The International Committee of the Red Cross has issued a global appeal for over $550 million. Most of the money will be devoted to helping people in conflict areas.

The ICRC goes where the trouble is: Its ten largest operations include Afghanistan, four countries in Africa, the Israel-occupied territories, the Caucuses and the former Yugoslavia. Nearly half of the more than half billion dollar appeal will go to finance humanitarian operations in these countries over the next year.

ICRC's president, Jakob Kellenberger, said the agency's humanitarian operations in Afghanistan include support for the country's hospital system and orthopedic centers. He said the agency will also continue to emphasize programs that show people how to avoid landmines."Mine awareness programs have already been in the past an important activity of the ICRC. But our feeling is that mine awareness might become even more important because now you have all these people running home as quickly as possible. Then running home, they have to cross former front lines with all that does imply in terms of danger from mines," he said.

Afghanistan reportedly has some 10 million landmines.

The ICRC director of operations, Jean-Daniel Tauxe, expressed concern that efforts to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan could hurt Red Cross operations in other parts of the world. "We fear a trend which would be to just to leave alone a lot of the humanitarian priorities existing at the moment to focus on the immediate actions taken after the 11 of September, to be more concrete, focusing too much on Afghanistan and neighboring countries and forgetting, for instance, Africa," he said.

Mr. Tauxe said it is relatively easy to get money for countries that are in the media spotlight, such as Afghanistan. What is much more difficult, he said, is to generate interest in countries, such as Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi, where suffering takes place out of the spotlight.