Red Cross To Cut 1,500 Jobs Over Funding Crunch

The Red Cross announced Tuesday that it would cut 1,500 jobs over the next 12 months in a drive to slash costs due to to a funding crunch.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said an expected drop in humanitarian assistance budgets over the next two years was forcing it to make significant cuts.

“ICRC will need to be more deliberate in directing efforts towards programmes and places where we can have the greatest impact, in line with our mandate to provide life-saving relief and protection services to people living through armed conflict and violence,” it said in a statement.

The Geneva-based organisation said that its governing board on March 30 had approved 430 million Swiss francs ($474 million) in global cost reduction through early 2024.

While the exact details and timelines for the cuts were still being worked through, ICRC said it was clear that “approximately 1,500 jobs worldwide will have to be cut over the coming 12 months.”

“The number of people impacted will be minimised as much as possible by reducing positions first and foremost through a recruitment freeze and natural turnover,” it stressed.

The cuts also mean that “at least 20 of currently 350 locations around the world will close,” ICRC acknowledged, adding that it would “also be scaling back and closing some of our programmes”.

It said it still remained unclear how many people currently receiving aid would need to do without due to the cuts.

The ICRC has 20,000 staff spread across more than 100 countries.

ICRC initially appealed to donors for 2.8 billion Swiss francs for its work this year.

It has now revised down its budget to two billion francs, but it stressed “we still need significant support from our donors to cover our humanitarian operations this year.”

The ICRC, which was founded 160 years ago, had already cautioned in several media interviews last month that it might be heading towards a significant budget shortfall for 2023 that could entail cuts.

At the time, it said that out of its 10 biggest operations — Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen — only Ukraine appears set to be fully funded this year.

In Tuesday’s announcement, it acknowledged that it was facing several simultaneous challenges, with a number of pledges not materialising even as costs during the last quarter of 2022 were higher than expected, due among other things to inflation.

“Because of these factors, we started 2023 carrying forward a deficit of approximately 140 million” Swiss francs, it said.

At the same time, it pointed out that it operates “in the same financial environment as the rest of the humanitarian sector”, which has been hit by “difficult global financial and economic trends”.

United Nations agencies have also been sounding the alarm that many of their humanitarian operations are dramatically and increasingly underfunded.