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Marking World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day – Vanessa’s story

In the Ivory Coast, 12 year old Vanessa left for school as usual, not knowing that morning would be the last time she saw her parents.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

On her way home that afternoon she heard gunshots and followed the running crowd towards the Liberia border.

“I was very afraid, especially when there was shooting and I was confused and I followed some of my friends who were also running away.”

“I saw Hawa, who I know from my village. I am friends with Hawa’s children and she was looking for them as we were all running away.”

“When I arrived at Loguatuo, the border town in Liberia, the Red Cross registered me as I was not with my parents. I also have two younger brothers, When I sit and think about how we used to play together I miss them a whole lot and wonder what has happened to them.”

She is now staying in a UNHCR camp with Hawa. The Red Cross are active here. Volunteers go from tent to tent talking to people, raising awareness about hygiene issues and checking if anyone needs first aid, including helping people get to the nearby clinic or to hospital if they need to.

“For the time being I want to stay here because I’m afraid to go back. I haven’t heard from my family and I’m frightened I won’t see them again.

Marking World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“Today shines a light on the crucial role the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, its staff and volunteers play in saving lives and assisting vulnerable communities around the world.

“The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement remains as relevant today as it ever was, often playing a vital humanitarian role in challenging situations, including armed conflict and disasters. I would like to commend the Movement’s efforts, including those of the British Red Cross, and pay tribute to all who work for it.”

Around a million people are estimated to have been forced from their homes in the Ivory Coast, with more than 100,000 seeking safety across the border in neighbouring Liberia. Around 60 percent of refugees are children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross are working to help those caught in conflict in Libya, providing assistance to refugee camps on the Tunisia border, providing food parcels, hygiene kits and blankets to the displaced people in Misrata.

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Published 8 May 2011