The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is asking for over SFr970 million ($843 million) to fund its humanitarian work in about 80 countries next year.This content was published on December 8, 2004 - 17:31
Almost half of the Swiss-run agency’s 2005 field budget is expected to go towards the victims of armed conflict and internal violence in Africa.
“Africa is always a bit at risk of being forgotten,” ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger told swissinfo.
“The humanitarian crisis in Sudan is very big and very difficult,” he added. “For us, the main priorities are improving security in rural areas and providing food, water and medical assistance.”
The conflict-torn country of Sudan is expected to become the ICRC’s largest operation in the world, requiring an estimated SFr130 million in funding.
According to the United Nations, close to 2.3 million people are in desperate need of aid in Sudan’s Darfur region, where roughly 22 per cent of children under five are malnourished and close to half of all families do not have food.
Around 70,000 people have been killed and 1.7 million displaced by the violence between rebels and pro-government militias in the region.
Meanwhile, negotiators are hoping to reach a comprehensive deal aimed at ending Africa’s longest civil war in the south of the country ahead of a December 31 deadline.
“There are tremendous humanitarian needs in Sudan, and the ICRC is in the unique position of having access to most areas of Darfur,” said Kellenberger.
“This underscores our importance as a neutral, independent and credible actor in providing impartial assistance.”
In addition to increasing its funding for Sudan, the ICRC said it had significantly boosted its appeal for Uganda, Abidjan and a new delegation in Chad.
Iraq is expected to become the ICRC’s second-highest priority in 2005, although the agency plans to cut its budget there by 30 per cent – from SFr69.8 million in 2004 to SFr48.9 million in 2005.
Kellenberger said the decrease in funding reflected the ICRC’s restricted access to many areas of the country.
He added that the ICRC had seen “no improvement” in the security situation in Iraq and that the organisation did not foresee an expansion of its activities in the near future.
Iraq is followed by Israel and the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Liberia on the ICRC’s list of top priorities for 2005.
Kellenberger refused to confirm or deny recent media reports that the ICRC had accused the United States military of using tactics “tantamount to torture” on prisoners at the US Navy base in Guantanamo Bay.
He reiterated the ICRC’s position that “some major concerns” regarding conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay had “not yet been addressed”.
According to an article in the “New York Times” last week, an ICRC team that spent most of June in Guantanamo Bay had reported the use of psychological and sometimes physical coercion on prisoners.
More than 500 people are being held at the base in Cuba, detained during the 2001 US war to oust al-Qaeda and the ruling Taliban from Afghanistan and in other operations in the US-led war against terror.
Kellenberger said he planned to travel to the US early next year to hold talks with the new administration, and that the issue of detention was likely to be “a main item” on the agenda.
swissinfo, Anna Nelson in Geneva
The ICRC is a neutral, Swiss-run agency, founded in 1863 by the Swiss, Henri Dunant.
It works mainly to protect the victims of conflict by providing humanitarian assistance, conducting prisoner of war visits and monitoring compliance of the Geneva Conventions.
The ICRC is the custodian of the Geneva Conventions, which outline the rules of law in times of war and occupation, including the protection of civilians.
The Swiss-run ICRC has appealed to donor countries for a massive 27% boost in funding for its operations in Africa.
Sudan is expected to become the ICRC’s largest operation in the world, with a planned budget of SFr130 million.
Overall, the agency said it needed SFr970 million for next year.
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