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Insufficient funding for humanitarian operations costs lives
by Jan Egeland, Ursula Mueller
1:59pm 18th Jul, 2018
17 July 2018
Half way into the year, humanitarian organizations have only received 35 per cent of the money needed for humanitarian relief worldwide.
“Our humanitarian relief is a matter of life or death in many horrific war and disaster zones. The lack of funding leaves many desperate families without assistance. Mothers are forced to cut back on food for already malnourished children. Girls and boys are deprived of education and hope,” warned Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland.
By the end of June, the international community had only provided US$9 billion of the US$25 billion needed for humanitarian assistance around the world, according to figures from the UN.
“It is outrageous that UN member states find an incredible US $1.7 trillion for military expenditure, but are willing to provide less than one per cent of this for relief to the many millions of victims of wars and disasters,” said Egeland.
“The money needed is half the price of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. It is not a question about what the world can afford, but a question about priorities,” he added.
The humanitarian appeals, put together by the UN and partner organizations, reflect the expected need for global relief funding in 2018. While the needs have increased substantially over the last decade, the available aid has not kept pace, leading to a large funding gap.
Despite the scale and the brutality of its crisis, DR Congo is one of the countries that have received the least funding so far this year, with only about 21 per cent of the UN appeal covered. The country topped NRC’s latest list of neglected displacement crises and may very well repeat, unless donor countries immediately increase support.
In the Kasai region, cholera is rapidly spreading due to the poor water, sanitation and health infrastructure, claiming an increasing number of lives. In the same region, nearly 400,000 children risk deaths due to severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF, yet nutrition remains one of the lowest funded sectors in the current humanitarian response.
There are positive examples we must heed. The recent Ebola outbreak response is a very good example how an acute crisis can be averted when funding and capacity is deployed rapidly. When the outbreak was declared in May 2018, USD 57 million was released within ten days. This same efficiency and will should be applied to the broader humanitarian crisis in DR Congo.
“DR Congo is one of the countries where the funding gap is already claiming lives. Because of insufficient money, humanitarians are left with impossible choices, such as having to decide which of the communities affected by conflict and displacement should receive aid, and which must try to survive without,” added Egeland.
The international community is also failing to provide sufficient support to Congolese refugees in the region. By June, the UN and partners had only received 6 per cent of the aid needed for Congolese refugees in Uganda. There is also an alarming funding gap for humanitarian response in several other countries that have received a large number of refugees, like Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, and Bangladesh.
“World leaders have promised better international responsibility sharing, but so far these promises ring hollow. Men, women and children, who have had their lives turned upside-down by wars and conflicts and, who need protection, are the ones paying the price,” Egeland said.
Facts about the funding shortages:
US $25 billion are needed to provide urgent relief to people affected by crises in 2018, according to the humanitarian response plans put together by the UN and their partners. By the end of June, US $9 billion were received; this is only 35 per cent of the money needed.
In comparison, total world military expenditure rose to US $1739 billion in 2017, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The crises in Ethiopia and DR Congo are two of the leading crises that had received the least funding by the end of June, compared to the needs. Only 15 per cent of the money needed for support in Ethiopia has been received, while the equivalent figure for DR Congo is 21 per cent. Six per cent of the funding needed to support refugees from DR Congo in Uganda was received by June 2018.
June 2018
Insufficient funding for humanitarian operations costs lives. (OCHA)
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Ursula Mueller, Presentation of the Global Humanitarian Overview Status Report, June 2018
The Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) for 2018 was launched last December. The GHO Status Report provides an update six months on, looking at crisis contexts, funding received, and unmet requirements.
In the past six months, donors have contributed US$8.3 billion in humanitarian response by the United Nations and partners.
I want to explain why we need to increase this level of humanitarian funding. Today’s global, UN-coordinated, inter-agency humanitarian appeal calls for $25.4 billion to meet the needs of over 100 million individuals who depend on our support.
We have witnessed a steep increase in need in recent years. Thanks to continued support, humanitarian partners are doing more, doing it better, and continue to save lives.
Although GHO response plans are coordinated by the United Nations, some 800 different humanitarian organizations are involved in response operations. These are mostly national NGOs, which carry out humanitarian action.
The GHO covers 21 humanitarian response plans, four regional refugee response plans and one regional refugee and resilience plan. In all, 40 countries will be supported.
As we reach mid-year 2018, 156 million vulnerable people in 40 countries need assistance. These people need health interventions, nutrition, food security, education, protection, shelter, clean water and sanitation services. Some depend on our support for their very survival. Others, if unassisted, will continue living in extremely difficult circumstances, or will flee their homes or countries and face an additional new set of problems.
In addition to the severe situations in South Sudan, Syria Region, and Yemen, I would like to mention two significant crises that have seen critical changes since the start of the year, being Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Ddrought is affecting two thirds of Afghanistan’s provinces, and more than two million people are projected to be severely food insecure over the next six months. To address this critical situation, the Afghanistan appeal was increased by $117 million to assist 4.2 million people.
On Bangladesh: in March, the 2018 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis was increased by 119 per cent when UN agencies and NGO partners released an appeal that amounts to $951 million for this year. This targeted 1.3 million people, including more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar since August last year. This is now known as the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. The ongoing emergency is also compounded by the arrival of the monsoon season.
The best-funded appeals in proportion to requirements are those for Yemen, Nigeria and Iraq. With Yemen funded at just over 50 per cent, and Iraq and Nigeria at 50 percent and 46 percent, respectively, much has been accomplished, but nevertheless these appeals require greater funding to close the remaining gap.
I would also like to draw your attention to the five least funded appeals as of June 2018. These are for Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, the occupied Palestinian territory, and Ukraine. It is critical that donors consider the consequences to individuals and families if humanitarian operations are not funded over the next six months. Underfunding means medical facilities close, food rations are cut back and children are denied an education.
This translates in less protection and lives lost, and we cannot afford to wait for the media to place a spotlight on these crises before stepping up our response.
Also, largely outside the media spotlight, are the nearly six million people across the Sahel region, who cannot access adequate food. We have seen evidence of rapid health deterioration in recent months in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
In Ethiopia, at least 7.9 million people need humanitarian assistance because of drought, disease outbreaks, loss of livestock and displacement caused by an upsurge of violence along the border between Oromia and Somali regions. The Government and humanitarian partners have asked for $280 million over the next six months to help the worst-affected people, through the Ethiopia Humanitarian and Disaster Resilience Plan.
I recently visited the Central African Republic, where I witnessed first-hand the effects of renewed, large-scale violence, which has led to one of the highest humanitarian caseloads per capita in the world. While this crisis has faded from the headlines in 2018, the number of internally displaced people has nearly doubled over the last 12 months and growing numbers of Central Africans are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The humanitarian response for CAR is severely underfunded this year again, with contributions at just 21 per cent of what is required. People I met with were running out of hope.
In the last six months the UN and humanitarian partners have worked together to provide aid to the most vulnerable people in need. The UN alongside regional and national partners have held funding events for the DRC, Somalia, Syria and the region, and Yemen. I would like to thank the donors who have pledged funds to these crises, and including those who contributed to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
Let me make it clear. Insufficient funding for humanitarian operations costs lives. 100 million people are looking to the international community for their hope and survival. We cannot to let them down.

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