From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Feb 26 2009 - 06:25:34 EST
INTERVIEW-Economic crisis threatens aid donations - U.N.
Feb 26, 2009 6:03pm EST
By Luis Jaime Acosta
QUIBDO, Colombia, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The global financial crisis could
reduce United Nations' aid for victims of armed conflicts and natural
disasters, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday.
U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said that while the
organization's biggest humanitarian aid donors had promised to maintain
their funding, future budgets may be squeezed as a result of the worldwide
"We fear the economic and financial crisis will have an effect on the
generosity of donor countries, and we also fear it will increase the number
of people we need to help from a humanitarian point of view," the
humanitarian affairs chief told Reuters in an interview.
Holmes spoke during a visit to Colombia's western Choco province, where
recent floods have worsened the plight of poor villagers driven from their
homes by a four-decade conflict involving leftist rebels and ex-paramilitary
The South American country will receive $8 million from the U.N.'s emergency
relief fund this year, making it the fifth-biggest recipient of such aid
after Zimbabwe, Somalia, North Korea and Ethiopia.
Colombia has three active volcanoes and is prone to seasonal flooding, but
violence linked to the armed conflict and drug-trafficking add to the
difficulties in rural areas.
The United Nations runs several projects for the roughly 2.5 million
Colombians forced to flee their homes -- one of the world's biggest
populations of internal refugees along with Sudan and Congo.
Holmes said the biggest state contributors to U.N. emergency aid had agreed
to keep up their support, but warned that the coming months might see
cutbacks by firms and individual donors.
"The main donor countries are maintaining their humanitarian budgets, at
least for 2009. If they reduce their budgets we'll be able to meet less of
their needs and it will mean less food, less clean water and less sanitation
and less shelter for people affected by natural diasters," he said.
He warned that any aid cutbacks would end up widening the gap between rich
and poor and urged countries to keep giving assistance despite the economic
"What we're saying ... is that this is no time to reduce your aid budgets,"
Holmes said. "It's the enlightened self-interest of those countries to
maintain the donations." (Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Cynthia
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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