The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) celebrates its 150th anniversary on Sunday, a century and a half of providing humanitarian assistance in the most dangerous places on earth.

The ICRC was founded by Henri Dunant, Geneva businessman, in 1863 to provide relief to injured soldiers returning from the battlefield of Solferino in northern Italy.

Since then the organisation has expanded massively and now employs over 13,000 people in 92 countries.

"This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to look critically at our past, and also to develop awareness of the strengths that have helped us in our activities carried out for millions of victims of armed conflict and other violence," said Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC.

"Now more than ever, we must not only remain true to our principles but also search for new ways to better serve the people who need help.

"We must redouble our efforts to make sure that the neutral, impartial and independent nature of our humanitarian activities is understood by all."

The ICRC, underpinned by the Geneva Conventions, has a mandate to protect victims of conflict as well as assisting victims of natural disasters.

Maurer adds: "The vision of Henry Dunant – the Red Cross idea – has not only survived but flourished through all these long years.

"Over the past century and a half, the ICRC has overcome political adversity, financial difficulty, cultural barriers and countless other obstacles, even attacks on its own staff to bring vitally needed humanitarian assistance and protection to people in need."

The ICRC has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on three separate occasions in 1917, 1944, and 1963.

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  • Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, is shown in 1884.

  • Red Cross Hospital, Early Bank, Stalleybridge.

  • A Red Cross man unloads supplies at Tripoli in Libya, 1914


  • The Red Cross tend to wounded British soldiers in France, 1916

  • The Red Cross tend to wounded British soldiers in France, 1916

  • A Red Cross wagon coming from the trenches to a field hospital at Abue-Roman, 1916

  • A picture of a nurse tending to the injured in a French hospital during World War I, 1916

  • The Emblem of the Red Cross flies from a battle scarred stump over a Red Cross station in France in 1918

  • This aerial view shows refugee camps set up to shelter those without homes in the aftermath of the Mississippi River flooding, April 25, 1927. The Mississippi River burst its manmade levees April 20 after torrential rains, leaving people without homes and dependent on the Red Cross for food and shelter. The great flood of 1927 left 246 people dead and displaced 700,000.

  • A Red Cross car prepares to leave for the scene of battle in Havana, Nov. 10, 1933 during the rebellion. Reports intimated the rebellion was quieted down, although there was loss of life

  • When Southern California cloudbursts turned the streets of Venice, Calif., into canals, Red Cross workers rescued the family of Mr. and Mrs. R. L. Walker from their flooded home in the beach resort, March 1, 1938. Two of the ten children are being loaded into a boat by A. J. Robida

  • Queen Elizabeth, with a gas mask in a bag strapped over her shoulder, arriving at the British Red Cross Society, Grosvenor Crescent, London on an inspection visit, 1939

  • A nurse collects blood from a blood donor to help the war effort, 1940

  • A hospital ship takes wounded from the armies of the north away from Dunkirk as columns of smoke and flame in the background mark a thousand fires in the bomb and shell shattered port still held by rearguard on June 4, 1940. The ship is plainly marked with the Red Cross but will have to run the gauntlet of Nazi machine gunning planes just the same.

  • American Red Cross nurses have tea with the women member’s of London’s Rescue Emergency Service, who work on River Thames on blitz nights, combing the river for bomb victims. American Red Cross nurses, in middle, are, Left to Right. Miss Gertrude Madley, of Detroit and Mildred Doane of Dedham, Mass., who are attached to the American Red Cross-Harvard Hospital, being set up in southwestern England to study wartime epidemics in London, England, August 8, 1941.

  • A special Red Cross train, as it waited at Newhaven for the 1,500 wounded British prisoners of war to arrive, Oct. 7, 1941 during the truce which has been so frequently postponed, is that the whole truce has been called off, so our men will not be arriving and the Germans will still be held in this country.

  • Red Cross men taking an Australian soldier to safety after he had been wounded battling the Japanese in Malaya on March 12, 1942.

  • A Red Cross convoy move towards the battle front in the Libyan desert, in August 1942.

  • Men wounded in recent fighting on the Libyan-Egyptian from are being placed aboard a Red Cross plane for quick transit to a hospital in Cairo on Sept. 5, 1942.

  • Red Cross Nurse Mary Black Fraser, of Algona, Iowa, removes a small bit of London, England, from the eye of Second Class Pharmacist’s Mate Fred Emanuelli, of Union City, N.J., who was “stricken” on a tour of the city shown Nov. 8, 1942.

  • Old Arab wears his Red Cross badge proudly as he goes about his duties helping the British Red Cross in Tunisia, Dec. 27, 1942. He is one of the many natives working for the Red Cross, official said.

  • Soldiers inspect the remains of a Red Cross train which was blasted by German planes in Tunisia on Jan. 14, 1943. A Red Cross symbol is painted atop this car

  • With Tower in Bridge in the background, members of the allied forces who are taking courses at London University steam up the Thames in London, August 25, 1943. British Empire and American services are all represented in this happy boatload of sightseers, all of whom are enrolled in Weekend courses in various subjects, including current social and economic problems in the United Kingdom. Among them are Sgt. Calexto Mora, of Falfurrias, Texas; Sgt. Frank A. Lambright, Akron, O.; Sgt. William A. Hassett, Staunton, Va.; Yala Jacobson, American Red Cross of Washington and Cpl. Edward Kowersli, Chicago, Ill.

  • U.S. sailors, soldiers and Red Cross nurses tour the city on foot to look at the damage done by the American Air Force during the bombing raids over the city, of Tokyo. In background, shells of what were department stores on the Ginza. September 25, 1945

  • A US army ambulance damaged in South Korea, 1951

  • A Red Cross truck tous war torn Budapest in search of victims on November 1, 1956. An armed man sits on the front mudguard as an additonal precautioin against interference.

