United Nations appeals for record aid



07, Dec 2016

The United Nations, in a record appeal, has sought 22.2 billion dollars to abate the emergency humanitarian crises in 2017. Even generous donors have failed to prevent fund shortage from growing. With nationalist sentiments gaining ground in countries that have been the greatest donors, there is more reason to be pessimistic about responses to the appeal. Untimely response will have dire consequences on the lives of the sufferers.

What does UN’s latest appeal for aid reflect?

The 22.2 billion dollars sought by UN is a record appeal; the highest amount sought since 1992; when the UN launched its first global appeal.

  • The UN needs this amount to cover the costs of reaching out to steeply rising numbers of people hit by human-made conflicts that have extended beyond expectations. UN humanitarian aid Chief Stephen O'Brien, in a press conference, said, “It's the highest amount we have ever requested. This is the *reflection of a state of human needs in the world not witnessed since the Second World Warn”.
  • The UN’s first priorities are the 92.8 million peoplethe most vulnerable of the nearly 129 million spread over 33 countries and requiring assistance in 2017.
  • Even as more people need to be reached out to, the obstacles have increased for humanitarian organizations. O’Brien said reduced access and a growing disregard for international laws and human rights have worsened the crisis.

Why might this appeal also fall short?

Last year emergency appeals for calamities in Haiti, Ecuador and Fiji were able to achieve only 50 percent of their targets. And the 2016 $20.1 billion appeal – again a record set at that time – which was broadened to $22.1 billion dollars could only manage to generate $11.4 billion for aid projects this year.

  • Funding needs have risen steadily over the past decade and severely spiked after the Syrian Civil War and associated devastations in the region. In 2012, the UN asked for a total of $7.7 billion. This year, they need $8 billion for Syria alone.
  • The fear of compassion fatigue is real and relevant. The crises have become worse and greater than prepared for and major donors are feared to have tired of sustaining their political will to be involved in confronting the massive crises in different parts of the world.
  • The appeal has been launched against a setting in which the global economy faces before it a new set of challenges and the national sentiment endorsed by Donald Trump and his likes is becoming more apparent by the day.
  • The role of politics is apparent. Nationalist sentiments endorse the charity-begins-at-home approach. Susan Moeller, an academic and media expert attributes this partly to the seemingly unsolvable nature of the crises as aid donations – however large they are – cannot achieve a permanent solution. She said, “It is too complicated to explain how we are all connected, how what happens in Syria affects you in America. So instead, we look for ‘soundbite conversations’: ‘build a wall’ is a three-word applause line. And ‘Have somebody else pay for it,’ means it’s not coming out of your pocket.
  • Barnaby Willitts-King, senior research fellow in humanitarian policy at the Overseas Development Institute said as we carry forward the anti-immigrant sentiment into 2017 and complement it with shrinking resources, funding will probably be more scrutinized and result-driven; centered on the possible benefits to the donor country than on the greater good philosophy.

When have people witnessed the effects of climate change?

O’Brien said that the dire consequences of climate change would be increasingly severe and frequent natural disasters.

  • A 2015 article in The Guardian said while the number of large-scale disasters and people thus affected had gradually declined, disasters associated with the effects of climate change, such as storms and floods, have increased by roughly 10 occurrences a year since 2012. Around 100 million people fall prey to natural disasters per year. The economic burden of these disasters exceeded $100 billion.
  • In 2017, the focus is on Southern Africa – where El Niño resulted in a deficit of $9.3 million tons cereal production and alarming water scarcity –, Ethiopia, Haiti and Somalia.
  • Southern Africa is in dire need as only half of the promised $600m aid had arrived as of November. Malawi – with a population of 16,407,000 according to a 2013 estimate – is one of the seven countries on the brink of starvation. High rate of child malnourishment (estimated to be 10 percent and expected to worsen) and successive maize crop failures – leaving communities to depend on wild fruit, water lilies, food handouts and one another’s kindness – characterize the crisis.
  • David Phiri, UN food and agriculture coordinator based in Harare, Zimbabawe said Madagascar has borne the greatest blow. With deaths from starvation, the country is on the brink of famine and the repercussions of indifference, inactiveness and delay are too scary to picture, he said. The repercussions will definitely be long-term.
  • The funds gathered are only a quarter of $2.9bn in aid for seven most affected countries plus half of the $600 million appealed by the World Food Programme. This barely fulfills the food needs of forty million in Southern Africa and 11 million in Ethiopia.
  • Phiri acknowledged that donor budgets were limited. He said there were several hotspots around the world which are considered as needing more urgent assistance than southern Africa.
  • Danny Harvey, country director of Concern Worldwide in Zambia said the worst is yet to come in January when food will be reach people in remote areas. The rest of the world has turned away from Southern Africa’s desperate needs.
  • Ethiopia alone is said to have 52 million suffering from food insecurity, one million children with severe malnutrition, and 5.8 million deprived of water and sanitation.
  • Oxfam Zambia said, “nThe response to this predicted, slow-onset crisis has been too little too late. Despite the crisis coming on the heels of a poor growing season in 2014 and an economic downturn, the region’s governments were slow to scale up their response, as were the humanitarian agenciesn”.
  • Nellie Nyang’wa, Oxfam Zambia director pointed out that while above-normal rains are expected in most parts of the region, the threat of floods cannot be overlooked. Farmers are in critical need of seeds and fertilizers to have a better yield next year, she observed.

