The History of the Emblems

Henry Dunant witnessed the Battle of Solferino, where thousands of wounded soldiers were left to die without care and their bodies to lie about unburied. The army medical services were incapable of fulfilling their task, one of the reason being that they were not distinguished by a uniform or emblem easily identified by all parties to the conflict.

An International Conference was held in Geneva to try to find means of remedying the ineffectiveness of army medical services in the field. It adopted a Red Cross on a white ground as the distinctive sign for relief societies for wounded soldiers- the future National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Only the TRCS has the right to use the Red Cross in Tanzania and any body else using the emblem is considered a misuse. Misuse includes the use by those who do not have the right to use not only the emblem but also any sign which imitates it, such as a Red Cross on a ground which is not white, any use of the sign or the emblem that may be confused with the Red Cross, Red Crescent or Red Crystal emblems.

The Red Cross and The Red Crescent Emblems are used in more than one hundred and eighty countries around the world, to protect the medical personnel, buildings and equipments in times of armed conflict and to identify National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, The International Committee of Red Cross and The International Federation.


The symbols of the Movement have two distinctively different meanings:

Protection (Protective Use):

This is the essential purpose of the emblem in times of conflict. It constitutes the visible sign of protection conferred by the Geneva Conventions. It is meant to show combatants (fighters) that people (National Societies Volunteers, military medical personnel, ICRC delegates, medical units, hospitals, first aid stations, and medical transport) are protected by Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols. As a sign of neutrality and immunity, the emblem therefore represents impartial aid to wounded people, without distinction of nationality, race, religion, class or opinion.

Indicative (Indicative Use):

The Indicative use of the emblem is designed to show, mainly in peacetime, that a person or object is linked to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement- whether to a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In this case, the emblem is smaller in size.

The emblem also serves as a reminder that these institutions work in accordance with the Movement’s Fundamental Principles. It is therefore also a symbol of Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.