May 8 – World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day

Posted May 8, 2015

Henry Dunant (born Jean Henri Dunant) was a Swiss businessman who discovered that, despite his lack of a college diploma, he enjoyed writing about his own life.

He worked for several different companies, and he started his own business. When he traveled to parts of Africa and Italy, he was inspired to write a book about it. Later, on another business trip to Italy, he arrived in Solferino on June 24, 1859, on the day of a battle. He was shocked to see men lying wounded on the battlefield...
  • shocked because there were so many of them – about 23,000 men wounded and dying and dead!
  • and shocked because there seemed to be little attempt to provide care!

Dunant took the initiative, even though he had just arrived that day, and even though he was in a foreign country, to organize the civilians of the town to find out which soldiers were still alive, and to provide aid to them. Of course, they didn't have enough supplies to work with, so Dunant took it upon himself to organize the purchase of materials and supplies. There was nowhere to take so many sick and wounded, but Dunant exerted himself to organize the creation of makeshift hospitals. He convinced the locals to help the soldiers no matter which side they were from. He was able to gain help especially from women and girls, and one of the women came up with a slogan, “Tutti fratelli” – all are brothers – to remind the caregivers to help soldiers in need no matter the color of their uniforms.

After returning to Switzerland, Dunant wrote a book about this latest adventure, a book urging the foundation of a neutral organization to provide care to wounded soldiers. He paid to have the book printed, and he made sure that many leaders in Europe had a copy.

From Dunant's battlefield experience, and from his book, an international humanitarian organization began and grew. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent reach 160 million people each year – victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, victims of health emergencies such as an epidemic, victims of war and displacement. There are tens of millions of volunteers, hundreds of thousands of paid staff, hundreds of thousands of local organizations, and billions of dollars donated each year.

Why is today World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day? Today is the birthday of Henry Dunant!

Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.

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