The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has appealed for a record SFr1.09 billion ($965 million) to help save lives in Iraq, Sudan and other hotspots.
The Swiss-run humanitarian agency said on Thursday worsening violence in many of the 80 countries where it works – including Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sri Lanka – had driven large numbers of people from their homes.
Many displaced persons live without basic services such as clean water. The ICRC, which distributes emergency aid and helps victims of conflict and violence, is seeking about ten per cent more from its donors for its 2008 field operations compared with its 2007 annual budget.
"It is as crucial as ever that the ICRC respond to the needs arising from the full range of armed conflicts around the world – from acute to chronic crises – and their direct consequences, while focusing its efforts primarily on ongoing armed conflicts," said ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger.
The organisation plans to spend SFr932.6 million on its operations and the rest on its administration.
"This record amount is mainly due to the ICRC's independent and neutral humanitarian approach, which has enabled it to gain access to certain conflict zones where the need for humanitarian aid is increasing," added Kellenberger.
Iraq will be the ICRC's largest field of operation in 2008 with a budget of more than SFr107 million – nearly double the organisation's initial budget for the country this year.
"This amount reflects the organisation's renewed commitment to meet acute medical needs in Iraq and to aid large numbers of Iraqis displaced within their own country," the ICRC said.
Kellenberger pointed out that the security situation was still difficult for the 50 or more expatriates working for the Red Cross in Iraq.
Some 43 per cent of the Geneva-based agency's 2008 budget is earmarked for Africa.
Sudan, where the ICRC is running a huge camp for displaced people in Gereida, southern Darfur, is the second-largest operation, just behind Iraq at SFr106.4 million. The ICRC's fieldwork in the Darfur region made Sudan its biggest programme in 2007.
Israel and the Palestinian territories were next in line, with an ICRC appeal for SFr68.2 million for 2008, followed by Afghanistan at SFr60.3 million.
The Afghan budget was 25 per cent higher than in 2007 due to increased humanitarian needs. Fighting has spread from the south to the north and west, and there has been a recent spate of bomb attacks in Kabul. Basic services have still to be restored in some areas where the conflict has died down.
Less money will be spent in other countries. In Myanmar the operational budget has been cut by nearly two-thirds following the suspension of ICRC activities there.
Further reductions are planned in Russia, Georgia, in the Balkan region and Ethiopia.
swissinfo with agencies
The ICRC said on Thursday it had carried out its first visit to security detainees held by Iraq's central government.
The visit to Fort Suse near Sulaimaniya in October might lead to a comprehensive agreement for access to the estimated 30,000-35,000 prisoners held by Iraqi authorities.
The ICRC has already visited some 20,000 prisoners held by American forces and semi-autonomous Kurdish authorities in the north and had been seeking access to all Iraqi-run prisons, including those under the Shi'ite-led Interior Ministry, for more than a year.