The ICRC's activities in favour of the displaced: 2008 overview

from International Committee of the Red Cross
Published on 24 Jul 2009 View Original
In 2008, armed conflicts and other situations of violence shattered the lives of large numbers of children, women and men in many countries among which the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Chad and Colombia. Direct attacks on civilian communities, general insecurity and the destruction of livelihoods forced innumerable civilians to flee their homes. Assisting and protecting internally displaced people (IDPs), who are protected under international humanitarian law (IHL) and other relevant international law, remained one of the ICRC's priorities throughout 2008.

The foremost goal of the ICRC remained to protect civilians against arbitrary displacement. Nevertheless people did get displaced. In such cases, particularly during acute crises when, essential needs were no longer covered, the ICRC worked to alleviate the suffering of the people worst affected, regardless of the duration of their displacement. In situations such as chronic crises, where existing services and infrastructure could not adequately cover basic needs, the aim of ICRC action was to support efforts to find a durable solution. During the year 2008, the ICRC's partnerships with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies proved crucial in several countries. The National Societies often played a pivotal role in responding rapidly to needs or reaching people in remote regions.

Any protection and assistance strategy had to remain flexible, so as to take into account the great diversity of situations in which displacement occurs. All choices and priorities for action were however driven by needs, and reflect Red Cross and Red Crescent Fundamental Principles of humanity and impartiality in all situations:

- Major, sudden, humanitarian crises caused by armed conflict and other situations of violence - such as those which occurred in 2008 in Afghanistan, the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia or Sri Lanka; The crises called for an urgent response and greater coordination among the relevant players if people already displaced, and often in host communities, were to be supported, and others spared the same fate;

- Upsurges in fighting also affected civilians and provoked population displacement in countries such as Burundi, the Central African Republic, Niger (the northern regions), Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Yemen and Zimbabwe;

- Longstanding conflicts or situations of violence - such as those affecting certain regions of Chad, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Senegal or Sudan - where already fragile populations were left utterly destitute, or where displaced people have settled permanently rather than return home;

- Humanitarian needs in so-called "frozen" conflicts and post-conflict situations - such as those in Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Liberia, Nepal, and Uganda - where the support of humanitarian agencies is necessary long after the peak of violence has passed, and where displaced people and returnees need protection and assistance;

- Natural disasters hitting already vulnerable populations - such as in Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Somalia.

Worldwide, some 3.77 million IDPs benefited from ICRC humanitarian activities [1] in 36 countries [2]. From January to May 2009, the ICRC carried out humanitarian activities to benefit some 1.4 million IDPs around the globe.

For further information, please see the ICRC's 2008 Annual Report and ICRC's focus on War and Displacement.


(1). These figures do not include all the countries in which the ICRC conducted activities designed to restore family links and therefore do not cover all the individual cases handled.

(2). Africa: Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe. Asia and the Pacific: Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka. Europe and the Americas: Azerbaijan, Colombia, Georgia, Panama, Peru, Russian Federation (Chechnya), Serbia/Montenegro-Kosovo. Middle East and North Africa: Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen.