The Red Cross is an International Organization meant for humanitarian services. Its Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland with many affiliated National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It is a non-religious, non-political and non-sectarian International body. Regardless of either frontiers or Race, the Red Cross remains a voluntary organization and also an independent one having considerable welfare activities to its credit. It is the biggest relief organization in the World with two hundred million members and tens of thousands of employees. The Red Cross was established in 1863, in Geneva. Though at the beginning it aimed at taking care of the people affected by war, in due course, its area of operation was extended to the prevention as well as the relief of human suffering during natural havocs and at other times.
JEAN HENRY DUNANT, known as the father of the RED CROSS, was born on May 8, 1828, in Geneva, Switzerland. His father, a successful businessman and a citizen of some prominence, was a man of means. His mother was a gentle and pious woman. She more than anyone else, was responsible for her first-born child’s early education. Her influence had much to do with moulding his character. At a very early age he developed deep religious convictions and high moral principles. He became a member of an organization in Geneva known as the League of the Alms, whose purpose was to bring spiritual and material comfort and aid to the poor, sick and afflicted. He was also a regular visitor to the city prison, where he laboured to help reform the transgressors of the law.
It was while journeying on a business mission in Italy that Dunant chanced to arrive in June 1859 at Castiglione della Pieve. It was the same day on which the Battle of Solferino was being fought nearby. The town was filled with causalities and the army medical services available at that point proved to be inadequate. It was wholly natural for Dunant to try to help relieve the pain and suffering of the wounded. By temperament, tradition and training, he could do no less. To put an end to this ghastly tragedy. Mr. Jean Henry Dunant with four citizens of Geneva i.e, General Guillame Henry Dufour, Mr. Gustave Moynier, Dr. Louis Appia and Dr. Theodore Maunoir founded the International Committee for the relief of the wounded in 1863, which was later called International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). In October 1863, answering the Assembly in Geneva, which decided on the creation of those societies to come to the aid of the wounded, which Mr. Dunant so earnestly desired. The Red Cross was founded. These associations of voluntary relief workers were later called Red Cross Societies.
This experience completely changed the course of his life. From that time onwards, Dunant’s business activities and other interests became secondary as he sought to find a way in which such suffering could somehow be prevented, or at least ameliorated in future wars. Furthermore, his concept of an International treaty among nations to assure more humane care of the wounded aroused considerable interest.
These were the humble beginnings of an organization whose growth and potentials were not yet visualized by Dunant who struggled on with his life aim of human care, giving up his own likelihood, thus for 20 years he lived precariously on the pittance friends could give him and a small allowance from members of his family.
In 1901, the Nobel Committee awarded him its first peace prize shared jointly with Frenchmen Frederic Passy. From Geneva, his old home, came this message from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
This great man, passed away peacefully on 30.10.1910 Red Cross Societies in times of peace pursue a variety of activities devoted to the health, safety and well-being of the people of the world, secure in the knowledge that some at least of the sick and the suffering will be given succour at time of need
The World-wide organization of the Red Cross and the way in which Governments and the Red Cross and do co-operate for the benefit of suffering humanity attest to the greatness of the idea and the ideals conceived by Henry Dunant a century ago. Few men in history have had a nobler or more enduring monument by which to be remembered than Dunant richly deserved by him.