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Democratic People's Republic of Korea


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  Southern Africa Region  
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Other Crises


Forgotten Crises

James T. Morris
Executive Director of the World Food Programme
Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa

Brussels, 19 November 2003

Today we launch the humanitarian appeal for 2004 calling for $3 billion to help 45 million people in crises in 21 countries.  Much of the suffering we are trying to end is man-made – the fruits of ethnic and religious hatred, political corruption and mismanagement, terrorism and war.  But a rising tide of natural disasters since the early 1990s is also taking a huge toll, and now the devastation of AIDS is causing a new kind of humanitarian crisis that threatens the very fabric of societies, especially in southern Africa.

The humanitarian community has worked together to identify needs by sector -- food, health, shelter, and education. We have prepared plans to work with national governments and local organizations: 136 agencies are proposing 1,086 projects to reach out to people in crisis.

Behind the statistics are ordinary people, with their lives, hopes and dreams. But they are people living in extraordinary situations. Many have been displaced from their homes, had their lives severely disrupted, and lost their livelihoods and belongings.

It may not be easy for us to imagine here in Brussels. There's a war; your home is destroyed, schools and hospitals stop working, gas and electricity run out. Safety and security are a hope, not a reality.

Savings and possessions disappear. People need food, and much more, to survive.  In such situations, the youngest, oldest, and weakest people, who often depend most on community support, are the worst affected.

Compassion is a natural reaction, but people struggling to survive against overwhelming odds rarely want our pity. Instead they need our practical support to recover and get their lives back to normal.

Never has the competition for donor funds been so intense.  All of us participating in the CAP -- the UN, Red Cross and Red Crescent, IOM and the NGOs -- know that all too well.   In the last few years, the demand for emergency aid in  high profile political crises has simply been unprecedented – first Kosovo, then Afghanistan, now Iraq.  Donor countries have grown a bit weary of the appeals, especially those struggling to meet domestic demands and cut their budget deficits at the same time.  This pressure on funding has led to the creation of a “class system” – the politically important crises are funded first and generously, the others are quietly relegated to the bottom and more or less forgotten.

Figures released not long ago by Oxfam on funding for victims of emergencies indicate a two tier system is now all too firmly in place.  OCHA data reinforce that view showing, for example,  that over five Consolidated Appeals from 1997 to 2002, south eastern Europe received on average 69 percent of requested funding.  By contrast,  Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Republic of the Congo received only a third.  In Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, each person received the equivalent of about 40 euros ($47) in humanitarian aid, while in Tajikistan --a far poorer country -- the figure was only a little more than 4 euros ($5) the same year.

Aside from the occasional sensationalistic piece about child soldiers or the slave trade, the three new appeals that we are launching today in Brussels do not get a great deal of press.  They are definitely second tier to the media and among the forgotten crises.   What is ironic is that investments now in humanitarian aid in Tajikistan, Sudan,  and Uganda could actually have far greater impact and immediate reward than in some other crises. As Mrs. Adinolfi mentioned at our Executive Board a few weeks ago, Tajikistan presents a unique opportunity to successfully link relief and development -- and that has to be one of our major goals in all emergency aid.  Despite recent problems in the Darfur region, for the first time in many years, there are real hopes for peace in southern Sudan after decades of conflict.

The other appeal we are highlighting today, the Southern Africa Regional Appeal, was launched last July.  It too may be in danger of being relegated to the status of a forgotten crisis.  World attention on that region helped us avert a major famine last year.  Despite a better harvest, the combination of chronic poverty and the highest HIV infection rates in the world mean that 6.5 million people are still extremely vulnerable and need outside aid.  Southern Africa cannot afford a loss of momentum now - the regional appeal lays out the steps we need to take to address both short-term critical needs, as well as put in place systems that will allow for longer-term recovery.  The humanitarian community came together last year in a remarkable way and has used innovative approaches to address the crisis, such as a regional inter-agency office.  But without stronger investment now, we cannot expect improvement.  In fact, we may be faced with even worse problems in the not so distant future.

It is popular these days to talk about “good donorship”, though I worry that such discussions have sometimes become a vehicle for donors to criticize each other, rather than pitch in and work together on common goals.  But one thing is clear --  a good donor reacts to humanitarian crises based on needs, not just  politics.   Commissioner Nielson has long been an strong advocate of that view and on that score I am sure he has the strongest possible backing from all of us in the humanitarian community.

