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Price increases stretch Red Cross

German Red Cross field hospital for earthquake victims, Doujiangyan, China, May 26 2008
The international Red Cross says it will maintain its level of operations

The international Red Cross will need more money to keep up the present level of humanitarian operations, it has said in its annual report.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it spent $800m (400m) last year, but rising food and fuel prices are pushing up costs.

Millions of people already suffering because of armed conflict were hard hit by the increases, says the report.

Africa remains the largest area of Red Cross spending.

The ICRC, based in Geneva, said spending in African nations accounted for 45% of the organisation's field budget in 2007.

Assistance

The top five areas of operation last year were Sudan, Iraq, Israel and the occupied territories, Afghanistan and Somalia, it said.

Sudan, where the ICRC spends more than $90m (45m) in 2007, was the single largest area of operation for the fourth year in a row.

The recent rise in food and fuel prices is making life even harder for poor people
Jakob Kellenberger, ICRC President

The ICRC provides food, clean water and medical assistance to people made homeless by conflict.

Worldwide, the organisation operated water projects that helped more than 14m people, says the report.

Nearly three million people benefited from health care backed up by Red Cross supplies.

"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," said ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger, in a statement accompanying the report.

Shrinking budgets

ICRC Director of Operations Pierre Kraehenbuhl said the organisation was committed to giving the level of assistance it had promised to maintain, despite the food and fuel crisis.

The ICRC has already appealed for more funding for Yemen, where fighting and rising food prices have put further strain on its humanitarian operation.

Another appeal is expected for Somalia too.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says all aid agencies are finding that the budgets they set for this year are not enough.

The World Food Programme alone wants an additional $755m (375m), she says, and with food and fuel prices expected to stay high, donor countries can expect many more requests for extra money in the months to come.




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