UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- International aid pledges for tsunami-ravaged Asian and African countries have soared to 2 billion US dollars and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan would travel to Indonesia for a donors conference, UN officials said on Saturday.
"We are at the moment recording pledges of 2 billion dollars for
emergency phase and recovery phase," Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs Jan Egeland told his daily news conference. "The international
compassion has never ever been like this."
|Desperate Indonesians from a small village
scramble to catch supplies being dropped from the Helicopter
Anti-Submarine Squadron 2 'Golden Falcons' at Banda Aceh after a supply
drop, January 1, 2005 in Indonesia.
The figure was more than all the aid received by the United Nations
in 2004 for emergency humanitarian relief operations across the world, including
that in Sudan's western region of Darfur, he said.
The surge in the donations was mainly attributed to an offer of 500
million dollars by Japan earlier in the day, the biggest single donation so far.
The aid pledges jumped to 1.2 billion dollars Friday after the United States and
the World Bank promised 350 million dollars and 250 million dollars.
Egeland said Annan has been invited to visit Indonesia on Thursday
for an international donors conference. Other UN officials confirmed Annan had
accepted the invitation and would launch an appeal for aid from there, rather
than in New York as originally planned.
During his stay in Indonesia, Annan is also expected to discuss with
leaders of the Southeast Asian Association member states effects of the
unprecedented tsunami disaster.
Egeland reiterated his call for logistical support for relief
operations so that food, medicine and other supplies could be quickly
distributed to some 5 million people affected by the deadly tidal waves.
"The biggest constraints are the logistical bottlenecks by far," he
said. "We need to make small, damaged airstrips some of the busiest airports in
"The military and civil defense assets that many countries are
providing are as valuable as cash or gold would be because it makes us move the
assistance and it makes us get there in the race against the clock."
Egeland said at a telephone conference with ministers of the United
States, Australia and other "core group" countries on Friday night, he had
outlined a wish list for logistical support, which included helicopters, cargo
planes, air traffic controllers and fuel storage units.
The "core group" was established by Washington to help the United
Nations coordinate the global relief efforts.
Egeland, who estimated on Friday the death toll from the Dec. 26
tsunami would reach 150,000, also warned that the figure could rise further as
fatalities in many remote villages have not been recorded yet.
"I am sure it will be higher than that but I am also sure we will
never know how many people were washed to sea and will never, ever be found," he
Carol Bellamy, executive director of the UN Children's Fund, will
start a five-day tour to Southern Asia on Sunday, with Sri Lanka as her first