UN Launches Record Appeal for Humanitarian Aid

11-21-08, 9:24 am

Original source: IRIN News

GENEVA, 20 November 2008 (IRIN) - The UN is asking for a record US$7 billion to help 30 million people in Africa and the Middle East.

'The money is being used to keep people alive,' said John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, at the Consolidated Appeals Process launch in Geneva on 19 November.

The fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country suffering from conflict for more than a decade, for which $831 million is being asked, and the ongoing plight of Sudan, where the UN and aid agencies need just over $2 billion, weighed heavy on the appeal, along with Somalia, needing $919 million.

'More than 100,000 children are on the run in the Kivus, along with their families,' said Hilde Johnson, deputy head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), referring to the troubled region of the DRC.

In total, some 1.3 million people are displaced in Congo, 250,000 of them since the outbreak of renewed violence in August.

'The humanitarian situation in the DRC is extreme,' said Elisabeth Rasmusson from the Norwegian Refugee Council, adding that even in areas where aid groups could operate, the amount of assistance given was insufficient.

'This is why funding [the appeals] is crucial,' she said.

The appeals bring together 360 UN agencies and NGOs working in 31 countries, mostly in Africa. In the Middle East, $462 million is needed for the occupied Palestinian territories and another $547 million for Iraq.

In Sudan, as in Somalia, the World Food Program's (WFP) requirements made up half of those appeals. In Zimbabwe, with a severe food shortage, 57 percent was earmarked for WFP.

Somalia's plight has deteriorated significantly this year, with the number of people requiring aid almost doubling from 1.8 million to 3.2 million. Malnutrition among children is a growing problem but due to repeated attacks, aid workers' access to the needy remains limited.

Similarly in Darfur, where 280,000 people were displaced in the first nine months of the year and attacks on aid workers continue to rise.

Political engagement

'We need political engagement,' said Johnson. 'But to succeed politically is not possible without resources and aid.'

There was a 'need to resolve conflicts, so we don't need to repeat the appeals', said Holmes, noting that progress had been made in several countries, including Nepal, Burundi and Sierra Leone, and they have since been removed from the CAP.

While Holmes stressed the need for donors to be generous, he said there was as yet no indication the global financial crisis would affect the appeal. However, the prospects for 2010 were more worrying as the real economy began to slow down.

He and Johnson said it was especially important to ensure the most vulnerable were not left out in the cold, adding that downturns could lead to an increase in humanitarian caseloads and possible new crises.

Poorer countries could struggle to finance food imports - and food security remained the primary concern of the appeal for West Africa.

In terms of sectors, funds for economic recovery, agriculture, health and demining remained heavily under-funded, though 86 percent of the food aid budget was paid for. At the lowest end, only 6 percent of donations requested to ensure the safety of staff were met.

The largest donors to the 25 million beneficiaries in 2008 were the United States, European Commission, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Japan. The Saudis led the world in humanitarian funded as a percentage of GDP, giving the equivalent of 0.16 percent of national income.

'The $7 billion that we seek equates to, for every $100 of the rich countries’ national income, only a few cents of aid,' said Holmes.