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U.N. Faces Funding Shortfall

July 27, 2000

GENEVA (AP) _ The United Nations said Wednesday it faces a major funding shortfall in tackling humanitarian crises from Congo to North Korea, with donors so far providing only a third of the $2.5 billion it has sought for this year.

The world body asked for the money to support some 35 million people in 16 countries.

``We are very dismayed″ that richer nations so far have paid out only 36.6 percent of the overall funding, said Ross Mountain, the U.N. humanitarian director in Geneva. ``At the same time last year, we were at approximately 50 percent.″

Uganda has attracted only $2.4 million _ far less than the required $27.5 million _ forcing cutbacks to refugee and food programs, the United Nations told donors. Congo, the Republic of Congo and Burundi received around one-fifth.

The United States was the leading donor in the first six months of 2000, providing $219 million. In the same period last year, Washington gave $264 million.

For the past two years, the U.N. has grouped all the crisis-hit countries in a consolidated appeal rather than making a string of smaller requests, to keep the little-known or long-forgotten ones _ many in Africa _ from losing out in the competition for donor dollars.

But countries remain reluctant to come up with funding for long-term crises, said Nils Kastberg, director of emergency programs for the U.N. Children’s Fund.

``What we have been trying to say is ... even if you don’t trust the political process in a given situation, we can still immunize children, we can still eradicate polio,″ he said.

Officials said governments also increasingly tend to give aid money directly to aid organizations based in their own countries.

Access also remains a thorny issue in famine-struck North Korea, where $74 million has been provided by donor countries but the United Nations is still short $239 million.

Aid programs in North Korea ``remain hampered as a result of the government’s concern over access and information sharing,″ the body noted.

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