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UN Asks for Nearly $4 Billion to Aid Disaster Victims


The United Nations is launching a $3.8 billion appeal to provide urgent support to 25 million people in humanitarian emergencies in 24 countries. Nine of the 10 countries in the 2008 Humanitarian appeal are in Africa. The tenth is the occupied Palestinian Territory. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva where the appeal was launched.

The United Nations calls 2007 a wretched year for millions of disaster victims. It notes conflict has continued in Somalia, the occupied Palestinian territory, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo among others. Floods, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters have killed many people and destroyed the livelihoods of millions of others.

Nevertheless, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes says, timely well-coordinated aid can make a huge difference in individual lives. For example, in 2007, he says aid went to provide safe water and sanitation to 455,000 displaced people in Somalia.

"To care for 240,000 Sudanese refugees in the harsh and difficult environment of eastern Chad, to provide emergency job creation and cash assistance to 130,000 families rendered more or less destitute by conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory, and, last but not least, the delivery of food, urgently needed food aid to 2.2 million Zimbabweans," said Holmes.

"In 1993, a brutal ethnic conflict broke out in Burundi that would last for 12 years. A tentative ceasefire in 2005 allows the people to begin the process of rebuilding their country and their shattered lives. But, they cannot do it alone," he added.

The narrator of this film says the people of Burundi got the help they needed from the United Nations. As a consequence, he says the consolidated appeal for Burundi in 2007, was its last. He says the country has moved from emergency aid toward sustainable recovery and development.

Liberian refugee, Akoi Bazzie, describes how international aid saved his life and gave him a future. He says he was 14 years old when civil war broke out in his country. His father was killed and he was separated from his relatives.

"I had nowhere to live for two years and was on the run seeking safety in the jungle, said Bazzie. "On one early morning in 1991 after I had walked along desolate jungle roads for hours, days, weeks, months, I finally entered the neighboring country of Gunea. I was only 16, and was alone."

Bazzie says he received food, shelter, health care and free education from U.N. and private aid agencies during the eight years he spent in a refugee camp in Guinea. Eventually, he says he received asylum in Britain and now works full time for the British Refugee Council helping other refugees rebuild their lives.