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8 October, 2008


United Nations humanitarian agencies are continuing their relief efforts in the mountains of southern Kyrgyzstan, where an earthquake on Sunday night killed more than 70 people and displaced hundreds of families, as they work to bring aid before the expected arrival of the first snowfalls of the season.

At least 74 people were killed and 142 others were injured as a result of the quake, while more than 200 families have been displaced from their homes, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

Kyrgyz authorities and UN officials say the population is so sparse in the affected area, a remote, mountainous region close to the border with China, that they do not expect the casualty or displacement tolls to rise dramatically.

But air temperatures are now reaching freezing level at night, and strong winds are also making it difficult for relief operations. The first snowfalls and frosts are expected in the new few weeks.

OCHA said a temporary camp is being established for the displaced families, although the reconstruction of homes has been identified as a priority given that the upcoming winter and high altitudes mean tents are not practicable as a long-term option.

Relief items such as tents, mattresses, blankets, warm clothing and food are now starting to reach the affected areas, and the electricity supply has been restored, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists today.

OCHA has allocated a cash grant to provide two generators and some basic non-food items, noting that most people in the area have indicated they want to remain in their home villages to look after crops and other assets.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided emergency health kits, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released hygienic and sanitary kits and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has offered other emergency supplies.

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19 September, 2008


The United Nations today appealed to donors to make up an enormous shortfall in emergency funding for relief work in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people are still suffering from the devastation caused by four hurricanes over the past month.

Only 2 per cent of the $108 million flash appeal has so far been donated, nine days after it was launched, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

OCHA stressed that the situation remains very serious in the impoverished Caribbean country, where over 320 people were killed by the storms and flooding, and 160,000 others are still living in the open, exposed to disease and malnutrition.

Some $54 million are needed for emergency food aid. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has already helped feed some 298,000 people since the start of the crisis.

OCHA is also concerned over access to those who have not yet received aid, including people in the Artibonne and Nippes regions, where continued rains might complicate relief efforts.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Haiti, Hédi Annabi, yesterday visited hurricane victims in Hinche, central Haiti, evaluating their needs and assuring them of the commitment of the UN and the international community to help them.

Meanwhile, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow began a five-day tour today to take stock of the devastation which has affected more than 300,000 children, according to Government figures.

Ms. Farrow and UNICEF Canada head Nigel Fisher will meet with children and women victims and visit Gonaïves, the worst-hit town, where some 70,000 people are in temporary shelters.

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16 May, 2008


The top United Nations relief official plans to talk directly with the authorities in Myanmar in an effort to accelerate the relief effort for victims of Cyclone Nargis which may have left more than 100,000 people dead and severely affected up to 2.5 million others.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes will fly into Myanmar on Sunday. UN aid officials say there has been some slow progress in getting relief supplies and humanitarian workers into the most affected areas across the Irrawaddy delta in the south of Myanmar, and that the Government has shown some signs of flexibility, but more is needed.

Around 300,000 people are estimated to have received rudimentary aid through the UN and other aid agencies, representing about 20 per cent of people who have been affected. An emergency team from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is also in the country, working together with the UN. At the same time, heavy rains continue to batter people who have been made homeless, complicating relief efforts.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the impact of the cyclone extended well inland, destroying rice fields and food stores. Spokesperson Diderik De Vleeschauwer said that families have also lost their rice seeds for the upcoming planting season.

“Time is running out,” he said. “If rice seed is not received within the next 40 to 50 days planting will not happen in time for harvesting this year.” As a result, he said that Myanmar could turn from a rice exporter to a rice importing country. He added that the Government estimated that $243 million would be needed to restore agricultural output.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that about 1 million children have been affected by the cyclone, with many sleeping in the streets, or in schools and monasteries, often without bedding, and frequently without protection from the rain. “The destruction of homes, schools, water and sanitation systems is an unrelenting threat to the child survivors,” said UNICEF spokesperson Shantha Bloemen.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 50 per cent of rural township health centres and about 20 per cent of hospitals in the Irrawaddy delta area have been damaged by the cyclone. Many have lost their roofs, although some are still functioning. WHO has deployed seven health surveillance teams in the region using local staff. Spokesperson Fadela Chaib said there had been no major outbreak of disease so far, and that press reports of cholera cases were inaccurate.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has dispatched 1,200 tons of rice, high-energy biscuits and cereals to the areas worst affected by the cyclone – enough to feed around 200,000 people.

Meanwhile, the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has deployed 100 satellite terminals to Myanmar to help restore vital communication links in the country. The terminals are easily transported by road and air, and are designed to be used by Government officials, aid workers and victims to help coordinate relief efforts.

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24 September, 2007


With the number of flood victims in Sudan rising by at least another 100,000 to well over half a million, United Nations agencies and their partners are putting contingency measures into effect to respond to the emergency despite a $19 million funding shortfall.

“We have worked closely with all partners, including Government and non-governmental organizations to ensure that contingency plans were in place,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan Ameerah Haq said. “We were therefore in a position to respond to this new wave effectively.”

Most of the new damage is located in the state of Southern Kordofan, located in Central Sudan, east of South Darfur. At least 15,000 homes there were destroyed or damaged, affecting at least 75,000 people, of whom some 30,000 are now estimated to be homeless. Over 20 people were killed and some 65 injured. The damage to local livelihoods and the economy is also huge, with over 13,000 livestock lost.

“We had based our response planning on an assumption that, in addition to 410,000 people already affected by the end of August, up to an additional 215,000 people could be affected by new flooding after then, potentially totalling up to 625,000 for the emergency,” said John Clarke, a UN official at the forefront of the response.

Across all of northern Sudan, the UN is now providing clean water, mainly through chlorination, to 2.2 million people, to prevent deadly waterborne epidemics, and this is believed to be a factor in the lower number of cases of acute water diarrhoea than in previous years, despite the fact that this year’s flooding, according to numerous sources, has been the worst in living memory.

Since mid-April, 1,323 suspected cases of acute water diarrhoea were reported in the state of Gedaref, leading to 68 known deaths; while the 2006 outbreak, lasting from April to November, led to more than 9,000 cases throughout northern Sudan.

The UN launched a Flash Appeal last month for $20.2 million to fund the ongoing response, but only $1 million has so far been received.

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16 August, 2007


The United Nations is rushing food, water purification tablets, cash and other forms of assistance to Peru following last night's powerful earthquake which struck south of the capital, Lima.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 450 people have lost their lives in earthquake, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, whose epicentre was 161 kilometres away from Lima.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed his deep sadness at learning of the deaths and destruction resulting from the quake and pledged continued assistance to those affected, his spokesperson Michele Montas said in a statement.

“The United Nations is in close contact with the Government of Peru and stands ready to support relief efforts with measures, including the release of emergency funds and the deployment of a team of disaster assessment and coordination experts,” she added.

At least 1,500 people have been injured and nearly 400 homes destroyed by the tremors which had a depth of 30 km, OCHA noted. Hotels, health centres and hospitals have been affected, and in some areas, electricity and communications have been impacted.

OCHA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced today that they had released two grants totalling $200,000 to provide immediate relief in the earthquake's aftermath.

Nearly $1 million has been mobilized among several UN agencies on the ground, and a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) and search-and-rescue teams are on standby to assist, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström told reporters at UN Headquarters today.

On the part of the Peruvian Government, which has declared a state of emergency in the Department of Ica, “there is a well-organized search-and-rescue effort and lots of resources being put into place,” she said.

As a disaster-prone country, Peru is “quite well-endowed with its own resources” and has “strong capacity nationally.”

However, Ms. Wahlström added that “we stand ready, of course, to put more resources into Peru.”

The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator said that given the “total” destruction of houses in some areas, it is likely that the numbers of deaths and injuries will climb.

In a related development, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that following a request for assistance from the Peruvian Government, it will provide $500,000 worth of urgently-needed food relief to victims of the country's earthquake.

The supplies – which will be distributed by PRONAA, the national programme for food assistance – are part of in-country stocks the agency uses for its development work.

“These food-stocks have enabled us to respond in just over 12 hours' time which means that we are hopefully off to a good start in alleviating some of the suffering and devastation unleashed by this disaster,” said WFP Country Director Guy Gauvreau.

“We need to act as quickly as possible because the situation is already bad and we still don't know the full extent of the damage in all the outlying areas,” he added.

The agency said it also stands ready to send up to 130 metric tons of high energy biscuits by air or overland transport from its sub-regional emergency hub in Ecuador.

“We fear the death toll could increase and that many survivors will need immediate assistance until the local infrastructure and distribution systems are restored,” Mr. Gauvreau said.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Peru, Guido Cornale, expressed concern at the increasing number of casualties and announced that the agency will rush aid to those affected. “The United Nations' organizations in Peru are coordinating their response. UNICEF will be distributing water-purification tablets, water containers, oral rehydration salts and water tanks with a 10,000-liter capacity,” he said.

One challenge relief workers could potentially face is difficult road conditions. Initial reports indicated that parts of the Pan-American Highway were damaged, while road conditions in more remote areas are still not fully known.

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30 March, 2007


Scores of thousands of displaced Chadians are running out of food in the eastern border region with Sudan and face a desperate struggle to survive absent new donations to meet the needs of a rising tide of people uprooted by continuing conflict, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

“This is not a sustainable situation,” WFP Chad Country Director Felix Bamezon said, noting that even before the latest increase in displaced people the agency’s $85-million Emergency Operation to assist Sudanese refugees, internally displaced people, host communities and refugee-affected local people in eastern Chad from January 2007 until June 2008 had received only $39 million, leaving a 54 per cent shortfall.

“Life in eastern Chad has always been precarious, but now tens of thousands of Chadians are being pushed to the breaking point. There is simply not enough food to go around,” he added of the “race against time” to pre-position as much food as possible before the rainy season starts in late June, making most roads impassable.

WFP had planned to feed 50,000 displaced Chadians, but it now estimates that an additional 80,000 displaced people are in urgent need of aid, requiring 7,500 metric tons of food at a cost of $7.5 for the next six months.

The agency already feeds 225,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad who have fled nearly four years of fighting between the Government, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy in Sudan’s Darfur region, as well as more than 45,000 refugees in southern Chad who have fled fighting and in security in the neighbouring.

But then a flood of internal displacements added to the crisis in eastern Chad, fuelled by a series of bloody inter-ethnic attacks, competition for scarce water, grazing land and other resources, reflecting a spill-over of violence from Darfur with armed, mainly Arab attackers on horseback and camels burning African villages, destroying crops, stealing cattle, terrorizing villagers and killing people.

“These people were forced to leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Mr. Bamezon said. “They are completely dependent on host communities who can barely feed themselves, and their living conditions are going from bad to worse.”

A recent WFP-led assessment found nearly 130,000 displaced people living on the outskirts of villages – almost three times the number expected – the vast majority living in flimsy shelters patched together from straw or millet stalks that will not survive the rains. One in five families does not even have a roof. Few have access to potable water or latrines, and local health services cannot handle the unexpected flood of new patients.

With so many new mouths to feed, local host communities are being forced to kill off their livestock, and WFP fears that soon seed stores will start to be consumed as hunger and rising cereal prices take their toll.

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29 January, 2007


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today launched its Humanitarian Action Report 2007, calling on donors to provide $635 million to aid children and women in 33 emergencies, ranging from Darfur in Sudan, which accounts for nearly a fifth of the appeal, to Haiti, Eritrea and the Central African Republic (CAR).

“Emergencies, both natural disasters and new or protracted conflicts, continue to take a toll on the lives of children and women around the world,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. “Life-saving activities are essential for those children in peril.”

The report provides an annual overview of the agency’s emergency aid programmes within the context of UN-wide appeals, setting out its relief activities and financial requirements for meeting the needs of children and women.

Of the requested amount $121 million is for Sudan, including programmes in the war-torn Darfur region, where continued conflict between Sudanese Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups has disrupted the lives of some 4 million people, including 1.8 million children. Children account for half of the more than 2.5 million people forced from their homes.

Children struggle to survive elsewhere, displaced by emergencies that lack the global attention surrounding Darfur. Some children in Colombia are forced from their homes by violence or recruited to fight. High HIV/AIDS rates and chronic poverty and food insecurity mean Zambian children live in one of the world’s poorest nations. Many of Chad’s children have fled fighting in neighbouring countries, or their own.

“Many of the crises in which UNICEF operates are neglected because they are no longer considered emergencies by the public,” UNICEF Emergency Programmes Director Dan Toole said. “The crisis for children does not end when the media coverage ends, whether a child lives in Darfur or Haiti. As long as a humanitarian situation exists for children, UNICEF will be assisting.”

UNICEF’s emergency funding raised $513 million in 2006, as of 1 November, covering 53 emergencies. Immediate tragedies continued to garner global media attention during the past year, but forgotten emergencies, highlighted in the report, received only 37 per cent of the funding required. Overall, UNICEF appeals for emergencies were 49 per cent funded.

