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Red Cross Makes Global Appeal; Focus on Africa and AIDS

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for $200 million dollars to assist more than 40 million people during the next year. The agency is putting a particular focus on assisting Africa and combating HIV/AIDS.

As expected, assistance for Afghanistan will be high on the list of Red Cross beneficiaries. Red Cross Secretary-General Didier Cherpitel said the primary focus will be on preventive and medical health programs, especially mother and child care.

More than 22 years of war have left Afghanistan with the lowest child survival rate and second-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Mr. Cherpitel said Afghanistan has a well-developed network of Red Crescent societies that will be able to efficiently carry out humanitarian assistance programs. "The network of Afghan Red Crescent health clinics established over many years has continued to work throughout the war, grounded as it is in local communities and run by the Afghans themselves," he said. "As a perfect illustration of that, they have over the last few months vaccinated over six-thousand children against polio, even though the bombing continued throughout the country."

Events in Afghanistan have caused a drop in international donations for Africa. To counteract this, the Red Cross plans to allocate most of its assistance and resources from the appeal to Africa.

The relief organization says it is gearing up for a possible repetition of the disastrous floods that have hit Mozambique during the past two years. Other programs include care for refugees in Burundi and Tanzania.

But, Secretary-General, Cherpitel said the big focus will be on preventing and fighting HIV/AIDS. He says the disease will kill more people this decade than all the wars and other disasters during the past 50 years. "Thirty national societies already have come up since this year with a three to five-year plan, action plan, on how they are going to scale up ...their combat against HIV/AIDS using their community access, using their volunteers," he said. "It is indeed in terms of prevention, taking care of people living with HIV/AIDS."

Mr. Cherpitel says he expects 20 more national societies in Africa will come up with plans to combat HIV/AIDS during the next two-years.