Rich nations are accused of giving 'nothing'

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The Independent Online

The UN raised its appeal to about $550m (£310m) from its original target of $312m. "The scale of this tragedy almost defies our darkest imagination," Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, told a donors conference in Geneva yesterday, where a minute's silence was observed in honour of the 79,000 people killed by the 8 October quake. "We meet today to prevent a second shockwave of deaths and to prevent further suffering."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which increased its emergency shelter programme appeal to $30m from $22m, said it had only received $4m - from Sweden, Japan and Italy. "We need more resources to save two million to three million lives and we need much more resources in the next few days," Jan Egeland, the UN's under secretary general for humanitarian relief, said.

The charity Oxfam said less than 30 per cent of the UN's original target had been pledged.

It named France, Austria and Spain among seven of the world's richest countries which had not contributed a single penny to the UN's emergency appeal for the earthquake. Oxfam also accused the US, Japan, Germany and Italy of not giving their "fair share" to the appeal in proportion to the size of their economies.

It is rare for charities to take so confrontational an approach to major international donors, and Oxfam's outburst is a sign of increasing desperation in the relief effort in Pakistan. "We needed the money yesterday," Mr Egeland told a news conference. "We are amputating far too many limbs because of delays." He said doctors were being forced to amputate limbs from survivors that could have been saved if the victims were able to have been evacuated more quickly.

There is a severe shortage of helicopters to carry out the relief operation, and aid workers have been forced to use pack-horses and basic rafts to get help to survivors. Some have even carried it in on foot, hiking through remote mountain valleys. Relief workers are racing against time to get hundreds of thousands of people under shelter and to stockpile food to last them through the harsh winter.

There are concerns that compassion fatigue has set in after a series of natural disasters, including the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Last year's UN tsunami appeal was 80 per cent funded within 10 days.

Britain, which has so far given $17.4m, has given the most money of the world's leading economies to the UN's Pakistan appeal. The US, which has given $10.8m, is second, but Oxfam says that is not enough given the size of the US economy. Japan has given $8m, Germany $3.9m, and Italy $1.2m.

Oxfam named France, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain as not having given anything to the UN appeal. Some countries have given money directly to Pakistan, outside the UN appeal. "The logistical nightmare in Pakistan is bad enough without having to worry about funding shortfalls as well," said Oxfam's policy director, Phil Bloomer. "The public will be shocked that so many rich governments have given so little."

Yesterday's donor conference prompted an immediate response from countries, which pledged an additional $525m to help the Pakistani earthquake victims. But it remained unclear how much would go the UN relief effort. "The United Nations is grateful for the additional pledges so far of $525m to the assistance efforts in northern Pakistan," Mr Egeland said.