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Red Cross appeal for Turkey quake survivors


What is the situation following the earthquake in Turkey?

Mother holding son in front of rubbleSo far, 601 people are confirmed dead and more than 4,100 are injured.

The Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Agency reports the following damage to buildings:

  • 2,309 collapsed
  • 11,847 severely damaged
  • 17,923 moderately damaged.

Search and rescue operations instigated by the government have been completed in 67 zones and will continue in four zones.

What are the priority needs?

The weather conditions are becoming worse with current temperatures around 6 degrees Celsius in daytime and -4 degrees Celsius at night.

Homeless survivors urgently need blankets, sleeping bags, winter tents, heaters, bottled water and food.

What is the Turkish Red Crescent doing?

Following the tragic news of the earthquake in Van on 23 October, the Turkish Red Crescent immediately alerted all its emergency response units and established crisis management centres in several regions. So far, it has:

  • established four tent camps
  • begun establishing two camps of pre-fabricated houses
  • distributed 1,968 prefabricated houses to 48 villages located in higher altitude and colder areas
  • assigned 18 psychologists and social service specialists to provide support for people who lost their relatives and for survivors experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is also distributing hot meals three times a day to the affected population.

The Turkish Red Crescent is a well trained and equipped organisation but the huge impact of this earthquake means international assistance is also needed.

How is the British Red Cross helping?

On 26 October, the British Red Cross launched an appeal to support the Turkish Red Crescent.

And around the world, there has been a global outpouring of support as Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are sending cash and relief goods to support the emergency operation. So far this includes:

  • 3,000 shelter tool kits from the Japanese Red Cross
  • 3,600 sleeping bags from the Netherlands Red Cross
  • 1,300 heaters from the Swiss and German Red Cross
  • 1,300 winter tents from the Netherlands and Belgian Red Cross
  • 3,000 tents from the Canadian, Swiss, German and Finnish Red Cross
  • almost 60,000 blankets from the German, Norwegian, Canadian, Japanese and Swiss Red Cross.

Why do we need your help?

The Turkish government, Turkish Red Crescent and other organisations are racing against time to get sufficient quantities of aid to survivors living in freezing mountainous conditions.

The government has instructed its construction agency to build houses for the affected population in the shortest possible time. For temporary shelter purposes, containers are being manufactured and dispatched to the areas affected by the earthquake.

The Ministry of Health is continuing public health assessments in the tent camps. There are many cases of diarrhoea and people are being warned to only drink bottled water.

The earthquake killed many livestock, which provide the main economy in the affected rural areas. Medium and small businesses, farmers and livestock breeders will need support to resume their livelihoods.

The Turkish Red Crescent is working to identify 50,000 of the most vulnerable people affected by the quake – such as the elderly, disabled people, children and single-parent households – and will help them over the next nine months.

More funds are desperately needed to support this huge operation, please donate to our appeal today.

Red Cross goes retro


Red Cross vintage labels

This week we opened our first British Red Cross vintage and retro shop, and what a beautiful fit it is. Working on the concepts, we had a great time searching through old Red Cross posters, looking for decorations for the shop and designs for the bags and labels. Our archives are a real treasure trove of incredible vintage design. I’m a big fan of the clothes tags, which I think are calling out to be collected. Have a look at this slideshow to see some of the archive’s gems.

The shop in Shrewsbury is our flagship vintage store but you can find smaller vintage and retro ranges in other selected shops (including the beautiful tags).

But of course it’s not all about the beauty. Red Cross shops are one of the key ways we fund our work, both in the UK and around the world. It’s a tradition that goes back a long way, with our first shop being traced back to the First World War. Nowadays, the shops raise around £5 million for the Red Cross each year, which helps fund our vital work both in the UK and overseas. You can be sure that whenever you pick up an outfit or buy something for your home, it will be helping to save and change people’s lives. What better excuse to shop?

Here are some of the clothes from our vintage range and the difference each outfit could make to people’s lives.

