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Global shortfall of $3.4 billion in humanitarian aid at mid-year point, UN says

Global shortfall of $3.4 billion in humanitarian aid at mid-year point, UN says

The United Nations, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and 239 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need an extra $3.4 billion to respond to the world’s most severe crises for the rest of the year, they announced today.

“Rapid action by donors is more essential this year than ever,” John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said. “Higher food and fuel costs, an increasing number of food-insecure people, and the impact of climate change have already forced the upwards revision of several appeals or the issuance of new flash appeals,” he added.

Overall humanitarian funding requirements for 2008 for the 34 countries covered by this year’s appeals have risen from $5.4 billion at the start of the year to $6.5 billion now. The biggest increases are for Somalia (up $235 million to $641 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (up $161 million to $736 million), West Africa (up $104 million to $416 million), Sudan (up $81 million to $1.95 billion), the Myanmar flash appeal, (recently revised up by $294 million, to $481 million), and Zimbabwe (up $78 million to $394 million).

Funding for the world’s food needs was re-budgeted to $2.6 billion from $1.9 billion after the UN World Food Programme (WFP) increased its appeal for this year’s operations.

So far donors have given $2.6 billion towards humanitarian appeals, or equal to 46 per cent of funding requirements, which represents an improvement over mid-year levels in the past two years. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says this is down to a better response by donors and also to support from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

So far this year CERF has allocated some $285 million to a series of flash appeals and chronically under-funded crises, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, West Africa, Sudan and Afghanistan receiving the largest amounts.

“What we are actually talking about is people in real life who are suffering in extreme circumstances - starvation, the effects of conflict - these are people who are in desperate need of help. That’s what we’re talking about - not just billions of dollars for the sake of it, but the most needy, the most vulnerable people in the world who these funds are designed to help,” Mr. Holmes, who is also the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters in New York after launching the mid-year appeal.

OCHA says that several major humanitarian crises have deteriorated significantly in the first half of 2008 and will require renewed efforts and resources. Instability has worsened in Chad, while in the occupied Palestinian territories Gaza has suffered a virtual quarantine that has cut off much commerce and vital services.

Somalis have also suffered fresh displacement as fighting continues, while drought has put swathes of the Horn of Africa at risk of famine. In Zimbabwe the harvest forecast is 51 per cent lower than last season’s because of adverse rains and lack of farming inputs.

Also speaking to reporters after the official launch of the appeal, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said that she welcome the fact that an increasing number of the projects funded take gender issues into consideration, especially in the case of crises caused by conflict.

“Women are really the saviours in any conflict – they often have to be able to take care of their families while men are either killed or fighting and so women are in the forefront, not only as victims but as the stabilizing factor that can keep the family together and therefore save the life of the community,” she said.