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ICRC under mounting pressure as armed conflicts spread

The ICRC is presenting its annual report in Nairobi because the bulk of its activities are in Africa


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is facing greater humanitarian demands than at any time since the Second World War. According to the Geneva-based body, poverty, globalisation and the end of the Cold War have fuelled fighting worldwide and contributed to a rise in armed conflicts.

"We don't have a world war, but we do have wars all around the world," director of operations, Jean-Daniel Tauxe, said on Friday at the presentation of the ICRC annual report.

"The humanitarian needs are increasing as... the number of conflicts is increasing," Tauxe said.

The ICRC was currently involved in helping the victims of 25 major armed conflicts around the world, from Afghanistan to Angola, he said. In these and other problematic situations it was attempting to carry out its core activities of prevention, protection, assistance, cooperation and humanitarian diplomacy.

Tauxe said that in many conflict situations civilians were no longer only victims, but also targets. They faced massacre and rape, were abducted or turned out of their homes and were sometimes refused access to food and water.

ICRC workers were also increasingly coming under attack, the director of operations said. Seven workers have been killed so far this year, six in Congo and one in Sudan.

Tauxe said that while there was always an element of risk in humanitarian work, barbaric killings such as those in Congo posed a threat to the organisation's long-term future.

But he said there had been positive developments last year, such as the increased access the ICRC had been given to people in need.

The ICRC report was presented in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The organisation said this was to reflect the fact that Africa accounts for around half of all operations and 40 per cent of its budget. It's the first time the annual report has ever been presented outside Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

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