(Boots = £6.99) + (Dress = £10.99) = two tarpaulins to provide immediate shelter for people who have lost their homes in Pakistan.
Dress = £12.99 = four jerry cans to store drinking water free from life-threatening disease, like cholera, in east Africa.

Jumpsuit = £15.00 = food and materials for a community day crèche for three months in South Africa.

Dress = £30 = first aid training for three people in the UK, helping them to save lives in an emergency.

The role of aristocratic volunteers during the First World War


One of the most interesting aspects of ITV’s Downton Abbey is the way class issues play out among the Grantham family and their servants, especially as wounded and recuperating soldiers have arrived in their home and begun mingling with the family members.

Our archivist Jenny Shaw explains more about the role the aristocracy played among British Red Cross volunteers during the war.

From our origins, the British Red Cross received a huge amount of support from the upper echelons of society. Members of the royal family had accepted positions on the governing council (roughly the equivalent of today’s board of trustees) and when county branches started to be set up from 1907 the wife of the local lord lieutenant usually served as the branch president.

Volunteers at Devonshire House


One of the main ways wealthy families supported the war effort was by volunteering their houses to be used by the rapidly expanding Red Cross. The Duke of Devonshire, for example, generously gave over the whole ground floor of Devonshire House in London to act as our headquarters during the war. Others, like the fictitious Grantham family in Downton Abbey, loaned us their stately homes to be used as convalescent centres for recuperating soldiers.

Women in particular got involved in volunteering with the Red Cross in ways that were considered suitable for ladies. Two of the Duke of Devonshire’s daughters – Lady Rachel Cavendish and Lady Dorothy Cavendish (who married prime minister Harold Macmillan) – worked at the county clearing house in Derbyshire, allocating wounded servicemen to the appropriate hospitals or nursing homes in the county. The duke’s daughter-in-law, Lady Edward Cavendish, volunteered over 1,000 hours making garments for the wounded.

From our records, it’s hard to tell about volunteers’ class (other than people with titles). Volunteers tended to be women who could afford to volunteer their time without pay, but the outbreak of the First World War saw thousands of new volunteers from all backgrounds assisting the Red Cross.

Read more about our history

When the daily crust disappears: seeds of change in Bangladesh


Hands scooping up lentils

In a recent survey by the British Red Cross, one-third of the UK population said they’d never heard of ‘food insecurity‘. The term, used by aid workers, refers to a complex set of issues behind the fact that 925 million people in the world go hungry every day, despite there being enough food in the world to feed everyone.

Poverty is the major underlying factor for people struggling to get enough food. However, when a disaster strikes it only makes the situation worse for those who are already vulnerable.

For this reason, the British Red Cross is increasingly focussing on helping people protect their livelihoods from disasters.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘livelihood’ as: a means of securing the necessities of life.

Boiling it down to the basics, it’s about securing enough food, water and shelter in order to survive. It sounds simple. But of course the reality of survival in the aftermath of a disaster is far from simple.

For example, maybe you live in an agricultural region along the coast. You are a daily labourer in the fields and make just enough money to get by. But since a cyclone caused a surge of seawater, the waterlogged land is too saline to grow crops. There is no more work for you.

And like the others in your village, your house, made of bamboo and leaves, got washed away in the storm. You sleep under a makeshift shelter made with scraps of wood you salvaged.

At night you hear your neighbour crying. Her husband was a fisherman, who never returned after the storm. Her teenage son tries to comfort her and feels useless. His young siblings complain of hunger. His father taught him how to fish. But all the boats and nets have been destroyed.

These are just a few of the problems faced by survivors of a cyclone in Bangladesh.

Based on experience, including helping people recover after the 2004 Asian tsunami and Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh in 2007, the British Red Cross believes cash grants are one of the most effective ways of helping people re-establish themselves.

Bangladesh-grocery-shop“Every context is different and it’s important to do market analysis before helping people start new income generating opportunities,” Joy Singhal, recovery manager, explains.

“We currently have livelihood programmes in Haiti, Bangladesh and Azerbaijan, but each one is tailored to the specific context. Alongside the cash grants we help people develop business plans and provide training where necessary.”

In May 2009, Cyclone Aila ripped through south-eastern Bangladesh, causing massive destruction to thousands of people’s homes and means of making a living.

In November 2009, the Bangladesh Red Crescent did an assessment and found that many families, with nothing to fall back on after the cyclone had ripped through their communities, were still living in terrible conditions and barely scraping by.

In response, it developed a recovery programme, in partnership with the British Red Cross, to help more than 1,000 families in eleven villages in Khulna – one of the worst-affected districts.

The regional economy, previously based on agriculture and livestock, collapsed in the aftermath of the disaster because the land was waterlogged and too saline to grow crops. It will be years before fields can be cultivated again and there is enough fodder for livestock to survive.

At the beginning of the recovery programme, the Red Cross teamed up with a local organisation called Prodipan, which specialises in livelihoods, and carried out an assessment looking at feasible alternatives to agriculture and livestock.

New options include: fish farming in small ponds; rearing poultry; tailoring; running small shops and ‘crab fattening’.

Mina at a community meetingIt may have taken two years, but Mina Mondol, 26, from Shingershack in Khunla district is now living a life she could barely imagine after Cyclone Aila destroyed her home in south-western Bangladesh.

Mina says: “Both me and my husband used to be daily labourers – working in the fields – but after the cyclone there was no work for us.

“But we have our own pond and with the money from the Red Cross we’ve started cultivating crabs and selling them in the market. I had three days training in crab culture. Since starting our new business we are earning much better money. Now we get 4,000 taka (£32) a month, before we got a maximum of 1,300 taka (£10).

“We used to eat only some rice with salt and pepper and after the cyclone it was even worse, we had nothing. But now it’s different, we can afford fish sometimes, or even meat and vegetables.”

Throughout October, the British Red Cross is running the Seeds of Change campaign to raise awareness about the issue of food insecurity. Visit our website and watch our Seeds of Change video.

Hospital food: even worse during the First World War


If you or a loved one has had the misfortune to eat hospital food recently, spare a thought for the wounded soldiers of the First World War who had to eat dishes like calf’s foot jelly and beef tea custard.

Red Cross volunteers prepare food during the First World WarWe’ve seen wounded soldiers being cared for in the luxurious surroundings of ITV’s Downton Abbey. During the war, Red Cross nurses looked after men in lots of different types of accommodation, including stately homes. But they certainly wouldn’t have eaten the same rich and delicious food that the homes’ titled owners did.

Food for wounded soldiers was chosen for its ease of digestion, not its taste. Our archives have a recipe book teaching volunteer cooks how to choose and prepare hundreds of dishes for the men. Men were put on different diets depending on their injuries (there’s actually a beef tea diet outlined in the book).

The book even includes a definition of salad.

You can see excerpts from the recipe book embedded below. Just in case calf’s foot jelly or beef tea custard tickles your tastebuds, I’ve written out those recipes under the document player. You may want to wash it down with a tall glass of albumen water (mix equal parts egg white with water).

And if you do make them, please don’t invite me over for dinner. I’m a vegetarian.

Beef tea (pg 65)

1 lb. beef to each one pint water.

Scrape the meat, removing fat, gristle and bone. Place in cold water as scraped, press with fork. Cover with paper, place in pan of water and bring water barely to the boiling point, so that meat is just coloured only. Strain, remove any fat with paper and serve. Season as required.

Double quantity of meat may be used.

[scribd id=”67420803″ key=”key-2h240p3irrrqzqxxr3qk” height=”650″ width=”480″]

Beef tea custard (pg. 58)

Required: Two or three eggs to each pint beef tea. Sugar to taste.

Method: Strain the beef tea well before using or a heavy sediment falls to the bottom of the dish. Beat the eggs, add beef tea and beat again, well strain into buttered dish and bake 20 to 30 minutes. Custards must be baked very slowly. The pie-dish may be stood in a baking tin of water, which helps to set them firmly by preventing too quick a heat from reaching them.

