UN asks wealthy to cough up

NEW YORK - The United Nations has urged wealthy nations to donate US$4.7 billion ($6.8 billion) next year to help 31 million people in 26 countries facing often overlooked humanitarian crises.

The world responded generously this year to the Indian Ocean tsunami and hurricanes in the Americas.

The 2006 UN appeal "is an opportunity, which must not be missed, to extend that generosity to people whose plight may not capture the world's attention," said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Launching the annual appeal, he said: "In a world of plenty, their continued suffering is a terrible stain on our conscience."

UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Jan Egeland said next year's appeal asked donors to give more and to give earlier.

Said Annan: "We are asking for exactly the amount of 48 hours of military spending in this world, the equivalent of two cups of coffee per rich person."

Most of the areas to benefit from the new appeal are in Africa: Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, the south-central Great Lakes region and the West Africa region.

Ongoing emergencies in Pakistan, Colombia, Russia's Chechnya and the occupied Palestinian territories are also addressed.

The single largest sum - US$1.5 billion - would go to Sudan, a vast northeast African nation where several long internal conflicts have left millions homeless and hungry.

Donor nations have been summoned to a conference in Geneva early next month to spell out their priorities and funding goals for the year.

Traditionally, about 90 per cent of the money comes from just 10 countries and international organisations.

These are, in descending order, the United States - the world's leading aid donor as well as the largest economy - Japan, the European Commission, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Norway.

The initial appeal for next year is the world body's second-largest, after the US$5.1 billion sought in 2003.

This year's consolidated appeal initially sought US$1.7 billion, but by last month the total had been revised upward to US$5.9 billion because of the tsunami, the Pakistan earthquake and a wave of hurricanes in the Americas.

Egeland predicted that two-thirds of that target would have been pledged by the end of the year.



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