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UN Appeals for $2.5 Billion for Humanitarian Aid - 2001-11-27

The United Nations is appealing $2.5 billion to help more than 30 million people around the world survive the devastating consequences of war and natural disasters. The appeal will provide humanitarian assistance to people facing crises in 22 countries in Asia, Africa and the Caucuses.

The United Nations notes war and natural disasters have forced millions of people to flee their homes this year. It says these uprooted people lose their access to health care, clean water, food and other basic essentials needed to survive.

The United Nations refers to these crises as forgotten emergencies.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Gro Harlem Brundtland, says Afghanistan illustrates the plight of the forgotten and the vulnerable. She says before the terrorist attacks of September 11, the plight of millions of Afghan victims of war and drought had gone largely unnoticed. "As experiences in the Afghanistan region have shown, emergencies do not disappear if the world's attention shifts," she said. "There is suffering and death whether an emergency is in the news headlines or not. They often linger on, they fester and they erupt again and sometimes it is only the U.N. system that is bringing them to the attention of the world community."

The United Nations says Afghanistan is not unique. It notes at least 30 million people around the world have to face the horrors of conflict on a daily basis.

The United Nations says many more have to suffer the consequences of poverty and natural disasters. They often live in appalling humanitarian conditions, deprived of clean water, food, medicines and other basic needs.

Besides Afghanistan, the U.N. appeal covers North Korea, 13 countries and regions in Africa, and several former communist countries in the Caucuses and southeastern Europe.

In issuing the appeal, Ms. Brundtland urges donor countries to remember that in emergencies, lives are lost whether or not television cameras are recording the event. "Among those particularly vulnerable are women, particularly the poor and those in situations where social norms have discriminated against them," said Ms. Brundtland. "Children and elderly, especially when they are separated from their families, may also be at increased risk."

The United Nations acknowledges donor response to its appeals has been declining in recent years. It notes U.N. agencies only received half of the money it asked for to meet this year's requirements.

WHO's Dr. Brundtland agrees that $2.5 billion is a lot of money. But, she says timely assistance can prevent an emergency from turning into a major, far more expensive, catastrophe.