International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross

Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

In This Issue:
Afghanistan: War Casualties Soar in Kandahar Hospital
Is the Law of War Suited to Today's Conflicts?
Ask the ICRC: Taking Your IHL Questions
Interview with Romain Bircher, Head of Data Management and Restoring Family Links Unit
Florence Nightingale Medal: Seeking Your Nominations
ICRC News from
Around the Globe
New ICRC Film -
In Detention: The Humane Way   
ICRC Film: Detention the Humane Way
Around the world millions of people live behind bars. But whatever the reason for their imprisonment, they have the right to be held in humane conditions, free from ill-treatment and torture.
The ICRC has been working in places of detention since 1915, today visiting 500,000 detainees in some 80 countries every year. This 18-minute film offers unique insight into how the organization works, exploring its relations with prison authorities and the importance of confidential interviews carried out with the detainees themselves.

International Review of the Red Cross, 2010 - No. 878
Theme: Urban Violence 
International Review of the Red Cross: Urban Violence
Cities are attractive: they are the melting pot of political, economic, and cultural affairs. Urbanization, however, has brought with it a growing sense of vulnerability among many city dwellers faced with insecurity, exposure to hazards, and insufficient access to basic services. In addition, violence in urban areas poses a serious challenge, which in many cities is reaching unprecedented levels.
Gangs and other forms of organized crime generate more and more -- often transnational -- violence and insecurity, calling even for military action to counter them. Finally, rapid urbanization and the changing context of violence create new challenges for those giving aid and working to prevent conflict, such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
Red Cross, Red Crescent Magazine, No. 2, 2010
HIV/AIDS Are We All Losing Focus?
The Magazine of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
Our World At War Heads South to Florida
DRC - Ron Haviv, Our World At War
Our World At War closes today, October 14, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It has been hosted by the  Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and we would like to thank everyone who made this collaboration possible and so successful!
The show will now head to Miami, Florida. It will run from December 2010
through January 2011, in cooperation with the American Red Cross of Greater Miami and the Keys. Stay tuned to this space for more details in next month's newsletter! 
Upcoming Events

Henry Dunant + Gustave Moynier: Friends and Foes

Check our website for the latest news, as ICRC commemorates the upcoming dates with special features, photos, and more:
Now thru January 23, 2011: Exhibit on Henry Dunant and Gustave Moynier at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, Switzerland
October 15 - 17: DePaul University College of Law
International Humanitarian Law Workshop in Chicago, Illinois
October 31 - November 6:
Fourth Senior Workshop on International Rules governing Military Operations (SWIRMO) in Lucerne, Switzerland
January 4 - 7, 2011: Santa Clara University School of Law International Humanitarian Law Workshop in Santa Clara, California
January 10 - 21, 2011: Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Winter Institute on Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) in Baltimore, Maryland
March 1, 2011: Deadline for submitting Florence Nightingale Medal nominations 

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The ICRC is an impartial, neutral, and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance. 
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News and Notes
October 2010 

This month the ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada brings you the latest news from Afghanistan, where the number of war casualties at the ICRC-supported hospital in Kandahar has reached a new high.
We then turn our attention to one of our readers' favorite topics -- international humanitarian law (IHL). The ICRC has recently completed a two-year study looking at areas of IHL to be strengthened, and on September 21, ICRC President Kellenberger gave a speech to present the findings. Next, we take a moment to answer an IHL question from a reader. If you have one, please send it in.
This month the delegation was also fortunate to have Romain Bircher visiting from headquarters. In the interview below, he shares his thoughts on technology and ICRC's work to reconnect family members separated due to armed conflict
Lastly, the nomination period for the Florence Nightingale Medal, awarded to outstanding nurses, is open. Read on to learn more. 
As always, you are welcome to hit the reply button and send in your comments and suggestions for the newsletter. We love hearing from our readers!
Kind regards,
The ICRC Washington Delegation
Afghanistan: War Casualties Soar in Kandahar Hospital
Operating theatre, Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar.The number of war casualties taken to Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar for treatment is hitting record highs. The hospital, which is supported by the ICRC, registered almost twice as many new patients with weapon-related injuries in August and September 2010 as during the same months last year -- close to 1,000 compared with just over 500 during the same period in 2009.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg, as those who suffer other sorts of injuries or contract disease as an indirect result of the conflict far outnumber weapon-wounded patients," said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul. Every day, there are mothers who bring their sick children to hospital too late because they are afraid to travel or are held up by roadblocks, and relatives who take patients home before their treatment is completed. "The result is that children die from tetanus, measles, and tuberculosis -- easily prevented with vaccines -- while women die in childbirth and otherwise strong men succumb to simple infections," added Mr. Stocker.

