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ICRC aid budget tops SFr1 billion

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger needs more money

(Keystone)

The Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has appealed for more than SFr1 billion ($760 million) to fund its work in 80 countries.

Presenting its 2006 budget in Geneva on Friday, the organisation reiterated concerns about access to detainees held by the United States.

The budget for next year represents a 9.2 per cent increase on 2005 and reflects the increasing demands placed on the organisation to help the victims of armed conflict and natural disasters.

More than SFr97 million has already been earmarked to provide ongoing assistance for the survivors of October's earthquake in South Asia where the ICRC has so far donated around 3,780 metric tons of aid to almost 170,000 people.

The initial 2006 budget includes SFr895 million for field operations. Sudan is the largest beneficiary, with a budget of SFr127 million, followed by Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Just over 40 per cent of the total is earmarked for Africa where the ICRC said the situation in a number of areas continued to be a "cause for grave concern".

"It is the second year in a row that the amount [for Africa] exceeds SFr380 million and that is very high," Pierre Krähenbühl, director of operations, told swissinfo.

"Sudan counts for much of that, with the situation in Darfur being one of our greatest priorities. But then there are other situations like in northern Uganda where we have assisted this year over 700,000 internally displaced persons."

Conflicts

Krähenbühl added that another major concern for the ICRC was the fragmentation and diversity of conflicts worldwide, which was imposing a strain on its 12,000 staff operating in more than 80 countries.

In Iraq, where the ICRC has lost five staff, the organisation has reduced its initial budget by more than SFr10 million compared with last year because of the "extremely sensitive security environment".

It said it would continue to concentrate on detainees and ensuring prisoners could communicate with their families.

Detainees

Despite attempts to stay focused on the 2006 budget, the issue of detainees held by the US refused to go away.

On Thursday a senior official from the State Department admitted in Geneva that the ICRC did not have access to all detainees in US custody.

ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger stressed that the issue of "undisclosed detention" was a major concern for the organisation.

"We do have access to very many people under US authority, but we do not have access to everyone. But this is not really something new for us," said Kellenberger.

"We continue to be in intense dialogue with them [the US] with the aim of getting access to all people detained in the framework of the so-called 'war on terror'."

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in Geneva

Key facts

Last year ICRC delegates visited more than 570,000 detainees in around 80 countries.
ICRC water, sanitation and construction projects catered for the needs of around 20 million people.
The Swiss-run organisation supported hospitals and health-care facilities serving some 2.8 million people.
It also provided essential household goods to more than 2.2 million people, food aid to 1.3 million people and assistance to another 1.1 million people in the form of sustainable food-production and micro-economic initiatives.

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In brief

The ICRC's six biggest donors are the United States, the European Commission, Switzerland, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden. They account for almost 60% of the overall budget.

Its ten biggest areas of operation are Sudan, Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Iraq, Moscow regional delegation, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Ethiopia and Somalia.

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