The National Societies

What is a Red Cross Society?

There are presently 187 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies throughout the world and others are being formed. This unique network makes up the skeletal structure of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Each national Society includes volunteers and employees that provide a wide range of services: from rescue in case of disasters to helping victims of conflicts, first-aid training and restoring family ties.

The national Societies support the public authorities in their respective countries in their capacities of assistants, independent from governments in the humanitarian sector. Their knowledge in the field and their experience, their access to local communities and their infrastructure enable the Movement to quickly deploy appropriate aid where it is needed. National Society volunteers are often the first to appear after a disaster and they keep on working with the affected communities long after the other organisations have left the site.

This unprecedented network of community volunteers and employees also plays an essential role in the daily implementation of programmes of assistance, prevention and readiness; this may include the support at home of people living with VIH/Aids in Africa or the organisation of warning exercises in areas exposed to hurricanes in the Americas. This local settlement and this community-based approach, together with the universality of the Movement, its resources and its know-how, put the Red Cross and the Red Crescent in an especially advantageous position to meet the complex humanitarian challenges of our time.

A few figures

  • In 2006 some 35,000 volunteers have been mobilised in 480 emergency situations throughout the world.
  • Between 2004 and 2006, the number of rescue operations led by national Societies following disasters went from 254 to 445.
  • Some 97 million volunteers, out of whom half were youngsters and a roughly equal proportion of women, are enlisted in the 186 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The national Societies employ about 300,000 persons throughout the world. The programmes and services of the national Societies aim to meet short and long-term needs. This includes emergency aid, getting ready for disasters, community health and personal assistance, first-aid (comprising training), restoring family ties in situations of crisis, and the mobilisation of youngsters and volunteers.

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