What is World Red Cross Day?

Henry Dunant, Founder of the Red Cross
Red Cross founder Henri Dunant.

More than 150 years ago, a single man inspired a movement to alleviate suffering around the world.  This week, on May 8, we celebrate Henri Dunant’s birthday and honor his legacy.

In 1859, in what was known as the Battle of Solferino (in modern Italy), Henri Dunant, a social activist from Switzerland, and winner of the first ever Nobel Peace Prize, worked tirelessly to bring food, shelter, and medical aid to the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers on both sides of that battle.

Five years later, the First Geneva Convention was signed, establishing a neutral organization that would care for sick, wounded, displaced, and even imprisoned, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or military affiliation in armed conflict. That organization would become known as the Red Cross.

In 1948, after it was suggested that an annual “Red Cross Truce Day” be held between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, once Czechoslovakia. This initiative became broadened to encompass countries from across the globe and evolved into what we now call the World Red Cross & Red Crescent Day, which celebrates the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Today, the Red Cross is comprised of more than 13 million volunteers. It assists more than 300 million people worldwide each year. May 8 also marks Henry Dunant’s birthday (born in 1828). We celebrate his vision for a more peaceful world and what it’s meant for all future generations.

–Hayes Kaufman/American Red Cross

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