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UN Seeks More Money for Humanitarian Aid

The United Nations is appealing for nearly four- billion-dollars to fund its humanitarian operations next year. From U.N. headquarters, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports most of the money is for emergency relief in Africa.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to wealthy nations to fund U.N. programs aimed at helping 27 million people in 29 countries. Mr. Annan reminded donor countries that the amount they are being asked to give is relatively tiny, and does a lot.

"These 27 million individuals seek not a hand out, but a hand up, and I hope that once again we will respond not with pity, but with practical assistance," he said. "For 2007, such assistance amounts to $3.9 billion dollars for basic life-sustaining humanitarian aid and protection, or approximately the same price as two cups of coffee for each citizen in the wealthy countries of the world."

Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland noted that this appeal is nearly $1 billion less than last year's. That campaign reached only two-thirds of its goal. Egeland said money not received could be measured in terms of lives lost.

"Two thirds is good, but it's not good enough," he said. "In many of the situations we are describing, two thirds funding means impossible situations of making priorities, and seeing that children die."

Egeland said that while most of the money is targeted for Africa, he is concerned that donor countries often give larger amounts for crises closer to home, and less for African problems. He suggested the imbalance could be due to discrimination in generosity.

"There is some degree of inbuilt discrimination in our generosity," he added. "We are quicker when it is Kosovo or it's Lebanon or it's Iraq, or places close to the rich world. And it's pitiful if you have a lifesaving appeal and it's less than 50 percent funded, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, the horn of Africa, including Somalia, the Liberia, the Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, and those are the ones that were less than 50 percent funded."

U.N. officials said more than a quarter of next year's aid money, or $1.2 billion dollars, is slated to go to Sudan, where millions of people have been displaced by nearly four years of war and violence that the United States has labeled genocide.

Other large chunks of the budget are earmarked for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Palestinian territories.

For Mr. Annan, it was his 10th and final humanitarian aid appeal as U.N. Secretary General. He said he has been dismayed that donors over the past decade have given much less than what U.N. officials estimate to be bare-bones requirements.

A total of 65 countries contributed to last year's appeal. The largest donors are the United States, Japan, Britain, the Netherlands and the European Commission.