The South African Red Cross Society (SARCS) dates back to 1896 when four doctors formed an ambulance corps with the blessing of the President of the old Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. SARCS itself was founded in 1921 with the amalgamation of the various Red Cross entities which existed in the country. It was recognised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1928 and admitted into the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the International Federation) – then the League - in 1929.
Over the years, the work of the Red Cross in South Africa has changed to reflect the environment in which it is working. This means that much of today’s work is related to health and disaster management issues, particularly the devastating impact that HIV & AIDS is having in South Africa. It is estimated that 40% of deaths in the age group 19- 49 years in the year 2000 were due to HIV & AIDS.
SARCS is also involved in empowering communities to cope in times of natural or man-made disasters. Drought, floods, fires and mining disasters occur regularly, but new areas of concern are the impact of rapid urbanisation, environmental degradation, and technological failure.
As a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, SARCS is also obliged to provide tracing services and to disseminate knowledge about the Fundamental Principles, International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the use and protection of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Emblem. This is essential if the Red Cross is to be respected during peacetime and times of conflict.
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