Where are some of the challenges?

The current model of funding is unsustainable

  • New and revised appeals to handle humanitarian crises that keep worsening have led to frustrated efforts and will lead to greater number of deaths and victims because the response is slow and inadequate. As of last year nearly 1 percent of the people across the world received humanitarian assistance. Despite generous donors, UN had warned that the gap between funds need and funds gathered would continue to grow.
  • O’Brien repeated the same observation: “With persistently escalating humanitarian needs, the gap between what has to be done to save and protect more people today and what humanitarians are financed to do and can access is growing ever wider
  • Fund shortages are visibly reflected in the struggles of UN’s refugee and children’s agencies as they try to cater to the requirements of families fleeing violence.

Multiple crises compete with one another

  • With the increasing funding gap, UN is forced to allocate its resources over a wide range of areas. This forces organizations to adopt means like food rationing.
  • The number of nations confronting different crises and the magnitude of these crises has created a situation in which nations and crises compete against one another, explained Laurence Hart, chief of mission in Afghanistan for the International Organisation for Migration. Challenges faced by aid workers
  • In war-ridden areas, buried explosives and destructive weapons cut off the vulnerable population from aid workers wanting to provide them with basic necessities.
  • The recent breach of ceasefire in Yemen is a glaring example of O’Brien’s observation that human rights are being flagrantly violated. The breach hampered the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the people who are desperately in need of them.
  • Syria, Nigeria and South Sudan in 2016 have led to the murder, rape and assault of aid workers. Experts warned that humanitarian agencies were not taking ample measures to protect their workers and said the attack reflected far-reaching failings within the humanitarian industry.

Who need the maximum aid?

Three countries devastated by war – Afghanistan, Syria and Yemenaccount for nearly one-third of the total need.

  • War-torn countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and South Sudan where human access is severely restricted consist of people living in constant uncertainty, danger and desperation.
  • More than three lakh people died over the last five years in the Syrian conflict which also displaced more than half of the country’s population. Syria is UN’s topmost priority and the organization aims to spend $3.4 billion to assist the population within Syria and $4.7 billion on Syrian refugees and the communities they live with.
  • The next priority is South Sudan where civil war has wreaked destruction since 2013 and which UN has cautioned is becoming a centre of “ethnic cleansing”. A total of $2.5 billion is allotted to help South Sudanese, including refugees from the country.
  • The UN plans to distribute $1.9 billion to help those endangered by Yemen’s ghastly civil war. The conditions in the country have horrifyingly worsened since a coalition led by Saudis joined the war in 2015.

How has the UN outlined its plan of action for 2017?

The UN has highlighted the need for a nmultidimensional responsen in the executive summary of its Global Humanitarian Overview 2017 report.

Nature of crises

  • In Afghanistan, it has identified the chief need arises from extended-conflict-driven displacement; in Burundi the political crisis has gained in magnitude and the number of people requiring immediate attention has tripled to 3 million; the South Sudan crisis has led to the largest refugee movement in Africa.
  • In Syria, unceasing hostilities mandate an exponential increase in protection and humanitarian needs while Boko Haram has caused instability and insecurity in Lake Chad Basin and a political solution is nowhere in sight.
  • With Iraq, the focus is on mine clearance for the Iraqis safe return to Mosul, and the setting up of adequate infrastructure to help them rebuild their lives. In the Sahel region of Africa, lakhs of households hold millions amidst food insecurity, acute malnutrition, disease and disasters. Conflict-driven escapees from the region and its neighbors require foreign assistance.


  • In areas with long-standing vulnerabilities, humanitarians are collaborating with key players to bring about a transition “from delivering aid to ending needs”. Next year, the Humanitarian Action Plans for Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Senegal will be implemented to compliment resilience and developmental frameworks.
  • Six countries are said to develop long-term plans to allow their partners to take effective measures in catering to the needs emerging from extended crises. Greater collective impact and accountability are key goals of Multi-year planning and the Humanitarian Response Plans.
  • It recognized the overwhelming necessity of a paradigm shift in the humanitarian system in which international humanitarian players must reinforce and not replace local and national level players to bring about a more effective co-ordination.

The UN has emphasized on the necessity of long-term donor support to make timely response possible. It has cited the examples of Yemen and Ukraine to highlight the damages – such as shutdown of mobile health clinic preventing aid from reaching remote areas – brought about by delay and warned that DRC risks the morbidity or starvation and disease-driven death of 4.3 million of its people.

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Tags | Donate Donors Emergency Humanitarian crises United Nations