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Red Cross to cut 1,800 jobs worldwide

The Geneva-based humanitarian organisation has been grappling with a serious financial crisis. © Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is carrying out larger than expected cuts to humanitarian staff and offices around the world.

The humanitarian organisation, which has been struggling with a big funding gap for some time, announcedExternal link on Tuesday that cost-cutting measures this year would result in 1,800 job losses at headquarters and in delegations worldwide, and the closure of at least 26 of its 350 global sites. The ICRC had initially reported 1,500 job cuts and 20 closed sites.

But the impact could be larger. The total number of layoffs does not include other staff who may be affected due to fewer global assignments and a hiring freeze for certain jobs. Swiss public radio, RTS, said this could affect around 3,000 people.

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Delegations in Mauritania, Kuala Lumpur and Greece will close. In addition, the organisation’s presence in Dakar, Nairobi, Amman, Bangkok, Panama and another 21 locations will be “significantly scaled back”.

Other ICRC locations will also be “substantially reduced”, where, for example, the area can be covered by another ICRC office, or where other humanitarian or development partners can take over, the ICRC said.

“These changes reflect a stronger focus on the ICRC’s core activities, such as programmes in hard-to-reach, frontline, and contested areas. It also includes efforts directly connected to our mandate to promote international humanitarian law and uphold the rights of people living through armed conflict,” it said.

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The organisation has been grappling with a serious financial crisis. It had previously warned that it was facing a shortfall in its desired budget of CHF2.79 billion ($2.99 billion) for 2023. On March 30, ICRC’s governing board approved cuts of CHF430 million for this year and the beginning of next.

Fundraising is particularly difficult. ICRC director Robert Mardini told media in March that there were “fewer donations for humanitarian aid in general” and that the Russia-Ukraine conflict had led to crises in other parts of the world “being forgotten”.

Of the ten most important operations of the ICRC, which celebrates its 160th anniversary this year, only Ukraine has a positive funding outlook, Mardini told RTS. All other operations (Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria) are underfunded, he said.

The ICRC employs around 20,000 people across the world.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR