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UNHCR seeks $953.7 million to help uprooted

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UNHCR seeks $953.7 million to help uprooted

15 December 2000

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Friday it needs US $953.7 million* next year to help and protect more than 22 million people driven from their homes or otherwise affected by war, violence and contempt for basic human and civil rights around the globe.

The 50-year-old agency, with 5,000 staff and hundreds of offices on five continents, looks after refugees and people displaced within their own countries as well as impoverished communities which host large refugee populations. It also helps those who have returned to their shattered homes but who could not survive without aid.

In a preface to a 258-page funding appeal issued in Geneva on Friday, High Commissioner Sadako Ogata warned that UNHCR couldn't make further cuts in its budget without jeopardising the essence of its work. "We have been forced repeatedly to prioritise and reduce the budget," Mrs. Ogata said. "The cutbacks have curtailed activities with a direct bearing on UNHCR's policy priorities."

Some donor nations are expected to make financial pledges to UNHCR during the appeal's official launch Friday. UNHCR heavily depends on voluntary donations. Only about 2 percent of the agency's annual budget is covered by regular contributions from the UN system. Most of the donations have traditionally come from the governments of 14 industrialised nations, led by the United States.

Contributions to UNHCR from non-government sources have risen threefold over the past few years, from about $10 million in 1997 to $35 million in 1999. But non-government sources still account for only a tiny percentage of the agency's funding.

The largest single portion of UNHCR's 2001 global appeal - more than $255 million - is destined for the agency's work in sub-Saharan Africa. UNHCR handles a string of protracted refugee and internal displacement crises on the continent, from Tanzania and Burundi to the Horn of Africa, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Congos and Angola.

The second largest chunk of UNHCR's budget - nearly $139 million - will go to the agency's Balkan operations, which cover continued involvement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well UNHCR programmes in Kosovo and Serbia. Serbia hosts the Balkans' largest refugee population. Some $100 million are to be spent in Asia, where UNHCR is involved in a number of countries, from strife torn Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, Pakistan, East Timor and Indonesia.

* The actual "Global Appeal" cites the figure of US$ 917.5 million, but an additional US $36.2 million, earmarked for the Angola/Eritrea programmes, has been added to the original amount.