As crises unfold, humanitarian actors work to provide coordinated and tailored multi-sectoral assistance, identifying the areas where affected people face the most needs, from safety and protection, to food insecurity, shelter or cash assistance. Funds are the cornerstone of a feasible humanitarian response; without sufficient financial commitments, not all needs will be met.
Experience shows that when a crisis fades from the news, so does the attention of the global community. In 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, affecting 3 million people. Coverage generated by local journalists was widely picked up by the international media through social media channels, amplifying the voices and stories of people impacted by the disaster.
Following this, 73.9 per cent of funding requirements for Haiti were met. But since then, despite protracted needs and continuous natural disasters, such as Hurricane Laura in 2020 and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in 2021, funds for Haiti have never reached the 2010 figure. Currently, it is the second most underfunded HRP only after Zimbabwe, with 27 per cent funding coverage in November 2021.
Similarly, in May 2021 more than 35 per cent of the Afghan population were facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, and the Afghanistan situation was among the world’s top 10 most underfunded UNHCR emergencies. The withdrawal of US and global partners from the country in August 2021 and the ensuing images and footage prompted private and public donors to increase their funding.
In September, nearly 100 Member States and over 30 regional and international organizations pledged more than $1.2 billion in humanitarian and development aid in total to Afghanistan. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the pledge as a “quantum leap”, as it almost doubled the initial $606 million Afghanistan Flash Appeal.
Nine other emergency situations remain on UNHCR’s underfunded list for 2021. The stark reality is that by August 2021, less than half of the funding requested and needed by UNHCR for 2021 was received. Iraq was 34 per cent funded, Syria 39 per cent, South Sudan 41 per cent, DRC 42 per cent, Nigeria 43 per cent, Somalia 46 per cent, Myanmar 47 per cent, Venezuela 48 per cent and Burundi 50 per cent.
These funding deficits make it harder to provide 340,000 Iraqis and 2 million Syrian IDPs and refugees with life-saving winterization assistance; 950,000 South Sudanese refugees with access to running water; and cash assistance, fuel and basic goods to 120,000 Burundians.
The cost of inaction hits humanitarian response hard. In acute humanitarian settings, urgent life-saving and life-sustaining needs are prioritized over early recovery and resilience-building plans. This often leads to a vicious circle of dependence on humanitarian financing and little or no progress on ending persistent crises.
An estimated 19.6 million people require assistance and protection across the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country beset with some of the world’s most acute and prolonged crises. Acute levels of humanitarian need stem from overlapping crisis drivers, including armed conflict and violence, epidemics and natural disasters.
In the last four years, the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance has almost tripled, rising from 7.3 million in 2017 to 19.6 million in 2021. Yet during this same period, the percentage of people targeted against people in need has decreased dramatically from 92 per cent to 49 per cent. Since 2018, annual funding received has been less than half of the projected requirements, or even a third – only 36 per cent of required funds were contributed in 2021.
Consecutive years of funding shortfalls have deepened the humanitarian crisis in DRC. Only one in three former child combatants was able to access a socioeconomic or school reintegration package in 2021. Nutritional surveys have been drastically cut back, limiting malnutrition updates in underserved areas. Food security needs are not being met and rations are being halved.
More than seven years after the armed conflict began in eastern Ukraine, there is still no comprehensive political solution in sight. Approximately 3.4 million people on both sides of the “contact line”, in Donetska and Luhanska oblasts, confront critical humanitarian needs.
As a result of the conflict, 2 million people have been exposed to landmines and explosives, 3,390 civilians have been killed and over 7,000 injured. While the political standoff persists, Ukrainian families in the east face daily risks to their lives, limited access to essential basic services, limited livelihood opportunities and economic shutdowns. COVID-19 and its effects are yet another layer of hardship on top of the protracted conflict.
Despite the severity of the situation and increasing needs, the HRP is only 55 per cent funded. Just $92.1 million has been received from the $168 million required.
This funding shortfall carries dire consequences for local populations. It means that more than 1.3 million people will be denied quality and life-sustaining health-care services, including psychosocial and mental health support. More than 620,000 people will be at heightened risk of water shortages and resulting hardships caused by cuts to water and sanitation services, and 400,000 conflict-affected children and teachers on both sides of the “contact line” will have no access to safe and inclusive learning environments, increasing the risk of dropouts and the creation of a “lost generation”.
Ten months into 2021, humanitarian partners had received only 55 per cent of the funding for Iraq, affecting critical sectors including education and food security. All IDPs in the targeted camps have received assistance, ranging from legal assistance, cash for work, agricultural supplies or shelter maintenance. In contrast, roughly 74 per cent of IDPs living outside of the camps and only 43 per cent of returnees targeted through the 2021 HRP have been reached.
The pandemic has severely affected funding for refugees and asylum seekers. In 2021, UNHCR projected that $924 million would be required to protect people from the fallout of the disease. However, by August 2021, only 33 per cent was funded, leaving a gap of $623 million. This has led to a deterioration in employment for refugees and asylum seekers, food insecurity, limited access to health services and education, as well as growing gender-based violence and violence against children.
Vaccination rates among refugees and other people of concern are low, with around 350,000 vaccine doses administered by September 2021. This not only creates health implications but also social disadvantages, placing these individuals at risk of exclusion and isolation.
The 2022 funding requirements must be met in full and on time. Last year’s GHO received only 46 per cent of its funding requirements, a discouraging figure for humanitarian workers on the ground coping with endless needs and shortages. Prolonged emergency situations will only cost more in the future. Steady and stable financing is needed to plan with certainty, address critical long-term needs, and deliver humanitarian response in 2022 and beyond to people in urgent need.
- FTS – Haiti HRP 2021.
- UNHCR’S most underfunded situations in 2021 report (September 2021). For HRP financial requirement tracking, please visit FTS or see graph below.
- UN News - $1 billion pledge a ‘quantum leap’ in commitment to Afghanistan: UN chief.
- Secretary-General's transcript of the Secretary-General's press conference on the High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan.
- Ukraine Humanitarian Funding Priorities (August - December 2021).
- UNHCR’s most underfunded situations in 2021.