International Committee of the Red Cross operations in Afghanistan and Iraq face a funding crisis because of the coronavirus pandemic, chief Peter Maurer said on Saturday.
Their future is uncertain as the government has started to close camps that house tens of thousands of people, including many who fled their homes during the final battle against ISIS in 2018.
“Their future remains an unanswered question. Time is not on our side – the longer it takes for people to achieve a safe and dignified return, the deeper divisions are entrenched and more difficult they are to repair,” Mr Maurer said during the annual International Institute for Strategic Studies summit in Bahrain.
Mr Maurer said the shortfall in funding for ICRC’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan came at a time “when we see people’s needs are skyrocketing and economic crises are looming”.
The ICRC made an appeal for 2.3 billion Swiss Francs ($2.6bn) for 2021 to support its work for people affected by armed conflict.
For Iraq, the humanitarian body needed $123.8 million and in Afghanistan, it need $88.5m to continue its operations.
“Laying the groundwork for stabilisation, humanitarian work remains severely underfunded,” Mr Maurer said.
To add to their worries, the outbreak of coronavirus has seen some “donor states reallocate funds to domestic issues”, he said.
Mr Maurer said those affected by wars and conflicts were “exhausted with the years of violence and they describe wars fought without mercy or humanity”.
“We urge you to keep human security as your focus – without it we risk chronic instability and cycles of violence without an end,” he said.
“Our experience over decades tells us that a focus on security without a focus on the human dimension of conflict is in fact no security at all.”
Instead, Mr Maurer proposed that states must take a “re-energised partnership of engagement” with the international community to work together and “turn the tide”.