The international Red Cross and Red Crescent family is in mourning following news of the death of Dr Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg, who served as President of the Norwegian Red Cross and also of the IFRC.

The death of the influential humanitarian, at the age of 83, was announced on Thursday 2 April by her Norwegian Red Cross colleagues.

IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “On this sad day, the whole IFRC stands with our sisters and brothers in the Norwegian Red Cross. Astrid always led by example. Her vision and her compassion will be greatly missed, but she will continue to inspire us.”

As well as having a long and distinguished career with her National Society, Dr Heiberg was the first – and to date only – woman to be elected as President of the IFRC, serving from 1997 to 2001.

In 2011, she was awarded the Henry Dunant Medal, the highest honour given by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, for “her integrity, professionalism and unwavering commitment, [and] steadfast determination in her efforts to achieve agreed humanitarian goals.”

Mr Jagan Chapagain, IFRC’s Secretary General, said: “Astrid blazed a trail as the first woman to serve as President of IFRC, and she was a principled defender of equality, anti-discrimination and human dignity in all areas of her life. We will miss her very much.”