TULSA, Oklahoma — The Red Cross is a charitable non-profit organization specializing in both domestic and international disaster relief. The Red Cross sources its income from both individual and governmental donations. While it may have a congressional charter, unlike other chartered organizations, The Red Cross does not appreciate any regular funding from the federal government, relying instead on donations and “cost-recovery charges” for many of its services related to blood donations, products and training courses for health and safety.
The Red Cross specializes in domestic disaster relief, “The International Red Cross and Red Crescent network is the largest humanitarian network in the world with a presence in almost every country,” the Press Team stated in an interview with The Borgen Project. Donations enable the organization to respond to “more than 60,000 disasters a year, providing shelter, food, emotional support, cash assistance and other necessities to those affected.” The Red Cross relies on donations to remain operational and reports impressive metrics regarding applying the donations. For instance, the Red Cross claims it invests “90 cents of every dollar in humanitarian services and programs.”
Who Are the Responders?
The professionals who engage in boots-on-the-ground relief work are highly experienced first responders that Red Cross recruits once a year from an international roster. After selection, applicants undergo a series of interviews and receive a criminal background check. Selected candidates “…undergo international mobilization and preparation training.” In affected nations, the Red Cross disaster relief professionals offer services such as, “…telecommunications, mapping, disaster management and other contributions.”
What Does the Red Cross Do?
The Red Cross, while not a federal agency, is often contracted out to provide relief. It is legally “a federal instrumentality”, meaning that they are essentially contracted to perform a variety of responsibilities to maintain such a title. These responsibilities include “fulfilling the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, assigned to national societies for the protection of victims of conflict”; “providing family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military…” and “maintaining a system of domestic and international disaster relief, including mandated responsibilities under the National Response Framework coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).”
These responsibilities enable the Red Cross to provide relief for such issues as health pandemics, war-time displacement, hunger and violence. The American Red Cross also facilitates communications between the military and civilian families in times of emergency. This aid is especially significant considering that after COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, hunger, displacement and disease have all increased in severity.
The Red Cross’ Responses to Disasters
The Red Cross has vaccinated more than 3 billion children in response to disease since 2001, “reducing global measles deaths by 94%.” Donations enable the Red Cross to continue such initiatives, which is particularly important in the post-COVID-19 era. While there has been a mass mobilization of vaccination efforts to combat COVID-19, measles vaccinations declined, with “a record high of nearly 40 million children missing a measles vaccine dose” in 2021. Similarly, the U.N. reports that after the Coronavirus pandemic, “as many as 161 million people fell into hunger between 2019 and 2020.”
The war in Ukraine also disrupted global supply chains and strained East Africa’s ability to receive grain shipments. Last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “helped nearly 1 million people in the south and central Somalia buy a month’s worth of food by distributing cash to more than 150,000 households.” Similarly, a program in Nigeria aided over 250,000 people with the installation of “climate-smart agriculture inputs.”
The Red Cross also works to alleviate displacement related to the war in Ukraine both in Ukraine and in surrounding nations, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Moldova, Belarus and Russia. In these nations, it provides aid “including food, clothing, and hygiene supplies; cash and voucher assistance; health and care, including mental health and psychosocial support; first aid; child-friendly spaces and protection services.”
Engaging in International Relief Internationally
The Red Cross also engages in disaster relief internationally. It maintains a staff of dedicated and qualified first responders for disaster emergencies around the globe. This aid is also especially intriguing work for those concerned with reducing global poverty and food insecurity. Many national conventions have cited the role of disastrous weather events and their relations to food insecurity, specifically droughts and floods. For instance, Johan Rockstrom, one of the co-chairs of The Global Commission on the Economics of Water, claims, “Food crisis is really at the center of our discussions… When India has to close its borders’ exports of wheat, when we see the food crisis in Kenya …these are water-scarcity and heat-related impacts.”
The World Bank reports that “the impact of extreme weather on poverty is more devastating than previously understood, responsible for annual consumption losses of $520 billion and pushing 26 million people into poverty every year.” The American Red Cross Press Team also informed The Borgen Project that it “advocates for increased investments in disaster preparedness and climate adaptation” in response to these weather events, the concurrent various humanitarian crises and budget cuts in various humanitarian services.
Continuing to Respond to Crises
The Red Cross responds to a variety of crises that contribute to the exacerbation of global poverty and food insecurity all over the globe, from hunger, disease, displacement and disaster relief, it applies its donations in ways that alleviate suffering in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. It consists of a mixture of volunteers and highly trained professionals working in tandem to provide emergency relief services to affected nations and is reliant on donations to continue its aid work and to maintain its federal charter.
The Red Cross has had a significant impact on issues related to the war in Ukraine and has been instrumental in the fight against health pandemics worldwide. Contributions to the organization will surely go to those in need and regular people can volunteer to donate blood, donate cash or volunteer locally to ensure the it can continue to provide relief to nations facing humanitarian crises.
– Braden Hampton