ICRC calls for $1.2 bn for 2013 from crisis-hit donors

The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed Thursday for $1.2 billion (967.5 million euros) to cover its humanitarian activities next year, but acknowledged that many donors were feeling the impact of the economic slowdown.

"It is important to remember that the lives of countless people who need protection and assistance ultimately depend on the continued support of our donors," ICRC president Peter Maurer told reporters in Geneva as he presented the organisation's budget.

But while he stressed that the ICRC's main donors all remained deeply committed to supporting ICRC projects, he acknowledged that they "are concerned with regard to the budget (and) cannot exclude that there may be cuts in the future".

Amid an increasingly gloomy global economy, "it is obvious that we do a change in atmosphere when we travel to our main donors", Maurer said, pointing out that nearly 60 percent of the group's donations come from the especially hard-hit European Union and individual EU member states.

He said the ICRC was sensitive to donors' concerns and would try to stretch its funds further, but he also stressed that the ICRC's workload was increasing.

"The mix of acute and protracted conflicts will lead to an overall increase in the scope of the humanitarian activities we need to carry out, whether to alleviate immediate needs or to support people's longer-term resilience," he said.

Especially worrying was the escalating conflict in Syria, he said, pointing out that "our ability to reach populations is not following the same pace as the expanding conflict".

He also listed the renewed fighting and wide-spread abuses in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the armed conflict in northern Mali among the more complicated situations to address from a humanitarian perspective.

He described situations where "entire communities are denied basic services because fighting is restricting their freedom of movement", and others where "attacks on ambulances, medical staff, rescue workers and hospitals make it difficult or impossible to provide prompt and vital emergency care".

The ICRC said it expected its largest operations next year in terms of expenditures to be in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, the DR Congo, South Sudan, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Sudan, Mali, Niger and Yemen.

According to the 2013 budget, the organisation will spend $1.06 billion on field operations, with the remainder going to its headquarter operations in Geneva.

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