Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross  (file photo).
Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (file photo).

The International Committee of the Red Cross is appealing for nearly $1.25 billion to assist millions of victims of war and displacement in some 80 countries around the world next year. The ICRC?s largest humanitarian operation in 2012 will be Afghanistan, bumping this year?s leader, Somalia, into second position.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, says it may come as a surprise to some that Afghanistan now is the agency?s largest operation, as there are visible improvements in the humanitarian situation in many parts of the country.

But, he told VOA, in areas where the ICRC operates, the security situation continues to be unstable and the humanitarian needs remain very high.

?Afghanistan for us, to a certain extent also Pakistan, is an operation where the medical activities, medical healths are very strong," said Kellenberger. "If I were to take Afghanistan and Pakistan together, it is about 80 million Swiss francs going into medical and health activities. So, on the assistance side it is a very strong medical health operation. There are also other assistance activities like food and non-food to IDPs [Internally Displaced People] and also certain water projects."  

Kellenberger says ICRC staff in Afghanistan also are engaged in important protection activities. He says aid workers visit detainees held in custody both by the Americans and Afghans. In addition, he says the Red Cross plays a crucial role in protecting civilians by acting as a mediator among the warring factions.

While Afghanistan is the ICRC?s largest operation, the biggest part of its overall budget goes towards assistance in Africa. ICRC President Kellenberger says Somalia continues to be the agency?s largest African operation.  

He explains this is in large part due to the fact that the ICRC is one of a very few organizations able to operate in areas controlled by the al-Shabab militants. He notes these areas are in dire need of assistance.

The United Nations has declared six regions in southern Somalia, which are administered by this Islamic group, as famine zones.

?Our goal still remains to distribute food to more than 1 million people in that area by the end of this year," he said. "We are convinced that Somalia and especially the area where we are focused on will continue to have a lot of assistance needs. And not only food and seeds and fertilizers and tools, it will also will remain important also on the health, medical side.?  

Jakob Kellenberger says the ICRC is very concerned about conflict situations in both Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan. Besides the ongoing conflict in Sudan?s Darfur region, he says ICRC delegates are assisting people in the Blue Nile region but have problems to access South Kordofan.

As for South Sudan, Kellenberger says unfortunately, the explosion of tribal violence that he feared would erupt has come to pass. He adds this will lead to considerable assistance needs.