UN calls for donations to fill $16.1bn aid funding gap

28 Jun 16

The United Nations has warned of a $16.1bn funding gap in its humanitarian aid appeal that aims to alleviate the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Speaking at the annual UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) conference in New York yesterday, officials said a sense of fatigue on the part of donors and adverse global weather conditions were to blame. 

The target of the inter-agency, UN-coordinated appeal stands at $21.6bn for 2016. It is hoped this will support 94.5 million vulnerable people worldwide.

But at present the appeal is only “one-quarter funded,” despite the fact that 2016 has so far seen the highest-ever level of donations.  

Under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Stephen O’Brien, presented the annual progress review Global Humanitarian Overview Status Report for 2016 and highlighted that 130 million people in 40 countries now need assistance just to survive.

Since the beginning of the year, he said, “another 5.5 million people’s lives have been torn apart, their survival and safety thrown into jeopardy”.

O’Brien attributed the spike to two sudden onset disasters: the cyclone in Fiji that occurred in February, and the earthquake in Ecuador in April. He also said that repercussions from the El Niño weather phenomenon have led to droughts in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

O’Brien, who also serves as the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, explained how the aid would be used.

“This appeal will support millions of mothers to feed their malnourished children. It will help doctors give lifesaving care to children injured by bombing. It will help pastoralists keep their cattle live. And it will help protect women and girls from sexual abuse and violence,” he said.

He highlighted that, although humanitarian organisations are committed to bringing relief to people in critical need, “they cannot do it alone: they need predictable, flexible and adequate funding”. 

UN deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson, who was also present, agreed. He said: “Record numbers of people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. At the same time there is a tangible sense of fatigue, even resignation, manifested in the greatest shortfalls ever in the funding needed.”

Five weeks ago, the first World Humanitarian Summit was held in Istanbul, Turkey. Eliasson said this demonstrated clear leadership and political will, but urged the international community to now deliver on its commitments.

“During the five weeks since the summit, thousands of people have been killed in conflict,” he said. “There is no room for delays; every day and week counts.”

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