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UN Appeals for $1.7 Billion for Forgotten Emergencies

The United Nations (U.N.) is appealing to rich countries for $1.7 billion to help with what are called the world's forgotten emergencies. The amount of this year's request has been sharply scaled back after previous appeals fell far short of their goal.

The 2005 Consolidated Humanitarian Appeal will focus on 14 of the world's most neglected crises. Twelve are in Africa. The others are the Palestinian territories and Chechnya, in southern Russia.

This year's $1.7 billion appeal is sharply reduced from last year's request for more than $3 billion. Last year's contributions, however, fell far short of the goal, and U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland says this year's focus is on the poorest of the poor.

"It really is a cry for help from 26 million people who need life saving assistance from us to survive this coming year," said Mr. Egeland.

The bulk of the funds will be earmarked for African emergencies. But the biggest share will go for the Palestinian territories.

Mr. Egeland said the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had underlined the special plight of the people in the occupied territories.

"It's important to say now that President Arafat has passed that we are appealing for $302 million for the Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza, we appeal for $300 million for this year, we have only received 46 percent of the requirement for the Palestinians, and we are afraid of the results of the steady decline of living conditions among Palestinians," he added.

The biggest African beneficiaries of this year's campaign will be the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Somalia, Uganda, Eritrea, Burundi, the Great Lakes region, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

Sudan, possibly the most high-profile African emergency, was left off this year's list. A separate campaign for Sudan is to be launched later in the month.

Sierra Leone and Angola, two others on last year's list, have been dropped because they have improved to the point where they are no longer considered humanitarian emergencies.

Mr. Egeland urged developed countries to reconsider their assistance budgets in light of last year's disappointing results.

He praised Scandinavian countries Sweden, Denmark and Norway as the three largest donor countries in relative terms. In absolute terms, the biggest contributors are the United States, the European Union and Britain.