When you open your eyes to what’s going on in the world, it really puts your own ‘problems’ in perspective.
BERLIN May 18 (UNHCR) – U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has issued an urgent plea to the international community to increase support for the desperately under-funded emergency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In his first official visit to Germany since becoming High Commissioner last June, Guterres said that the human cost of the conflict in some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – a country the size of Western Europe – continued to be much higher than in other emergencies.
“This conflict is taking more human lives than the tsunami; we have a tsunami in the Congo every six months,” Guterres said at a press conference Tuesday with the German Minister for Development Cooperation, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.
Every day in the DRC, 1,200 people die from conflict-related causes. More than 20 per cent of children die before their fifth birthdays, and one in 10 die in the first year of life. UNHCR’s programmes, along with those of its U.N. partners, are desperately under funded. The refugee agency’s 2005 appeal for the repatriation and reintegration of Congolese refugees has received only 14 per cent of the necessary funding, with only $10.6 million received out of $75 million required. Meanwhile, of $14.7 million requested for UNHCR’s programme for internally displaced Congolese, donors have given only $3.2 million.
Guterres also stressed the need to support the new peace agreement in Darfur.
“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.”
Reuters AlertNet – A ‘tsunami’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo every six months: Guterres urges help for one of the world’s most under-funded emergencies
“Fight Hunger – Walk the World” march in Senegal organized by the UN World Food Programme (WFP)
When the famine ‘hit’ Niger, the media acted like it was suddenly a huge crisis. Humanitarian agencies had seen it coming a mile away and couldn’t get anyone’s attention or money.
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, May 22 (Reuters) – Three hundred million children are hungry and 18,000 die every day for want of food while the world remains largely ignorant about the magnitude of the problem, the U.N. food agency head said.
“If the headline in the media tomorrow was ‘Forty-five 747s crashed today, everyone on board was killed and oh, by the way, they were all children’, the world would be outraged,” said James Morris, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
“I genuinely think the public doesn’t understand how serious the issue is.”
Humanitarian agencies say wealthy governments are not giving enough to combat hunger, which kills more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria put together.
In an interview with Reuters, Morris said 90 percent of people who are hungry and at risk are not in the headlines, and their numbers are growing.
“There are places in Central America where 50 percent of the children under 5 are chronically malnourished and if you look at indigenous populations that number could be 70 or 80 percent,” he said.
The world produces enough food to feed everyone, with 17 percent more calories per person today than 30 years ago, according to the World Hunger Education Service.
But the distribution is unequal.
Pressure on scarce resources, drought, growing inequality and conflict have aggravated malnutrition among the unemployed in urban slums, landless farming families, the orphans of AIDS and the ill.
Making things worse is a surge in natural disasters, which numbered 400 in 2005, up from 100 in 1975, according to World Bank estimates. In the last decade, 2.6 billion people were affected by natural disasters compared to 1.6 billion in the previous decade.
“We’ve just so much to be concerned about,” Morris said.
The United Nations said this month it had received under a fifth of the $92 million it needed to help save 300,000 children threatened with starvation in the arid Sahel belt spanning Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
In eastern Kenya and Somalia there has been almost no rain this year, compounding a gradual decline in rainfall over the past decade. Morris said the WFP needed $275 million to stave off widespread starvation in Kenya alone, and “we still need a lot of that”.
Hundreds of thousands turned out across the world on Sunday for a global march against hunger organized by the WFP.
“We know how to solve the problem,” Morris said. “We can feed a child for 30 euros a full school year.”
Morris was speaking at the World Economic Forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, where business and political leaders debated ways to promote wealth, peace and stability in the Middle East.
He warned against relying on macroeconomic statistics as a sole gauge of development, saying they hide a disparity in many countries between rich and poor.
Without progress in combating problems like iron deficiency — which the WFP says hinders the mental development of 40 percent to 60 percent of children in developing countries, progress risks being held back.
“Feeding children of zero to 2 years of age is the most powerful investment a country can make in its future economic wellbeing,” said Morris.