Decisive response to mounting food crisis
27-05-2008 Press Briefing
Launching the ICRC's Annual Report for 2007, the organization's President, Jakob Kellenberger, outlined the ICRC's swift response to the accelerating food price surge in countries affected by conflict. As a result, he said the ICRC's expenditure in 2008 would largely surpass last year's figure.
In 2007, the ICRC distributed food to more than 2.5 million people, mainly internally displaced persons (IDPs) and residents, and 2.8 million people benefited from sustainable food production programmes or micro-economic initiatives.
At the press conference in Geneva to present the Annual Report, Mr Kellenberger said that the ICRC had already launched appeals for e xtra funding in 2008 for Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and a combined programme in the Sahel region of Mali and Niger. For three of these countries, he continued, the appeals were largely needed to finance ICRC food distributions in response to the mounting food crisis.
He cited the example of Somalia, which would become the ICRC's third largest operation in 2008.
" In Somalia there is a population that is extremely vulnerable to begin with, add to that many years of armed conflict, a devastating drought, the depreciation of the local currency by 50 per cent, and now skyrocketing food prices. This dire situation led us to the decision to increase our 2008 expenditure by 55 million Swiss francs in order to provide full food rations to half a million people for four months – a very large and complex operation. "
The President said that the food price surge led to two worrying trends – an increase in the number of people who depend on food assistance and who are not in a position to produce food due to conflict and the potential for food-crisis induced violence. He went on to say that in contexts where there are countless vulnerable and very poor people, where the rise in food prices threatens their very survival, the potential for violence increases. He added that the ICRC would not just provide additional food when needed but also closely monitor the possible humanitarian impact of food-related violence on vulnerable people.
Yemen and Darfur
Mr Kellenberger emphasized the extent to which the food crisis had spread, affecting countries like Yemen, that normally did not have a serious food supply problem. He said that the ICRC would provide food to 30,000 peop le, many of them IDPs, in Yemen.
The ICRC would also continue to supply food and other essential items to the Gereida IDP camp in Darfur, as other humanitarian agencies continue to be unable to access the camp because of insecurity.
The President underlined the ICRC's role in providing food and other assistance in contexts of conflict where it is the only humanitarian actor that has access, and that Gereida was a
clear example of this. He went on to acknowledge the role of the World Food Programme (WFP) as the main actor globally in terms of food supply, and added that the ICRC sometimes distributed WFP's food supplies in places where the UN agency did not have access.
When asked how the increasing expenditure on food would affect the ICRC's other programmes, the President replied that he was confident that the new spending would not negatively affect existing assistance and protection activities worldwide.
In response to a question regarding quantities of food, the President responded that in 2008, the ICRC would nearly triple the amount of food it provided in countries enduring conflict around the world, compared with 2007.