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African Youth to Help Celebrate International Red Cross' 150th Anniversary

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says 150 young people from 47 African countries will be going to Italy next week to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Solferino, the bloody clash that prompted the creation of the Red Cross movement.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says the Africans will be among 500 young people from 150 countries gathering for the Youth on the Move meeting next week in Solferino, Italy.

They will discuss their vision for tackling current and future humanitarian challenges. And, this interaction will culminate with a declaration and a call for action to deal with the pressing problems of today.

ICRC Media and Public Relations Officer for Strategic Projects Anna Nelson says Swiss businessman Henri Dunant founded the movement after witnessing the horrors of the Battle of Solferino in 1859.

Since those days, she notes the situation of civilians caught in armed conflict has worsened dramatically.

"When you consider the battle of Solferino, you had one civilian that was killed. When you look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Gaza, the impact of modern day warfare on civilians is significant," said Nelson. "And, we really wanted to be able to examine it, but through the eyes and voices of people who lived this themselves."

Many of the young Africans who will be attending the meeting in Solferino come from war torn countries, such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But conflict is only one of several issues in the 36 workshops to be held during the meeting.

Red Cross Youth Department Information Officer Stephen Ryan tells VOA the vast majority of countries in Africa have submitted issues for discussion that include HIV/AIDS and food security. He says climate change is of particular interest.

"Despite the fact that we discuss climate change all of the time, it was quite surprising to see so many African countries list climate change as one of their humanitarian priorities. Because they see that there is a link between climate change and many, many other humanitarian challenges. They see particularly the link between the effects of climate change and the challenges on food security," said Ryan. "And, one of the participants from Sudan is already one of the most eager to take part in the meeting, to gain new skills and to bring them back and start using them when they return to their home country."

Ryan says this is not just a meeting. It is a training event. He says the Red Cross hopes to see a groundswell of enthusiasm from the young people and to see them become actively involved in the work of the Red Cross over the next few months and years.

He says the aim is to get young people motivated to take action at the local, community level. He says creating a better world starts with the simple actions of helping ones family and neighbors.