Britons open hearts and wallets for Rwanda

THE Rwandan crisis appeal is one of the best-supported disaster relief funds ever launched by British charities. Only three other appeals by the Disasters Emergencies Committee (DEC), the umbrella organisation for Britain's seven main aid agencies, have raised more than the pounds 9m donated for Rwanda so far.

In addition to donations through the DEC, which will be split evenly between its members, individual charities have received millions of pounds directly from the public, and the Government's Overseas Development Administration (ODA) is contributing more than during the emergencies in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the UN, has appealed for dollars 435m ( pounds 290m) in aid from member countries. On Tuesday he will host a meeting in Geneva in an attempt to extract firm pledges of further aid.

Yesterday Jamie McCall, executive secretary of the DEC, said the amount given in the UK had already exceeded the totals raised in 34 of its previous 37 appeals. Its success was only surpassed by the Somalia appeal of 1992 ( pounds 17.3m), and the funds for Ethiopia in 1989 ( pounds 10.5m) and 1984 ( pounds 9.5m). A total of pounds 11m is expected to have been raised by the time the appeal closes at the end of next month.

Mr McCall said: 'The reaction to what has happened has been swift and committed. Also, the letters we have been sent by donors have been much more emotional than before. People have been really moved by what they have seen on television and read in the newspapers.'

The ODA announced last week that it would provide a further pounds 10m, bringing its total spending on Rwandan aid to more than pounds 50m. The pounds 500,000 it has spent per day of the crisis compares with a pounds 200,000 daily average for the former Yugoslavia and pounds 100,000 for Somalia. Ministers believed the response had to match the nature of the crisis. 'The speed and scale of this emergency is unique,' a spokesman said.

Oxfam has been the biggest spender so far, with the purchase of pounds 5m of food, medicine and water purification equipment. The British Red Cross has spent pounds 3m, Christian Aid pounds 700,000, Help the Aged pounds 600,000, Cafod pounds 590,000 and ActionAid pounds 500,000.

Most of the aid has been spent on food and medical supplies for the cholera-striken refugee centre at Goma, with water purification equipment a top priority.

Sheila Young of Oxfam said that of its pounds 5m outlay since April, pounds 3m went on water supply equipment, pounds 750,000 on buying vehicles, pounds 500,000 on the cost of staff working in the field, the same on miscellaneous supplies such as blankets, high-energy biscuits, washing and cooking equipment, and pounds 250,000 on medical supplies. All the emergency appeal funds are spent in Rwanda, leaving administration costs to be covered out of its general budget.

Christian Aid said a typical grant for a Rwandan relief post would involve about one or two per cent being spent on administration. Of the rest, about 68 per cent would go on food, 16 per cent on blankets, 12 per cent on medicine and 4 per cent on transport.

The British Red Cross's initial response to the crisis was to distribute food it had stockpiled in Zaire and Burundi. It has since sent out nine relief planes and 25 staff to Rwanda, Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania. Among the supplies to be flown out are vital cholera prevention and treatment kits. Geoffrey Dennis, director of international operations, said: 'These kits and staff will have the capacity to deal with approximately 80,000 patients.'

The DEC has declared today Britain's Day for Rwanda, an intensified fund-raising push with a target of pounds 125,000. Volunteers have organised a 'celebrity phone-in', during which donors can call a hotline (0345 222333) to pledge donations to personalities including Charles Dance, Ruby Wax, Alan Freeman and an unnamed Hollywood star.