"African Crises Take Back Seat to Tsunami, U.N. Relief Chief" Says
By WARREN HOGE The New York Times, Jan 28, 2005; p.A3)
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 - Jan Egeland, the United Nations' emergency
relief coordinator, said Thursday that while the international community
had provided unprecedented assistance to countries ravaged by the Asian
tsunamis, it continued to ignore chronic crises of equally catastrophic
consequences in Africa.
Mr. Egeland, who raised the ire of the Bush administration last month by
accusing wealthy countries of having been "stingy" in meeting the needs
of poor countries in recent years, said Thursday that with more money,
the United Nations could save
hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa, "and it is beyond me really
why we are not getting the resources we need." He described Africa's
predicament as "a forgotten and neglected quadruple tsunami of AIDS and
preventable disease, of ongoing terrible conflicts, of lack of good
governance or lack of governance at all in addition to chronic lack of
food due to droughts."
"There are 40, 50 rich countries that can foot the bill of vaccinating
children and feeding children, and Africa should have exactly the same
worth as the tsunami-affected region," he said.
He spoke at a Security Council briefing on Africa's humanitarian
problems and to reporters afterward. He said African crises went
unattended because protracted conflicts did not attract the attention
that natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis did and because
people did not think they lent themselves to demonstrable success.
"We have to do a better job in advocating on behalf of Africa, not only
how bad it is but how it can be fixed if you invest," he said. "There is
no better investment and no more immediate return on an investment than
changing humanitarian condition in Africa. It may be that we haven't
been able to sell the idea that it is as important and as inexpensive to
save lives and stabilize in Congo as it is in Aceh and in Sri Lanka."
He told the Security Council that despite the best efforts of the
international community, aid efforts were falling behind in many parts
of Africa. He cited the Darfur region of Sudan, Congo, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Somalia, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Chad, Uganda,
Guinea and Zimbabwe where contributions ranged from 10 to 40 percent of
money pledged to highs of 75 percent.
He also said that in countries where the United Nations had helped bring
peace or monitor cease-fires, the lack of full financing of appeals had
threatened a slide back into conflict.
"In Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Burundi where there were big expensive
peacekeeping missions, we have less than half the funds that we need for
minimum humanitarian program and less than half of what we need to
reintegrate the ex-fighters," he said.
"What I hope to see is the kind of immediate decisive international
reaction to the crisis in the Congo, which takes millions of lives, that
we just saw in the Indian Ocean, where, thanks to an immediate
outpouring of donors and an immediate response by an effective
humanitarian community, we saved tens of thousands of lives."
Pressure Grows for Rich Nations to Redouble Effort to Aid Africa
By ALAN COWELL
(The New York Times, Jan 28, 2005; p.A3)
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 27 - After decades languishing as the last item
on the global agenda, seeming helpless to stem its own decline, Africa
is poised this year for what the rock star Bono called "its moment."
At the World Economic Forum here, an American billionaire, a former
American president, a British prime minister, two African presidents and
Bono himself took to the stage Thursday to press the world to provide
the money and the will to reverse the continent's slide.
If their entreaties to an assembly of more than 2,000 of the world's
rich and powerful people had a loud subtext, though, it was that the
Bush administration would come under mounting pressure to underpin an
effort to give Africa a new lift.
"The United States needs to move further up the table" of aid donors as
listed by the proportion of their overall wealth, Bill Gates, the
Microsoft co-founder, told a news conference.
Mr. Gates, who has just announced a $750 million gift to help poor
children gain access to vaccines, spoke shortly before he, Bono and
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain joined Presidents Thabo Mbeki of
South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and former President Bill
Clinton at a public session that ranked as one of the heavyweight events
For as long as it has been in decline, of course, much of Africa has
been the object of earnest debate and hand-wringing, even as other
regions of the world once known for their poverty have begun to find
niches in the global economy.
"If what was happening in Africa happened in any other part of the world
there would be such a scandal and clamor," said Mr. Blair, who has
pledged to use his leadership of the Group of 8 industrialized nations
and Britain's coming presidency of the European Union to push the issue.
The world response, he said, should be increased aid, efforts to end
African conflicts, moves to end official corruption and tyranny and
enhanced campaigns against deadly diseases like AIDS and malaria.
Those themes are familiar, but Westerners are hoping that African
leaders will take charge of their destiny after a history of colonialism
and cold war division that left the continent in thrall to outsiders.
In changing some of its institutions to deal with its own social and
economic problems, President Obasanjo said, African leaders have shown
that "we want to help ourselves." But, he said, there is not enough aid
to deal with the lack of food, jobs, schools and health care.
"We are getting aid when we have flood, disaster," he said. "We are not
getting the critical mass of funds to make development possible."
The issue is as much how to raise new money as how to ensure it is well
spent at a time when Western governments are preoccupied with matters
like the war in Iraq and nuclear policy in Iran and as disasters like
the Asian tsunami threaten to divert aid from Africa.
Moreover, Mr. Clinton said, while America's business and political elite
are beginning to pay more attention to Africa, "it is never a voting
issue" that politicians see as likely to determine an election.