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Red Cross Running Short

FILE: Depiction of ICRC Ethiopia Fertilizer Distribution in Tigray Region of Ethiopia. Taken Aug. 8 2022
FILE: Depiction of ICRC Ethiopia Fertilizer Distribution in Tigray Region of Ethiopia. Taken Aug. 8 2022

The Red Cross is bracing for a shortfall of up to a quarter of its 2023 budget, which could entail cuts to some operations, its chief told Swiss media.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) fears it may fail to raise as much as 500 to 700 million Swiss francs ($540-750 million) out of a 2.79-billion-franc budget, its director-general Robert Mardini told the Le Temps daily on Tuesday.

"If this is confirmed, we will not have the means to help populations in the difficult-to-access areas, where our presence is the most important," he warned.

The war raging in Ukraine has grabbed international attention and is monopolizing a large chunk of global aid dollars.

There is also a range of other factors behind the shortfalls, including growing donor fatigue amid a confluence of conflicts and other crises.

Soaring inflation is also making itself felt.

"There are obviously fewer donations for humanitarian aid in general," Mardini told broadcaster RTS, adding: "This tendency is intensifying now with the war in Ukraine."

Communities affected by a long line of crises "find themselves forgotten by the international community, which is not stepping up to meet the challenges", he said.

The ICRC, which was founded 160 years ago, warned that out of its 10 biggest operations - Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen - only Ukraine appears set to be fully funded this year.

United Nations agencies have also been sounding the alarm that many of their humanitarian operations are dramatically and increasingly underfunded.

Beyond the war in Ukraine, other factors are also behind the shortfalls.

The needs are growing, even as donor fatigue has showed itself to be particularly acute in the face of conflicts that drag on for years with no end in sight.

A recent pledging conference for war-ravaged Yemen for instance raised barely a quarter of the $4.3 billion sought.

At the same time, surging inflation is pushing up the cost of humanitarian operations around the world.

"The next months will be decisive," Mardini told RTS.

"If the donors don't step up, we will need to revise down our ambitions."

That, he said, is why he is sounding the alarm early in the year in the hope of drumming up more donor support.

"Depending on the response, we will do what we need to do to ensure financial balance."