“The brighter the media spotlight shines on such high visibility catastrophes, the deeper into the shadow fall more chronic – and often more deadly – humanitarian crises,” the report said.
The spotlight on the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2005 helped generate $1,241 in humanitarian aid for each beneficiary in the region, compared to less than $27 per person for some lingering African crises, according to the World Disasters Report 2006.
That gap was “unacceptably wide” it said, warning of neglect caused by selectivity on the part of governments, private donors, aid organisations and the media.
The ICRC also acknowledged that media attention was not solely to blame.
Palestinian and Iraqi aid
The ICRC said it would boost aid to growing numbers of “destitute families” in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, but would be cutting its budget for Sudan.
However, Jackob Kellenberger, the president of the ICRC, said that insecurity prevented the neutral agency from taking on a larger role in providing protection and assistance to civilians in Iraq.
Kellenberger said that the humanitarian situation was worsening in Iraq: “There is an increasing number of totally destitute families who need basic economic support … and there are enormous medical needs.
“But the time is not yet there where we could increase our expatriate staff to do direct assistance to victims on a larger-scale.”
The humanitarian agency appealed for $836.8 million to fund its programmes in 80 hotspots worldwide in 2007. Forty per cent of the money is earmarked for Africa.
Governments have provided around 80 per cent of ICRC funding in previous years, with the US, Britain and Switzerland the main donors.
Sudan remains its largest operation but spending will fall as more of those it had been aiding in the conflict-ridden Darfur region are considered able to grow crops to feed themselves.
In Darfur, the ICRC is currently feeding 300,000 people – only around a tenth of those deemed in need – in remote areas of Sudan’s troubled western region, but this group is now considered largely self-sufficient in food.
The lower budget for Darfur reflects a shift from large-scale food distribution to activities such as distribution of seeds and farm tools to generate income, Kellenberger said.