The appeal does not include Iraq and Afghanistan, both subject to separate donor appeals.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the annual appeal saying that "despite generous contributions, the financing of humanitarian aid too often remains inadequate and unpredictable."
Last year, the United Nations initially appealed for more than $3 billion to help 50 million people in 30 countries. Later, after an appeal for Iraq and others were added, the total rose to $5.1 billion.
Annan lamented that only 66 percent of that amount has been donated so far this year.
"And this figure itself is misleading, as funding levels remain uneven," he said. "While the amount requested for Iraq — which represents more than one third of the total appeals — was 91 percent funded, Burundi, for instance, has received only 28 percent and Liberia 24 percent."
"We must do better, and we must forget no one who depends on us for help and for hope," Annan said.
"If we were able to collect nearly $2 billion for Iraq alone, surely we can raise the $3 billion we are asking for the rest of the world in the next year," he said. "That is the equivalent of little more than $3 per person in donor countries — the cost of a magazine or two cups of coffee."
The appeal by international aid organizations, including U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations, aims to provide food, medical assistance and shelter to help people survive and to support countries emerging from crisis and conflict like Angola and Sierra Leone.
"Some 45 million civilians are struggling to survive displacement, loss and severe disruption to their lives in the world's wars, conflicts and natural disasters. Most of them are children, women and the elderly," Annan said.
The crises included in this year's appeals are Angola, Burundi, Chechnya and neighboring republics, Central African Republic, Congo, Eritrea, Great Lakes Region of Africa, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, North Korea, Palestinian territory, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Southern Africa Region, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa and Zimbabwe.
By Edith M. Lederer