World must 'wake up to disasters'
(CNN) -- The U.N. official overseeing relief efforts for the tsunami disaster has called on world leaders to "wake up" to numerous other humanitarian catastrophes that he said get little or no attention.
From the earliest days after the tragedy, U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland has taken time during news conferences and interviews to argue that the outpouring of support for victims in southern Asia should be extended to other troubled regions.
On Monday, he described himself as "desperate."
"We have 20 parallel catastrophes unfolding," he told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.
"I am now as afraid for the situation in Darfur as I was at the peak, nearly, in the summer," he said in reference to the turbulent region in Sudan.
"I am just desperate to get attention to the 'tsunami' coming in Congo every four months," he added, arguing that there are as many preventable deaths in that time as the number who died in the tsunami disaster.
"In eastern Congo we believe that there are in the millions of preventable deaths in the last decade," he said.
"And here is my criticism of the rich world: Could we wake up please to those 20 forgotten emergencies, as we have woken up so generously to this enormous tsunami that has hit 5 million people and killed more than 150,000?"
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made similar comments over the weekend, complaining of "orphaned disasters."
"They are not on the headlines, they are not on TV, and they are ignored and overlooked," he said.
Both Annan and Egeland have had high praise for the international response to the tsunami disaster, calling it "unprecedented." Egeland called U.S. assistance "ideal."