(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Red Crescent wants more funding but not at any price

Afghanistan Red Crescent medical camp in Cheshma-e-Shafa, northern Afghanistan
Ali Hakim/IFRC

The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) is always keen to get more funding but is unwilling to take money from some major donors for fear its impartiality could be compromised.



“We don’t accept funds from donors such as USAID [US Agency for International Development] because with their money we would not be able to treat a wounded Taliban or the diseased children of a Talib,” ARCS director Fatima Guillani told IRIN.



USAID says “as part of the US Government effort” it supports the Afghan government in providing services and security for its citizens. “Long-term development thrives best in stable conditions and so USAID works as a partner to the joint Afghan-US Government counterinsurgency strategy to implement programs that improve lives throughout the country,” says USAID’s Afghanistan strategy.



ARCS with over 40,000 volunteers and 1,500 staff, has access to over 90 percent of the country, and is able to save lives and deliver assistance in areas which are inaccessible to the UN and foreign aid agencies, Guillani said, adding that it had assisted “millions” in 2010.



ARCS derives the bulk of its annual US$11 million revenue from a 2 percent tax levied on some imports, a lottery, rental property, and individual donations.



In addition, it got about $8 million from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2010 and about $3.5 million from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) - for specific projects.



ICRC collaborates with ARCS. For instance, ARCS conducts assessments and the ICRC distributes aid through ARCS volunteers in places like Helmand.



ICRC’s total budget for Afghanistan is about US$80 million per annum and it runs many programmes of its own, such as Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar Province where hundreds of conflict-related wounded are treated every month.



ARCS does not apply for any funding through the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) coordinated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, because of “impartiality concerns”, Guillani said.



However, this does not mean ARCS cannot appeal for separate funding: A joint IFRC-ARCS appeal in 2010 for seven million Swiss francs ($7.5 million) was fully met by donors such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Japan and Australia. By contrast, the 2010 CAP, though it represented a much larger amount of money, was only 67 percent funded.



“National institution”



“ARCS is a national institution and will be there to serve the next generations,” said Guillani, noting however that ARCS’s institutional capacity had remained weak despite widespread capacity-building and “Afghanization”.



A paradox, said Guillani, is that foreign aid agencies “with large budgets” have very limited access to emergency hotspots in insecure areas whereas ARCS, with extensive access, has a modest budget.



Access restrictions often result in so-called “remote control projects” which lead to greater risk of mismanagement and abuse, experts say.



While ARCS says it has better access than most other aid agencies, it has also been in the firing line with the intensifying conflict: “We lost 12 volunteers in crossfire in 2010 but we trust we are not directly and intentionally targeted by warring parties,” Guillani said, adding that ARCS was neutral on political matters. “If today I speak a sentence of politics, tomorrow my staff and volunteers won’t be able to work.”



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