In wake of Haiti quake, world must not forget about other crises, says UN official

19 May 2010

The global spotlight has largely been concentrated on the catastrophic Haiti earthquake so far this year, bleeding support from emergencies in other areas, the top United Nations humanitarian official has said, urging stepped-up funding for crises worldwide.

“While the attention has been rightly focused on Haiti, we must remain acutely aware of other disasters of a more protracted nature requiring our support,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said yesterday in Geneva.

So far, of the 20 consolidated appeals totaling $10 billion issued in 2010, only 36 per cent of funds have been contributed, with one-third of the funds earmarked for Haiti.

At the same time in 2008, just before the onset of the devastating Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, 51 per cent of funding requirements had been met, Mr. Holmes told donors at a stocktaking meeting.

The Central African Republic (CAR), the Republic of Congo (ROC) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are among the unfunded crises with the greatest needs but the least visibility, he said.

“In contrast, there is no shortage of headlines” about the occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mr. Holmes noted.

“However, even in these places, it is almost always the political situation that is in the spotlight and rarely the condition of ordinary people or the challenges that humanitarians face in reaching those most in need, and there also remain many unmet needs in all these places as well,” he said in his address.

The appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory, for example, is only 21 per cent funded, while in Sudan, only four out of 11 clusters have received more than 20 per cent of resources required, while the remaining clusters – including health and mine action – are languishing.

Kenya, Zimbabwe, Iraq and Sri Lanka are among nations trying to maintain a balance between humanitarian and recovery efforts, the Under-Secretary-General said.

Funding shortfalls in these countries are “jeopardizing the ability of humanitarian organizations to bed in the gains they have made in recent months and years and to ensure that recovery really does take root,” he emphasized. “Efforts to empower populations, support local authorities and find durable solutions following conflicts are repeatedly neglected or under-funded.”

In northern Uganda, Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that 80 per cent of uprooted people have returned to their homes and are waiting for their lives to re-start.

“However, education and health projects have received little or no funding,” he underlined. “As we have seen time and again around the world, when we fail to provide proper conditions for returns, those returns are rarely durable and re-displacement is a serious risk.”

The official also sounded the alarm yesterday that funding alone is not an adequate humanitarian response to crises. “From Afghanistan to Sudan to Haiti – in every location and now, more than ever, we need your support to help ensure that the space exists for humanitarian operations to take place.”


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