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Economic crisis strains Red Cross in Europe

Copenhagen - The International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) is having to help more people in Europe where the economic crisis has driven many into poverty, its chief said in remarks published Wednesday.



"We see that people in most of the world are under greater pressure than previously - also in Europe. Our assessment is that the next two to four years will be very tough in Europe," ICRC Director General Yves Daccord was quoted as saying by Danish daily Politiken.

"For the first time we see growing pressure on Europeans, where more and more people have become really poor. Secondly, European countries use less money on social welfare due to the economic crisis," Daccord added. "That creates new challenges for the Red Cross that we have not experienced previously." The Red Cross in Greece can for instance no longer fund its own operations. In Spain, the organisation supports about 300,000 people.

"We will assist a number of national (Red Cross) branches to cope with problems of a scope and complexity they are not used to, for instance: How does the Red Cross act when violence erupts?" he said.

Rising food prices and a lack of trust in government were contributing factors in the Arab Spring uprisings, along with demands for more political freedom. Similar factors could combine in Europe to trigger violence, according to the ICRC.

ICRC personnel who have experience of working in conflict areas"might have to pass on that knowledge to Red Cross branches in Europe," Daccord said.

"We need to prepare for more violence here," Daccord said.


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