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Red Cross Highlights 'Neglected' Disasters


The Red Cross is calling for greater attention to what it describes as "neglected" disasters -- crises that are overlooked or forgotten by the global community. As we hear from VOA's Stephanie Ho, these types of disasters were highlighted in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' 2006 World Disasters Report.

The American Red Cross's Nan Buzard listed some of the disasters around the world she says have been neglected by the global media and donors. "In the last 24 hours, 3,000 children have died of malaria. In the last 24 hours, tens of thousands of Filipinos have been displaced because of the fifth typhoon that is hit that country in the last month. In the last 24 hours, hundreds of Somalis have crossed the Kenyan border, seeking refuge from conflict and from the floods."

She spoke in Washington Wednesday, at a news conference to present the Red Cross's 14th annual World Disasters Report.

The report looked at the problem of hunger in Malawi, a country where a severe food crisis is affecting 40 percent of the population, or five million people. It also focused on Hurricane Stan, which affected a third of Guatemala's total area and left millions of Guatemalans vulnerable to further disaster. And it also looked at the issue of maternal mortality in Nepal, where as many as six thousand mothers die each year in childbirth.

The Red Cross welcomed the world's record-breaking donations for humanitarian relief in 2005. Governments donated over 12-billion dollars in bilateral humanitarian aid last year. For the Indian Ocean tsunami alone, individuals gave five-and-one-half billion dollars.

Tufts University Professor Peter Walker says tsunami relief aid averaged about seven thousand dollars per direct beneficiary, which he says is in sharp contrast to what is available for other disasters. "If you look at the figures for Africa for the last 15 years, and you average them up, it is somewhere in the region of 70-dollars per head. If you look at the period during the Balkans, when all that fighting was going on in the Balkans, there you get about 300-dollars per head. And that is not because it is six times more expensive to deliver assistance to Bosnia-Herzegovina than it is to deliver it to southern Sudan. It is because it is driven more by the political imperative than it is by the needs in the area," he said.

Professor Walker predicted that climate change would cause an increasing number of natural disasters in the future, and urged the world community to begin building the kinds of international mechanisms needed to deal with these problems.

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