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Mounting crises leave UN relief efforts with almost $5 billion shortfall

Mounting crises leave UN relief efforts with almost $5 billion shortfall

A makeshift shelter in a camp for the displaced in Jowhar, Somalia, a humanitarian hotspot
The top United Nations relief official today appealed to donors to fill the $5 billion funding gap the world body and its partner agencies face to provide emergency aid to people enduring the most severe humanitarian crises around the world.

Less than half of this year’s $9.5 billion appeal the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) made to cover relief efforts assisting the world’s most vulnerable people has been funded, stressed UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.

Deteriorating humanitarian situations in hotspots, such as Somalia, the occupied Palestinian territories, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Sudan have led to an upwards revision of Consolidated and Flash Appeals by $1.5 billion since the start of the year, Mr. Holmes told reporters in New York.

He noted that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, an extra 250,000 people have been driven from their homes this year by the conflict with the FDLR – a Rwandan rebel militia operating in the east of the country – as well as a campaign of terror inflicted on the population by another armed group in eastern DRC, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

“Donors actually have been responding remarkably generously and well to these rising needs,” said Mr. Holmes, who also acts as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and head of OCHA.

“For example, the $4.6 billion we had collected in July in response to these needs was the highest ever figure in absolute terms that we collected, and in terms of a percentage of what we’re asking for – 49 per cent – it was also the highest ever,” he said.

“Nevertheless, that figure still leaves… $4.8 billion worth of needs unmet, which is also the highest ever unmet demand we’ve had at this time of year,” stressed Mr. Holmes.

Mr. Holmes also pointed to deteriorating non-conflict related crises, such as the intense droughts and floods affecting various parts of the world, including countries in the Horn of Africa facing several years of failed rains.

Poor rains in Eastern African have produced crises in the areas of food, nutrition, water and disease among others, leaving some 24 million people in need of aid – up from 17 million last year – in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and parts of Uganda.

“That’s another powerful reason why we’ve been arguing that a climate change deal in Copenhagen is so essential,” he said referring to the UN conference in December that will be seeking a successor greenhouse gas reduction pact to the Kyoto Protocol. “Because we think those trends are bound to intensify, in fact they will intensify.”