UN Needs Aid Pledges Fulfilled ASAP; Warns on Neglecting Other Crises

January 11, 2005

More than 50 countries have pledged massive amounts of aid to help the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis, but the majority of the actual payments are apparently slow in coming.

The UN is currently hosting a donor conference in Geneva, chaired by relief coordinator Jan Egeland. Some $6 billion has been pledged, but the UN urgently needs the money as soon as possible in order to meet the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region. The meeting comes five days after an initial donor conference in Jakarta, Indonesia where most of the aid money was pledged.

While the pledges have exceeded all expectations, they have frequently been made in the form of future loans, debt relief and long term rebuilding financing. For example Australia’s $764 million aid package will be distributed over 5 years with half the amount in loans. Germany plans to spend its $674 million in aid over the next three to five years. In addition the UN pointed out that many pledges of aid following last year’s earthquake in Bam, Iran, have yet to be honored.

UN spokesmen have stressed that funds are urgently needed now in order to buy food and supplies and to pay the costs of delivering them to the survivors, many of whom are isolated, as normal transport links have been destroyed.

The UN has, however, responded to recent criticism of its handling of the “Oil for Food” program in Iraq by appointing PriceWaterhouseCoopers to oversee aid donations and assure transparency.

The UN is also worried that aid to other troubled regions of the globe may be neglected, as countries and individuals single out the Southeast Asian relief efforts for their attention. A report from the BBC’s Bridget Kendall says “the Geneva conference will examine the fine print of the global relief effort, including:
— Is money being diverted from other countries also desperately in need of help?
— How much is going to international organisations and aid agencies, not tied to bilateral deals?
— How much can be delivered right now in cash, instead of in loans, or staggered over several years?

While aid to Southeast Asia is certainly the top priority, other regions including Darfour, The Congo, Chechnya and Burundi are also in need of help. In fact the UN lists 14 other areas with “vital crises” in addition to the Indian Ocean region.

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