The demand for emergency aid in the world is growing rapidly, but the collection of money to alleviate that need, on the other hand, is lagging further and further behind. According to researchers, this greater need is also connected to the fact that long-term conflicts and climate change increasingly reinforce each other, often with harmful consequences for the local population.
“I cannot remember in 40 years of working in relief efforts when the world was so overwhelmed by problems and there was such an urgent need for action to solve them,” sighed Martin Griffiths, head of UNOCHA, the United Nations emergency response. agency. , last Friday on the annual International Humanitarian Day.
The joint UN aid agencies estimate that they will spend about $48 billion this year to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 300 million people around the world. But after more than seven months, international donors, especially Western states, have not collected even a third of the money needed.
In June, the UN’s World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 750,000 people in ‘hunger hotspots’ such as Ethiopia, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan are at risk of starvation. And then countries like Congo, Haiti, Myanmar, the Sahel region and Syria are not taken into account.
Victims of the latest crisis, the war in Ukraine, receive a relatively large amount of aid. However, there is less left for other crisis areas, because the combined aid budgets are barely growing. And in addition, partly because of the war in Ukraine, food prices have risen sharply, which means that less can be done with the available money than last year.
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Due to lack of funds, some facilities are already experiencing difficulties. New York Times reports that, as a result, secondary education for girls in South Sudan will be canceled next fall, as will the delivery of clean water to refugee camps for Syrian refugees in Iraq.
Experts point out that crises in the world often last longer and longer. Development Initiatives, a research center in Bristol, UK, calculated in a recent report led by Angus Urquhart that there are now 36 countries ravaged by such protracted crisis situations. Almost three-quarters of the poor people in the world live in such countries.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that these conflicts are not the only problems facing these countries. The problems are often compounded by the relatively high vulnerability of these countries to climate change and associated disasters, such as prolonged droughts resulting in crop failure or floods.
In addition, many countries are still struggling with the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, which has often put aid on the back burner. These are countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen and South Sudan.
“High-intensity conflicts create operational risks for development projects aimed at reducing climate vulnerability,” the researchers note. As a result, the local population, to the extent that it has not fled, is increasingly dependent on humanitarian aid from abroad.
Period of drought
“In a country like Afghanistan, but also in Ethiopia and Somalia, people are less able to respond to a period of severe drought or a natural disaster like an earthquake, especially if they have been displaced several times,” said Fran Girling of Development Initiatives, one of the report’s authors, via video link.
Better not just put a bandage, but better plan help
Fran Girling Development initiatives
According to Girling, donors should also take into account that most of these crises tend to last longer. These are crises of five consecutive years or more.
Girling: “It’s better not to just put a band-aid on, but to raise funds for 24 months or more so that aid workers can better plan programs. Then the results are better.”
As a successful example of this, she cites a program supported by the British and Swedish governments to provide small amounts of cash for food in Somalia. However, many donors prefer not to commit for such a long time. It is also doubtful to what extent the aid budgets of Western countries will survive a possible recession.
The need for aid is by no means limited to Africa. A clear worsening of conditions has also been observed in Asia in recent years. Not only has the number of people experiencing food shortages grown in Afghanistan, but Sri Lanka, not long ago considered a middle-income country, is in dire straits.
And the same applies to the Philippines, which has seen a sharp drop in remittances from guest workers from the Middle East due to the pandemic. In total, according to the UN, there were 425 million Asians who could no longer feed themselves properly.