New UN disaster relief fund has committed over $170 million since March

29 September 2006

Over $170 million have been committed for more than 250 projects in 26 countries in the seven months since the United Nations launched a new landmark disaster fund to jump-start relief operations in humanitarian crises and save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to delay under the previous under-funded mechanism.

In an update today on the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that $96.6 million had been disbursed for new or rapidly deteriorating emergencies including natural and man-made disasters in 16 countries, from Afghanistan and Chad and Lebanon and Timor-Leste.

A further $76.8 million has been earmarked for under-funded emergencies in16 countries, including Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Haiti. Some countries are on both lists.

Nearly $274 million of CERF’s $450 million target reserve have been pledged by 52 countries since it was launched in March as part of key UN reforms sought by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to ensure swifter responses to humanitarian emergencies, with adequate funds made available within three to four days as opposed to up to four months or more under the previous $50-million fund.

The General Assembly approved it in December. Underscoring CERF’s importance, UN officials noted at the time that under the previous system it took four months between the lifting of access restrictions in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region and the commitment of funds to the relief appeal. In the meantime, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) climbed to a then high of 1.6 million and mortality rates rose above emergency levels.

In the case of locust swarms infesting the African Sahel area in 2004, a $9 million appeal by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in February to spray larvae and prevent their spread was inadequately funded. That summer, the locusts multiplied throughout eight countries and FAO had to revise its appeal upwards to $100 million.

As it is a grant-giving facility, a replenishment conference is being organized for 7 December at UN Headquarters in New York.


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