| GEO World|
| Don't forget refugees during financial crisis: UN|
| Updated at: 2249 PST, Friday, October 10, 2008|
GENEVA: The United Nations warned the world not to abandon humanitarian aid commitments amidst the current financial crisis, saying such a move could have "dramatic consequences."
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said humanitarian aid funds were "peanuts" compared to the sums being pledged to bail out the financial system.
"If this peanuts would be reduced, we would face dramatic consequences," he warned. Guterres was speaking to journalists after the UN High Commission for Refugees held its executive committee meeting this week.
The UNHCR, which takes care of 31 million refugees and displaced people in the world, has a budget of 1.8 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros) for next year.
In comparison, the United States has approved a rescue plan worth 700 billion dollars to stop a financial system meltdown.
"We have witnessed in the recent weeks hundreds of billions of dollars being decided to rescue the financial system, and this probably is a thing that needs to be done, but it would be a disaster if this would undermine the capacity of states and of people around the world to go on providing an increasing demand of humanitarian aid," said Guterres.
The UN refugee chief said developed countries must understand it was an issue of "peace and security in the world."
"There would be more crises next year, more refugees, more people on the move and who fall in extreme poverty due to the slowing economic growth," he warned.
US State Department official Samuel Witten subsequently told journalists that Washington would remain committed to humanitarian assistance even though it was too early to quantify the impact of the financial crisis on donors.
"At this time it's impossible to predict the impact of the global economic crisis on developing countries or on foreign assistance overall from the US or any other donor country," Witten said.
However, "we expect to continue to be a major donor to international humanitarian programmes," he added.
In the fiscal year 2008, the State Department contributed 1.44 billion dollars to help refugees, conflict victims, stateless persons and vulnerable migrants around the world.
Witten also said the US expects to take in at least 17,000 refugees from Iraq in 2009 for resettlement, after 13,823 in the fiscal year 2008.