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What is the Purpose of the American Red Cross

What is the Purpose of the American Red Cross

Over the last 13 decades, the American Red Cross has been working extensively for humanitarian cause, not just in the United States, but all over the world.
Abhijit Naik
The American Red Cross is a humanitarian non-government organization, committed to provide emergency assistance and disaster relief in the United States. Also known as the American National Red Cross, it is affiliated to International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

How it Was Formed?

The American Red Cross came into existence on May 21, 1881, as a result of the efforts of Clara Barton, an American humanitarian, who became the first president of this organization. While on vacation in Europe, Barton came across the International Red Cross, which was actively providing relief for the Franco-Prussian war casualties. Impressed by the concept, she decided to start an organization based on similar lines in the United States.

When she started working on this project in America, she faced a lot of difficulty convincing people that this organization would also be useful during other crisis, and not just during wars. Finally, she succeeded, and the organization came into being during President Chester A. Arthur's regime, with its headquarters in Washington D.C. It came into action to provide relief to the affected during the Great Fire of 1881 in Michigan and Johnstown floods in Pennsylvania in 1889.

What Was its Purpose?

The American Red Cross has been involved in community services helping the needy, supporting military personnel and their families, providing life-saving blood and blood products, initiating educational programs promoting health and safety, and also in international relief and development programs. All the activities are carried out by the volunteers and financially supported by community donations. Around a million Red Cross volunteers and 30,000 employees are mobilized across the nation to provide necessary relief in the event of a disaster. It also trains people in basic medical skills and disaster management.

Since its formation in 1881, the Red Cross has been involved in many relief works, not just in the United States but all over the world. The organization responds to an estimated 70,000 disaster calls annually, ranging from house fires to hurricanes. It is committed to provide health aid along with basic amenities, like food and shelter, to the people in disaster-hit areas and help them resume their daily activities. The US military is also provided with emergency and non-emergency services. Other than medical aid, it helps the personnel establish emergency family communications.

It is the largest supplier of blood in the United States, accounting for 44% of blood donations in the country. Its 'Tissue Services Program', which ended in 2005, provided life-saving allograft tissue to more than a million transplant recipients. On March 1, 1999, it implemented the Nucleic Acid Testing study and became the first US organization to implement it. It also initiated cellular therapy, a treatment method that involves collecting and treating blood cells.

The organization facilitates training in first aid, water safety, home safety, and disaster preparedness to approximately 12 million civilians annually. Some Red Cross chapters also indulge in sale of first aid kits and other disaster relief equipment. The organization also has a first aid reference guide to spread awareness about safety procedures and instruct in dealing with disaster situations and medical emergencies.

It is also an active participant in international projects, such as measles initiative, malaria programs, and other disaster response activities. It has two warehouses laden with emergency relief supplies, one each in Dubai and Panama, which are maintained by the International Federation. The American Red Cross has a department known as the 'Emergency Response Unit', which is made up of trained personnel and prepackaged technical equipment required in disaster relief operations.

In 1994, the American Red Cross was ranked the 3rd most popular charity/non-profit in America in a study by Nye Lavalle and Associates published in 'Chronicle of Philanthropy'. With time this popularity has just grown and it will continue to grow in the years to come.