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Assistance FOR people affected by armed

conflict and other situations of violence
FOR people affected by armed conflict
and other situationsof violence
The aim of the ICRC’s assistance programmes Assistance programmes may provide food,
is to preserve life and restore the dignity of shelter, water and medical care; they also
individuals and communities affected by aim to ensure that access to essential health
armed conflict or other situations of violence.1 services and medical facilities is maintained,
that safe water and adequate sanitation are
Assistance activities address essential available, that people are protected from
needs of individuals and communities as explosive remnants of war, and that income
determined by their social and cultural and means of production are preserved.
environment. These needs vary. They are This may require the direct involvement of
assessed in relation to the context and ICRC staff, working with, and building on,
in close consultation with the affected the existing local capacity to deliver these
communities. The ICRC’s responses are as essential services. It may entail encouraging
varied as the needs. the authorities and other actors to fulfil
their responsibilities, or a combination of
both approaches.

1 The ICRC works to protect and assist victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence.
This brochure looks at assistance programmes, but, in field operations, protection and assistance activities are
2 interlinked in all assessments and in planning and programme implementation.
Assistance may be provided before a crisis as
a preventive measure (distribution of food to
avoid malnutrition, improved sanitation), in
an acute crisis (war surgery, water trucking),
in a chronic crisis (livelihood support for
displaced persons, vaccination campaigns,
support for water and sewage utilities) or
post crisis (repair and reconstruction of
Olga Milcheva/ICRC

essential infrastructure, agricultural support).

Beneficiaries are primarily residents or

displaced civilians, vulnerable groups such
as minorities, female-headed households
and the families of people who are
The ICRC’S unaccounted for, the sick and the wounded
Assistance Division (both military and civilian), and people
provides field operations with strategic deprived of their freedom.
support and professional expertise in :
• Public health2: In 2009, close to 15 million victims of armed
> health services conflict and other situations of violence in
> economic security 47 countries benefited from the ICRC’s
> water and habitat assistance programmes.
> forensic services
• working for a safe environment: In December of the same year, over 2,000
> respecting and protecting international and national staff were
health care engaged in the ICRC’s assistance activities.
> weapon contamination
> non-conventional threats Assistance programmes represent around
60 % of the ICRC’s annual field budget.

2 Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease
or infirmity. Preamble to the Constitution of the World health Organization as adopted by the International Health
Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States
(Official Records of the World health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. 3
Marko Kokic/ICRC
An ICRC response covers assistance To preserve life and health and ensure
and protection needs. Assessments respect for people’s dignity, assistance
identify sectors of the population activities are developed within an overall
that are particularly vulnerable concept of public health. People need a
to the risk and the effects of armed safe environment. They also require the
conflict and other situations basic elements for survival: food, safe water,
of violence. adequate sanitation and shelter, and access
The aim is to promptly recognize to preventive and curative health care. The
and respond to the specific needs correct management of the dead is another
and rights of those affected, taking important aspect of public health.
account of their resilience.
Special attention is given to age, When designing assistance programmes,
gender and other factors of diversity the ICRC strives to ensure that the living
that increase their vulnerability. conditions of people affected by armed
conflict are restored in a sustainable
manner and that dependence on outside
aid is reduced.





Food security and Water, environmental
household economy health, energy, and habitat


Marko Kokic/ICRC
Boris Heger/ICRC
The ICRC’s health activities are aimed at
saving lives and alleviating suffering. Its
programmes help to ensure that the health
needs of individuals affected by armed
conflict or other situations of violence
are met. This includes both curative and
preventive health care.

Health activities include the direct provision

of health care, and support for existing
facilities, as well as mobilization of the
authorities or others to assume these The main areas covered by the ICRC’s
responsibilities. Negotiations are required to health activities are :
guarantee affected communities safe access • first aid ;
to high-quality health care and medical • primary health care ;
personnel a safe working environment. • hospitals (war surgery and
essential surgery, obstetrics
Health activities require expertise in and gynaecology, paediatrics,
the fields of public health, medicine, internal medicine and
surgery, nursing, hospital administration, hospital management) ;
laboratory work, pharmacy, physiotherapy • health in detention ;
and orthotics/prosthetics. • physical rehabilitation.

Ash Sweeting/BCR
Physical rehabilitation
The ICRC’s physical rehabilitation projects
are designed to provide physically
disabled people with prosthetic and
orthotic devices so that they can recover
their mobility, live with dignity and play an
active role in society.

Physical rehabilitation projects

may involve :
• manufacturing high-quality • preparing local partners
prosthetic and orthotic appliances and authorities to take over
and components ; orthopaedic services ;
• providing national technicians • developing vocational-training
with theoretical and practical programmes and creating
training in accordance with employment opportunities for
recognized standards ; physically disabled people.

Rudy Tolentino/ICRC

Marko Kokic/ICRC
Economic security
The ICRC provides support for the economic Economic security is assessed and addressed
security of affected populations. This is to through expertise in livelihood analysis,
ensure that households and communities nutrition, agronomy and economics,
can meet essential needs and maintain or training, veterinary science, livestock
restore sustainable livelihoods. Responses production and management, and small-
range from emergency distributions business management.
of food and essential household items
to programmes for sustainable food
production and micro-economic initiatives.

