October 12, 2005

Donors overstretched, need more coordination: UN

By Simon Gardner

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Quake victims in South Asia are going
without aid because the global emergency relief system is
overstretched, needs better coordination and has less than half
of the funds required, a top U.N. official said on Wednesday.

U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland called on the
world's nations to better prepare for disasters, and appealed
to Pakistan and India not to let differences over Kashmir
hinder aid distribution.

"I readily admit as the global emergency relief coordinator
that the system is overstretched and is not working as it
should do," Egeland told Reuters in an interview during a visit
to assess Sri Lanka's relief progress after the December 26

"But part of the reason that coordination is not robust
enough is, the good news: that there's never been as many
relief actors," he added, saying he expected over 200 aid
groups to help in quake-hit areas.

Government officials believe Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake
may have claimed more than 40,000 lives in Pakistan and India,
and the United Nations says as many as one million people have
been made homeless.

Egeland urged oil-rich nations to fill an emergency relief
shortfall of over $7 billion a year with donations not just for
allies and neighbors, but also for crises from Uganda to Congo
that have dropped off the radar of many donors.

But the onus is also on every country to ensure they draw
up national disaster plans, he added, to speed up the flow of
aid and avoid the kind of aid delays seen in the United States
following Hurricane Katrina and in disasters like South Asia's

"There is no country and no authorities on earth that are
in our experience taking adequate preparedness measures,"
Egeland said as he prepared to fly to Islamabad. "There is no
nation on earth which is doing enough in terms of preventing
the effects of natural hazards.

"The children that were killed in schools in Pakistan
should not have been killed, because the schools should have
been earthquake-resistant," he said.

"The children that were taken by the tsunami wave here in
Sri Lanka should not have been taken, because there should have
been a tsunami early warning system."


Some communities in the Himalayas will likely have to wait
another two to three weeks for aid to reach them, and
frustration that has already boiled over into attacks on relief
workers will likely escalate, he added.

Egeland said he would urge Pakistani authorities, who have
ruled out allowing Indian troops to carry out relief work in
areas of Kashmir under its control, to accept all forms of aid
from everyone.

"As human suffering has no borders, so should assistance
have any borders. We should really forget about old divides in
Kashmir and there should be a very open invitation to all
assistance from everywhere," Egeland said.

"India is the biggest nation in the region. They should not
only have a right but an obligation to provide major
resources," he added. "I hope there will be full and free
access for all humanitarians in the Kashmiri region and it is
one of the things I will certainly bring up with the
authorities when I go there."

Egeland is confident donor fatigue will not set in, saying
the fact that rich countries on average give only 0.2 percent
of their wealth in aid means there is plenty of scope to
increase donations.

He wants donors to dig deep now, to meet an aid shortfall
for quake victims who face a harsh winter in tents.

"We're still way behind in pledges for the earthquake
victims, but I think the world is rising to the occasion in
many of these media-focused natural disasters," he added.

"There is not enough money, there is not enough aid, too
many children go hungry to bed because we cannot feed them, we
cannot vaccinate them even, we cannot put them to school, we
cannot give them adequate shelter because we don't have enough