Accessibility links

UN: Humanitarian Aid in Africa Lacking

The United Nations says its desperate pleas for humanitarian assistance for African countries is going unheeded. It says it has received less than one third of what it needs to provide aid for 26 million people in 21 countries, most of them in Africa.

The United Nations calls it the "tsunami affect." It says donors have focused so completely on the victims of this catastrophe and have contributed so generously to them that little sympathy or money remains for other emergencies.

And, yet, a World Food Program spokesman, Simon Pluess, notes that high-profile disasters such as the tsunami and the war in Sudan's Darfur province account for barely 10 percent of deaths in humanitarian emergencies around the world.

"For example, Niger where drought and locust invasion has ravaged the country and the malnutrition rates among the children these days is as high as in war countries," he said. "Or for example, northern Bahr-el-Ghazal in Sudan where there is a country… a village which consists entirely of displaced people who fled 21 years ago, but where there is no basic infrastructure, nor any international involvement to help these people."

Mr. Pluess describes other tragic examples, such as the south Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rival militias have wreaked havoc on the population for nearly a decade. He says villagers are too terrified to plant crops and one third of the population is forced to survive on one meal or less a day.

And, then there is Uganda and Lesotho and Liberia, all, Mr. Pluess calls forgotten emergencies.

In November, the United Nations launched a $1.7 billion appeal for 26 million people in 21 countries, most of them in Africa. A spokeswoman for the U.N.'s Organization for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, Elizabeth Byrs, says the U.N. only has received 31 percent of its needs. She says this is much lower than the 42 percent it normally would have received by now.

As a consequence, she says the United Nations has been forced to issue a number of flash appeals to try to generate critically needed funds for some of the worst off emergencies.

"Six weeks ago, we launched an appeal, a flash appeal, for $7.5 million for drought relief in Djibouti," she said. "And, so far donors have failed to provide funding for 95 percent of needs. It means that the agricultural, food, coordination sectors of the appeal are totally under-funded."

Ms. Byrs says flash appeals for Niger and Benin have met with similarly unsatisfactory results.

The World Food Program has issued an appeal to the world's eight leading industrialized nations to pay more attention to Africa's forgotten emergencies when they meet in Scotland early next month.