Economic security activities aim at : • enabling communities and

• providing conflict victims with individuals to maintain or regain
the basic commodities essential self-sufficiency by protecting
for survival when they are no and/or restoring the necessary
longer able to obtain these by means of production (e.g. providing
their own means (such as food, seed, tools, cash grants, and work
blankets and cooking ustensils) ; opportunities).

Pedram Yazdi/ICRC

Jordi Raich/ICRC
Water and habitat
The ICRC’s water and habitat activities Water and habitat programmes can
are designed to ensure that communities encompass a wide range of activities
af fected by armed conflict or other in both rural and urban environments:
situations of violence have access to safe supplying essential materials and energy,
water and adequate sanitation at all times constructing emergency shelter, sanitation,
and live in a healthy environment. and rehabilitating or constructing health
structures. The ICRC’s engineers are also
involved in hygiene-promotion activities
In particular, water and habitat and capacity building of partners and
activities involve:  communities. Efforts are made to ensure that
• providing displaced persons projects are sustainable in the long term.
and civilians affected by armed
conflict with emergency water, The ICRC’s areas of expertise include
sanitation and shelter  ; hydrogeology, geology, civil engineering,
• developing safe water and sanitation architecture, electro-mechanical
solutions for the resident engineering, environmental engineering
population in rural and urban areas  ; and urban planning.
• repairing and upgrading
hospitals and health centres that
do not meet current needs or have
been damaged as a result of
armed conflict  ;
• improving environmental health
in places of detention.

Marko Kokic/ICRC
Ute Hofmeister/ICRC

Boris Heger/ICRC
Forensic services The forensic services focus on :
The ICRC’s forensic services help prevent • providing support for ICRC field
and address the tragedy of people operations on all matters
becoming unaccounted for as a result of related to human remains and
armed conflicts and other situations of forensic sciences ;
violence. They promote and support best • providing training and advice on
practices for the proper management best forensic science practices
and identification of human remains. applicable to the search for the
The objective is to ensure the dignified missing, including during natural
management of the dead and to help disasters, and their dissemination
uphold the right of bereaved families to and promotion ;
know the fate of their loved ones. • developing tools, including for
the collection and management
The ICRC’s areas of expertise include forensic of information on human remains,
medicine, anthropology, archaeology and as well as guidelines and manuals
disaster-victim identification. on preventing persons becoming
unaccounted for and investigating
missing-person cases.

Jim Holmes/ICRC
Jim Holmes/ICRC
Respecting and protecting health care The ICRC’s activities may include:
A safe environment is essential for the • field assessments of weapon use
delivery of effective assistance in armed and the threat posed by weapons;
conflict and other situations of violence. • deploying clearance experts
This is especially the case for health to survey, destroy or
activities. In many countries, the ICRC make safe unexploded or
has to address security issues concerning abandoned ordnance;
hospitals, clinics, ambulances, patients and • providing direct support for
health-care personnel on a daily basis. communities through risk-reduction
and risk-education activities –
Weapon contamination ensuring that these communities do
The ICRC seeks to reduce the impact of not have to put themselves at risk
weapon contamination on people while during their day-to-day activities.
ensuring that its staff can operate safely.

The presence of unexploded and abandoned

weapons can hinder the return of civilians
to their homes, limit the delivery of aid, Non-conventional threats
and prevent the repair and reconstruction The ICRC is currently developing a response
of infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, capacity for events involving the use
roads, wells and markets. or alleged use of nuclear, radiological,
biological or chemical weapons. The
The ICRC’s areas of expertise include purpose is to minimize the risk to its staff,
explosive-ordnance disposal, demining, if exposure occurs, and enable them to
public-health education, community provide assistance for victims directly or
development, epidemiology and training. indirectly affected by the agent in question.
Marko Kokic/ICRC

Marko Kokic/ICRC
Partnerships HELP course
Coordinating activities with authorities, The HELP (Health Emergencies in Large
civil society and the wider humanitarian Populations) course is a multicultural and
community is an integral part of assistance multidisciplinary learning experience
programmes. In their field operations, created to enhance professionalism in
the ICRC’s assistance staff work closely humanitarian assistance programmes
with National Red Cross and Red Crescent carried out in emergencies. Since 1986,
Societies. While the Assistance Division ap p rox imate l y 2, 6 0 0 professionals
implements its own activities, it often joins have attended the course, which is run
forces with the National Society of a given in partnership with the World Health
country as its natural “primary partner” Organization and with research institutions
to maximize the benefit for the people and universities worldwide.
affected by conflict or internal strife.
Working together enhances the ICRC’s
ability to provide support for National
Societies, as well as National Societies’
capacity to conduct their own operations.

At headquarters and in the field, the

Assistance Division interacts with academic
institutions and professional associations
as well as with the relevant agencies of the
United Nations system.

The International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and
independent organization whose exclusively
humanitarian mission is to protect the lives
and dignity of victims of armed conflict
and other situations of violence and to
provide them with assistance. The ICRC
also endeavours to prevent suffering by
promoting and strengthening humanitarian
law and universal humanitarian principles.
Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the
origin of the International Red Cross and
Red Crescent Movement. It directs and
coordinates the international relief activities
conducted by the Movement in armed
conflicts and other situations of violence.
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