The United Nations says it needs $2.6 billion to meet urgent humanitarian needs for tens of millions of people in 29 countries, most of them in Africa.
Roughly six months after the United Nations launched appeals on behalf of millions of people suffering from war and natural disasters, aid agencies are still struggling to make ends meet. They say they simply do not have the money to feed the hungry, cure the ill and provide shelter for the homeless.
Toby Lanzer heads the U.N.'s Consolidated Appeals Process. He says his agency will do what it can to raise as much of the needed two-point-six billion dollars as possible.
"This is about helping people," said Mr. Lanzer. "And, it is about helping people who have been struck by crisis, manmade or natural disaster. And, it is about 30 million people in 29 countries. It so happens that most of those are in Africa. And if we can play our part by working more closely with member states and raising the resources and extending our programs, whether it be in the health sector, or the water and sanitation sector or providing people who have fled from conflicts with shelter and some blankets, etc?then all contributions to that effort, I think, are very, very worthwhile."
The United Nations has received $2.4 billion. That includes money contributed for the tsunami disaster. If the Indian Ocean flash appeal is excluded from that total, the money donated for all other operations amounts to only 36 percent of the amount needed.
Most of the forgotten emergencies are in Africa. The U.N. has launched a series of flash appeals in addition to its main consolidated appeal of nearly two billion dollars in November. Eight of these appeals have received less than 30 percent of what they need. For example, a nearly $6 million appeal to assist 20,000 Togolese refugees in Benin has received nothing. Niger which has been struck by drought and a locust invasion received only 11 percent of a $16 million appeal.
The director of the U.N.'s Geneva Office of Humanitarian Assistance, Yvette Stevens, says this is a shame. She says so much has been accomplished with the money the United Nations did receive.
"Tens of millions of people have been fed," said Ms. Stevens. "Tens of thousands of square meters of mined land has been cleared, millions have been vaccinated against polio and other life-threatening infections; hundreds of clinics and health centers have been supported; seeds and agricultural tools have been provided for hundreds of thousands of farmers."
And, the list goes on. Ms. Stevens says the United Nations will lobby the G-8 summit on behalf of the forgotten emergencies. She says she hopes the leaders of the eight leading industrialized countries will open their hearts and their pocketbooks to the suffering of those whose crises have been neglected.