Background & History

On 24th June 1859, the armies of imperial Austria and the Franco-Sardinian alliance fought a daylong battle near the northern Italian village of Solferino. The casualties were heavy - some 40,000 dead, wounded or missing. Military medical services at the time were virtually non-existent; as a result there was great suffering and many of the wounded dies for lack of care. The injured were brought to the surrounding villages for whatever treatment they could get. In the church at Castiglione, a young Swiss called Henry Dunant, horrified by the agony of the soldiers, began to organize help with the aid of the local people.
 
Returning home to Geneva, still haunted by what he had seen, he wrote a book about his experience.''A Memory of Solferino'', published in 1862, was acclaimed throughout Europe. In it, Dunant put forward an idea for supplementing army medical services in times of war. This would be done through national relief Societies which, in peacetime, would train their voluntary members for this work. Dunant also proposed that the wounded, and all those attending them, should be regarded as neutral, even on the battlefield.
 
To help promote the aims of the book, four citizens of Geneva - Gustave Moynier, who was President of the Geneva Public Welfare Society, General Guillaume-Henri Dufour, Dr. Louis Appia and Dr.Theodore Maunoir - joined Dunant in setting up the ''International Committee for Relief to the Wounded'', which later became the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In response to an invitation from the International Committee, specialists from 16 countries met in Geneva in October 1863. They adopted ten resolutions that made up the founding charter of the Red Cross, defining the functions and working methods of the Committees for the Relief of the Wounded which Dunant had proposed.

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