2010 is already a very different story from 2009 in terms of disasters. Both Haiti and Pakistan have experienced mega-disasters with the UN issuing appeals for US$1.5 billion to meet the needs of more than 3 million people affected by the earthquake in Haiti in January and US$459 million for the 20 million people (and counting) affected by the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in August 2010.
What is the impact of this massive global demand for humanitarian assistance in 2010 on less high profile disasters and how robust is the humanitarian financing system to meet these needs?
The UN estimates there are a total of 10 million people affected by serious food insecurity across the Sahel region, which is in the grip of a serious food and nutrition crisis. In Niger, almost 8 million people of a total population of 13 million, more than 60% of the population, are in need of food assistance according to the World Food Programme.
The funding requirements to meet the humanitarian needs expressed within the 2010 West Africa Consolidated Appeal (which includes the Sahel food crisis) are half that of the Haiti Flash appeal at US$725 million, yet by mid August these requirements were only 35% covered. The UN CERF fund has responded to this crippling funding shortfall, allotting a further US$15 million to WFP on 12August bringing Niger’s total CERF funds for 2010 to US$35 million.
Central African Republic (CAR) provides another insight into the difficult funding environment in 2010 for slow burning or complex emergencies of low media interest. The funding response to the CAR appeal is typically below average, at the mid-year point in 2009 for example, the appeal was only was 50% funded. But in 2010, the CAR appeal is funded to a meagre 39% of requirements two months after the mid-year point.
These examples raise serious questions about the adequacy of global humanitarian funding to meet humanitarian needs in a world expected to be increasingly subject to and vulnerable to natural disasters . But they also raise serious questions about equitable allocation across humanitarian crises.
In response to the recent Pakistan floods, the UN has requested US$33 to meet the needs of each affected person (on the basis of the known figures of affected people at the time the appeal was launched, which have subsequently risen), whilst the same process requested US$500 for each of the three million affected people in the Haiti earthquake. A person affected by the earthquake in Haiti by now has theoretically received US$1,054 in global humanitarian assistance, both within and outside of the UN appeal process. So far, with the current figures of 20 million affected, an affected person in Pakistan has received US$22 in global humanitarian assistance.
People have a right to equitable humanitarian assistance irrespective of who they are or where they are in the world; and yet factors such as the type of crisis, the media attention associated to it, the capacity of the humanitarian community in country to raise awareness of the humanitarian needs, and the ability of donors to respond to those needs very often play a decisive role in the type and volume of assistance that people are likely to receive. New financing mechanisms, better assessments of risks and vulnerabilities and strengthened humanitarian capacities are trying to address the issue of inequity of funding with varying degrees of success. However, none of this will matter for the victims of emergencies, such as the Pakistan floods, if the end, we fail to provide them with timely, adequate and sufficient aid.