  • A Red Cross van and a West German Army truck, top, plough through deep flood water which turned this main road and adjacent fields into a lake near Hamburg on Feb. 17, 1962. Next to the Red Cross van is a private car which was stranded in the middle of the road. The highway is the main road from Hamburg to Harburg.

  • Paratroopers holding a stretcher carrying wounded comrade, wait for Red Cross helicopter to land in enemy-infested “D” zone, 30 miles north of Saigon on June 29, 1965. The soldier was hit by sniper's bullet as he and fellow paratroopers were searching the jungle for Communist guerrillas. They were part of a large joint task force of American, Vietnamese, and Australian troops sent into the Vietcong controlled zone to clear it of the enemy.

  • General view of the Suez Canal during an Arab population exchange at Qantara, Egypt, Oct. 12, 1970. Arabs who were stranded during the 1967 Middle East war are exchanged across Canal by Red Cross boats.

  • Cuban refugee in Key West, Florida in May 1980

  • Scene at the Sabra PLO Camp in Beirut, Lebanon, on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 1982, as member of the Lebanese Red Cross bends to get closer view of what the bull-dozer may have scooped up. The machine was tackling yet another building in this sad place, and had un-covered nine more victims from this one house. The official Red Cross count is 220 bodies.

  • Diana, Princess of Wales, visits a Red Cross centre in Nepal in 1985. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry also showed their appreciation of the work of the Red Cross by helping send aid parcels to the tsunami victims from Bristol on January 7, 2005.

  • German helpers of the technical relief organisation with his search dog in search of Überlebenden in an a eingest in September 1985. An earthquake of thickness of 7.8 on the Richter scale on September 19, 1985 the Central American country. Especially the capital of Mexico City was severely affected, according to the Red Cross it killed more than 10 000 people.

  • A woman stands in line to receive food at a Red Cross food distribution centre in Wao, southern Sudan on April 1, 1989.

  • Red Cross workers help a sick Haitian refugee to an ambulance, Nov. 19, 1991 in Port-au-Prince as other refugees wait in line after leaving the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter "Dallas."

  • A mother and her son run for cover to a void sniper-fire along "“Sniper Alley" on Saturday, August 6, 1994 in Sarajevo. Despite the presence of U.N. anti-sniping teams local authorities had to stop the recently reopened street-car service which had helped to restore an air of semi-normality to the city.

  • Refugees return home after receiving aid from the International Red Cross outside the city of Kigali, Rwanda, 1994

  • Guerrillas march beside a van carrying some of the 70 captive soldiers who were released in a ceremony in a southern Colombian town of Cartagena Del Chaira, Sunday June 15, 1997. Colombia's main rebel group on Sunday freed 70 soldiers who had been captured in combat and held for months. There was no indication, however, that the gesture would bring a lasting peace. As part of the release deal, President Ernesto Samper agreed to temporarily demilitarize a 5,200-square-mile (13,5000 sq. kms) jungle zone,including this remote southern town on the Caguan River

  • Eleven-year-old Afghan refugee Saat Mohammed (left) laughs with family as he lies in a hospital bed in a ward at Sandeman Hospital in Quetta, Pakistan Monday December 3, 2001. Mohammed lost his right leg during aerial bombing in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.

  • Sayeed Musa right, an orthopedic doctor from the Red Cross adjusts the prosthetic limb of Mohammad Hussain, center, who lost his legs to a land mine at his home in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb 19, 2006. Hussain receives periodical visits from the doctors at the Orthopedic Center of the Red Cross who are helping him to help him to have a normal life.

  • Members of the American group 'Witness Against Torture', walk near the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2005. American Catholic peace activists arrived on Sunday at the perimeter of the U.S. Naval Base to begin a three-day vigil and fast protesting conditions for terrorism suspects held there. The protest coincides with growing international demands from politicians, human rights organizations, the Red Cross and others to see Guantanamo detainees and accusations they are being treated cruelly.

  • Red Cross arrives at a British checkpoint outside the city of Basra in southern Iraq, Saturday, March 29, 2003. British forces surround Basra and want to open the way for badly needed humanitarian aid, but face resistance from Iraqi troops and paramilitaries. The Red Cross cars had to turn back because of security reasons.

  • In this Friday, Dec. 3, 2010 photo, USO and Red Cross volunteers applaud U.S. Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. after an 18-hour journey home from a yearlong deployment in Iraq. More than seven years after 1st Brigade entered Baghdad as the first conventional U.S. forces in Iraq, its soldiers are coming home from a yearlong deployment that saw the end of combat operations

  • Jennifer Lamkin, right, collects a donation to the Red Cross for Hurricane Relief from Clarence Dix as she collected money in downtown Indianapolis, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. The Red Cross already has raised $200 million and total donations may top U.S. giving for tsunami and Sept. 11 giving, agencies say.

  • Members of Indonesian Red Cross lower a newly-recovered body of a tsunami victim into a mass grave, in Lampeuneurut village in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Wednesday, June 15, 2005. Six months after the Asian tsunami, skeletons and decomposed corpses still turn up regularly in flooded fields and on isolated beaches in the province.

  • Helpers of the German Red Cross DRK prepare the transport of three emergency vehicles from Schoenefeld airport to Syria in Schoenefeld, Germany, 15 June 2012. The vehicles are part of a larger project to help Libya and support the logistics of the Red Crescent. This way, goods and medical help can be brought to the people of Syria much quicker. The DRK has been active in Syria since the beginning of the year.