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Response to UN appeal poor

Nearly two weeks after the launch of a massive UN emergency appeal for Iraq, humanitarian programmes remain desperately underfunded.

"So far we have received US $387 million against the $2.2 billion requested in the Flash Appeal," Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN on Wednesday. "Iraq crisis funding should be in addition to, not instead of, donations earmarked for other emergencies," she observed.

"Donors have not converted initial expressions of support into concrete pledges for the UN as quickly as we would have hoped," Andrew Cox, an OCHA donor relations officer, said. "'Received' means actually receiving cash to buy commodities or a written pledge from a donor," he noted.

The United States, the largest financial contributor to the Iraq crisis, has indicated it will donate about $600 million for humanitarian agencies, with $200 million of that already pledged in writing or cash to date, OCHA said.

According to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), $290 million has been received against the $1.3 billion required to cover a massive food aid operation for a period of six months. About 60 percent of the population, or some 16 million Iraqis, depend on monthly food aid rations for survival, and supplies are expected to run out within a month.

"We are happy with our progress so far, but we still have a long way to go and we cannot afford to lose time," WFP Executive Director James T. Morris told reporters in New York on Monday.

The UN sanctioned Oil-for-Food Programme (OFFP), under which most of the Iraqi population was fed before the current war, was suspended on 17 March after the withdrawal of all UN international staff from Iraq on the eve of hostilities. The Security Council adopted a new resolution on 28 March authorising UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to administer the OFFP for the next 45 days, including prioritising deliveries and finding more entry ports to effect them.

According to WFP, only $110 million of applicable food aid contracts have been identified under the OFFP within the period allowed by the resolution, and the onus remains on individual donors to fill the gap.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received $34 million in response to the appeal. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers said on Tuesday that his agency and other partners were equipped to handle 600,000 Iraqi refugees, but so far only a few had left the country.

Speaking at an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe briefing in Vienna, Lubbers noted that this was in stark contrast to 1991 when some two million Iraqis fled their country during the Gulf War. "It is true that there are not yet many refugees, but experience has taught us that they may still come," he said.

Although donor response to the Iraq crisis has been poor relative to the funds requested, UN officials point out that the appeal had nonetheless attracted more than half of the $700 million given in response to global UN humanitarian appeals since the beginning of the year.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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