Calf’s foot jelly (pages 70-71)

[To make] stock for jelly:
(1) Gelatine or isinglass, 1 oz. to one quart liquid. Soak the gelatine in 1/2 pint cold water six to seven hours, or in boiling water 20 to 30 minutes, if needed in haste.

(2) One calf’s foot, quartered, washed and blanched, to one quart liquid. Boil the calf’s foot gently for four or five hours in one quart water, skimming well. Strain into a basin, and when set wipe off any grease from the top with a cloth dipped in hot water.

To make one quart [calf’s foot jelly], using the calf’s foot stock. Strain in the juice of one lemon, add slices of thinly peeled rind, the shells and beaten whites of two eggs, sugar to taste, and whisk all thoroughly together until they come to the boil. Draw to the side of the fire and allow to stand for 15 to 20 minutes, when a crust will be seen to form, then strain and add a wine-glass of wine – sherry is generally preferred, but port wine or any white wine may be used.

See photos of our work in the First World War

When the daily crust disappears: seeds of change in Haiti


Haiti houses reduced to rubbleThis month, the global population is projected to top 7 billion. With the earth’s resources under increasing pressure, environmental cost and humanitarian consequences are inevitable.

For Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, built practically on top of a fault line and with an estimated population of two million when an earthquake hit on 12 January 2010, the impact, as we all know, was an unprecedented disaster.

As increasing numbers of people are being affected by natural disasters in both urban and rural contexts, protecting people’s means of living so that they can feed themselves and their families is one of the biggest humanitarian challenges ahead.

Joy Singhal, British Red Cross recovery programme manager, says: “In recent years we’ve developed our disaster recovery programmes with a focus on helping people re-establish their livelihoods and protect them from future disasters. Nobody feels dignified relying on handouts for a long time. The quicker people can regain an income, giving them the means to rebuild their lives themselves, the better.”

Recovery in Haiti

Mother holding child on her lapIn Haiti, the British Red Cross livelihoods programme is helping earthquake survivors like Luciana Pierre Jean. When Luciana fell pregnant, she was abandoned by her boyfriend and disowned by her family. Her baby boy was born on the day the earthquake struck and Luciana lost everything.

Since then the Red Cross has provided her with business training and a cash grant. Luciana plans to use the money to start a small shop.

“Since the Red Cross training, I investigated to see what items are in demand,” she says. “I’m excited to start. I will invest a bit of money at first, to see if customers like the products, before expanding. I hope to save money so I can send my son to school.”

Luciana also took part in a community project, building stone walls to fortify ravines around her village and prevent flooding. This aspect of the programme was developed after local people explained how flooding, from the hundreds of ravines in the surrounding mountains, regularly destroys their crops.

Working on this project allowed Luciana and other vulnerable people to earn vital income (in addition to the cash grant), while also protecting their communities.

Building a safer future

We live in an increasingly complex world with both urban and rural disasters delivering more complicated challenges, which include healthcare, social, economic, environmental and cultural factors.

Building a safer future means looking at how vulnerable communities can build their ability to withstand disasters. Whether it be an earthquake, hurricane, flood or drought it is the underlying issue of poverty which is the biggest challenge for those who struggle to get back on their feet. Protecting people’s livelihoods and therefore means of securing food, water and shelter is core to mitigating the impact of disasters.

Throughout October, we’re running the Seeds of Change campaign to explain the issue of food insecurity and what can be done to help break the cycle of poverty and hunger. Visit our website to find out more and watch our Seeds of Change video.

Image 1 © IFRC/ECHO

Image 2 © Amanda George/BRC

Dispatches from Disaster Zones: telling the story of hunger


Hands scooping up lentils

Every night 925 million people go to bed hungry. And sometimes it gets so bad the media throws a spotlight on the crisis, such as the current situation in east Africa.

Seeing as aid agencies have been sounding the alarm about east Africa since last November, it begs the question: why wasn’t more done to avert the current crisis?

