Long-drawn conflicts hitting 'whole generations': ICRC chief

19th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Relief agencies have to be better adapted to cope with the long-drawn nature of conflicts today, which impacts on "whole generations," the chief of the international Red Cross said Wednesday.

"When you look back at our annual reports from 10, 20, or even 30 years ago, you find that many of these same contexts were already embroiled in or on the brink of fighting," said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"What worries me most is the devastating, cumulative effect this particularly pernicious set of conflicts is having on whole generations."

The increasingly interminable nature of wars meant that humanitarian agencies have to be "prepared to provide a diverse range of assistance over a longer period of time," he added.

Somalia, for instance, has been blighted by relentless civil war since 1991, leaving some 1.4 million people displaced within the country and more than half a million Somalis have sought refuge in nearby countries, according to UNHCR data.

Kellenberger also pointed to the Horn of Africa state and Afghanistan for the "major operational challenges" that they were posing for the ICRC.

"In addition to bombings and attacks, people have had to put up with decades of displacement, little or no health care, restrictions on movement, humiliation, unemployment, despair, separation from family members, a growing dependency on aid and competition for increasingly scarce resources," said Kellenberger.

"I wonder what Afghanistan and Somalia would look like today -- how their economies and societies would have developed, how many more children would be in school -- had there been peace and progress instead of bloodshed and devastation all these years," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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