10 things you might not know about the Red Cross
Last updated 28 March 2023
1. A gruesome battle sparked the idea for the Red Cross
On his journey to meet Napoleon III in 1859, the businessman Henry Dunant witnessed a bloody battle in present-day Italy. What he saw horrified him: men were left to die in agony without medical aid.
This sparked his vision for impartial medical volunteers, who helped the wounded no matter what side of the war they were on.
2. It's the largest humanitarian network in the world!
Amazingly, almost every country in the world has a Red Cross National Society. When crisis strikes, volunteers in the affected country are the first to respond, with other societies providing aid and expertise when there's a serious need.
3. We work in some of the most dangerous places
Thanks to our principles and unique role under the Geneva Conventions, we're allowed to cross borders and reach areas that other aid organisations cannot. This means we can even help people in some of the most dangerous places on earth.
4. The Red Cross is NOT a logo
It's an emblem that's protected by international law. It's a symbol of protection. Everyone and anyone, irrespective of nationality, religion or politics, can find help from the Red Cross.
5. It's also not a religious symbol
The Red Cross is not a religious symbol: due to our Swiss roots, it's actually the reverse of the Swiss flag. However, some National Societies use red crescent or red crystal symbols to avoid negative religious connotations, ensuring it represents protection for all.
6. We find missing relatives
Thousands of families are separated every year by disasters like tsunamis, conflicts or migration. By working as a global network, we reconnect families who have been separated, whether that's immediately after a crisis or years later from across the world.
7. We promote limits to the extremes of war
The Red Cross has a special mandate to promote International Humanitarian Law. These 'rules of war' protect victims of armed conflict and limit the extremes of war, helping former enemies to live together and preventing never-ending cycles of violence.
8. Her Majesty the Queen is our patron
There was a long-standing relationship between the Royal Family and the Red Cross.
9. We work closely with the NHS
From the founding of the NHS after the Second World War to our role with the NHS today, we have a proud relationship.
10. We’re one of the founders of Missing Maps
A volunteer-led project that maps corners of the world that are quite literally missing from maps, helping humanitarian organisations like us to reach people in need.