By Los Angeles Region CEO, Jarrett Barrios
| Sadly, the consequence of global conflict is often innocent human life. Caught in the path of violence and war, millions of civilians are placed in a helpless situation, a position where they are fearful to go about every-day activities. In these areas of our world, where children are without schools, and families are without homes, Red Cross Red Crescent Societies have volunteers on the ground, providing safe shelter, survival essentials, and humanitarian aid. And, more often than not, it is their efforts that offer the only hope of survival.
Each year, on August 19th, humanitarians around the globe join together for World Humanitarian Day— to recognize the efforts of humanitarian workers and volunteers who risk their own lives to help those affected by crisis world-wide. For the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, this includes our team in Syria that has carried out over 57 operations across front lines, bringing food and essential aid to eight million people and clean water to millions more.
At the end of April 2016, at the al-Quds Hospital in Aleppo, Syria, the last pediatrician in Aleppo, Dr Muhammad Wassim Maaz, was killed during an airstrike attack. But, he wasn’t alone. In all, Maaz, five of his colleagues, and at least four patients at the hospital (all children) lost their lives. The al-Quds Hospital was one of the last remaining in the rebel-controlled area of Aleppo that still catered to Syrian residents, and it was supported by both Doctor’s Without Boarders and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Shortly after this tragedy, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that Aleppo was on the verge of an all-out humanitarian disaster. Unfortunately, they were right.
As tragic as these events are, they are nothing less than unforgettable. So much so, a new documentary set to be screened this fall, in coordination with our Red Cross Los Angeles Region, titled, The Last Pediatrician in Aleppo, will highlight Maaz’s story, including the impact of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the work of our brave humanitarian aid workers and volunteers.
Still, even with highly publicized cases like this, the death-toll of innocent civilians is on the rise— especially as those who risk their own lives to provide care to people affected by global violence are continually being targeted. It pains me to say that, since the start of 2017 alone, 24 Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff have been killed while on duty. But, what can we do to help?
In May 2017, at the UN Security Council 7951st Meeting the main agenda was to discuss how to better protect civilians in armed conflict. In fact, UN Secretary General, António Guterres, discussed his own personal accounts of horrific stories form civilians caught in conflict, and called for an enhancement of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law. He went on to state that, “despite our efforts, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict around the world. In Syria, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry has documented relentless attacks and sieges that show no signs of abating…”
This year, for World Humanitarian Day 2017, it is my hope that Los Angeles based Red Crossers, our humanitarian partners, and fellow humanitarians across the globe, join together as a single chorus to remind the world that humanitarian aid workers and civilians caught in the middle of armed conflict are #NotATarget. Talk about it, follow the hashtag, and re-tweet both my (@JarrettBarrios), and the Red Cross Los Angeles Region’s (@RedCrossLA) posts on Twitter. By joining hands to raise awareness we will not only be sending a message of strength, but also one of commitment— a global commitment to do the right thing, and keep the HUMAN aspect of our humanitarian mission alive! If anything, I hope we can remind others that our work is essential to survival, and that saving lives is absolutely, never a reason to die.
Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. But, above all, Jarrett Barrios is a humanitarian, with more than 20 years of experience helping those in need throughout the United States and Cuba.
To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org