Alarm raised over aid shortfall

19 Jul 19

A leading voice in the aid sector has warned of an “alarming” lack of funding for the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that barely a quarter (27%) of the money needed this year to provide relief to people affected by global crises has been raised to date.

In a statement issued this week, he accused governments of failing to put sufficient priority on desperately needed aid, while spending $1.8 trillion globally on defence.

“The current lack of funding is alarming. Despite increasing needs, substantially less money is available for humanitarian assistance compared to the same period last year,” Egeland said.

“We are deeply concerned for those people already feeling the hard consequences of cuts.”

United Nations and humanitarian organisations launch appeals based on the needs of countries hit by crises, and this year need a total of $26bn to provide relief for 94m people.

But since the start of this year donor countries have only contributed about $7bn. This is just 27% of the funds needed and $2bn less than the amount received half way through 2018, according to the UN’s financial tracking service.

This time last year, $9bn had been received out of total appeals for $25bn – representing 35% of the funding required – and by the end of last year total funding had increased to $15bn, amounting to 60% of what was needed.

The humanitarian crisis in Cameroon is among the most critically under-funded, according to the NRC, with less than 20% of the appeal covered so far this year. Assistance is also falling short for people in DR Congo, a country hit by conflict, mass displacement and the Ebola virus.

Egeland believes the funding crisis is due to a combination of more protracted humanitarian emergencies globally and the emergence of more self-interested policies in rich countries – making it ultimately a question of political will.   

“Let’s not be fooled into believing that the amount needed is too high or the job too difficult,” he said.

“It is a question of priorities. The world’s total military expenditure has increased to a whopping $1.8trn. The cost of closing the humanitarian funding gap and providing people with basic support equals to just about 1% of this.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council is appealing to donor countries to increase their humanitarian support and for new countries to step forward urgently.

  • Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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