U.N. Aid Chief: Africa Discriminated Against

Rich nations are discriminating against Africa on desperately needed aid for humanitarian crises (search), resulting in meager food rations for thousands of people, no food for others and many deaths, the U.N. humanitarian chief said.

Jan Egeland (search) told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that donors are more generous if humanitarian crises happen in Europe or the Middle East than in Africa, where all the major humanitarian challenges are located and the need is the greatest.

"There is an inbuilt discrimination in the sense that ... if we all agree that a human life has the same value wherever he or she is born, there should be the same attention to northern Uganda as to northern Iraq, the same attention to the Congo (search) as there was to Kosovo," he said.

"That is not the case today," Egeland said. "A majority of our appeals in Africa are badly underfunded."

Of 14 U.N. humanitarian appeals for Africa this year, eight have received less than 20 percent of the money requested, and except for a small appeal for Angola, none has received more than 40 percent, he said.

Egeland told council members the persistent lack of adequate funding cannot continue year after year. He called for reforms to ensure prompt and predictable funding for critical humanitarian needs.

"Too many people are dying because too little funding is available or because it arrives too late in the year," Egeland said.

So far this year, the United Nations has received just 6 percent of the $23.6 million needed for the Central African Republic, 8 percent of the $164.5 million needed for Somalia, 10 percent of the $157 million needed for Eritrea and 22 percent of the $201 million needed for Congo.

Egeland said some African humanitarian crises have been on the international agenda "for much too long," including Congo where fighting persists despite a peace agreement, northern Uganda where the rebel Lord's Resistance Army has been fighting the government for 18 years, and Sudan's western Darfur region where 180,000 people have died since fighting erupted in February 2003.

"And some are threatening to re-emerge as full-blown crises if we do not act, such as the food shortages and governance crises in parts of southern African and the Horn" of Africa, he said.

Even in Sudan, where donor's last month pledged $4.5 billion, the United Nations faces a $350 million shortfall in humanitarian aid for Darfur because the pledges aren't being turned into cash fast enough, Egeland said. So the people of Darfur could see their meager rations cut to a substandard level, he said.

In northern Uganda, where the humanitarian crisis is almost as great as Darfur's, Egeland said donors have given only 34 percent of the $157.7 million requested.

At the same time, violence and insecurity have increased, leading to an upsurge in the number of children traveling from the countryside to towns in search of safety every night from 31,000 in January to 42,000 today, he said.

Egeland said the combination of AIDS, severe drought and weak government was ravaging southern Africa and the Horn of Africa with already meager rations being reduced.

"In Ethiopia and Eritrea, we are not able to feed all the people we should be feeding at the moment," he said.