By Delia Chatoor
‘Shifting vulnerabilities’ was one of the sub-themes examined at the 33rd International Red Cross Red Crescent Conference (IC) held in Switzerland from December 9 to 12, 2019.
In their interventions, delegates recognised that the vulnerabilities experienced, and being experienced globally, are “complex and interrelated”. They include the impact of migration and internal displacement, the humanitarian consequences of the climate crisis, protracted armed conflicts and violence and large-scale health issues.
Combined, they are affecting millions across the world with the fabric of societies being torn asunder and the traditional methodologies to address the challenges no longer appear to be viable.
These occurrences are interconnected and so require international cooperation and collaboration which would bring together the collective expertise of States, intergovernmental bodies, the private sector, other stakeholders and the Components of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.
It was further noted that the vulnerabilities were having an increased toll on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of thousands. Those with pre-existing conditions “are disproportionately affected” with experiences ranging from the violation of their human rights, exclusion, and inadequate access to care and protection. The impact on vulnerable groups, such as women and children, has been of particular concern.
The IC, therefore, adopted a specific resolution aimed at “addressing mental health and psychosocial needs of people affected by armed conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies”.
The distress faced by individuals, communities and societies was taken into account and it was further noted that the mental health and psychosocial well-being of volunteers and staff who respond to humanitarian crises had to be addressed, not only on a short-term basis but following the apparent end of the emergency.
During the Conference, delegates received first-hand details on the destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian to the Bahamas in September 2019. Terez Curry, the President of the Red Cross of The Bahamas provided an overview recalling that not only were relief items critical for the victims but they had to receive comfort as many were left traumatised and are still in need of support.
In a message to Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau through the Vatican Secretary of State, Pope Francis expressed the hope that “the international community would respond with prompt and effective assistance” and prayed that “those involved would have the strength to persevere”.
The Church has for centuries embraced the call to reach out to those affected by armed conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies. Such events, it is acknowledged, “interfere with the attainment of peace and harmony within communities and between citizens.”
Paragraph 2288 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses the necessity of society “to help in the attainment of living conditions that would enable all to grow and reach maturity”.
In addition to the Resolution, the Movement adopted a Policy Document, formulated initially by the Red Cross Red Crescent Components and seeks to encourage its members and the international community to address these concerns on a broad-based and non-discriminatory basis.
Such an approach is in tandem with that of the Church as she too seeks to reinforce the call for improvements and the sustainability of the quality of life of all the People of God.
The response of the RCRC Movement can be summed up as described in the said Policy as a central part of its “broader objectives to prevent and alleviate human suffering”.
The Church also has a pivotal role to play in fostering an understanding among the faithful that all are to care for each other and embrace the teachings of Jesus and pursue the golden rule: “So always treat others as you would like them to treat you: that is the Law and the Prophets”(Matt 7:12).
Delia Chatoor is a retired foreign service officer, Vice President of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society, and a Lay Minister of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando Parish