The multiplication of armed groups in all parts of Afghanistan is making the tasks faced by the ICRC all the more daunting. "Our greatest challenge consists in maintaining access to the areas hardest hit by the fighting, but the increase in the number of armed groups is making this much harder for us," said Mr. Stocker. "Nevertheless, because the ICRC is engaged in dialogue with all parties to the conflict, it hopes to be able to maintain its presence among the displaced, the detained, the injured or the otherwise war-affected people of Afghanistan."

Children's ward. Mirwais Hospital, Kandahar. Following many months of planning and construction, the ICRC opened a seventh prosthetic/orthotic center in the country, in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, to address the drastic increase in the number of weapon-related amputations in southern Afghanistan.

"Patients will no longer need to make the dangerous journey to one of the six other ICRC centers in the country," said Alberto Cairo, who heads the ICRC's limb-fitting and rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan, adding that, as always, "services are free of charge and amount to a lifeline for rural communities surrounded by increasingly violent conflict." The center employs 22 people -- mostly amputees -- and has a capacity to treat over 1,500 men, women, and children every year.
To read more about ICRC's work in Afghanistan, click here.
Is the Law of War Suited to Today's Conflicts?
He made clear that any attempt to strengthen IHL should build on existing law and that, in most cases, what is required to improve the situation of conflict victims is greater compliance with the existing legal framework.
The study did show, however, that IHL in its current state, especially in non-international armed conflict, does not always meet the needs observed on the ground. In particular, the study concluded that new responses under IHL must be devised to better protect people deprived of liberty in non-international armed conflict, people displaced within their own countries (IDPs), and the natural environment, and also to help better enforce IHL and make reparations to those who suffer the effects of violations.

The ICRC has begun a process of engaging in dialogue with States, and with other parties concerned, on the study's conclusions and possible further action that should be taken. This process will offer a good opportunity to find out the extent to which the ICRC view of the humanitarian situation and the challenges currently facing IHL is shared by others, as ultimately, only States have the capacity to bring about improvements to international law.
To read Dr. Kellenberger's full address, please visit this webpage.
Ask the ICRC: Taking Your IHL Questions
Periodically we take space in the newsletter to respond to international humanitarian law (IHL) questions from our readers. If you have an IHL question, please send it in, and keep an eye out for the reply in a future edition! 
* * * * *
Dear newsletter subscriber in Nebraska:
Direct Participation in HostilitiesYou asked for more information on the legal status and protection of civilians who take up arms in a conflict. The ICRC's Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities Under International Humanitarian Law may be helpful in answering your questions. The guidance explains that civilians are generally understood under IHL to be all persons who are not members of State armed forces or organized armed groups belonging to a party to the conflict. While members of State armed forces and organized armed groups may be continuously targeted, attacks may not be directed against civilians. Civilians lose their protection, however, if and for such time as they directly participate in hostilities. Unlike members of the regular armed forces of states, civilians who directly participate in hostilities and are subsequently captured do not enjoy immunity from prosecution for their mere involvement in the conflict, though they are to be treated in accordance with applicable international humanitarian law. 


