Consolidated Inter Agency Appeal launched in Bern requests donors to respond to humanitarian catastrophes in the developing world

BERN, 19 November 2002. The World Health Organization (WHO) today calls for urgent action to tackle illness and suffering in the many developing countries affected by humanitarian crises. As part of the Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (CAP), that was launched today in Bern at the Federal Palace, WHO appealed for US$ 65 million to assist countries in complex emergencies with immediate relief and to help to re-build their health systems. In addition, WHO estimates that an extra US$ 22 million are needed to reconstruct the health service and system infrastructure in Afghanistan.

"65% of disease epidemics occur in emergency situations. There we see the highest risk of HIV/AIDS, the highest rate of child and maternal mortality, and the greatest burden of malaria and tuberculosis," said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO. "That is why health care is an absolute necessity during conflicts and crises. We must take exceptional action to sustain and protect health systems, ensure safe water, provide shelter, and improve sanitation for those who are affected. We are not doing enough" she added.

In wars and natural disasters, disease epidemics take root and spread. Malnutrition and mental trauma leave permanent scars on those who are already vulnerable and poor. Health workers are often not available when needed. Women give birth without support. Children do not receive health care.

The current crisis in Southern Africa now threatens the lives of nearly 14.5 million people. It is characterized by a shortage of food, overwhelmed health services and high levels of HIV (prevalence rates as high as 31%). As many as 300,000 people - including children, women giving birth and those affected by HIV and other diseases - will die in the next few months. Many could have survived if they had been given a minimum of food and basic health care.

If governments in the Southern African region receive the support they need to provide health interventions at around US$ 3.40 per person, this wave of death and disease will be averted. So far, known funding amounts to US$ 0.35 per person. The requested financial support in the CAP for 2003 could ensure basic standards of therapeutic feeding, clean water and sanitation, and effective health care in the region. The same potential exists elsewhere.

Under the slogan "Hope for the Future", UN agencies and international NGOs are jointly requesting US$ 3 billion from donors in order to help the poorest countries in Asia and Africa to recover from the terrible consequences of humanitarian crises. This year’s CAP includes Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Great Lakes Region and Central Africa, Indonesia, North Caucasus, Somalia, Southern Africa, Sudan, Tadjikistan, Uganda, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

"If we want to give people hope for the future we must safeguard their health. This is essential, and nothing should stop us all making the effort that is needed" said Dr Brundtland.

For more information please contact Melanie Zipperer at WHO, Geneva

Telephone: (+41 22) 791 1344, mobile: (+41 79) 477 1722, email: zippererm@who.int