Though the July rains this year held the promise of a more or less normal harvest in Mali and Niger, for many years both countries have been hit by repeated droughts. The lack of heavy rain from September 2009 to July this year is one of the main causes of the serious food crisis in the region. Grazing land is dwindling and herders are having to cover ever greater distances with their animals to find green land. But this land often belongs to farmers, who are themselves increasingly struggling to find cultivable land. Scarcer resources exacerbate intercommunal tension, and conflict is particularly violent in the dry season.
Several rebel groups and bandits are spreading fear and chaos in many parts of the Central African Republic. Regular attacks on civilians are resulting in killings, abductions, rapes and looting. They are forcing people to flee their homes to find a safe haven. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, putting pressure on already impoverished host communities.
Pakistan's record floods continue to take a massive toll on rural communities in eastern Balochistan, a remote region already reeling from armed violence. As floodwaters slowly recede, an estimated 600,000 displaced flood victims are preparing to return to what is left of their homes.
During two decades of internal violence in Peru in the 1980s and 90s, thousands of people died and 15,000 have been reported missing. Ten years on from the end of violence, great efforts have been made in Peru to respond to the needs of the surviving families.
Today, more than 60,000 IDPs in Mindanao are unable or for various reasons unwilling to return home. In some cases their houses have burned down or their land is occupied by other people, in others they fear for their safety because conflict could resume or violence erupt in connection with the ongoing elections... Clashes between the armed forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in August 2008 triggered the displacement of more than 500,000 people. Although most displaced people in Central Mindanao have returned to their homes over the past year, thousands have yet to do so.
Addressing diplomats at the ICRC's headquarters in Geneva today, the organisation's president, Jakob Kellenberger, appealed to States to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again. "Nations have a historic and unprecedented opportunity to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end," he said.
Just attempting to live a normal life is still an everyday struggle for many Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Particularly hard hit are communities living close to settlements or to the West Bank barrier, in areas under full Israeli civil and military control referred to as "Area C" (more than 50% of the West Bank), where Israeli-imposed restrictions are often preventing them from living a normal and dignified life.
In Haiti, thousands of people live in anguish, unsure whether their relatives have been buried under the rubble or alive and unable to communicate. In a city where normal communications are shattered, the ICRC is using every means available to help people get find out what happened to loved ones. Satellite phones and a special website (www.icrc.org/familylinks), are helping thousands to call abroad to reassure their families and pass on vital news. Many Haitians depend on support from relatives abroad, so getting in touch is vital. For many, those relatives are now the only ones they have.