New York, NY (BBN)– The United Nations on Wednesday launched its largest ever annual humanitarian appeal, seeking $7 billion for urgent aid to 30 million people in 31 countries, dwarfing by far last year’s call for $3.8 billion for 25 million people.

“Our aim is to help these most vulnerable people survive the coming year, and enable them to start working their way out of vulnerability and despair towards the dignity, safety and self-sufficiency to which every human being has a right,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the foreword to the Humanitarian Appeal 2009, which seeks help to the myriad victims of conflicts, natural disasters, climate change and surging food prices.

By far the biggest appeal ever launched since the creation of the UN Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) in 1991, it covers 12 countries or regions – the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq and region, Kenya, occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, the West African region, and Zimbabwe.

In formulating this year’s CAP, which was launched in Geneva, 360 aid organizations including UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other international bodies united to meet the world’s major humanitarian challenges in a strategic, coordinated, effective, and prioritized way, according to a UN press statement.

The biggest requirement is for Sudan at just over $2 billion, with the appeal for the DRC up from $600 million last year to $830 million. The number of targeted countries has gone up and includes a regional appeal for refugees from Iraq, covering seven countries. Otherwise the list is similar to last year’s, with the addition of Kenya.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-20November08-9:42 AM (BST)