But what else is there to being a "good donor"?  Well, one of the principal goals of the CAP is burden sharing. Good donors should contribute to the whole range of humanitarian operations, not simply picking and choosing from a menu.   Donors should also involve themselves from the outset in assessing the extent of needs for health care, shelter and food so we are all "singing from the same song sheet" and can concentrate on raising funds with complete credibility.  On the food aid side, Commissioner Nielson is working with us at WFP to strengthen how we assess needs and we welcome the Commission's active involvement, especially in technical assessments conducted in the field.

Obviously donors have the right to choose what operations they fund.  They may well wish to reward recipient governments and humanitarian agencies that deliver aid more efficiently.  But earmarking funds may also be a sign of politicized aid -- and there is more of that going on these days, not less.  In the late 1980s, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) at OECD reported that between 40 and 50 percent of humanitarian aid was truly multilateral rather than earmarked.  By 2001 that figure had dropped to only 30 percent.

Earmarking has sometimes made the UN and our NGO partners far too dependent on a single donor – not a healthy state of affairs for the victims of crises.  That is the situation we now face in Sudan.  In WFP's recently completed emergency operation there, nearly 80 percent of the food was provided by the United States.  We need to move away from that kind of excessive dependence in funding.  So WFP was especially pleased to see a recent contribution of food by EuropeAid which will help us start to diversify the donor base for Sudan.

Another element in good donorship is balance.  A major problem I have struggled with in my role as Special Envoy for the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa is poor donor response in sectors like water, agricultural inputs and health care.  Last year, food aid was nearly 100 percent funded, while other sectors averaged less than a third.  This year, while food needs are around 45 percent funded, other programmes are funded less than 10 percent!  In total, only around $150 million of the $532 million requested for southern Africa has been received at the half-way point of the appeal.

In a region where HIV prevalence in many areas is above 30 percent and the number of orphans will reach 5.3 million by 2005, food aid is important for the near term, but we also need a sustainable long term intervention.  Food assistance is especially critical for children whose lives can be permanently damaged by malnutrition, but recovery in southern Africa will only come as a result of strong investment in the agricultural sector, a functioning health care system, education, and other interventions to support government ministries, some of which are now on the verge of collapse.  In southern Africa, we have implemented a complex system of multi-sectoral vulnerability assessments so we can monitor progress.  In many ways, our success or failure there, what we learn or do not learn, will have a major impact on how well prepared we are to cope with other emergencies in Africa in the years ahead.

 In 2004, humanitarian agencies hope to build on their successes. Among the more visible achievements in 2003, together we carried out large-scale polio eradication campaigns in several African countries, fed people as war raged in Liberia, resettled people in Angola and Indonesia, and helped avert famine in North Korea and southern Africa.

 In each of the world's crises, aid agencies providing food, shelter, and medicine helped to save and sustain countless lives. And while aid workers faced growing risks to their personal safety, they continued to provide aid to people in need.   We are having an impact -- when and where we get the funds.

If there is one message we should get out today from all the capitals participating in the CAP launch for 2004 it is that there should be no second class emergencies - not in the media and not in the eyes of the donors.  There should be no second class citizens among aid recipients.  Yet sadly there are.

Last week Armistice Day was celebrated here in Europe, marking the end to one of the bloodiest wars in history.   Belgium was the scene of much of the carnage and the Belgian people struggled to survive the horrors and deprivations of war.  To help them in their hour of need, the United Kingdom, France and the United States mobilized almost $1 billion worth of food and other assistance -- the largest humanitarian operation until the Marshall Plan.  A comparable financial commitment by donors today would surely pay for this Appeal many times over.  We could easily end short-term hunger in countries like Tajikistan, Uganda and Sudan and make the investments needed to help them become more self-reliant.

There is a simple question of justice and equality in all this.   Why should a Sudanese refugee, an AIDS orphan in Kampala, or an impoverished Tajik not receive the same treatment Europeans and Americans have grown to expect from each other in times of crisis?  They should.  Working together we can ensure there are no forgotten crises.


Copyright  © 2003  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs