“That’s our challenge: respond to great needs in Europe, and especially inside Ukraine, and then at the same time respond to needs equally elsewhere,” says Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
As it rushes to help Ukrainian refugees, the West must not divert aid from poor countries also suffering from the fallout of the conflict, the head of a major refugee aid organisation has appealed.
"Some of the donors are diverting funding from the very poor countries to Europe," Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), said on Tuesday.
"There's no doubt that a war in Europe is horrifically negative news for the poorest people of the Sahel", he added.
He also warned that the wheat that they got from Russia and Ukraine may not now come.
"Prices are going through the roof. Fuel is much more expensive. Our operations are much more expensive".
Observers fear that a lack of grain could trigger food riots in the Middle East and North Africa.
According to the UN, grain prices have already exceeded the levels seen at the start of the Arab Spring and food riots of 2007-2008.
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'Horrifically negative news'
"In my 40 years as a humanitarian worker, I have never, ever seen three million people displaced by war and conflict every week for a month", Egeland said.
Since the start of the Russian attacks against Ukraine on February 24, more than 10 million people, or more than a quarter of the population, have fled their homes.
The European response to Ukraine's needs has been "very good so far", Egeland said.
"The Ukraine appeal was (for) $1.7 billion and it came immediately as a humanitarian appeal for funding. It was fully funded within days", he noted.
"I wish we had the same response to the Yemeni appeal, which was addressing even more people that were even poorer in Yemen."
"It asked for $4.2 billion and we got less there than we got for Ukraine", he lamented.
Launched on March 16, the Yemen appeal resulted in $1.3 billion in pledges to come to the aid of 17.2 million people in a war-torn country on the brink of famine.
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"We need now to defend the aid budgets", Egeland said.
In Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Somalia, aid workers recount "how overwhelmed they are, how overstretched they are in exploding emergencies and nobody seems to care".
"So that's our challenge: respond to great needs in Europe, and especially inside Ukraine, and then at the same time respond to needs equally elsewhere".
Each year, the NRC draws up a ranking of the world's most neglected crises.
The Democratic Republic of Congo topped the list in 2020, ahead of Cameroon, Burundi, Venezuela and Honduras.
"I hope that the outpouring of resources for Ukraine, the volunteerism for Ukraine, the willingness to receive and shield and help Ukrainians, will also be translated to the emergencies elsewhere from Syria to Ethiopia, from Afghanistan to Venezuela", Egeland said.
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