Oxfam has today urged the New Zealand government to contribute to the relief effort in western Sudan and Chad on the eve of an emergency meeting in Geneva to discuss the crisis.
The Thursday meeting has been convened by the United Nations to look at how to get aid to an estimated two million people affected by what the UN describes as "the world's worst humanitarian crisis". These include up to one million people who've been forced to leave their villages inside Darfur, and another 150,000 – 200,000 who have crossed the border into Chad.
"The scale of the challenge facing us in Darfur and Chad is immense," said Oxfam Regional Director Caroline Nursey who will be attending the Geneva meeting.
"People have fled their homes with nothing and are struggling to survive in desperately harsh desert conditions. The OECD countries, including New Zealand, must come through with a much greater injection of cash to help aid agencies save lives.
"It's very telling that in the first three months of the 2003 Iraq appeal, donors mobilised nearly NZ$3.2bn (US$2bn), whereas the UN's appeal for the whole of Sudan has received less than NZ$322 million (US$200 million) – not even a third of what the UN have asked for.
"When a crisis is considered important in western capitals, money flows easily. The suffering of people in Africa needs to be given equal prominence."
Oxfam has been scaling up its relief work in Darfur since the Sudanese government approved extra visas for expert staff last month. However, the agency said, this access must be sustained over the next three months and beyond if aid workers are to significantly improve the health of thousands of displaced people and prevent outbreaks of disease.
"No-one's pretending that international humanitarian aid is the only thing that's needed to end this crisis," said Oxfam’s Caroline Nursey. "But if we are going to save lives, aid is needed and it's needed now."
In addition to government money, Oxfam New Zealand has launched an emergency appeal to the New Zealand public to contribute towards the NZ$3 million that Oxfam is seeking for its vital work in both Darfur and Chad.