UN chief praises Qatar aid pledge

Ban Ki-moon praises Qatar for pledging $40m to assist aid efforts in war-ravaged Gaza and other relief operations around the world.

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PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA // Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, has praised Qatar for pledging US$40 million (Dh147m) to assist aid efforts in war-ravaged Gaza and other relief operations around the world. The secretary general was "honoured to accept the generous sum of $40 million as a contribution from the emir of Qatar to United Nations humanitarian agencies for programmes to meet the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza", said Mr Ban's spokesman.

The bulk of Qatar's pledge - about $30m - is targeted at the world body's operations in Gaza, where Israel's recent three-week military onslaught against Hamas left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead. The UN Relief and Works Agency will receive $10m of the Gaza pledge and the remainder will help provide food to more than one million Gazans, rebuild the shattered agriculture sector and fund projects for children.

A further $10m has been allocated to the so-called Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which provides aid in the aftermath of manmade and natural disasters around the world. The undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, stressed that "the $10m donation to the CERF is especially significant, as it allows the United Nations to allocate the funds based on need to other parts of the world that are often overlooked". "I hope that other potential donors will follow suit, as humanitarian needs will only grow in 2009, considering the combined threats posed by intensified conflicts, climate change, the global food crisis and the global economic slowdown," he added.

Qatar's pledge comes in advance of a donor conference to fund reconstruction in Gaza being held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on Monday. jreinl@thenational.ae