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American Red Cross Visits Darfur Refugees


U.S. Reps. Honda and Payne host Chair of American Red Cross on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, Thursday, December 07, 2006 — Chairman of the American Red Cross Bonnie McElveen-Hunter will report to Congress about her recent humanitarian trip to Red Cross camps sheltering Darfur refugees in Chad and American Red Cross projects in Ethiopia. The purpose of this visit to Eastern Africa was to bring awareness to the growing humanitarian need stemming from conflicts, flooding and food shortages in the region.

U.S. Representatives Honda and Payne, the Congressional Ethiopian Caucus and the Sudan Caucus invited the Chairman of the American Red Cross to brief members of Congress about the recent trip at 10:00 AM on Thursday, December 7 in HC-7 of the U.S. Capitol.

Building on the success of saving 1.2 million lives through the Measles Initiative over the past five years, the American Red Cross is increasing its long-term commitment in Africa through disease prevention, disaster response, maternal and child health and clean water programs. The American Red Cross Chairman led the humanitarian visit to Ethiopia and Chad and was joined by Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek, who donated his award to support refugees of Darfur at the last Olympic games.

“The American Red Cross mission in Ethiopia and Chad is so vital,” said American Red Cross Chair Bonnie McElveen-Hunter. “Whether that is providing clean water to a rural village in Ethiopia or ensuring that refugees from Darfur receive shelter, nourishing food and health care. I am reminded of Albert Schweitzer’s famous quote, ‘The Red Cross is a light showing the right way in darkness.’ We re-dedicate ourselves to never allowing that important light to be diminished or extinguished in this critical region.”

“As Chair of the Congressional Ethiopia Caucus, I am heartened that this briefing by the Chair of the American Red Cross is taking place at such a critical time,” said Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15). “Recent flooding in Ethiopia has ravaged that country, leaving thousands homeless. Genocide in Darfur has left a deep, indelible scar on the African continent. Under the able leadership of Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the American Red Cross has played a decisive role in addressing these humanitarian crises. I welcome the Chairman to Capitol Hill and thank her for her unflagging work on behalf of the neediest here at home and across the globe.”

Congressman Donald Payne (NJ-10), the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, said, “Those of us who have been actively involved in the effort to end the suffering in Darfur welcome the opportunity to receive the report to Congress about the work of the American Red Cross. Having visited refugee camps earlier myself, I have seen first-hand how the tragedy has impacted the lives of the people of Darfur. The involvement of the American Red Cross focuses attention on the enormous humanitarian needs in the region and raises public consciousness about the ongoing crisis in Darfur.”

The American Red Cross is meeting the urgent needs of vulnerable communities around the world and in Africa by responding to disasters and health emergencies. Through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s (Movement) network of 97 million volunteers located in nearly every country in the world, the American Red Cross is uniquely positioned to save lives by addressing some of the world’s most dire and critical humanitarian needs.


In Chad, the delegation traveled to the field with delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation), and met some of the 200,000 people who are living in camps after fleeing from neighboring Sudan (many from Darfur). The delegation observed food distribution and health programs in some of the camps where the International Federation, Chad Red Cross and ICRC are working.

The types of programs provided in Chad are like those across the border, caused by the same conflict affecting families in Sudan. The delegation also observed some of the ICRC’s efforts to identify unaccompanied children and reunite them with family members. Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has facilitated the exchange of 5,703 Red Cross Messages in Chad and Sudan and has arranged for 19 Darfuri families to be reunited with their loved ones. The delegation also visited with Chadians who, with the assistance of the ICRC, have fled internal conflict in Chad.

The crisis affecting Sudan and Chad has been one of the greatest challenges of the relief and development community to date. Continued support is needed to provide humanitarian relief necessitated by the protracted conflict and natural disasters.

For more information, or to support the American Red Cross in Africa and around the world, visit


During the visit to Ethiopia, the delegation witnessed the Movement’s humanitarian response in a country suffering from one of the highest child malnutrition rates and the sixth largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Three-quarters of Ethiopia’s 71 million people do not have access to clean water, and four out of five live without proper sanitation. This is compounded by cyclical flooding and droughts that hamper development.

American Red Cross and Ethiopian Red Cross Society field delegates showed the visiting delegation different types of clean water projects funded by the American Red Cross in towns about three hours from the capital city of Addis Ababa. These water and sanitation projects are typical of the work the American Red Cross is supporting in Ethiopia and in other countries of Africa. For example, the delegation visited a school with a water catchment system built by the American Red Cross and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society that enables parents to send their children to school for the first time. The delegation also received a briefing by an American Red Cross staff member deployed to Ethiopia to lead the coordination of the Movement’s response to recent floods in Ethiopia and Sudan that have affected more than 370,000 people and left thousands homeless.

The delegation visited Ethiopia because it is a focus country for American Red Cross clean water programs. The American Red Cross has assisted approximately 31,000 people improve access to clean water and has provided hygiene education in 21 peasant associations in the country. Also, the American Red Cross responded immediately to the severe floods in October that affected more than 370,000 people in Ethiopia and Sudan. The American Red Cross continues to support emergency relief efforts and is assisting in families’ long-term recovery by ensuring that farmers have the seed they need to plant for next year’s crops.

Editorial Note: Stories, video and stills can be found at or by contacting Susannah Cernojevich at 202-303-4438.

You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Call 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.


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