World Red Cross & Red Crescent Day

Today, May 8, we mark this year’s World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.

The idea for the Red Cross was born in 1859, when Henry Dunant, a young Swiss man, came upon the scene of a bloody battle in Solferino, Italy, between the armies of imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian alliance. Some 40,000 men lay dead or dying on the battlefield and the wounded lacked medical attention.

Dunant organized the local people to bind the soldiers’ wounds and to feed and comfort them. On his return, he called for the creation of national relief societies to assist those wounded in war, and pointed the way to the future Geneva Conventions. The organization grew and became more internationalized. It was Henry Davison, president of the American Red Cross War Committee in 1919, who proposed forming a federation of National Societies.

Why May 8? Jean-Henry Dunant was born on May 8, 1828, in Geneva.

Strength in Numbers
Volunteers are the greatest asset of the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Together they build a resilient network of knowledge and resources.

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The Oldest and Largest Humanitarian Organization in the World
The symbol of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is associated with emergency relief and humanitarian assistance all over the world. There are currently 188 national Red Cross/Red Crescent societies which are integrated into the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). United by the common objective to prevent and reduce human suffering, the IFRC is now considered the largest humanitarian organization in the world. Its headquarters is located in Geneva. The Swiss Red Cross Society is still one of the most active national societies within the IFRC network, particularly as far as humanitarian assistance is concerned. It often partners with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in its field work abroad.

International Geneva
Owing to its neutrality and humanitarian tradition, Switzerland is host to numerous international organizations and conferences. Switzerland has been home to international organizations for more than a century. Geneva is one of the world’s most important centers for international cooperation. To date, it has concluded headquarters agreements with 24 international organizations:  21 organizations have their headquarters in Geneva, two in Bern and one in Basel. In addition, nearly 250 nongovernmental organizations which act as advisors to the United Nations are based in Switzerland.

Photo gallery provided by ICRC


More about International Geneva and a list of all organizations

More about the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the May 8 celebrations

ICRC video newsroom

Intercross Blog



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