Interview with Romain Bircher, Head of Data Management and Restoring Family Links Unit
Romain Bircher, Head of Data Management and Restoring Family LinksRomain Bircher joined the ICRC in 1989 as a protection delegate in Afghanistan, and has served in a variety of countries, such as Croatia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. He currently serves as the Head of Data Management and Restoring Family Links Unit at ICRC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. He recently traveled to Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, and took some time to answer our questions:
During this trip, you have been having discussions on how technology is changing and evolving humanitarian action in emergencies. Can you share your thoughts on this subject?
Technology has had a very positive impact on humanitarian action in the field. It increases the outreach of our services; for example, a mass SMS campaign can let tens of thousands of people know where to access services. Technology facilitates communication between beneficiaries and aid providers too, especially on the specific needs of a given community. And for persons who are separated from their families, mobile or satellite phone technology can sometimes result in an almost immediate connection. Overall, I think technology can really empower communities and individuals in crisis situations. 
A boy affected by the earthquake uses an ICRC satellite phone to reassure his relatives.On the other hand, technology can add to information overload. As a humanitarian actor, the ICRC takes in information, decides what is most reliable, and then prioritizes how we will use our limited resources. We feel strongly that you can not assist people only over the telephone or Internet. Being in the field close to the people is really important. 
The ICRC is considered by many to be the reference organization for tracing family members separated due to conflict or other emergency situations. With the rise in mobile technology use, is the case work that the ICRC and the Red Cross Movement conduct still needed?
It is definitely still needed. In many emergency situations -- take for example the days immediately after the January earthquake in Haiti -- mobile communications and the Internet stop working. In other situations, there might be a lack of energy supply. If your batteries are dead, then mobile phones will not help you. We must also remember, not everyone is connected. This is why the ICRC does a lot of outreach with its technology teams, going into the field and bringing communication systems to people in need. Another example is that in a conflict situation, the authorities may try to prevent people from using communication services. A neutral intermediary, like the ICRC, may be able to fill in some of the gap. 
A family split up by the civil war in DRC is reunited.Quite simply, modern communication technology does not do everything that humanitarians do. It can not identify dead bodies or comfort grieving families. And for vulnerable populations, like children separated from their families, to really help them, you need to meet them, learn their needs, find the best way to assist and protect them, and ultimately reunite them physically with their families. Mobile technology is a great asset, but I think there will always be a role for trained humanitarian professionals, especially on these tough cases. 
How does restoring and maintaining contact among family members fit into ICRC's wider aims to protect vulnerable persons?
Family is the first and last safeguard to ensure that people receive proper care in a crisis situation. Children and other vulnerable people like the elderly depend on their families for care and protection. Reuniting families is really the best, most effective way to protect these populations from harm.
Florence Nightingale Medal: Seeking Your Nominations
©American Red Cross/Talia Frenkel
Do you know exceptional nurses or nursing aides who have worked in natural disasters or armed conflicts?
They may be eligible to receive the highest distinction a nurse working in these crisis situations can receive -- the Florence Nightingale Medal. The process for identifying potential medal recipients for the 2011 Medal has begun and the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement welcomes recommendations!

We are looking for nurses who have distinguished themselves in times of peace and war through 
  • innovative activities that have improved the quality of health care and/or training;
  • courage and active compassion; and,
  • practical activities on behalf of injured, sick, or otherwise vulnerable people.
Potential candidates from around the world are eligible to be nominated through their National Red Cross / Red Crescent Society. For most of our readers, this means through the American Red Cross or the Canadian Red Cross.A nurse examines a child at a clinic run by the

To recommend an exceptional nurse or nursing aide in the United States, please contact Vivian Littlefield, PhD, RN, of the American Red Cross. In Canada, please contact Marie Stang of the Canadian Red Cross. The deadline for submitting nominations is March 1, 2011, and the medal recipients will be announced on May 12, 2011.

For more information regarding the Medal, its history, and some of the contexts in which it is awarded today, please visit our website.