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Aid chief recalls forgotten disaster victims

The victims of other crises, mainly in Africa, should not be forgotten Keystone

Switzerland’s top aid official has called on nations not to ignore victims of forgotten conflicts around the world.

Walter Fust was speaking ahead of Tuesday’s international aid conference in Geneva aimed at coordinating relief efforts for people affected by Asia’s tsunami.

Fust, who is the head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), also told swissinfo that he wanted to see more transparency and accountability from donor countries.

“In the past we heard all kinds of declarations, but these pledges were often not followed up by concrete action,” he said.

He called for a system to be introduced that allowed the public to see how donations were spent.

Fust said either the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) or an independent organisation could monitor the efficiency and transparency of relief operations.

“New information technologies allow us to put such a system in place. We owe this to the victims of the disaster in southeast Asia,” he said.

Fust added that pressure should be put on governments to respond more swiftly to disasters.

In November the United Nations called for $1.7 billion (SFr2 billion) in aid to cover 14 humanitarian crises in the world.

They affect more than 26 million people, mostly in Africa, but the UN is still short of its target.

“Every day 25 million people across the world die of hunger. We have to show that it is crucial to achieve the aim of reducing poverty, hunger and remove obstacles for better education of people,” said Fust.

Swiss aid budget

The head of the SDC reiterated on Tuesday that Switzerland’s pledge of SFr27 million in emergency assistance for tsunami victims would not be deducted from the government’s annual humanitarian-aid budget.

He said many Swiss aid organisations active in Africa were concerned that they would lose contributions from the Swiss authorities.

Switzerland currently provides about SFr280 million in aid towards UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other Swiss non-governmental aid groups (NGOs).

Fust said Swiss aid donations were already open to scrutiny but added that more information would be placed on the internet.

He said he would hold talks with Swiss NGOs to encourage them to state clearly how aid donations were being spent.

“I think that Swiss Solidarity [which coordinated tsunami donations in Switzerland] will certainly demand that the NGOs work in a transparent way,” he said.

New standard

Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, said he hoped the outpouring of aid following the earthquake in southeast Asia would set a new benchmark for how the world responded to disasters.

“2005 has started off better than any other year in recorded history in terms of human generosity,” said Egeland.

“I hope this is the new standard for how the world responds to people in need. The bad past is behind us. This is a new level of compassion, solidarity and generosity,” he said.

Egeland noted that thousands of people were still dying every day in the Democratic Republic of Congo from disease, armed conflict and a lack of aid.


About 26 million people, mainly in Africa, are the victims of humanitarian crises.
The UN launched a global appeal in November for $1.7billion (SFr2 billion) for the victims of 14 crises around the world.
But the response only covered 74% of aid in Sudan, 53% in the Palestinian territories, 37% in Haiti, 9% in Zimbabwe and 5% in the Philippines.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR