Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Need [Pounds Sterling]1bn Now or Millions Will Die

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Need [Pounds Sterling]1bn Now or Millions Will Die

Article excerpt

Byline: VALENTINE LOW;LECH MINTOWT-CZYZ

THE world's largest-ever relief effort gathered pace today to help victims of the tsunami disaster as aid agencies warned they are still dangerously short of funds.

With the authorities now faced with the first reports of disease spreading, the focus is on providing basic water supplies, sanitation and food.

The United Nations has estimated the immediate relief effort needs over [pounds sterling]1 billion to prevent a substantial number of the five million people now at risk of sickness or starvation losing their lives.

Unicef has said that more than a million children need immediate help in Indonesia alone. So far western governments have pledged over [pounds sterling]181 million, with Britain donating [pounds sterling]15 million.

Simon Missiri, of the Asia Pacific region Red Cross, said: "We are facing a disaster of unprecedented proportions. We are talking about a staggering death toll."

Phil Bloomer of Oxfam added: "It is clear the short and medium-term responses are underfunded.

"The next five to 10 days are crucial. The danger is donors will walk away in two weeks' time as they have in other disasters."

In Sri Lanka there are reports of thousands suffering measles and diarrhoea.

Many areas in the worst-hit province of Aceh, in the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, have still to be reached by aid agencies.

Disease, starvation and thirst are expected to be rife.

On the streets of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, fights broke out over packets of instant noodles dropped from the air. But other relief supplies piled up at a regional airport because of a lack of cars, fuel or passable roads to move them.

Health officials in Thailand are also warning that areas ravaged by the tsunami are now running out of fresh water.

With sea water, silt and sand covering swathes of the southern coastline, the health ministry said lack of fresh water could bring outbreaks of dysentery, cholera and typhoid.

David Nabarro, head of crisis operations for the World Health Organisation, said: "I am very scared people are not paying real attention to this.

"Counting deaths is one thing and looking at damaged hotels is another, but the real issue is making sure the human beings affected by this tragedy survive.

"In one humanitarian crisis after another, what we see is people dying of communicable disease because of lack of sanitation and clean water.

As many as five million people are not able to access what they need to live. They cannot get water, their sanitation is inadequate or they cannot get food."

Christian Aid spokesman Dominic Nutt added: "The [pounds sterling]15 million pledged by the UK Government is useful, but will not do much in the long term. …

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