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Red Cross Appeals for $800 Million in Global Aid

The International Committee of the Red Cross is appealing for more than $800 million to support assistance programs in 80 countries next year. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from ICRC headquarters in Geneva that Africa, once again will be the humanitarian organization's biggest operation.

Africa will account for more than 40 percent of next year's Red Cross budget. And, for the fourth consecutive year, Sudan will be the largest operation the organization has in Africa. Most of the $60 million for Sudan will be spent in the conflict-ridden province of Darfur.

Though this is a large sum of money, the International Committee of the Red Cross says it is 40 percent less than last year. ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger says this is because the Red Cross, when possible, plans to substitute the costly delivery of bulk food with seeds and tools so people can do their own farming. He says the Red Cross wants to decrease peoples' dependency on outside assistance.

"We want to improve the possibility of the population so they can produce [for] themselves by providing them with seeds, with tools, and other things so as to shorten as much as we can the period where they are totally dependent on direct food supplies," he said.

The ICRC plans to increase aid to one of Sudan's neighbors, Chad, where people are suffering from the spillover effects of the war in Darfur. The agency also is increasing its operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and will assist some 450,000 victims of conflict, drought and, lately, floods in Somalia.

After Africa, the ICRC's biggest operations are in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Kellenberger says priorities in all these operations reflect the ICRC's main focus, which is to protect and assist civilians affected by ongoing conflict.

In the case of Iraq, he says the humanitarian situation is worsening and that more economic aid will need to be given to the thousands of Iraqis internally displaced by the war.

"For us, it is terrible to see the number of civilian victims in that conflict," he said. "It is terrible. I can only express my hopes that whatever will help to change that will be great."

In addition to their aid to countries in need, Red Cross delegates this year visited almost 600,000 prisoners in more than 2,600 places of detention in 80 countries.