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Insufficient funding for humanitarian operations costs lives
by Jan Egeland, Ursula Mueller
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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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Over half of the world’s 68 million displaced are children
by UNHCR, Unicef, NRC, IDMC
June 2018
30 million children displaced by conflict need protection now and sustainable solutions over the long term - UN Children''s Fund
There are now more children forcibly displaced by conflict – an estimated 30 million – than at any other time since the Second World War, UNICEF said on the eve of World Refugee Day. The UN children’s agency warns that these vulnerable children need access to protection and essential services to keep them safe now, as well as sustainable solutions to ensure their wellbeing over the long term.
Amidst ongoing conversations over a global plan of action in support of refugees, UNICEF is urging world leaders to redouble efforts to secure the rights, safety and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable children – so many of whom remain displaced by conflict, violence and political instability.
“On World Refugee Day, it’s important to remember the threats and challenges that children on the move face daily,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes Manuel Fontaine. “Uprooted children – whether refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced – face grave risks to their health and safety, along with significant barriers that limit access to the services they need to thrive. These children need more than just a day – they need hope, opportunities and protection. We call upon member states to renew their commitments to fulfil those children’s rights and aspirations.”
As the number of forcibly displaced and refugee children has reached record highs, their access to essential support and services like healthcare and education remains deeply compromised. Only half of all refugee children, for example, are enrolled in primary school, while less than a quarter of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.
The global number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has also reached previously unseen levels, increasing nearly five-fold within the five-year period from 2010. At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in 2015-2016, up from 66,000 in 2010-2011. The true figure of children moving alone, however, is likely to be significantly higher. Unaccompanied and separated children are at heightened risk of trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse. Children account for approximately 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally.
UNICEF hopes the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), as well as the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), to be finalized this year, will serve as the framework for strong member state commitments to the rights of uprooted children around the world. The children’s agency has released a six-point agenda for action to protect refugee and migrant children, including best practice recommendations that can be incorporated into both compacts.
June 2018
Forced displacement above 68m in 2017, new global deal on refugees critical. (UNHCR)
Wars, other violence and persecution drove worldwide forced displacement to a new high in 2017 for the fifth year in a row, led by the crisis in Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan’s war, and the flight into Bangladesh from Myanmar of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Overwhelmingly it is developing countries that are most affected.
In its annual Global Trends report, released today, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency said 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017. Among them were 16.2 million people who became displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or repeatedly – indicating a huge number of people on the move and equivalent to 44,500 people being displaced each day, or a person becoming displaced every two seconds.
Refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution accounted for 25.4 million of the 68.5 million. This is 2.9 million more than in 2016, also the biggest increase UNHCR has seen in a single year. Asylum-seekers, who were still awaiting the outcome of their claims to refugee status as of 31 December 2017, meanwhile rose by around 300,000 to 3.1 million. People displaced inside their own country accounted for 40 million of the total. Across all countries, one in every 110 persons is someone displaced.
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“But there is reason for some hope. Fourteen countries are already pioneering a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations and in a matter of months a new Global Compact on Refugees will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly. Today, on the eve of World Refugee Day, my message to member states is please support this. No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.”
UNHCR’s Global Trends report is released worldwide each year ahead of World Refugee Day (20th June) and tracks forced displacement based on data gathered by UNHCR, governments, and other partners. It does not examine the global asylum environment, which UNHCR reports on separately and which continued in 2017 to see incidents of forced returns, politicization and scapegoating of refugees, refugees being jailed or denied possibility to work, and several countries objecting even to use of the word “refugee”.
Nonetheless, the Global Trends report offers several insights, including in some instances into perceived versus actual realities of forced displacement and how these can sometimes be at odds.
Among these is the notion that the world’s displaced are mainly in countries of the Global North. The data shows the opposite to be true – with fully 85 per cent of refugees in developing countries, many of which are desperately poor and receive little support to care for these populations. Four out of five refugees remain in countries next door to their own.
Large-scale displacement across borders is also less common than the 68 million global displacement figure suggests. Almost two thirds of those forced to flee are internally displaced people who have not left their own countries. Of the 25.4 million refugees, just over a fifth are Palestinians under the care of UNRWA. Of the remainder, for whom UNHCR is responsible, two thirds come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. An end to conflict in any one of these has potential to significantly influence the wider global displacement picture.
