Global humanitarian action at mid-2013 has entered uncharted territory in terms of the number of people needing help and resources still to be secured, mainly because of the Syria crisis. The Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan aims to help 6.8 million people inside Syria in 2013, and the Syria Regional Response Plan for refugees and affected host communities intends to help another 5.3 million people.
Their combined resource requirements have added $4.4 billion to the amount needed for humanitarian action in major crises this year, which now totals an unprecedented $12.9 billion to help 73 million people.
Funding response has been impressive, especially considering the continuing climate of slow economic growth – $5.1 billion to date (the largest total ever recorded at mid-year). However this is fast approaching the fullyear amount that donors directed to appeals for major crises in 2011 and 2012.
It is clear that relying on humanitarian aid budgets that are similar in scale to last year’s will leave an enormous gap this year for the many more millions of people in need. Donors have a heavy burden in the second half of this year, to make available further resources commensurate with the new scale of needs.
However, they have done it before: special appropriations greatly boosted humanitarian aid in response to the post-war humanitarian needs in Iraq in 2003, the Tsunami of 2004, the global food price crisis in 2008 and 2009, and the disasters in Haiti and Pakistan in 2010.
This review of global humanitarian action at mid-year, and the country-specific reviews of each humanitarian action plan and appeal, demonstrate the effectiveness and accountability of coordinated humanitarian action and the fact that it can do the necessary job if given the resources.
Apart from the Syria crisis, another humanitarian situation that shows worsening at midyear is that of the Central African Republic. A rebellion earlier this year ended with rebel capture of the capital and instatement of an interim government. Insecurity and weakening of government services have exacerbated the humanitarian needs that already prevailed in much of the country.
In Mali, the Humanitarian Country Team is presenting an expanded appeal that intensifies actions in the north, scene of fighting between insurgents and international plus Malian forces earlier in 2013, and now more open to aid operations (though still not completely safe).
The Humanitarian Country Teams for Kenya, Mauritania, South Sudan and Somalia are reducing their appeals’ requirements following the mid-year review, as the scale and severity of needs have eased slightly, though remaining large-scale.
The Transformative Agenda – an initiative to bring the quality and speed of international humanitarian response fully up to the necessary standard – emphasizes leadership, coordination and accountability. These mid-year reviews have thus been engineered to measure whether the humanitarian teams in country are managing to implement what they said they would implement and whether it is having the necessary effect for people in need, andto take any corrective action that these findings show to be needed. They are thus essential monitoring exercises. In each mid-year review, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) reports and reflects on progress towards their strategic objectives for collective humanitarian action in 2013. The Yemen HCT, for example, reports that they are on target with part of their strategic objective of preventing further increases in mortality, as indicated by having held the severe acute malnutrition rate among children under five years old below the emergency threshold of 5%; the measurement at mid-year indicates 4.6%. Clusters, similarly, report on progress towards their collective output targets. In South Sudan for example, the WASH Cluster reports that they have provided 449,000 people with access to safe water based on SPHERE standards, out of a target for 2013 of 2.5 million. (The South Sudan WASH Cluster’s planned actions are 38% funded.) There are updates on the situations and the needs, analyses of funding to date, and any necessary revisions of objectives, targets and budgets.
For comprehensive, equitable humanitarian action, reaching as many people as humanly possible in 24 countries in the second half of 2013, a further $7.8 billion will have to be donated. Private donations are important and can reach a significant scale, but are not likely to close a resource gap of this magnitude. We are coming up against the question, more starkly than ever, of whether the world’s governments can supply humanitarian resources to the scale required to help all the world’s people in crisis. Governments are encouraged to appropriate significant additional humanitarian funds, and/or to flexibly use other, larger budget lines as much as possible to support humanitarian goals.