, UNITED NATIONS, Jul 15 – Outgoing UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said Wednesday a total of 9.5 billion dollars in aid was needed for this year to assist 53 million needy people in 34 countries.
Last November, UN officials initially appealed for 7.1 billion dollars for 2010, but that figure has now ballooned to 9.5 billion due to new crises, including Haiti\’s devastating earthquake in January and worsening food emergencies in Africa\’s Sahel region and in the Central African Republic.
Holmes\’ UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said roughly 48 percent of the appeals were now funded, leaving a shortfall of 4.9 billion dollars.
"Maintaining humanitarian aid budgets this year in the face of recession and pressure on budgets has been a real achievement by many donors," Holmes said.
"I urge them to keep up this effort to ensure that people struck by disaster or conflict receive the help they desperately need for the rest of the year," he added.
Holmes, a Briton, is to step down as OCHA head at the end of August and will be replaced by Valerie Amos, currently the British High Commissioner to Australia.
In Haiti, some 250,000 people were killed and 1.5 million left homeless in the January 12 earthquake, which ravaged much of the capital Port-au-Prince.
An international conference in New York in March pledged more than 10 billion dollars over five years for Haiti\’s reconstruction, but only a fraction of the promised aid has materialized.
The UN appeal for Haiti remains at around 1.5 billion dollars for the year, with 64 percent of the amount met so far, according to OCHA .
In the Sahel, UN officials point out that food insecurity and malnutrition are increasing because of drought and crop failure, particularly in Niger and western Chad.
In Niger, acute malnutrition among children is now well above emergency levels, with the number of people in severe need of food almost doubled compared to the number originally planned.
In Chad, the number of people in urgent need of help has more than doubled.
In the Central African Republic, also, where the appeal has received only 35 per cent of requirements so far, the amount of funding needed has increased by 28 percent due to the worsening humanitarian situation.
"Halfway through 2010, it is clear that global humanitarian needs are increasing," said Samuel Worthington, head of InterAction, a coalition of more than 160 US-based international humanitarian groups working on disaster relief, refugee-assistance, and sustainable development programs worldwide.
"We must maintain our focus on adequate funding support, particularly for the most underfunded crises, for those common services which support the entire humanitarian community including safety, security and coordination and for efforts such as monitoring and evaluation," he added.