U.N. Relief Director Appeals for Help in Crises Throughout Africa

Published: May 11, 2005, New York Times

  UNITED NATIONS, May 10 - The United Nations emergency relief
coordinator, Jan Egeland, said Tuesday that relief crises in Africa
were outpacing efforts to contain them and that the international
community was failing to focus on the world's most pressing needs.

  "The world's biggest drama is not found in Europe or the Middle East
or North America - the world's biggest challenges and dramas are
found in Africa," Mr. Egeland said in an interview before delivering
a closed-door briefing on the subject to the Security Council.

  Saying it was essential that people decide that "human life is worth
as much in northern Uganda as it is in northern Iraq, or in the Congo
as in Kosovo," he declared, "The way it is now in Africa cannot
continue because at the moment we are getting more new crises faster
than we are solving old crises."

  While the killing and displacement of tens of thousands of people in
the Darfur region in Sudan had engaged the world, he said, a crisis
of similar horror was being largely neglected in northern Uganda, and
new outbreaks were erupting in countries like Chad and Togo.

  He said that of the 14 fund appeals the United Nations had made for
Africa, eight had attracted less than 20 percent of the requested

  "In the Central African Republic, which is one of the poorest places
on earth, we have 6 percent of what we asked for," he said. "And in
Somalia, which has in some areas worse mortality rates than Darfur,
we have 8 percent."

  In Chad, he said, more than 200,000 refugees from neighboring Darfur
were overtaxing the resources of an already impoverished country. In
Togo, unrest after a disputed election has generated "overnight" a
refugee problem in Benin and Ghana.

  He said there were desperate food shortages in the south, in Malawi,
Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique, and in the north, in
Ethiopia and Eritrea.

  He warned of a "triple threat" menace to southern Africa - a
combination of H.I.V./AIDS, which he said had taken 250,000 lives in
the region since January; drought brought on by catastrophically low
rainfall, and weak government.

  Mr. Egeland appealed in particular for urgent attention to northern
Uganda, where several recent attempts to sign truces and open peace
talks have faltered, and fighting has intensified in an 18-year-old
conflict between rebel fighters and the government that has left
500,000 people dead and 2 million displaced.

  The rebellion has been led since 1988 by a brutal force called the
Lord's Resistance Army, which, in the name of forming a government
based on the Ten Commandments, has slaughtered peasants and kidnapped
children, turning them into what Mr. Egeland called mindless "killing

  Relief groups have estimated that 28,000 children have been abducted
and forced to become soldiers and sex slaves in northern Uganda. "It
goes beyond anything I have ever seen in my years of humanitarian
work in terms of trauma and suffering and incomprehensible cruelty,
where people are mutilated, humiliated and destroyed as human
beings," Mr. Egeland said.

  In Uganda, he said, only 34 percent of the $54 million sought in a
United Nations appeal in November had been received. "We are in
danger of losing an historic opportunity to put an end to one of the
worst set of atrocities in our generation," he said. "If we don't
act, the window will close, and we will always regret what we did not
do in 2005."