UNITED NATIONS — Countries rich and poor on Monday called for a $500 million U.N. fund to meet humanitarian emergencies after a year of devastating disasters from the Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquakes in Asia and hurricanes in the Americas to drought in Africa.
General Assembly President Jan Eliasson said the current $50 million revolving fund was insufficient, and the increase would help the United Nations respond quickly to sudden and underfunded crises.
“The complexity of today’s crises and the growing magnitude of disasters require that humanitarian assistance remains one of the highest priorities of the work of the United Nations,” he told the opening of a daylong debate on improving U.N. humanitarian and disaster relief.
As the U.N.’s 191 member nations were meeting, he said, the death toll in Pakistan from the Oct. 8 earthquake was still rising “and thousands of people are in danger of freezing to death as winter sets in.”
An especially destructive hurricane season has also left thousands homeless in the Caribbean, Central America and the United States, and nearly 35 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are hungry and need food as a result of “a lethal combination of conflict and drought,” he said.