A reactive, emergency mentality. A reflection of society. Lack of political pressure. These are a few of the reasons why gender disparity persists in the humanitarian sector.

By Malcolm Lucard, editor of Red Cross Red Crescent

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Humanitarian work has come a long way since Margareta Wahlström took her first overseas mission as a field officer with the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) relief efforts for millions of people returning to Cambodia in the early 1980s.

“When I started, humanitarian work was all about boots and ropes and mud,” she says. “And the pool of people that humanitarian organizations recruited from tended to be firemen, military police and those kinds of professions.”

It was no surprise, then, that the vast majority of her colleagues and bosses at that…


Will a new urgency, sparked by frustration, help close the humanitarian gender gap?

By Malcolm Lucard, editor, Red Cross Red Crescent magazine

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Women have always been on the front lines of humanitarian action. Women such as Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton not only faced the most brutal conflicts and epidemics of their day, they helped lay the foundation for modern humanitarianism.

Today, more than half of Red Cross or Red Crescent volunteers around the world are female and women are among the first to respond in disaster, epidemics and conflict, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Philippines and Syria.

They are also just as likely as their male counterparts to…


Half the people we serve (and often more) are women. Gender parity is not only a question of principle, it’s about results.

By Malcolm Lucard. editor, Red Cross Red Crescent magazine

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The principle of impartiality, one of seven Fundamental Principles that guide the actions of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, does not say anything specific about gender. But it says the Movement “endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs”.

The principle of unity, meanwhile, says that Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies “must be open to all”.

But gender equality is not only a question of principles and basic notions of fairness and respect. …


What does it take for a health worker to wish death for her patient, even while doing everything to save her? This is just one of the agonizing questions I was confronted with during a mental health assessment in and around Mosul, Iraq, after fighting there began to subside late last year.

Written for Red Cross Red Crescent by Christina Bitar, mental health and psychosocial support delegate for the ICRC based in the Middle East.

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Mosul, Iraq, 2018

We drove four hours and passed six checkpoints, through one destroyed village after the next, along ghostly, silent streets with no markets or playing children.

None of the usual scents and sounds of life greeted us — cooking food, burning charcoal, the cries of household animals. We were met with only the odor of destruction, the dusty smell of pulverized concrete and burnt possessions hovering over every house, home, church and mosque.

But I was not there…


Migrants are making an exhausting journey through the freezing mountain passes in search of a safer and better life.

Words by Andrew Connelly, photos by Erika Pineros

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Simon Bolivar International Bridge, Cucuta, November 2018. Around 50,000 people each month are crossing the border from Venezuela to Colombia, to look for a better future in the country and further in the region.

Under the blistering midday sun, the Simon Bolivar International Bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela strains under the ceaseless footsteps and trundling wheels of suitcases. The new arrivals, many carrying their last worldly possessions, barely turn their back to watch the hills in Venezuela slowly sink out of sight and instead walk purposefully towards a new horizon.

The Colombian border town of Cucuta represents the waxing and waning of the two countries’ fortunes. In decades past, it was a last border stop for Colombians, escaping armed violence and economic stagnation, moving to their…


For decades, the border town of Cucuta was a departure point for people escaping Colombia’s instability towards a new life in their eastern neighbour. Now the situation has reversed and each month over 50,000 migrants cross the border from Venezuela to Colombia, many carrying their last possessions on their back, embarking on a perilous high-altitude trek on foot for days and sleeping under the stars in bitterly cold temperatures to get towards a new life.

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Mother and son, walking on the main road between Cucuta, at the border with Venezuela, and further into Colombia towards the city of Bucaramanga.

Safety in numbers

Eighteen year-old Yusmil arrived in Colombia with her brother, and the two joined a larger group on the road for security. As a young female, Yusmil is usually chosen to seek a ride in a car or truck and take the group’s luggage further up the route while the rest of them walk, though without a phone between them, communication is difficult. Yusmil sheepishly explains that she has already spent the last of her money, the $10 she got from selling most of her hair to a barber in Cucuta. …


Juan used to work so much that he would hardly see his son Santiago, now they are on a journey of a lifetime.

Photos by Erika Pineros and words by Andrew Connelly.

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With his son Santiago always at his side, Juan arrived in Colombia in late October and immediately begun looking for any kind of menial task to survive. …


Even in the age of smart phones and instant messaging, people can fall through the cracks — especially during crisis or long migrations.We need new ways to help them reconnect.

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In today’s world, characterized by ubiquitous connectivitiy, is it still possible to lose contact with people? Credit: stock photo

Inthe age of hyper-connectivity, in which mobile phones and internet access seem ubiquitous, what is the future for traditional tracing services such as the ICRC’s Restoring Family Links?

A parent’s desperate tweet to find a missing child can go viral and be seen by millions in a matter of hours. A refugee arriving on a Greek island can announce his survival to family in as long as it takes to send a WhatsApp message. Someone caught up in an earthquake can register their safety on Facebook with a few clicks.

So what is the future of the Movement’s tracing efforts…


Will a warming planet lead to a more violent world? Or will it inflict more suffering on those living through conflict?

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Well before Yemen descended into conflict and into what many have called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the country’s capital, Sana’a, was already on track to run out of water.

National water authorities and a host of international development actors were warning that unless urgent steps were taken, water resources in the Sana’a basin could disappear. One report said the city’s 4.2 million residents could become “water refugees by 2025”.

Long-term declines in rainfall. A growing population. Increasing cultivation of water-intensive crops. Mismanagement of water resources and inefficient water systems. …


Climate change may be making warfare harder to endure, but most experts say it is not a primary cause of armed conflict. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be in the future.

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Given some of the dire warnings about temperature rises, drought and erratic weather in places already wracked by conflict, you don’t have to be an author of dystopian science fiction to imagine a bleak future defined by new, brutal conflicts over dwindling access to water and arable land.

Such apocalyptic visions have already captured the public imagination as politicians and activists of nearly all political stripes seek to stir a greater sense of urgency about climate change, migration, infectious disease or global stability.

The debate is fuelled in part on the oft-repeated notion that climate change is already a leading…

Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine

Quality reporting on global humanitarian affairs from the official Medium stream of the RCRC magazine. http://www.rcrcmagazine.org

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