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UN Warns of Donation Shortfall for Tsunami-Hit Nations

The chief of the U.N. tsunami task force says current international aid pledges will cover as little as 40 percent of the reconstruction costs in Indian Ocean countries hit by December's disaster. The official, Assistant Secretary General Hafiz Pasha, spoke with reporters in London.

Mr. Pasha heads a task force from the U.N. Development Program with a six-month mandate to begin tsunami recovery efforts.

Mr. Pasha says reconstruction costs will range between $10 billion and $12.5 billion, and so far the international community has pledged only $5.5 billion.

A donors conference is planned for Manila in March, and former President Bill Clinton who was recently appointed as a special U.N. envoy for tsunami relief, has been given the assignment of making sure governments fulfill their pledges with cash donations.

Mr. Pasha says that as the rubble is cleared, the U.N. will help try to revive local communities and governments during the recovery phase.

"We are very keen to ensure that there is sustainability of the infrastructure, so it is important that we have established local organizations,” he said. “In Aceh, for example, many of the local officials are no longer alive, and so local government capacity has been decimated in some cases. And we have to focus on building that capacity once again."

Mr. Pasha accepts criticisms that initial relief efforts were not properly coordinated between governments, U.N. agencies and private charities, but he says things are getting better.

"Supplies have managed to reach most of the areas,” he added. “Interestingly, in parts of these affected countries, we've reached a stage now where children are actually going back to school in some cases. There has been little or no outbreak of major diseases up to now. I have a feeling that some how or another, while initially there may have been some difficulty, the process now has been much better managed."

Mr. Pasha has been in London this week meeting British government relief agency officials before setting off on a tour of tsunami-affected regions of Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Aceh province in Indonesia.