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ICRC to boost medical support for people in war zones

01-12-2009 News Release 09/241

Geneva (ICRC) –The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced today that it plans to significantly increase its expenditure on medical services for people adversely affected by armed conflict.

©British Red Cross/A. Sweeting/AF-E-01410 
A patient learns to walk using his artificial legs at the ICRC orthopaedic centre in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

©ICRC/J. Ahmad/PK-E-00749 
ICRC-supported surgical hospital in Peshawar, North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan. 

Presenting the organization's 2010 budget in Geneva, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said that while overall projected expenditure would remain virtually unchanged compared to 2009, spending on medical activities would increase by seven per cent.

" Millions of people affected by armed conflict do not have sufficient access to basic health services and many wounded die because they can't get the care they need, " said Mr Kellenberger. " The additional funds will be used mainly to expand field hospital capacities in Pakistan, as well as to improve access to primary health care and first aid, and to increase support for limb-fitting centres in countries like Afghanistan. Some of the money will also go towards providing basic health services for detainees. "

Mr Kellenberger said the ICRC was asking donors for more than 1.1 billion Swiss francs * (around 1 billion US dollars, or 750 million euros The following exchange rates were used: 1 US dollar = 1.12 Swiss francs; 1 euro = 1.54 Swiss francs.) to fund its work in 2010. He said the initial field budget of 983 million francs was nearly at the level of the record budget presented for 2009. Afghanistan is projected to become the ICRC’s biggest humanitarian operation (at 86 million Swiss francs, an 18% increase over the initial 2009 budget), followed by Iraq (85 million francs) and Sudan (76 million francs). The ICRC also appealed for 173 million francs for its headquarters in Geneva.

" This budget is based on our current evaluation of humanitarian needs in the countries where we work, " said Mr Kellenberger. " However, should the situation significantly deteriorate in one of t he areas we cover we would ask for additional funding. "

The initial 2010 field budget for medical activities of 132 million francs represents an increase of 12 million francs over 2009. The latest available statistics show that, in 2008, around 3.5 million people benefited from ICRC-supported health-care facilities, and that more than 108,000 surgical operations were performed in ICRC-supported hospitals in 21 countries.

An ICRC-commissioned opinion survey conducted in eight war-affected countries earlier this year showed near-unanimous support (96%) for the principle that all wounded or sick people have the right to health care during an armed conflict. Mr Kellenberger said the ICRC was alarmed by the fact that the wounded and sick in armed conflicts and other situations of violence are often denied health care, and by the frequency of attacks against health-care workers, facilities and transports. At last week's Council of Delegates meeting in Nairobi, the ICRC and its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement pledged to take determined action to safeguard access to health care in armed conflicts and other situations of violence.

Commenting on the ICRC's overall priorities for 2010, Mr Kellenberger said: " Our objectives for 2010 are ambitious. Our main challenge still consists in securing access to the people most in need of our support while ensuring that our staff remain safe and unharmed. This year was marked by several tragic incidents affecting ICRC staff members. However, thanks to our principled approach as a neutral and independent organization we were nonetheless able to bring aid to many vulnerable people most other organizations could not reach. "

 *   The following exchange rates were used: 1 US dollar = 1.12 Swiss francs; 1 euro = 1.54 Swiss francs.  

  For further information, please contact:
  Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 82 or +41 79 217 32 80 (English, French, German)
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 217 32 24 (Spanish)
  Hicham Hassan, ICRC Cairo, tel: +201 87 42 43 44 (Arabic)

  or visit our special webpage on the Emergency Appeals  
Details of the ICRC-commissioned opinion survey mentioned in this news release can be found on ICRC survey: Our world. Views from the field