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UNICEF Launches Multi-Million Dollar Appeal for Forgotten Emergencies

The U.N. Children's Fund is appealing for $635 million to assist children and women in 33 countries this year. UNICEF says it is launching this appeal on behalf of millions of victims of conflict and natural disaster in, what it calls, the world's forgotten emergencies. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The U.N. Children's Fund says it hopes the response to its appeal is better than it was in 2006. It says last year's forgotten emergencies received only 37 percent of the funds requested. And, three of the countries, Georgia, Colombia and Haiti were completely forgotten. It says those countries received no money whatsoever.

UNICEF Deputy Director of Emergency Programs, Pierrette Vu Thi, describes what it is like to live in a country where the needs are great, but where the cries for help are not heard. She says violence and natural disaster gave Haiti the worst child mortality rate in the Americas. She says children in Eritrea are beset by a border war and cyclical drought.

"Rampant insecurity has combined with regional wars to produce the continent's most forgotten children in the Central African Republic," she said. "Colombian children are forced to leave their homes by violence or are recruited in armed groups to fight. High HIV/AIDS rates, chronic poverty and food insecurity means that Zambian children are among the world's poorest nation."

Twenty of the 33 so-called forgotten emergencies are in Africa. Nearly one-fifth of the total appeal, or $121 million, is for Sudan, including programs in the conflict-ridden province of Darfur.

UNICEF says continued conflict and insecurity there have disrupted the lives of an estimated four million people, nearly half of them children. It says children account for half of those forced from their homes.

Despite this grim scenario, Vu Thi says the misery of these people can be lessened if aid agencies are given the money they need to help them.

"I just recently came back from a visit to Darfur. The funding for Darfur has contributed to key achievements, such as bringing mortality rates below emergency levels, reducing global malnutrition, protecting children from disease,…providing water supply to two-thirds of the population. But, these results must be sustained, " she said.

Vu Thi notes 61 percent of funds for Sudan last year were not met. As a result, she says many essential activities could not be carried out.

While Africa remains the most affected continent, UNICEF says children in other regions of the world also are in great need.

For example, it notes South Asia has the highest number of children living in absolute poverty. It says the Middle East and North Africa are dominated by the situation in Iraq and the aftermath of the war in Lebanon. It says violence in the Palestinian Territory continues to have a terrible impact on young people.