UN relief agencies are standing by to assist the United States, if needed, following Hurricane Katrina. One of them is the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.
Ron Redmond is a spokesman for the UNHCR. From Geneva, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about UN aid what’s available. He says, “The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan late last week offered to the US government whatever help the United Nations could provide. And, of course, there are some specialized agencies within the UN system that respond to emergency situations like this quite often. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, while normally dealing with people fleeing war, persecution and violence, does have a lot of experience dealing with mass displacement in emergency situations like this. ”
So far, the United States has not said whether it would accept the offer of expertise and supplies, which include food, cooking kits and huge, portable warehouse.”
The United States is the UNHCR’s biggest donor. So, when the devastation began to unfold after Katrina, what was the reaction? He says, “We looked at this crisis as it was unfolding. And you know, when you deal with situations of mass displacement, large populations fleeing with nothing sometimes but the clothes on their backs, it struck a cord with us. Displacement is something that we deal with every day and looking at those pictures, you know, it really did ring a bell with us. And I’m sure people at UNHCR everywhere wanted to do what we could to help.”