The United Nations called on richer governments today to provide a total of $7.1 billion in 2010 to fund urgent humanitarian assistance for 48 million people in 25 countries.
It was the largest sum sought for such aid, in what is known as the annual Humanitarian Appeal, since the world body started making consolidated calls for funding to tackle crises in different parts of the world in 1991.
"Our aim is to help people survive the coming year, and start working their way out of vulnerability towards the dignity, safety and self-sufficiency to which every human being has a right," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
Ban’s remarks, in a foreword to the text of the appeal issued in Geneva, were coupled with a call from his top humanitarian relief coordinator John Holmes for major governments not to cut aid because of the economic crisis.
Funds collected in the Consolidated Appeal Process are shared among some 380 aid organisations, including UN agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other international bodies working in the relief field.
All have worked together to compile the appeal and detail the needs of the countries and regions it targets, which include Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, the occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
"We are here to ask for a response to the urgent call of people whose lives have been wrecked by conflict and natural disasters," Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told a Geneva news conference.
He noted that many governments were engaged in financial bail-outs and economic stimulus packages on the domestic front, putting pressure on other budget needs.
"My most important message for you here today is that humanitarian aid should be insulated from these budget pressures," declared Holmes, a Briton.
If financial assistance for humanitarian crises were cut, he added, "the people desperately affected by the severest natural disasters and conflicts will pay the price for a recession not of their making."
The $7.1 billion being sought for 2010, Holmes declared, "is far less than one percent of the amount spent (in developed countries) on financial bailouts and economic stimulus."