Among the less topical crises, UNICEF cited South Sudan where 240,000 people have returned since signing of a peace accord in a conflict that is separate from Darfur; the Horn of Africa beset by cyclical drought then flooding and finally war in 2006; and Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, which have been affected by extensive damage to social and economic infrastructure.

Other emergencies include South Asia, which has the highest number of children living in absolute poverty, the highest prevalence of underweight children and the highest child mortality rates in the world; East Asia and the Pacific, still recovering from the 2004 tsunami and facing new crises such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and floods; and the Middle East and North Africa, beset by the Iraq conflict, the aftermath of the Israeli-Hizbollah war in Lebanon and violence in the occupied Palestinian territory.

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4 October, 2006


United Nations emergency response missions around the world will have access to the latest telecommunications technology within 48 hours of a disaster anywhere on Earth under a five-year public-private partnership announced today.

“Rapid communications saves lives,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said of the initiative announced by the UN Foundation and the Vodafone Group Foundation (VGF). “There is an urgent need for food, water, shelter, protection and medical help in emergencies.
None of these things are possible without quick and reliable communications.”

Under the plan the Foundation and VGF will provide some $2 million over five years to Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), a non-governmental organization (NGO) equipped to deploy rapid response telecom teams within
48 hours of a disaster anywhere in the world in coordination with UNICEF and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“As demonstrated recently in Suriname and Indonesia, this programme will provide reliable telecom services so responders can more effectively do their jobs and save lives in the first days of an emergency,” UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland said. “This is the kind of successful public-private partnership we need as we confront increasingly challenging emergencies around the world.”

Through the Rapid Response Communications Centre, up to four TSF teams will deploy with the UN to natural disasters and humanitarian crises anywhere in the world.

These teams will be among the first to drop into emergency areas and will rapidly establish emergency telecommunication centres that provide UN, NGO and government responders with reliable voice, Internet, fax, and video connections using satellite, WiFi, and GSM equipment. Relief workers rely on these centres for response and relief assessment, logistics, and coordination.

“Vodafone is committed to changing lives in communities across the world,”
VGF Director Andrew Dunnett said. “We look forward to its transforming effect and the tangible benefits it will bring to some of the most needy and desperate situations on earth”.

UN Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth highlighted the plan as a perfect example of how the Foundation can foster public-private partnerships. “This initiative offers the UN the ability to respond quickly to humanitarian needs in a smart, cost-effective way,” he said.

TSF President Jean-François Cazenave stressed how new technologies, miniaturization of components and the increasing development of satellite networks enable highly mobile teams to respond to emergency communication needs “in all circumstances, anywhere in the world.”

Teams funded by the Foundation and VGF have already deployed four times to assist the UN this year: in May after torrential flooding in Suriname, in June after a massive earthquake in Indonesia and twice in August, to support the UN humanitarian mission in Lebanon and to re-establish telecom services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Foundation was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. It builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and also works to broaden support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach.

VGF was created by Vodafone in 2001 to support charitable and community work by all Vodafone companies and their foundations, as well as funding selected charitable global initiatives directly.

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22 September, 2006


United Nations agencies have sent emergency aid to Niger, where floods caused by exceptional rains from July to September have affected 43,000 persons in five regions, with serious implications for the health situation.

At least 214 cases of cholera had been registered in the last three weeks, 18 of them fatal and urgent measures have started to stop its spread, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva today.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has sent medicines while the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has dispatched a team to evaluate the situation. Urgent needs include food, treated mosquito sheets and covers.

A joint task force of the UN, Red Cross and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is in place to follow the situation.

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9 August, 2006


United Nations relief agencies are rushing emergency food stocks and supplies such as buckets and water purification tablets to the Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa, where more than 200 people are reported to have been killed and about 3,000 others displaced by flash floods earlier this week.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has released enough rations to feed 10,000 people for a month, while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is sending 2,000 family kits to the affected area, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement released today.

The family kits dispatched by UNICEF include buckets, soap and water purification tablets. WFP has already distributed tents, blankets, jerry cans and plastic cups and plates to some of those struck by the floods.

The humanitarian effort follows the joint assessment mission on Monday by officials from OCHA and the Ethiopian Government, one day after the Dechatu River burst its banks by as much as 200 metres on either side in Dire Dawa, destroying entire buildings in some cases and sweeping away homes, trees and fences. The death toll is expected to climb as some 300 people have been reported missing.

