What is the Red Cross and how was it born?

The Red Cross is an international humanitarian organisation. Initially, its field of activity was confined to look after soldiers wounded in war, but later it broadened its activity to include the alleviation of all forms of human suffering. Almost all the countries of the world have branches of the Red Cross, which work during both war and peace. It serves people regardless of race, colour, creed, caste or nationality. During the time of peace, its activities involve giving first aid, preventing accidents, providing safe drinking water, training nurses and midwives, looking after maternity and child welfare centres, to establish hospitals, setting up blood banks, etc. The story of the origin of Red Cross is very interesting. The founder of this organisation was Jean Henri Dunant, a Swiss Banker. On June 24, 1859, he had gone to the city of Lombardy (North Italy) in connection to his business. At that time, Lombardy was the focal point of the ‘Battle of Solferino’ between the French and Austrians. Thousands of men and women were injured in the war and many of them lay dying for want of first aid. This heart wrenching sight had a great impact on his mind. He forgot his own work and organised the local villagers to look after the injured, of both sides, in the battle. His efforts saved many lives. In 1862, Dunant wrote a book titled ‘A Memory of Solferino’, in which he appealed to the people of the world to form special relief societies. The soldiers wounded in war were helpless people and as human beings, it was the duty of all to help them. This appeal had a great impact on the people and at the International Conference held in Geneva in 1864, sixteen countries accepted the idea to make the Red Cross.

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