As euro crisis lingers, Red Cross global work takes a hit

Yves Daccord, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Photo by: TEDxHelvetia< /a> / CC BY-NC-SA

Rising poverty in the crisis-plagued eurozone has one of the world’s largest humanitarian agencies reconsider where it allocates resources  raising questions about the impact on its operations in the developing world.

According to Eurostat, 120 million people in the European Union are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

“Our assessment is that the next two to four years will be very tough in Europe,” Yves Daccord, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Danish daily Politiken.

Daccord acknowledged that, for the first time in recent history, its European chapters are focusing their efforts domestically rather than overseas.

In Spain for instance, the Red Cross chapter devoted its 2012 annual appeal (worth €30 million ($39 million)  to locals, particularly to help feed 2.3 million “extremely vulnerable” citizens over the next two years. In the past, such an appeal sought to help victims of famine in Africa and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The Danish Red Cross, meanwhile, had to reorganize because it could no longer get donations for its international work, its secretary-general, Anders Ladekarl, told Politiken. It is now preparing to help its sister organizations in Europe.

The local chapter in Greece is in an even worse situation: It expects to go bankrupt.

ICRC is reportedly working on a strategy to help its European branches cope with problems they are not used to. Daccord warned that southern Europe may see unrest similar to the Arab Spring because of the increasing gap between the demand for social welfare and the capacity of authorities to respond. Said to be part of the ICRC plan is for its staff experienced working in conflict areas to concentrate their efforts on Europe.

Other charities are facing similar challenges, increasing the likelihood that their international development programs could be scaled back in the coming years unless additional funding sources are found.

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.