Swiss boost Red Cross staff to mark 150th anniversary

16th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

The Swiss government said Friday that it was marking the 150th anniversary of the Red Cross by providing funds to train 150 of the aid workers who form the organisation's backbone.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter made the announcement in a speech at a conference dedicated to Switzerland's humanitarian operations, a government statement said.

The 18.2 million Swiss francs (15 million euros, $19.1 million) in funding, provided over four years, will be earmarked for the training of 150 "delegates" of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Delegates are the ICRC's frontline representatives in some of the toughest settings around the world, from war zones to disaster areas.

The ICRC currently counts some 650 of them, out of a total of 13,000 staff in more than 80 countries around the world.

They are deployed after a combination of boot camp training, including simulated kidnappings and negotiations with militias, and in-depth courses on the laws of war and crisis management.

The Red Cross was founded in 1863 in Geneva, where it still has its headquarters.

It was the brainchild of Henry Dunant who, shocked by the bloodshed in an 1859 battle between France and Austria, pushed for the creation of an impartial organisation to care for wounded soldiers.

It is the world's oldest humanitarian organisation still in existence, and oversees respect for the Geneva Conventions on warfare.

© 2013 AFP

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