ICRC to seek more money to confront rising needs
By Jonathan Lynn
GENEVA, May 27 (Reuters) – The economic crisis is hurting international aid and relief efforts by depriving people in war zones of money sent home by relatives working abroad, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday.
Falling incomes for the poorest families can create a food crisis even if prices are not rising, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger told a news conference.
“The effect of the economic downturn on the level of remittances upon which the weakest very often depend in conflict areas like Afghanistan and others is something we have to observe very closely,” he said.
The souring global economy and the combination of man-made and natural disasters is likely to push the Swiss humanitarian agency’s spending beyond its record in 2008, when it topped $1 billion, Kellenberger said.
Spending in the current decade on an annual average is already around 25 percent higher than in the 1990s, he said.
The Geneva-based humanitarian agency ran aid programmes in 49 countries last year. It is one of the few international agencies active in Sudan’s Darfur region and Sudan was its biggest operation last year, accounting for $102 million in spending.
In Somalia, its second largest spending operation last year, flooding in one part of the country followed by drought in another added to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing fighting in Mogadishu, creating a food crisis on top of traditional war relief, Kellenberger said.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are other examples of countries where natural disasters and high food prices have made life even harder for poor people already struggling to cope with the effects of war, he said.
Red Cross workers still do not have access to detainees in Somalia despite struggling for years to obtain it, he said.
It is also running down its operations in Ethiopia, where it is able to visit detainees but is increasingly prevented from visiting security detainees — political prisoners.
The Ethiopian authorities expelled the ICRC from Ethiopia’s Ogaden region nearly two years ago because the government claimed it was supporting rebels. Kellenberger said the Red Cross was independent and neutral but had to talk to all parties.