Praising as “marvellous” the world response so far to last week's devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia, today to launch the United Nations flash appeal expected to total many hundreds of millions of dollars for the most urgent needs over the next six months.
“There was clear leadership at the beginning and everyone accepted the UN's leadership,” Mr. Annan told CNN television in an interview, referring to the immediate global reaction to the disaster that killed more than 150,000 people in a dozen countries, injured 500,000 more and left up to 5 million lacking basic services.
His message to those affected by the disaster is that “the international community is with you, you're not alone,” Mr. Annan said.
The specific amount of the UN flash appeal has not yet been disclosed, but pledges of aid to both the UN and other organizations, for both immediate and longer-term operations such as reconstruction, have reached between $3 billion and $4 billion, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland noted today.
Last week Mr. Egeland said he expected the flash appeal to surpass by far that launched after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in 1998, when the $155 million for relief for the first six months was followed by a mammoth longer-term reconstruction effort undertaken by the UN and the World Bank.
According to figures released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) the two largest UN flash appeals to date have been $1.6 billion for Iraq following the 2003 war and $350 million for the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago.
Mr. Egeland said today he expected the new appeal, which will detail the most urgent immediate needs by country and sector, to be covered by the pledges already made.
Upon his arrival in Jakarta, Mr. Annan met with Indonesian Defence Minister Juwarno Sudarsono, with whom he discussed relief efforts in Aceh, one of the hardest-hit provinces.
He then had an internal planning meeting with UN Development Programme Administrator (UNDP) Mark Malloch Brown and UN Deputy Emergency Coordinator Margareta Walstrohm, who has been leading the UN relief efforts in South Asia over the past week.
Mr. Annan later met with more than 300 assembled UN staff in the country, and offered condolences for the enormous losses that Indonesia suffered in the natural disaster, before conferring with heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes involved in the relief effort, on their progress in coordinating operations.