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Appeal for underfunded operations

20-09-2013 Press Briefing

Some of the ICRC's operations in protracted and lesser-known conflicts are currently underfunded. At a press conference in Geneva, Pierre Krähenbühl, the ICRC's director of operations, explained why this may be and outlined the funding the ICRC is currently seeking from its donors to fill the gap.



The overall 2013 budget for ICRC field operations is 1.042 billion Swiss francs. We began the year with a field budget that was approved at approximately 990 million Swiss francs. To that we added several budget extensions amounting to 150 million Swiss francs to address increasing needs in countries like Syria. 

The ICRC is seeking to mobilize an additional 137 million to cover the entire field budget (see infographic above). Mr Krähenbühl pointed out that this figure is not a deficit, but simply the amount that we still have to raise to meet the needs of the underfunded operations to the end of 2013. 

"There are a certain number of operations that remain underfunded such as Iraq, South Sudan, Colombia, and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories," said Mr Krähenbühl. 

General trends in the first nine months of 2013 

Widespread attacks on the delivery of health care

The number of deliberate attacks against health-care workers, health-care institutions, ambulances, staff and volunteers of Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations have continued to increase. Syria has become emblematic of the widespread nature of such attacks.  

The ICRC is trying not only to improve the response to the problem, but to mobilize attention publicly through a community of concern and other humanitarian organizations in order to mobilize states around their responsibilities to ensure safe delivery of health care in conflict zones. 

Sexual violence

The ICRC is focusing on improving its response to the widespread prevalence of sexual violence in armed conflicts. The impact on the victims is often underestimated. Humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC have a big responsibility to improve the way we document the attacks and then provide the physical and psychological support that victims of rape or sexual violence need. 

Challenge of negotiating access to those in need in highly polarized environments

Working environments for the ICRC, our partners and other humanitarian actors are more and more affected by the high fragmentation in armed conflicts and the multiplicity of armed groups. For example, when our colleagues travel from Damascus to Aleppo in Syria, there are between 50 and 60 checkpoints along the way. These constraints multiply the number of people that we need to talk to on the ground from a multitude of groups, ranging from organized armed forces to loosely structured non-state groups. 


The current focus on the use of chemical weapons, although justified and legitimate, should not overshadow the extremely dramatic situation of the Syrian population resulting from the use of conventional weapons, which has dire effects on hundreds of people every  day." Pierre Krähenbühl

Pierre Krähenbühl said the ICRC strongly welcomes the negotiations that led to the agreement on chemical weapons. The fact that the UN confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Syria is of very grave concern, as it is related to a type of weapon that is specifically banned under international laws and IHL prohibits its use very explicitly. 

"The current focus on the use of chemical weapons, although justified and legitimate, should not overshadow the extremely dramatic situation of the Syrian population resulting from the use of conventional weapons, which has dire effects on hundreds of people every single day," said Mr Krähenbühl. 

Other concerns include the ongoing targeting of medical installations and the lack of safe access for medical teams to populations in great need, as well as the issue of access to regions of the country that are currently sealed-off. 

On a more positive note, the ICRC has reached millions of people through its water projects. 

"We have repaired water systems and pipelines, installed generators to ensure that water reaches the people in need, and supplied water to numerous places where displaced people are sheltering. We have also doubled the amount of food distributed since the beginning of the summer, together with our colleagues in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent," said Mr Krähenbühl. 

Medical assistance, again related to the many constraints that are placed on medical action, is not reaching the people it should and certainly not as many people as it should. In addition, visits to detainees have still not taken off in the way they should despite commitments at the highest level of the Syrian government.

Examples of two underfunded operations 


It is striking to see the increased levels of violence that have occurred in Iraq – both as a result of internal dynamics and regional polarizations. Iraq remains a very large operation that is not receiving the same level of attention as other conflicts. 

Current ICRC activities in Iraq: 

  • emergency response to so-called 'mass-casualty events', i.e. car bombs or specifically targeted areas – life-saving and material support to hospitals;
  • helping people living in rural areas to strengthen their livelihoods;
  • visiting around 24,000 detainees throughout Iraq; 
  • helping to locate and return mortal remains from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq conflict. 

South Sudan

South Sudan has suffered the cumulative impact of border tensions between Sudan and South Sudan and the arrival of refugees from Sudan to South Sudan. This past summer there was an increase in armed clashes and intercommunal violence in Jonglei state. As this is an extremely remote region, it requires mobilizing helicopters and other means to send in emergency teams, in particular, to be able to locate wounded people and ensure that surgical attention is provided. 

So far in 2013, the ICRC has: 

  • deployed three emergency surgical teams to the Jonglei region; 
  • treated and operated on dozens of wounded in hospitals set up by the ICRC; 
  • helped protect families’ capital by supporting their livelihoods, for example, with canimal vaccination programmes – 120,000 animals vaccinated so far this year; 
  • visited detainees, an activity that will remain important in South Sudan.