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UNICEF needs $534 mln for crises without Iraq war

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GENEVA, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday appealed for more than half a billion dollars in relief funds for emergency-hit countries it said were in danger of being forgotten due to the Iraq crisis.
"We are seeking...$534 million to reach kids in 33 countries," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told reporters after presenting the 2003 Humanitarian Action Report to officials from donor countries.

Afghanistan, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo will be the biggest recipients of aid under plan, said Bellamy.

She appealed for the international community to take note of the plight of countries like Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Eritrea and North Korea, which she said were in danger of becoming "forgotten crises".

"A number of countries are chronically underfunded...While I understand why the world's attention seems to be focused on Iraq, it is these so-called forgotten emergencies which end up a year or two on becoming even greater emergencies," she said.

On Iraq, Bellamy said UNICEF had already budgeted for around $9 million, part of a $37.4 million appeal launched last December with other major UN relief agencies to set up stocks of food and other supplies in case of conflict in Iraq.

The funds for Iraq are earmarked for vaccinating and generally improving the health of more than five million women and children. It does not include extra cash to tackle emergencies in the event of a U.S.-led invasion and war.

"This is a non-war figure. I don't think anybody knows (how much would be needed in the event of a war)," Bellamy said.

UNICEF is making contingency plans ahead of a possible war in Iraq by focusing more intently on clean water access and accelerating a planned measles vaccination campaign.

"We hope very much that nothing happens, but we believe we are as prepared as we can be at this point in time should something happen," Bellamy said.

The UNICEF report highlighted the importance of education to restore some normality in children's lives and acknowledged the problem of coping with crises compounding the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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