Via ReliefWeb, a transcript from OCHA: Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos - Remarks to the press. Excerpt and then a comment:
We ended 2013 with three Level 3 system-wide emergencies. Level 3’s, as you know, are our highest level of humanitarian crisis. They are for Syria, the Central African Republic and the Philippines. We enter 2014 with multiple, severe humanitarian crises threatening or affecting the lives of millions of people, including those three Level 3 emergencies that I have mentioned.
Two weeks ago, I launched the Overview of Global Humanitarian Response for 2014. Our assessment then was that we need US$12.9 billion this year to reach 52 million people in need in 17 countries.
Since then, developments in the Central African Republic and South Sudan have already added tens of thousands of people to the list of those who need our help and support. And with the ongoing emergencies in Syria, the Philippines and elsewhere, our collective response capacity and our resources are being stretched to the limit.
Millions of people have begun this year internally displaced or as refugees - dependent on humanitarian organizations for a place to sleep, food to eat and for basic healthcare.
In the Central African Republic, the violence and unrest continue against the backdrop of abject poverty and a collapsing state. More than one in six Central Africans – more than 800,000 people – are now internally displaced and nearly half a million face hunger. Aid agencies continue to scale up their response activities as fast as security conditions allow. But it has not been easy.
In South Sudan, violence has driven an estimated 194,000 from their homes in a matter of weeks, with more than57,000 seeking protection in the bases of the UN peacekeeping mission. Some 107,000 people have been reached with assistance and our aim is to reach over 600,000 in the first three months of this year. But I am deeply concerned about the ongoing reports of disturbing, gross violations of human rights, and the lack of protection of civilians. Aid organizations need access to affected communities to provide healthcare, shelter and clean water. People’s lives depend on this.
In mid-December, we launched the largest ever appeal for a single humanitarian emergency, the crisis in Syria and surrounding countries. We requested $6.5 billion for this year. In Syria itself, 9.3 million people need aid, 6.5 million of them are displaced, and more than 2.3 million people have left the country as refugees, mainly to neighbouring countries.
Ms. Amos went on to list other humanitarian crisis zones: Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Mali, the entire Sahel region, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Haiti, and the Philippines.
Many people in the industrial nations, if they think of such crisis zones at all, think of OCHA and other agencies as looking after them. And so they do, but first they have to beg the governments of the industrial nations for the money to do so.
Those governments can be reliably counted on to supply aid to politically convenient and economically strategic zones. Afghanistan is no longer politically convenient, and we'd rather forget we ever cared about it. Syria is not economically strategic, nor are countries like Turkey and Jordan that are absorbing refugees by the hundreds of thousands.
Central African Republic? Even with that name, most North Americans and Europeans couldn't find it on a map. The same is true of Mali, the Sahel region and South Sudan: poor countries full of poor black people.
So the UN can rattle its begging bowl, and put lots of photos of forlorn tykes on its websites, but unless the industrial nations' governments feel a sharp, stabbing sensation from their voters, nothing will happen. The tykes will die; or they may survive as Somali pirates, Afghan warlords, or simple predators on their equally desperate neighbours.
Failure to support the peoples trapped in these crises is a failure of personal decency. But it is also a failure in public health, which has now become global. That failure will rebound on us as surely as the diseases of Victorian London's poor rebounded on London's rich.