The Red Cross warned Tuesday of a possible surge in "food-related violence" because of soaring prices that are increasing hunger around the world.
Most of the debate surrounding the global food crisis has focused on boosting aid to poorer countries, but there is also concern about the potential for violence as people become desperate for food, said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Kellenberger, whose agency serves as the guardian of the Geneva Conventions on the rules of war, said fallout from rising prices has already sparked violence, alluding to food riots that erupted in Haiti, Egypt and Somalia.
The Red Cross would have to shoulder a big responsibility for those affected by armed conflict, Kellenberger said. The group already delivers food to isolated or dangerous places where the United Nations' World Food Program can't operate, he said.
"You can imagine when you have countries where you have already an armed conflict, where you have already a high level of violence, and you have at the same time a lot of poor and extremely vulnerable people," Kellenberger told reporters.
It's not just a matter of higher prices, he said. "It becomes a question of survival, of just having access to food."
The Red Cross has already been forced to add more than $60 million worth of food assistance to its planned budget for 2008. It has revamped the budget six times this year — three times to provide greater food aid in Somalia, Sudan's Darfur region and Yemen.
In total, the group plans to spend just over $1 billion on its relief operations around the world in 2008 and an additional $156 million on administrative costs.
Kellenberger stressed that his concern about food violence was mainly about the "future risk," but he declined to say which parts of the world he considered possible trouble spots.
"If I had them in mind, it would not be extremely intelligent if I were to mention them," he said.