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Rising food prices hurting the poorest in war zones

27-05-2008 News Release 08/87

Geneva (ICRC) – Millions of people already suffering because of armed conflicts are likely to be particularly hard hit by the current increase in food prices, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned today.

Presenting the organization's 2007 annual report, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said: " The recent rise in food and fuel prices is making life even harder for poor people already struggling to cope with the effects of war and internal violence. This is especially the case in countries such as Chad, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Haiti. "

Mr Kellenberger added that despite the price increases, the ICRC intends to maintain its planned volume of relief distributions, supplies of drinking water and level of medical aid in the 52 countries where it assists the civilian population. It is also preparing to provide additional food and other relief for the people worst affected by the combined impact of rising food prices and armed conflict, including those forced to flee their homes, the wounded and the sick, and detainees. For example, the ICRC is about to step up food distributions to conflict-affected communities in Yemen and Somalia.

In its report on 2007, the Geneva-based organization announces total expenditure of 944 million Swiss francs, with 45% of field expenditure last year going to Africa and 21% to the Middle East. The ICRC carried out water, sanitation and construction projects benefiting more than 14 million people, and it provided regular support for health-care facilities that treated nearly 2.9 million patients last year. The organization also gathered and delivered almost 500,000 Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made otherwise unreachable by conflict) and visited more than half a million detainees in 77 countries.

The welfare of people forced by fighting to flee their homes continues to be a priority for the ICRC. In 20 07 it assisted more than four million internally displaced people – around half a million more than in 2006 – especially in places not covered by other organizations on security grounds. The beneficiaries included newly displaced people, in Somalia and Colombia for example, and people returning to their homes after having been displaced, such as in Uganda and Sri Lanka. The ICRC also acted to prevent displacement. In Sudan's Darfur region, for example, the support furnished by it enabled vulnerable rural communities to remain at home rather than joining the ranks of people fleeing to camps.

President Kellenberger expressed concern that in many armed conflicts, civilians are being specifically targeted, with effects that devastate the lives of millions of men, women and children. " This report draws attention to the countless violations of international humanitarian law that we witnessed throughout the world last year and it documents the ICRC's efforts to put a stop to those violations, " he said. " Greater respect for the law would mean fewer civilians being killed or wounded, fewer women and girls being raped, and fewer people forced to leave their homes. "

  For further information, please contact:
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2458 or +41 79 217 3224
  For information on the footage contact:
  Jan Powell, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 22 730 2511 or +41 79 251 9314