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UN and Humanitarian Partners Seek USD 46 Billion for Humanitarian Assistance

CARE Somalia, a UN partner, could provide emergency services to drought-affected communities through humanitarian funding. Credit: OCHA-Yao Chen

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 18 2023 (IPS) - Funding humanitarian programs will continue into the new year, but the funding cuts of the previous year may impact the prioritization of the most immediate and most life-threatening needs.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released the Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) for 2024. This annual assessment of the global humanitarian sector provides insight into the humanitarian action undertaken by the UN and its partners and reviews current and future trends in this sector.

Major crises have been the result of violent conflicts or global climate disasters. The economic impact of these crises has been a contributing factor to the increasing humanitarian needs in places like Afghanistan and Syria, or indicative of greater economic instability. The need for food, water, shelter, and health services, have also contributed to the assessment of needs among affected communities. As a result of these crises, 1 in 73 people have been forcibly displaced. Over 258 million people have experienced acute food insecurity. Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has remarked that the international community has not been “keeping pace with the needs” brought on by these crises.

For this year, there was a reported decrease in funding from the year prior. In the previous year, in spite of efforts and repeated calls from UN officials to increase funding, the UN received only one-third of the requested USD57 billion for 2023. In 2024, the UN and its humanitarian partners are calling for USD 46.4 billion to assist 180.5 million in 72 countries. The North Africa and Middle East region, which includes the Palestinian Territory, Syria and Yemen, will require USD 13.9 billion, which is the largest amount being asked. East and Southern Africa is next, requiring USD 10.9 billion, followed by Central and West Africa requiring USD 8.3 billion, and Asia and the Pacific, which is calling for USD 5.5 billion.

Two women together in a ‘friendly space’, a woman-only zone in an IDP site in Unity State, South Sudan. Credit: OCHA-Alioune Ndiaye

The current plans from the UN and its humanitarian partners, as indicated by the report, will be to prioritize the communities dealing with the most life-threatening needs, and therefore require urgent action. The response plans that have been formulated promise a more stream-lined approach that will take into consideration the realities of the organizations’ capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance. Given that funding—or the lack thereof—was a particular concern over the last year, and resources were quickly dwindling, this pragmatic approach is founded.

Even with this focus on immediate needs, the predicted funds required for certain regions would suggest that protracted crises with long-term impacts are among the issues that will be addressed. The tragedy of humanitarian work seems to be that with multiple situations and escalations to address, attention and assistance are only further divided between today’s disaster and yesterday’s crisis. The crisis may not have been fully resolved.

For instance, under the Rohingya Joint Response Plan, which will be led by UNHCR and IOM, USD 872.7 million has been requested to fund this plan that will provide ongoing humanitarian support to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. It is six years since the Rohingya refugee camps have been set up. The need for food, shelter, and protection, and the pressure to keep these camps running have only exacerbated and may continue to do so the longer it persists. The prolonged presence of the camps, and the number of people still seeking refuge by crossing the border, will only leave them more vulnerable to the risks of abuse, exploitation, disease, and other security issues that developed within the settlements.

The GHO attests that humanitarian organizations will aim to deliver better results. This will include acknowledging and supporting local and national humanitarian groups through funding, increasing accountability and people-centered responses, and engaging in humanitarian diplomacy. There is also a call to promote inclusive responses that acknowledge the unique, intersecting, and complex needs of vulnerable peoples, including those from marginalized communities.

Women and girls, for instance, are particularly vulnerable during humanitarian crises. OCHA Director, Coordination Division, Ramesh Rajasingham, remarked on this during a high-level event in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia. He stated that women are fourteen times more likely to be killed during climate disasters. Women and girls are also at a greater risk of gender-based violence; only 53 percent were able to access GBV services through groups like UN Women. Women and girls also face barriers in receiving life-saving healthcare, especially when it comes to reproductive health. Humanitarian organizations, and the international community that supports them, should be expected to improve their response to the gender-specific needs.

“We need to get better at acting on gender-specific analyses that strengthen our ability to meet the diverse and distinct needs of all the people we serve,” he said. “We need far greater investment in protection and other services in humanitarian settings that are tailored for women and girls.”

What is evident in the GHO is that the compassion and urgency to help those in need remain a driving force for the UN’s humanitarian actors. Yet, one cannot help but lament at the adjusted funding request, which is lower than last year’s. When it is now, more than ever, that millions of people are living through dire situations, through conflict or displacement, and many more are at risk of falling.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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