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The beginning of May marked World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. We asked Sandrine Devers, Communications Officer of the Red Cross (FR), how her organization celebrates this day.

World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, held each year on May 8, is an opportunity to celebrate the humanitarian spirit and to recognise people who are making a difference in their communities. Each country celebrates the day in different ways. In Belgium, the Red Cross wants to use this day to highlight the professionalism of its teams of employees and volunteers through the campaign ‘Working for the Red Cross means giving meaning to your skill’.

In its partner countries, the Belgian Red Cross supports local actions organised by the various Red Cross organisations, such as open days, symposiums, conferences, parades and gatherings of volunteers. The aim of all these activities is to present the diverse - and often unknown - activities of the Red Cross and to recall the humanitarian principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The indispensable thanks to the thousands of volunteers who regularly contribute to the organization must also be kept in mind: Without them, it would be impossible to achieve the results, the Red Cross is so proud of.

The Red Cross is involved in numerous missions around the world. What are your most significant actions at the moment?

I would like to mention in particular the crisis in Ukraine and the earthquake in Turkey/Syria, where the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is playing a leading role.
The Belgian Red Cross is also supporting a program to strengthen the resilience of communities in seven sub-Saharan African countries. This long-term program aims to strengthen the resilience of target communities. The Red Cross defines resilience as the ability of individuals, communities, organisations or countries exposed to disasters and crises and underlying vulnerabilities to anticipate, reduce the impact of, cope with and recover from the effects of adversity without compromising their long-term prospects. Traditionally, much of the humanitarian effort in disaster and crisis focused on life-saving emergency response. However, we support individuals and communities better when humanitarian action also addresses their vulnerabilities and strengthens their capacity to cope with future shocks. The activities of this program, funded by the Belgian government, include the construction or rehabilitation of collective infrastructure such as wells or granaries. They also include disaster risk reduction measures, such as planting trees, reinforcing riverbanks, or creating anti-erosion ditches. Active participation of the local population helps to realise these activities. The local population is strongly involved in the process. For this purpose, the local Red Cross organises interactive events to promote health and a safe and healthy behaviour, for example through theatre, mobile cinema, or other educational activities.

Another important program supported by the Belgian Red Cross relates to the security and humanitarian crisis that has been raging in Burkina Faso since 2015. The country is experiencing increasing violence committed by armed groups, leading to massive population displacements throughout the country. Across various funding sources, including DG ECHO, we seek to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in the Sahel and Centre-Nord regions: Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), but also members of the host community. Our efforts include rapid provision of food, cash transfers, shelter construction, provision of basic household items and hygiene kits. We also strengthen livelihoods through income-generating activities, provide adequate assistance to malnourished children, increase peoples’ involvement in shaping their health and support the capacity of local actors to respond to disasters (floods, population movements).

We focus on supporting the most vulnerable populations to enhance their resilience in the face of crises and difficult situations. We work closely with the local Red Cross, local communities, authorities and other partners to develop sustainable programs with long-term positive impact.

Working at the Red Cross means giving meaning to your skills.

What are the specific social security needs of your foreign-based employees?

Due to their status, Belgian Red Cross employees working abroad need comprehensive social security coverage. Such coverage must cover the health costs incurred in their country of assignment and in their home country. They are insured against the risk of incapacity for work and can confidently go on a mission. This social protection is also ensures that accompanying family members are protected against health risks. This is particularly important in countries where local social protection is often less comprehensive than in Belgium.

How do you perceive Overseas Social Security? And what is the feedback from your affiliated employees?

For us, OSS is an invaluable partner for our employees' health care and retirement savings. Our employees are content with the approach, professionalism and responsiveness that OSS shows in handling their requests. It is a real advantage for our Belgian employees to take abroad the Social Security with which they are most familiar.

Would you like to share your travel experiences?

Are you an expat or do you know someone with an inspiring experience abroad? Please don't hesitate to contact us at overseas-expat@onssrszlss.fgov.be. And who knows, you might inspire future expats with your story.

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