UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United Nations appealed for $1.7 billion Thursday to help 26 million people suffering in some of the world’s forgotten disaster zones.

For months, international attention has focused on such hotspots as Iraq and Sudan’s Darfur region, but Burundi, Russia’s Chechnya region, Eritrea and many other places face dire problems and need urgent relief, Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said.

“It should be possible for the rich communities to do this investment because I can, as emergency relief coordinator, see no better way to invest in the future than to save lives,” Egeland said.

The appeal seeks help for 14 crisis areas, 11 of them in Africa. Among the worst is northern Uganda, which has as many internally displaced people – 1.6 million – as Darfur, Egeland said.

“It is mind-boggling how little international attention there has been,” he said.

A rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army has kidnapped about 22,000 children in 18 years of fighting, keeping them as sex slaves, fighters and porters.

“Others have died in wars, others died due to diseases, and of course many of them died due to sexual abuse,” said Angelina Atyam, whose daughter recently returned after eight years in LRA captivity with two daughters of her own born during the ordeal. “Our area, our region has been left behind … in all ways.”

Last year, donor countries contributed only 52 percent of the $3 billion the world body sought for 30 countries.

This year, the appeal whittled away requests for money that would have gone for development and reconstruction, and focuses on only the crises’ most urgent needs, including food, sanitation and even mine-clearing.

The crises included in this year’s appeal are Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Chechnya, Ivory Coast, Congo, Eritrea, central Africa’s Great Lakes region, Guinea, the Palestinian territories, Republic of Congo, Somalia, Uganda, and West Africa.

The United Nations plans separate appeals later this year for Sudan and other trouble spots, including Liberia and Ethiopia.

AP-ES-11-11-04 2151EST

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