Annan to visit Jakarta; pledges jump to $2b
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan intends to visit tsunami stricken Indonesia next week, as the world increased aid pledges to $2 billion for victims in South Asia, U.N. officials said on Saturday.
Annan was invited to go to the Indonesia capital of Jakarta on Thursday and the officials said he had accepted and would issue a world appeal for relief from there, rather than New York.
More than 1 million people in Indonesia, especially in Indonesia's and Aceh province as well as 700,000 in Sri Lanka will need food aid for months as a result of the disaster, Jan Egeland, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator told his daily news conference.
But he said logistics in distributing aid remained a major challenge.
Egeland said the overall amount donated had increased from some $1.2 billion to about $2 billion, mainly due to a $500 million pledge from Japan, the highest single donation to date, as well as from some 40 other nations. The United States has promised $350 million and the World Bank $250 million.
"We are at the moment recording pledges of $2 billion for emergency phase and recovery phase," Egeland said at his daily news conference.
He said the donations were more than all the aid received by the United Nations in 2004 for such places as Sudan's Darfur region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo combined, adding: "international compassion has never been like this."
Annan, who called the devastation the "largest disaster we have had to deal with," believed the reconstruction process would probably take five to 10 years.
"Because the devastation is enormous it will require billions of dollars," Annan said in an interview to be aired on Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
"Of course, the governments themselves will have to do what they can. But they need international support to be able to do it," Annan said in the interview.
Egeland has estimated deaths at 150,000 but said there were probably many more unrecorded fatalities in remote fishing villages.
However, he said "the biggest constraints" were getting aid to victims who survived the tsunami.
Helicopters, air traffic control units, boats and landing draft as well as cargo planes and several hundreds trucks were urgently needed.
"Military logistics are as valuable as cash or gold," Egeland said.
"We need to make small damaged airstrips some of the busiest airports in the world," Egeland said, adding that relief workers needed helicopter carriers on ships "that can be outside on the coasts and not clog the airstrips."
He said had spoken about logistical needs in a telephone conference with the U.S.-led "core group," which includes India, Japan, Australia and the United Nations. He also related needs to Britain, Canada, China, the European Union the Netherlands.
Carol Bellamy, the executive director of the U.N. Children Fund, begins a five-day tour on Sunday, beginning in Sri Lanka and then on to Jakarta, Aceh and the north of Sumatra, the most devastated area. UNICEF is helping to deliver vital relief supplies, such as water and sanitation, and tracing the whereabouts of thousands of lost children.