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UN: World's Worst Humanitarian Crises Are in Africa


The top U.N. emergency relief official says all the world's greatest humanitarian crises are in Africa. The official charges rich countries with discriminating against Africa in aid donations, leaving many to die.

U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland calls Africa 'the challenge of our generation." Then, with a shake of his head, he adds "we're not responding to it".

Mr. Egeland told the Security Council that of 14 humanitarian appeals for Africa this year, eight have received less than 20 percent of the amount requested. Only one, a small flash appeal for Angola, has reached the 40 percent funding level.

Mr. Egeland says when it comes to Africa, where the need is greatest, donor nations seem least generous.

"There is an in-built discrimination in this sense that, if we all agree a human life has the same value wherever he or she is born, there should be the same attention to northern Uganda as to northern Iraq, the same attention to the Congo as there was to Kosovo, and that is not the case today," he noted.

Mr. Egeland says Africa cannot continue on as it is because new crises are springing up faster than old ones are being solved. As examples, he pointed to Togo, where the refugee population has gone from zero to 20,000 in a matter of days, and to Chad.

Mr. Egeland expressed special concern about northern Uganda, where nearly two million people are displaced by an uprising by a rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army. He told of atrocious massacres in the past few weeks, and said there is an urgent need to protect children who are abducted and forced into slavery as rebel soldiers.

"The Lord's Resistance Army is world's most brutal insurgency group and it is very difficult to handle that kind of systematic abduction of children, and then making these abducted children into killing machines against their own people," he said.

Mr. Egeland singled out Zimbabwe as perhaps the worst of the southern African states hit by a "triple threat" of AIDS, food shortages and bad governance.

He noted that foreign donors are so discouraged by the government of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe that the country has attracted only $4 in assistance for every AIDS victim. That compares to a regional average of $74, and $319 per victim in Uganda.

Mr. Egeland said the people of Zimbabwe are suffering from what he called a "lack of dialogue and a lack of good governance".

"Zimbabwe has gone from being a breadbasket of the region to have an enormous deficit," he said. "And what I ask for is a better cooperation between aid organizations and the government to help in addressing the chronic deficiency of food in Zimbabwe."

After hearing Mr. Egeland's briefing, the Security Council President, Danish Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj, expressed concern at humanitarian conditions in Africa and calling on the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda to return to peace talks.

But her statement was silent on Zimbabwe. European diplomats said Council members China and Algeria had objected to any mention of Zimbabwe, saying issues of bad governance should not be the concern of the Council.

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