Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Aid workers urge donors not to forget other crises

SUFFERING In the next three to four months as many people may die in eastern Congo alone as died in the Asian tsunami, a UN relief worker said


In the midst of a wave of donation for the victims of the tsunami in South Asia, some aid workers are afraid that suffering in other parts of the world might be forgotten in the wake of the massive disaster that killed 150,000.

There are concerns that the tsunami might have swept long-running crises, especially in Africa, off the media agenda and exhausted the willingness of donors to continue to aid those who have been suffering even longer.

Indeed, UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland has made several pleas over the past few days not to forget those in need in other parts of the world.

And whilst praising the world's response to the tsunami victims, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan pointed out on ABC television Sunday: "In seven days we've got more money in response to the tsunami crisis than we did for all the humanitarian appeals we issued in 2004."

"We call them the `orphaned disasters,'" Annan added, high-lighting the bizarre marketplace for compassion in a media-driven world.

Once again, lack of money was one of the reason's behind the UN's failure to stop the dying in large parts of Africa last year. The UN had less funds for foreign aid last year than in 2003 and 2002, even though its capability to reach those in need had improved, according to Egeland.

Urging the richer countries to contribute a higher percentage of their GDP to aid funds, he also pointed out the "forgotten emergencies" such as Somalia, northern Uganda, eastern Congo or Chechnya.

About 1,000 people die each day in eastern Congo, he said. Death rates can reach tsunami levels without even being noticed:

"In the next three to four months as many people may die in eastern Congo as died in the tsunami. There is too little attention paid to these forgotten emergencies," he said.

The situation is unlikely to change this year, according to the UN.

The international community has pledged more than US$2 billion in aid to the about 5 million people in the 12 countries hit by the tsunami.

The promised amount already exceeds by US$300 million the sum which Annan last November said was needed to ensure the survival of 26 million people in 14 almost forgotten crises regions in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

The coming weeks will show whether governments and people in the industrialized world also find money to spare for those suffering in the orphaned disaster areas of the world.

The UN estimates that reconstruction in the tsunami-hit areas will take between five to 10 years at a cost of several billion dollars.

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