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ICRC Faces Funding Crisis

  • Lisa Schlein

The International Committee of the Red Cross faces a crisis in funding in some regions, particularly in some areas of Africa, Asia and South America.

The Red Cross runs operations in some 80 countries around the world with a budget of $1.21 billion. It has raised near $165 million for emergency needs in countries such as Mali, the Philippines and Burma during 2013.

But it says it needs another $150 million to cover expenditures this year for some countries whose problems are not drawing big headlines worldwide.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Head of operations Pierre Krahenbuehl addresses a news conference after his return from a mission in Syria and Yemen in Geneva, Feb. 15, 2013.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Head of operations Pierre Krahenbuehl addresses a news conference after his return from a mission in Syria and Yemen in Geneva, Feb. 15, 2013.

According to Pierre Krahenbuhl, the ICRC’s director of operations, it is more difficult to attract funds for countries such as South Sudan, Iraq, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which have long lasting conflicts, than it is for Syria.

South Sudan, he said, continues to suffer from border tensions with Sudan and influxes of refugees. The crisis there is being made worse by the intensification of inter-communal violence in Jonglei State, he added.

“So it takes mobilizing helicopter means and others to send emergency teams into a region like that and, in particular, to be able to locate wounded people and insure that surgical attention is provided," Krahenbuhl explained. "We have deployed three emergency surgical teams into that region of Jonglei and in South Sudan in general. This has been, I think, a very significant response to dozens of wounded persons that were able to be treated in different hospitals that we set up.”

In Colombia, the Red Cross dispatched mobile health units and prevented violence against health care workers.

The Red Cross financed counseling centers for victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where such attacks have reached epidemic proportions.

In Iraq, the Red Cross provided support to victims of mass bombings.

Krahenbuhl said worldwide attention to the Syria crisis has helped the Red Cross fund large and complex operations.

The Red Cross welcomes the recent international agreement on destroying Syria's chemical weapons, he noted, adding that more needs to be done about stopping the use of conventional weapons.

“So I think while the focus on chemical weapons is very legitimate and necessary, it is extremely important to seek to mobilize similar type of attention on addressing, for example, the issue - frankly unacceptable - of ongoing targeting of medical installations," Krahenbuhl remarked, "and to the constraints of the safe access for medical teams to very much needed populations. But also the issue of access in general to regions of the country that are sealed off and very difficult to reach.”

Krahenbuhl said the humanitarian situation in Syria remains the foremost concern for both the global community and the Red Cross.
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