Annan launches humanitarian appeal to help 45 million people

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today launched the 2004 annual global appeal for humanitarian aid, calling for $3 billion to help 45 million people in 21 countries.

“Let us be clear: the aid we give them is not charity, it is their right,” Annan told a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York. He stressed that most of the proposed beneficiaries were children, women and the elderly struggling to survive displacement, loss and severe disruption to their lives in wars, conflicts and natural disasters.

“Victims of natural and man-made disasters have a right to the fulfilment of their basic needs. And donors and citizens who can help have not only a moral responsibility to provide emergency and life-sustaining assistance, but an obligation to do so under international humanitarian and human rights law,” he added.

Annan noted that, despite generous contributions, the financing of humanitarian aid remains inadequate and unpredictable for aid agencies. To date this year, agencies have received 66% of the US$ 5.1 billion requested for their joint programmes in 2003.

He also stressed the security aspect of the appeal for wealthy nations. “A world where, amid increasing global prosperity, millions still live in desperate conditions, will not be a world at peace,” he said. “Indeed timely aid to those who need it most can do much to help prevent conflict.”

The annual appeal is put together by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and is a product of the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), a mechanism created a decade ago by the UN General Assembly to ensure strategic and coordinated humanitarian response to crises.

This year’s campaign is being held under the theme “Hear Our Voices,” with some of the beneficiaries telling their own stories. “We are trying to put the focus back on the people we are working for,” Stephanie Bunker, a spokesperson for OCHA, said.

The crises included in this year’s appeal are: Angola, Burundi, Chechnya and Neighbouring Republics (Russian Federation), Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire (plus 3 – Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, the Great Lakes Region, Guinea, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territory, Sierra Leone, Somalia, the southern Africa region, the Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa and Zimbabwe.

The 2004 Humanitarian Appeal and related information is available at : www.un.org.