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Aid groups unable to keep pace with Syria crisis: Red Cross


Relief organisations in war-torn Syria are unable to keep pace with the ever-growing suffering of tens of thousands of victims despite dramatic increases in aid, the Red Cross said Thursday.

"There is a huge discrepancy between the ability to cope with the Syrian crisis and the escalating speed in which the demands in Syria are growing," said Peter Maurer, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"And this gap still continues to widen as we speak," he told reporters in Geneva, decrying "incredible violence and incredible suffering, and quite extraordinary violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Syria."

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 100,000 people have been killed in a conflict that began in March 2011.

The World Food Programme warned Tuesday that Syrians caught up in their nation's civil war are cutting basic foods from their diets to save money, or resorting to begging to survive.

Maurer, who was presenting the ICRC's annual report for 2012, pointed out that the Syria conflict currently represents the organisation's largest budget, ahead of Afghanistan, with 101.3 million Swiss francs (82.2 million euros, $107.2 million) dedicated to addressing it this year.

Last year, Syria ranked only eighth on the ICRC's budget scale, with 39 million francs spent.

The ICRC chief said he doubted the spiralling violence would end anytime soon.

For the time being, "we don't see where a political solution could easily come from, and that's the reason why we would rather calculate for a longer conflict," he said.

Outside of Syria as well, there is a tendency today of conflicts lasting longer, "grinding down the civilian population year after year," Maurer said.

And while the world's attention is focused squarely on a few conflicts like the ones in Syria and Mali, "it is getting harder to find funding for our humanitarian activities in the world's forgotten tragedies, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Somalia," Maurer said.

On top of budget concerns, the ICRC chief said that his organisation and others were facing deteriorating security situations in many parts of the world.

Last year "was the most difficult year for the ICRC in security terms since 2003 and 2005," he added, pointing out that an ICRC delegate was abducted and murdered in Pakistan, another was killed in Yemen and the organisation suffered attacks and other "serious security incidents" in Afghanistan, DR Congo, Libya and Somalia, among other places.

A number of Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff also lost their lives in Syria last year, he said.