UN Seeks Record $7.4 Billion for Humanitarian Aid in 2011

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 30, 2010 (ENS) – The United Nations today appealed for more than US$7.4 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to 50 million people suffering from the effects of natural disasters and conflicts in 28 countries over the coming year.

The amount sought for 2011 is the largest since the creation of the Consolidated Appeal Process in 1991. It covers appeals for the West Africa region and 13 countries – Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, the occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Valerie Amos in Geneva, November 30, 2010 (Photo by Jean-Marc Ferre courtesy UN)

“In 2011, tens of millions of people will need help to survive,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, who chaired the launch of the appeal in Geneva. “Conflicts and natural disasters will cut them off from their homes, their livelihoods, and from access to essentials like drinking water and health care.

“This appeal is asking for the resources needed to respond quickly. The strong response to the mega-disasters this year in Haiti and Pakistan shows what is possible when the international community comes together,” she said.

The Consolidated Appeal Process is the culmination of the efforts of some 425 aid organizations, including UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations and other international bodies, which come together to meet the world’s major humanitarian challenges in a strategic, coordinated, effective, and prioritized way.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, said, “These needs pertain to sudden-onset disasters, but also to protracted humanitarian crises, often linked to conflict or persistent drought. For example, Somalia is entering its 20th year of crisis. Djibouti is suffering from four consecutive years of failed rainfall.”

“This has been an extraordinary year,” said Dr. Chan. “Not in terms of the number of humanitarian emergencies, which was somewhat lower than in recent years, but because of the two mega-disasters in Haiti and Pakistan.”

Dr. Margaret Chan in Geneva, November 30, 2010 (Photo by Jean-Marc Ferre courtesy UN)

“The January earthquake in Haiti and the August floods in Pakistan completely overwhelmed domestic coping capacity,” she said. “They stretched the resources of the international response to the limit.”

Dr. Chan said, “WHO is deeply concerned about the cholera outbreak in Haiti. A disease like cholera can easily gain a foothold in a country where infrastructures were badly damaged or destroyed, leaving little access to clean water, sanitation, health care and other basic services. WHO now considers the entire country at risk.”

Last year the UN appealed for more than $7.1 billion to assist 48 million people across 25 countries whose lives were wrecked by conflict and natural disasters. But that figure has climbed to $9.5 billion due to new crises.

The impact of environmental change also will affect migration trends in the future, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration. The world will be taken by surprise by the relentless pace of migration unless countries, international organizations and civil society make a concerted effort to invest in how they respond to it, says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

“The risk of not putting in place policies and adequate resources to deal with migration is to lose an historic opportunity to take advantage of this global phenomenon,” says Swing, who spoke at the appeal launch event. “Given the unrelenting pace of migration, the window of opportunity for States to turn the negatives of migration into positives is rapidly shrinking.”

Congolese women at a transit center welcome newly repatriated refugees with food provided by the UN’s World Food Programme. (Photo by Susan Schulman courtesy WFP)

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today relief efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo are facing major funding problems, with the $827.6 million appeal sought for this year only 59 percent funded.

“The under-funding of this appeal – the second most important one after the appeal for Sudan – will have dire consequences,” OCHA spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told the audience in Geneva.

“By year-end, it is likely that 200,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition will not have been assisted due to a lack of funding; that 180,000 children under the age of one will not have been vaccinated against relevant diseases; and that 100,000 children under five exposed to malaria in endemic areas will not have been assisted through malaria management care,” said Byrs.

In addition, she said, up to 76,000 pregnant women will have given birth on the floor in camps for internally displaced persons due to the lack of beds and delivery kits, and up to 5,700 women and girls will have died while giving birth due to the lack of proper care for pregnancy-related complications.

“Humanitarian needs are greater now than ever,” John Holmes told the UN Economic and Social Council in July. Then UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Holmes said people need help to confront natural disasters, including slow-onset disasters such as drought and flooding.

Holmes warned, “Our worst-case projections of where humanitarian trends might go in the next few years are materializing.”

“The main good news is that the humanitarian architecture put in place in recent years is helping us cope,” said Holmes, who also serves as UN emergency relief coordinator. Sectoral coordination has been enhanced, partnerships are stronger, financing is faster and more reliable, with leadership on the ground becoming more effective, he said.

UN’s World Food Programme hovercraft delivers food aid to the flooded Dadu district, in Pakistan’s Sindh province, where floodwaters are predicted to last another six months. November 2010. (Photo by Geoff Pinnock courtesy WFP)

But with humanitarian needs growing rapidly, Holmes said the traditional so-called “humanitarian toolbox” will become increasingly insufficient to address and to change these situations.

He said climate change will result in long-term vulnerability in the shape of malnutrition, disease and mortality. “However,” he asked, “without any trigger event, how will we decide when to launch a response or at which point emergency responses should end?”

As 194 nations meet in Cancun, Mexico over the next 10 days to hammer out terms of a climate treaty, officials of the UN’s World Food Programme, world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, will be watching closely.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran has said, “Every day we at WFP see the effects of the ravages of weather-related hunger on the people we assist. Every day we see people suffer from droughts and floods. Every year the situation gets worse.”

For example, torrential rain lashed Pakistan this summer, causing widespread flooding that inundated farmland and left 10 million people in need of food aid.

If there are more floods, droughts and other climate-related disasters in the future, WFP’s work load will expand.

There are more than one billion hungry people in the world today, and the agency projects that by 2050 climate change is expected to increase that number by up to 20 percent.

Funding the UN’s humanitarian aid efforts can lift small farmers out of poverty. WFP purchases 80 percent of the food it buys from developing countries, Sheeran said today, and in the past three years WFP has purchased nearly US$1 billion of food from African farmers to support its programs.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.