The United Nations today launched a $1.7 billion appeal to provide a range of relief services to some 26 million people struggling to survive the ravages of war and other emergencies, mainly in Africa.
In New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told donor governments that their contributions would constitute a "vitally important investment in our common future."
The UN chief has taken the unprecedented step of writing to donor aid ministers asking them to meet the requirements and state their funding intentions by mid-January 2005.
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, said the aid would be used to improve conditions in war-affected regions and help people there to survive. "Hopes for recovery are growing in places like Burundi, Central African Republic and Somalia, hanging in the balance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Côte d'Ivoire, and have diminished in the occupied Palestinian territory," he said.
The appeal, crafted by 104 relief agencies, will lead to principled and effective action, Mr. Egeland added. "This humanitarian appeal for 14 emergencies is based on rigorous needs assessments, prioritization and coordination."
Compared to last year's request for funding, average requirements per appeal are 15 per cent lower. Mr. Egeland told donors that they would "get more for their money by contributing it early."
The previous appeal received only 52 per cent of the required funding, and just 12 per cent during the first four months. The overall shortfall also reflects a 50 per cent downturn in global humanitarian funding compared to 2003, and an 18 per cent drop compared to 2002, when contributions to Iraq and Afghanistan peaked.
The appeal does not cover all emergencies such as those in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia, which rely on other humanitarian response and appeal mechanisms.