News ID: 119075
Published: 0334 GMT May 30, 2015

Relief organization urges mandatory funding for humanitarian work

Relief organization urges mandatory funding  for humanitarian work

The United Nations is not only overwhelmed by a spreading humanitarian crisis, largely in Africa and the Middle East, but also remains hamstrung by a severe shortfall in funds, mostly from Western donors.

In conflict-ridden South Sudan, a major crisis point, about 40 percent of the country’s 11.4 million population are facing “alarming levels of hunger,” according to the Rome-based World Food Program (WFP), IPS reported.

But lack of funding and shrinking access are compromising the agency’s ability to meet humanitarian needs.

Currently, the funding shortfall for WFP amounts to 230 million dollars for food and nutrition assistance.

Overall, the number of people requiring critical relief has more than doubled since 2004, to over 100 million today, according to the United Nations.

And current funding requirements for 2015 stand at a staggering 19.1 billion dollars, up from 3.4 billion dollars in 2004.

The United Nations considers four emergencies as “severe and large scale”: Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan.

And these crises alone have left 20 million people vulnerable to malnutrition, illness, violence, and death, and in need of aid and protection.

“Yet there is not enough funding to meet the needs,” Shannon Scribner, Humanitarian Policy Manager at Oxfam America, told IPS.

She said the current humanitarian system is led by the United Nations, funded largely by a handful of rich countries, and managed mostly by those actors, large international non-governmental organizations (including Oxfam), and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement.

Scribner said this system has saved countless lives over the past 50 years and it has done so with very little funding.

“However, the system is overwhelmed and assistance often arrives too little and is too late,” she said.

So strengthening the capacity of local actors to prevent, prepare and respond to emergencies in the first place makes sense, as well as increasing assistance to disaster risk reduction (DRR) that can have a high rate of return in saving lives and preventing damage to communities and infrastructure, as seen in South Asia, Central America, and East Africa.

However, between 1991 and 2010, only 0.4 percent of total official development assistance (ODA) went to DRR, Scribner said.

Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a high-level UN panel to address the widening gap between resources and financing for the world’s pressing humanitarian efforts.

Oxfam has recommended the panel looks at having UN member states make mandatory payments to humanitarian appeals – similar to what is done for UN peacekeeping missions, in which funding is received by mandatory assessments charged to member states.

Currently, the United Nations and its key agencies are funded by assessed contributions from the 193 member states and based on the principle of “capacity to pay”, with the United States the largest single contributor at 22 percent of the UN’s regular budget. All of these are mandatory payments.

Additionally, UN agencies also receive “non core” resources which come from voluntary contributions from member states.

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