Hong Kong is trailing other countries in offering financial support to the poor around the world despite being one of the richest economies, according to the city's international aid organisations. They have also urged the government to broaden the scope of its Disaster Relief Fund, which was set up in 1993 to provide relief in response to natural disasters, in order to support long-term development and health programmes. The fund, which is topped up to $50 million every year, has long been criticised for not being used enough, although it is the only official fund in Hong Kong to offer financial help overseas. Last year only $18.8 million was delivered to sufferers of natural disasters, including drought and famine victims in Africa and flood victims in Hunan. In 2001, the amount donated was $8.15 million. The United Nations has recommended that rich countries donate the equivalent of 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) in overseas aid. If Hong Kong wants to meet the target, it should donate about US$9 billion. Countries that belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donated an average of 0.4 per cent of GNP to overseas aid in 1998. Japan's average was 0.28 per cent of GNP, Australia 0.27 per cent and the United States 0.1 per cent. To enhance Hong Kong's participation in international relief work, humanitarian groups say the scope of the fund should be broadened beyond natural disasters. Oxfam Hong Kong's executive director, Chong Chan-yau, said it could be used to help underprivileged people. 'Hong Kong is a wealthy society; other places expect Hong Kong to do more [in donations],' Mr Chong said. Echoing his views, Anita Kwok, press and public relations manager of Medecins Sans Frontieres, believed the government should play a leading role in encouraging more people to take part in charity drives. 'There are many problems in the world, such as war and civil unrest, but under the current situation, we cannot submit an application [for funding],' Ms Kwok said. The fund is administered by the Chief Secretary's Office, which is advised by a committee on donating the money. In response to the suggestion, a government spokesman said: 'The Disaster Relief Fund is to provide immediate relief to victims struck by natural disasters ... We do not see the need to substantially alter the scope of the fund now.'