Aid agencies in TV plea to raise money

BRITISH CHARITIES, co- ordinated by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) will step up efforts today to increase aid to refugees fleeing the horrors of Serb attacks in Kosovo by beginning a joint television appeal for urgent donations.

The Independent launched the DEC appeal with its readers last week and today's television appeal marks the next stage in the fund-raising effort to tryp to avert the biggest humanitarian disaster in Europe since the Second World War.

Twelve charities - including Oxfam and the British Red Cross - have joined forces under the banner of the DEC to call for contributions from the public.

Tonight in separate five-minute broadcasts, the television presenter Jill Dando, on the BBC, and the actress Juliet Stevenson, on ITV, will appeal for increased donations.

In addition, newspapers will run free advertisements and banks will handle all donations without charge. More than 3,400 telephone lines are available to receive donations from noon today.

The current appeal is the fourth time in 11 months that the DEC has come together.

It has attempted to respond in a co-ordinated fashion to the disasters in Sudan, Bangladesh, South America and now Kosovo. Kate Robinson, of the DEC, said that the two-week campaign will lead to a reduction of administrative costs faced by charities and improve efforts to overcome difficulties faced in getting aid to the right areas.

"This approach will allow us to co-ordinate our response on the ground and through appeals, ensuring that there is no duplication of resources and building on the positive response that charities have received from the public so far."

A spokesman from Oxfam was confident that the appeal would be successful. "So far Oxfam alone has raised over pounds 100,000 for the Kosovan refugees which will be pooled with the committee. We are sure that the public's marvellous response will continue following this appeal."

While individual agencies have already got heavily involved in relieving the suffering caused by the turmoil in Kosovo over the last two weeks, the united fund-raising appeal is intended to enable them to respond more swiftly and effectively.

There has already been a distribution of food, hygiene parcels, blankets, clothes, water and sanitation equipment in the affected areas.

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