OCHA warned that the risk of flooding remains high because heavy rain continues to fall in the highlands outside Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s sixth-largest city and home to about 400,000 people. It is situated about
525 kilometres east of the national capital, Addis Ababa.

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1 August, 2006


The United Nations is providing $20,000 in emergency assistance to Tajikistan after earthquakes hit two southern districts of the Central Asian country at the weekend, affecting around 9,000 people and damaging infrastructure in a region close to the border with Afghanistan.

Two earthquakes of magnitudes 5.3 and 5.4 hit areas of Kumsangir and Panj districts on Saturday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a news release, adding that damage to electricity and other key social infrastructure had been reported in a large part of Kumsangir. There was no information on casualties.

Tajikistan’s Government has requested assistance from the UN and wider international community and there is an immediate need for tents, blankets, mattresses, food, clothing, fuel, medication and other equipment. The $20,000 emergency cash grant aims address these urgent requirements.

The Government, working with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Tajik Red Crescent, began an initial assessment mission on Saturday.

OCHA has also contacted the Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan to gather information on the impact of the two earthquakes in that country, adding that an initial Government assessment mission indicated that damage was limited and that emergency relief needs are covered.

The Afghan Red Crescent, with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), will provide food and supplies to over 100 families, while the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will provide other assistance.

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24 July, 2006


The United Nations today launched a $149 million humanitarian appeal for Lebanon covering the next three months and focusing on food, health care, logistics, water and sanitation, protection and common services for an estimated 800,000 people affected by the worsening conflict.

“The aid community can help save lives in this region,” said Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who is seeing the situation first-hand in Lebanon before travelling on later today to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“More supplies are on their way – but we need safe access so that we can get the aid to those who need it most,” he stressed, echoing earlier calls that humanitarian workers and supplies be allowed for those most in need in the conflict.

Two weeks of fighting between the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Lebanese group Hezbollah have killed over 350 people and wounded more than 1,500 inside Lebanon, while in Israel over 34 people have been killed and 200 wounded, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Approximately 800,000 people have been affected by the conflict, some of these are internally displaced, and the humanitarian situation is particularly acute in the south of Lebanon, OCHA added, a point highlighted by Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Coordinator, speaking about the appeal in New York.

Ms. Wahlström said the appeal would be revised if needed because estimates of the amount of aid required were difficult to make because of the access problems. She criticized all sides in the conflict for violating humanitarian law by not doing more to prevent civilian casualties.

“The extremely vulnerable situation of the civilian population I think is very evident to all of us. It’s clear that all parties to this conflict are in violation of international humanitarian law by not taking due care to prevent the civilians from being injured and being caught in the middle of this conflict.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it was asking for almost $24 million out of the total appeal to provide rapid support for displaced or refugee children and families who are in urgent need of medical care and other essentials.

“Many of those who have been uprooted in the violence are children,” said Ann Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “They may have witnessed the death or injury of loved ones and many are suffering acute distress.

“Children face the immediate danger of disease and will be impacted by the loss of hospitals, health clinics and schools.” UNICEF has already provided
$1.2 million for medical supplies and other immediate assistance, with the first charter flight leaving for the region last Saturday with 38 tonnes of supplies.

For its part, the UN refugee agency has asked for almost $19 million for its work aimed at helping 150,000 vulnerable displaced people in Lebanon and neighbouring countries.

“The plight of the displaced in Lebanon is growing more difficult by the hour and it’s crucial that we get the humanitarian pipeline flowing now,”
said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres.

“UNHCR is trucking some 40 trailers loaded with over 500 tonnes of aid supplies from our regional warehouse in Jordan to Syria. It’s frustrating that we can’t deliver this aid, particularly when there are thousands of uprooted civilians just a few hours away in Lebanon who desperately need it.”

In addition to pre-positioning tonnes of relief supplies, UNHCR has sent a 19-member emergency response team comprising humanitarian specialists who will augment the agency’s staff in Syria and Lebanon.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which is coordinating the UN’s health action in this crisis in collaboration with Lebanon’s Ministry of Health, is appealing for $32.4 million.

“As more people are displaced and as more infrastructure is destroyed, the health needs will grow. International concern for the people caught in this conflict is high. Funding from the international community for health will save lives and reduce suffering,” said Dr Ala’ Din Alwan, the WHO Director-General’s Representative for Health Action in Crises.

WHO, whose partners include UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that among other things the funds will help increase support for the health ministry in coordinating the humanitarian response, setting up mobile health care units and putting in place urgent immunization campaigns for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“Urgent action is needed to protect the health and well-being of women, children and other innocent civilians,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, whose Agency has asked for just over $6 million.

