she said. She added that she would mobilize members of her community, friends and family to become blood donors.