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NZ gives only half a tent to earthquake victims

Wednesday 26 October, 2005

Oxfam: New Zealand gives only half a tent to earthquake victims

New Zealand is failing to respond generously to the UN South Asian Earthquake appeal and must pledge more at the donor conference starting today (Wednesday), said international agency Oxfam.

Oxfam has compiled figures showing that New Zealand has given just over a half of its fair share to the emergency appeal, along with many other rich countries that have given much less than they are able, relative to the size of their economies.

As donor governments meet today (Wednesday) in Geneva to discuss the situation, Oxfam's figures show that:

- Despite Kofi Annan's urgent call for more aid last week, the UN appeal remains only 19% funded and if pledges are included (which are often not delivered) this only brings the total to 30%. ($90 million has been pledged out of the $312 million the UN requested).

- New Zealand has so far pledged, but not yet committed, 56% of their fair share.

- Only four countries (Sweden, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Denmark) have so far given more than their fair share to the appeal.
- Governments that have given less than one fifth of their fair share include, Japan (17%), Germany (14%), the US (9%) and Italy (7%).

- Seven rich country governments have so far given nothing at all to the UN appeal; Belgium, France, Austria, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain. By contrast much poorer countries such as Poland and Chile have given contributions to the appeal.

While some of these governments may have given resources outside of the UN appeal, Oxfam said that ensuring the UN appeal is met is vital to ensuring the aid effort is successful.

"Governments are once again failing to respond to an emergency appeal. The logistical nightmare in Pakistan is bad enough without having to worry about funding shortfalls as well. Governments meeting in Geneva today must put their hands in their pockets and pay their fair share. The New Zealand public will be disappointed that our government have not met their moral commitments to help those desperately in need," said Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director, Barry Coates.

The basic problem with under-funding from New Zealand is that our aid budget is low compared to most OECD countries, and despite the increase in the last budget, still less than half the UN agreed level. Increasing the amount in aid overall means more funds to respond to emergencies such as the South Asia earthquake. Oxfam is calling for this to be one of the priorities of the new government.

According to Oxfam's research, while high profile emergencies are generously funded (i.e. the UN appeal for Iraq in 2003 was over 90% funded and the Tsunami appeal received 80% of funding within 10 days) the low amounts pledged for this emergency are not exceptional:

- In 2004 donor governments provided less than two thirds of what the UN's emergency appeals asked for – leaving a black hole in emergency programs of US$1.3 billion. A similar shortfall existed in 2003.

- Most UN emergency appeals receive less than 30% of required funding in the first month.

- Other current UN appeals such as the one for Malawi remain similarly under funded.
"The slow response to the UN South Asia appeal is depressingly familiar. These delays can cost thousands of people their lives. People who have survived the earthquake will die while they wait for aid. What will it take for the well-off countries, like New Zealand, to learn this obvious lesson?” said Coates.

Oxfam New Zealand has been pleased with the public response to their appeal – but more is needed to meet the desperate need as winter sets in. The public can donate to the appeal now on the website www.oxfam.org.nz or by phone during work hours on toll-free 0800 400 666.


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