“The widespread destruction of public infrastructure and services is dangerous for everyone, but especially for pregnant women, the injured and others who may need medical care to survive.”

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7 July, 2006


With 70 per cent of Gazans relying on food aid, the main United Nations humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees is calling on donors to fundits emergency appeal, which it has already almost doubled to over $170 million to feed 900,000 people in light of the current humanitarian crisis.

“For someone not living in the Gaza Strip, daily life today is hard to imagine,” the UN Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) said in its latest update on the Gaza Strip following the outbreak of renewed fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

“Sonic booms shatter the night skies, making sleep all but impossible.
Waking in the morning, mothers cannot prepare breakfasts, nor children shower and wash - there is so little water. Leaving home, children find the streets and alleys en route to schools strewn with sewage. Delivery of water and maintenance of sewage disposal is dependent upon electricity – a sporadic commodity these days.”

UNRWA increased its 2006 emergency appeal from just over $95 million earlier this year after Israel stopped the transfer of Palestinian value added taxes (VAT) and other countries suspended contributions to the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the Hamas election victory in January.

Israel and international donors are insisting that Hamas must commit itself to principles of non-violence, recognize Israel’s right to exit, and accept previous agreements and obligations, including the UN-backed Roadmap plan providing for two states living side by side in peace.

“With crossings into Gaza from the outside world closed for most of the past two weeks, food prices for staples have increased more than 10 per cent,” UNRWA said. “Family breadwinners, many unemployed for months and without savings, have no choice but to turn to international aid agencies such as UNRWA to put food on the table.

“Seventy per cent of Gazans now rely on food assistance. UNRWA is providing the basics – flour, rice, oil, sugar, beans and whole milk - to 900,000 individuals,” it added.

Overall, UN agencies, including UNRWA, have raised the 2006 Consolidated Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory by 80 per cent, from the originally budgeted $215 million to $385 million.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said today the frequent closing of the crossing points from Israel into Gaza as well as the ongoing hostilities put enormous strain on the population, but the passage of commercial, food and fuel supplies last Sunday had helped to alleviate the situation slightly.

There was a real need for a humanitarian corridor so that relief items could have a priority for entry over commercial goods into Gaza and WFP was asking for permanent and unhindered access for humanitarian personnel and relief goods, spokesman Simon Pluess told a news briefing in Geneva.

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18 May, 2006


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres has appealed urgently for resources for the desperately under-funded emergency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he said continuing conflicts in parts of the central African country were taking more lives than did the Indian Ocean tsunami.

“We have a tsunami in the Congo every six months,” Mr. Guterres, on his first official visit to Germany since becoming High Commissioner last June, said at a news conference in Berlin Tuesday with the German Minister for Development Cooperation, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.

Some 1,200 people in the DRC die daily from conflict-related causes. More than 20 per cent of the children die before their fifth birthday and one in10 die in the first year of life. The refugee agency’s appeal last year for the repatriation and reintegration of Congolese refugees received only
14 per cent of the needed funding, or $10.6 million out of the $75 million required.

Meanwhile, of $14.7 million requested for UNHCR’s programme for internally displaced people (IDPs) in a country the size of Western Europe, only $3.2 million had come in.

The plight of conflict victims in DRC, as the country prepares for historic elections, was one of the “10 Stories the World Should Hear More About”
that the UN Department of Public Information recently spotlighted.

Mr. Guterres also stressed the need to support the new peace agreement in Sudan’s Darfur region and urged the international community “to make sure”
the pact was implemented.

“Darfur is the epicentre of an earthquake that is threatening the whole region,” he said. “If we do not solve the problems in Darfur, the whole region will not find stability.”

UNHCR recently had to scale back its IDP programme in Darfur because of growing insecurity. In neighbouring Chad, meanwhile, the agency is running a large-scale relief and protection programme for more than 200,000 Sudanese from Darfur who live in refugee camps there.

Mr. Guterres said Germany and other European Union (EU) countries were not only important as major donors who fund UNHCR through voluntary contributions, but as countries which maintain strong domestic asylum systems for refugees. He pointed, however, to the sharp decline in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany as well as other industrialized countries.

He said his Office has high hopes for the German Presidency of the EU, starting next January, adding, “Europe must remain a space of asylum.”

Mr. Guterres returned to Geneva today.

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