Two other insights from Global Trends are that most refugees live in urban areas (58 per cent) not in camps or rural areas; and that the global displaced population is young – 53 per cent are children, including many who are unaccompanied or separated from their families.
As with the number of countries producing large-scale displacement, the number of countries hosting large numbers was also comparatively few: Turkey remained the world’s leading refugee hosting country in terms of absolute numbers with a population of 3.5 million refugees, mainly Syrians. Lebanon meanwhile hosted the largest number of refugees relative to its national population. In all, 63 per cent of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility were in just 10 countries.
Sadly, solutions for all this remained in short supply. Wars and conflict continued to be the major drivers with little visible progress towards peace. Around five million people were able to return to their homes in 2017 with the vast majority returning from internal displacement, but among these were people returning under duress or to fragile contexts. Due to a drop in the number of resettlement places on offer, the number of resettled refugees was down by over 40 per cent at around 100,000 people.
Reporting Forced Displacement – Key Definitions
UNHCR does not use the term ‘migrant’ to describe people who are forced to flee.
Refugee: A person who has fled their country and needs ‘international protection’ because of a risk of violence or persecution were they to return home. This includes people fleeing wars. The term has its roots in international legal instruments, notably the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention. You can acquire refugee status by applying for it individually, or in cases of large influx by being given it on a “prima facie” basis. Refugees cannot be returned to their home country unless it is on a strictly voluntary basis.
Asylum Seeker: A person who has applied on an individual basis for refugee status and is awaiting the result. Asylum seekers are given ‘international protection’ while their claims are being assessed, and like refugees may not be returned home unless it is on a voluntary basis.
Internally displaced person: Internally displaced people, often known by the abbreviation IDPs, are those who are forced to flee their homes to elsewhere in their own country.
Stateless person: Someone who is without a nationality of any country, and consequently lacks the human rights and access to services of those who have citizenship. It is possible to be stateless and a refugee simultaneously.
May 2018
30.6 million people displaced inside their country in 2017
Conflict and disasters displaced 30.6 million people within their own countries last year, according to a new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“This is the equivalent of 80,000 people displaced each day,” said Alexandra Bilak, Director of IDMC. “The scale of this displacement is dishearteningly familiar. This report shows why we need a new approach to address the huge costs of internal displacement, not only to individuals, but also to the economy, stability and security of affected countries.”
Key findings from the Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2018) show that new displacement due to conflict and violence reached 11.8 million in 2017, almost double the figure of 6.9 million in 2016. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 5.5 million of these displacements, followed by the Middle East and North Africa with 4.5 million. This brings the total number of people living in internal displacement due to conflict close to 40 million worldwide.
“The staggering number of people forced to flee from their homes due to conflict and violence must serve as an eye opener to us all,” said Jan Egeland, NRC’s Secretary General. “We are getting better at providing emergency aid, but we need to put a lot more effort into preventing displacement, protecting people, and finding long-term solutions.”
The report also shows that in 2017, disasters displaced 18.8 million people in 135 countries. Of these, 8.6 million displacements were triggered by floods, and 7.5 million by storms, especially tropical cyclones. The worst affected countries were China with 4.5 million, the Philippines with 2.5 million, Cuba and the US each with 1.7 million, and India with 1.3 million displacements.
In 2017, cyclones displaced millions of people around the world, including Mora which struck Bangladesh in May and hurricane Irma that wreaked havoc in the Atlantic in August. Complex emergencies in places like Yemen and South Sudan, involving a breakdown in the rule of law, a weakened economy and limited humanitarian access, also led to significant displacement.
“Internal displacement often heralds the start of broader crises. While we have seen some useful policy progress since the adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement 20 years ago, it is nowhere near enough to cope with, much less reduce, the scale of the problem,” said Bilak.
Bilak added, “without renewed action, we risk failing millions of internally displaced people worldwide, and holding back the development of the countries which host them. It’s time for an honest conversation on the most effective ways to turn the tide on this global crisis. This conversation must be led by affected countries and receive full support from the international community.”

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