At Dispatches from Disaster Zones, an event hosted by the Red Cross at the Commonwealth Club on 30 September, this was the hot topic of debate between aid agencies and journalists.

“There are very brief windows of opportunity to cover long-term development stories,” said Tom Parry, Daily Mirror journalist. “When I was in Kenya recently, agencies wouldn’t address the Al Shabaab situation but it’s impossible to not link the political with the humanitarian situation – we need to address the reasons why people are fleeing Somalia.”

This year has been a particularly crowded news agenda and aid agencies struggled to get coverage of the evolving situation in east Africa when competing with crises related to the Arab Spring and of course the phone hacking scandal.

Journalists argue that if aid agencies were able to talk more about the whole picture it would help their cause.

While acknowledging there is a need to be more honest about the realities of aid and its problems, David Peppiatt, international director at the British Red Cross, said: “Engaging in the political is enormously challenging, if we commented on politics in Somalia it would have grave consequences for our work there. We have seen this happen before in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.”

Young boy holding an empty bowl in KenyaFor communicators at aid agencies, telling the story of a slowly developing disaster is a huge challenge. With a story like the Haiti earthquake there is immediate drama and the press will be all over it. But hunger in east Africa is a familiar and repetitive story. It lacks drama and is fairly inaccessible making it difficult to get press coverage – particularly before famine is declared.

Another often repeated gripe of aid agencies is that journalists don’t get the complexity of a disaster, for example Haiti, where it was reported that the emergency response was not quick enough.

But Dominic Nutt, associate director of communications and campaigns at World Vision, insists it’s the aid agencies’ responsibility to tell the story well, whatever the circumstances. He said: “We want to get the complex story out and yet we are guilty of destroying the complexity we want through our own marketing that says: give us £2 and you can help us save the world.

“All of us are scared of being thrown out of countries with corrupt governments, so we won’t stand up and say the government is responsible for starving children – we self edit.

“We need to accept that we need to challenge ourselves first before moaning about the media. There are times when we need to be political. When many are starving and many are fat – it’s about politics.”

For the World Food Programme (WFP) working in Somalia there is acute awareness of the complexity of the context, having lost 14 staff in its operation there since 2008.

Caroline Hurford, head of WFP liaison office in London, said: “I’m heartened by the way aid agencies are getting together to tell the story and the more we can do that and tell the story more clearly, the better.

“We do know the situation on the ground and can edge people in the right direction even if we can’t speak on record. We try to get others, like Oxfam, to talk about it as they can talk more blatantly. We can create critical mass by working together.”

Young girl hugging her motherRight now, aid agencies are focusing on telling the story of hunger and famine in east Africa and doing all they can to raise funds to save lives.

But when the famine is over, the even harder story to sell is ongoing food insecurity – the daily grind that millions face to get enough food to feed their families.

Yet malnutrition is the world’s number one health risk with more people dying from hunger than HIV, TB and malaria combined. The shocking fact is: almost one billion people go hungry when there is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world.

Throughout October, the Red Cross is running a campaign to tell the complex story of food insecurity. Watch our new video and find out more about what can be done to help break the cycle of poverty and hunger.

Image 1 © Jose Cendon/IFRC

Image 2 & 3 © Katrina Crew/BRC

Letters home from a First World War nurse


Downton Abbey fans will remember Lady Sybil in action as a Red Cross nurse helping wounded soldiers.

In our archives, we’ve found letters from one of our nurses who sheds more light on the difficulties of nursing, as well as some of the lighter moments.

According to our records, Miss Dorothy M Robinson, daughter of Major General Sir C W Robinson KCB (ex Rifle Brigade), was a nurse at Waverley Abbey Military Hospital in Farnham, Surrey.

Dorothy tells her mum about the trouble she has to go through to get a bath, the jokes wounded servicemen play on each other, and the nervous anticipation everyone feels when the Zeppelin warning bell goes off one night.

Here you can see some of Dorothy’s letters, or read the transcript below.