UN relief chief appeals for funds to support 132 million people

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UNITED NATIONS: Conflict has pushed tens of millions of people into a situation where they are in urgent need of help, the UN relief chief has said, in an appeal for funds that could top USD 25 billion to support life-saving aid projects in over 40 countries next year.

Speaking at the launch of a major annual analysis of global humanitarian needs, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said that a total of 132 million people will need assistance next year.

Of that number, the UN and its partner organisations aim to support 93.6 million. While conflict is the main cause, climate-related risks such as drought and tropical storms are also significant contributors to the number of people in crisis.

“Something like one person in 70 around the world is caught up in crisis and urgently needs humanitarian help or protection,” Lowcock said.

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“We have a larger number of people displaced, mostly by conflict than we have seen in the world before, nearly 70 million.”

The UN’s Global Humanitarian Appeal for 2019 amounts to USD 21.9 billion; it is expected to increase to USD 25 billion, once Syria’s financial needs have been calculated.

As of mid-November, donors have provided a record USD 13.9 billion in funding, which is about 10 per cent more than at the same time last year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The conflict in Yemen is one of the main reasons why next year’s funding appeal is so high, amid ongoing violence between Government forces and Houthi opposition, that has left at least eight million people close to famine.

Highlighting the near-economic collapse of Yemen’s economy which will require long-term financial support from the international community if it is to recover, Lowcock warned that next year, three-quarters of the country’s population 24 million people – are likely to need help.

“The country with the biggest problem in 2019 is going to be Yemen,” he said, before insisting that the UN’s coordinated response plans help the humanitarian community “to deliver, more and better” to millions of people.

In total the UN is seeking USD 4 billion for its Yemen appeal, Lowcock said, adding that “there’s going to need to be billions of dollars” additional support for the Government of Yemen from the international community, because oil revenues are down 85 per cent.

“Unless they get help the problems associated with plummeting currency are going to happen again,” the UN official said, while also stressing the need to tackle the root causes of conflicts everywhere.

Beyond Yemen, needs will remain “exceptionally high” in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Sudan, Lowcock said.

Every month in 2018, humanitarians have reached eight million Yemenis with food assistance and 5.4 million Syrians with supplies, medical assistance and protection, Lowcock said.

“This is happening even as threats to the safety of aid workers are on the rise,” he noted.

People’s insecurity has also worsened significantly in Afghanistan because of drought, political instability and an influx of returning refugees, according to the Global Humanitarian Overview 2019, as well as in Cameroon and the Central African Republic (CAR), owing to an upsurge of conflict and violence.

Turning to the high human cost caused by climate hazards, the UN official noted that there is an 80 per cent chance in 2019 of an El Nino event, which is linked to extreme weather events.

While the impact is not expected to be as widespread as in 2016, it is still likely to be a significant event and affect some 25 countries with drought, tropical cyclones and floods including South Africa, Malawi and Madagascar, Lowcock warned.

In another finding, the OCHA report shows that the average UN humanitarian response now lasts more than nine years; in 2014, the norm was 5.2 years.

This year, moreover, nearly three-quarters of people receiving assistance are in countries that have been affected by humanitarian crises for seven years or more. (agencies)

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