5 years of the ICRC in Fortaleza

5 Years of the ICRC in Fortaleza

The organization establishes itself as a key humanitarian actor.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been present in Fortaleza for five years, collaborating with municipal and state authorities and civil society to address the humanitarian consequences of armed violence, a phenomenon that has an impact of different forms on the affected population.

The ICRC office implements various programs in a coordinated and cross-disciplinary manner to support Brazilian society and the state in developing and executing multidisciplinary and sustainable responses in order to benefit communities impacted by armed violence.

One of the ICRC’s principles is central to all its actions: Protection, which involves supporting authorities in fulfilling their obligations to preserve individuals’ bodily and emotional integrity and ensure the provision of essential public services. Protection efforts translate into initiatives such as collaborating with families of missing persons, supporting individuals and families displaced due to armed violence, partnering to promote psychosocial well-being and mental health, as well as implementing methodologies that enhance the resilience of public services in vulnerable regions, in order to ensure access to health, education, and social assistance.

Significant practical outcomes from these collaborative efforts include:

  • Technical support for the creation of the Provisional Protection Program (PPPRO/CE) which is part of the State System of Protection to Individuals (SEPP) and aims to offer temporary, provisional, and emergency protection and comprehensive assistance to individuals under death threats.
  • Implementation of the Safer Access to Essential Public Services Program (AMS) with the Municipal Secretariats of Health, Education, Social Assistance, and Youth in Fortaleza. The AMS program, developed by the ICRC, aims to mitigate the consequences of armed violence for professionals and the population served by essential services. Therefore, it strengthens public institutions’ capacity for context analysis in relation to armed violence, risk management, crisis management, and stress management. Promoting behavioral changes among professionals and managers to enhance their resilience.
  • Technical Support for drafting the law that instituted the Safer Access Municipal Policy (AMS) (Law No 11.312).
  • Support for the creation of the State Committee on Addressing Disappearances in Ceará (State Decree No. 34.953) and the Center for Addressing Disappearances. While the Committee promotes coordination among various institutions to strengthen the mechanisms for locating and identifying missing persons, the Center works in direct dialogue with families, seeking to address their needs.

In addition to seeking solutions in collaboration with authorities, the ICRC maintains contact and provides support to families of missing persons to understand and address their administrative, legal, and economic needs, including mental health and psychosocial well-being. It also encourages family self-organization and works together to enhance their repertoires and capabilities. In this context, in 2020, the ICRC supported the creation of the collective group Women of Faith with Hope.

On the other hand, the program for individuals affected by violence, initiated in Fortaleza at the end of 2019, aims to strengthen authorities’ capacity to meet the needs for protection, mental health, and psychosocial support, enhancing self-protection and resilience mechanisms.

The ICRC’s close engagement with those affected by armed violence allows for a deep understanding of their reality and promotes multidisciplinary responses through its Protection programs, taking into consideration their specific needs such as legal aid, mental health, relocation, and essential goods provision. This proximity enables the ICRC to identify protection gaps and provide technical recommendations to public authorities for policy development.

Another significant component of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ work in Ceará is promoting human rights within police and security force activities. The ICRC is in the process of signing a technical cooperation agreement with the Secretariat of Public Security and Social Defense of Ceará to promote educational actions and share knowledge of International Human Rights Standards. The ICRC also signed agreements with the Municipal Secretariat of Public Security, the Fortaleza Municipal Guard (GMF), and the Military Police of Ceará. These actions cover education, doctrine, training, standard operational protocol development, and internal control mechanisms for police activities.

In its field of activity, the ICRC also seeks to ensure humane treatment and dignified detention conditions for persons deprived of liberty, respecting the value of each single individual, regardless of the reasons for their detention. In Ceará, concerning the Detention area, actions focused on two units within the Aquiraz Complex, housing populations in especially vulnerable situation in detention — a women’s prison and another for elderly, disabled, and LGBTQIA+ individuals.

In 2021, the ICRC conducted voluntary, anonymous, and confidential in-depth interviews with approximately 350 detainees. This initiative allowed for targeted action addressing their specific experiences and needs. Over recent years, the ICRC has maintained direct contact with the population deprived of their liberty in order to address key issues regarding treatment and detention conditions, as well as continuously providing technical support and training to prison authorities and staff to ensure more dignified and humane management.

“The ICRC’s presence in Fortaleza for just over five years demonstrates the success of the initiatives and partnerships it has established. We can contribute with reflections and practical actions to develop responses to the consequences of armed violence,” said Mario Guttilla, head of the ICRC office in Fortaleza.


In 2022, the ICRC and the Government of Ceará renewed and expanded the Memorandum of Understanding for joint efforts to reduce the humanitarian consequences of armed violence on the population. This memorandum, continuing the partnership established in 2019, spans three years.

Actions develop across multiple areas, including service provision and protection for vulnerable populations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICRC maintained its commitment to make the effort to protect the population of Ceará’s capital. The Committee donated hygiene kits, personal protective equipment, provided emergency money transfers to families displaced by violence, and adapted its training activities to pandemic restrictions by conducting webinars and online courses.

“Our goal is to continue this work, in coordination with local authorities and attentive to the voices of those who suffer. And we look beyond that: We aim to replicate the lessons learned in Ceará in other contexts, even at the federal level, as armed violence affects other regions of Brazil,” – Mario Guttilla, head of the ICRC office in Fortaleza.

Source : Icrc