UNITED NATIONS – Around US$500 million (euro367 million) has been pledged for victims of the quake-tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, including a US$250 million (euro184 million) commitment from the World Bank, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) said Thursday.
Annan told reporters he was "satisfied" with the response by world governments, but stressed that U.N. resources were stretched thin and long-term aid was needed.
"More than 30 countries have stepped forward to help as have millions of individuals from around the world," Annan said. "I am satisfied with the response so far. The only thing I want to stress is that we are in this for the long term."
"This is an unprecedented global catastrophe and it requires an unprecedented global response," he said. "Over the past few days it has registered deeply in the consciousness and conscience of the world as we seek to grasp the speed, the force and magnitude with which it happened. But we must also remain committed for the longer term."
He said the disaster was so big that no one country or agency could deal with it alone. "We need to coordinate our efforts and pool our efforts to have maximum impact on the crisis and everybody seems to be aware of that. It is going to require lots of money, lots of effort, and for a longer term."
At least 115,000 are dead in the region, half a million are injured, one million are displaced and at least five million in need of immediate assistance, Annan said.
"We need to bring in additional people to work with us and of course not only are we going to be stretched in terms of manpower and human resources, we are also going to be stretched financially and technically."
The secretary-general said he hoped contributions to world development aid would not be diverted to relief funds for the disaster.
"We hope that the response will be sustained across the board and it won't be robbing Peter to pay Paul," he said.
"I would want governments to be able to respond to emergencies by making additional resources available rather than taking it out of development funds because it doesn't really move us forward," Annan said.
U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland (search) said Thursday the U.N. appeal for emergency relief to be launched Jan. 6 would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The cost of long-term reconstruction would be in the billions of dollars, he said.
The United Nations (search) has stressed that the aid response has been generous, in spite of criticism earlier this week by Egeland that wealthy nations were being "stingy."
"We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries," he said Monday. "And it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really."
Several countries came forward Thursday with new aid commitments.
France roughly doubled its aid pledge for the Asian disaster to euro42 million (US$57 million), and Britain tripled an earlier relief donation to 50 million pounds (US$95million; euro70 million).
Spain's Cabinet approved a euro50 million (US$68 million) package, although about one-fifth was in loans rather than outright grants. Canada has pledged C$40 million (US$33 million).
Sweden will send 500 million kronor (euro55.5 million, US$75.5 million) in aid to the Asian countries hit by the devastating tsunamis, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
Norway has pledged an additional 50 million kroner (US$8.3 million, euro6.1 million) in emergency aid in response to a U.N. appeal, bringing Norway's total contribution so far to 100 million kroner (US$16.6 million, euro12.2 million).
Denmark donated 85 million kroner (euro11.4 million, US$15.5 million) to finance the U.N. Disaster Assessment and Coordination Center to be set up by the Danish Emergency Management Agency. It has donated an additional 10 million kroner (euro1.3 million, US$1.8 million) in emergency help.
Greenland, a semiautonomous Danish territory, gave 1.1 million kroner (euro148,000 US$201,340) in Asia relief aid.
Annan, who curtailed his Christmas vacation on Wednesday night, rejected criticism he had taken too long to come back to New York, saying he had been in constant touch with world leaders and his U.N. team.
"We have taken action. I don't have to be sitting in my office to take action," he said.
Earlier Thursday, Annan met with the heads of U.N. agencies as well as the U.N. ambassadors of the countries most affected by the disaster.
He said he did not rule out visiting the disaster zone, but said it was important high-profile visitors did get in the way of aid work. "One should go to the region, but at the right time," he said.
Annan is expected to meet U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations Friday to discuss relief efforts.