Humanitarian organizations face ‘catastrophic’ choices

Major humanitarian organizations are forced to make “heartbreaking” choices in many countries in crisis due to a lack of sufficient donations to meet the needs of the population while the attention of Western countries and their leaders are galvanized by the war in Ukraine.

Posted at 5:00 am

Mark Tebodeau

Mark Tebodeau

The situation is particularly alarming in Africa, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which for the first time is placing ten countries on the continent at the top of its annual list of the most neglected crises.

Tom Per-Costa, the organization’s spokesperson for West and Central Africa, said in an interview on Tuesday that needs in the region are constantly growing, without the financial envelope allocated by countries rich in humanitarian aid does not follow the same upward curve.

He asserts that when a conflict such as the one in Ukraine results in a broad solidarity movement, we “see a new distribution” of available funds rather than an increase in them.

Photo by Edgar Sue, Reuters archives

Residents of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, line up to receive goods distributed by the Red Cross on June 10.

In early March, in response to the Russian invasion, the United Nations and several partner organizations launched an emergency humanitarian appeal worth $1.7 billion, which was mobilized almost immediately.

The situation is quite different in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where only 44% of the funds requested by the United Nations were collected last year, notes Kinshasa-based Mr Peyre-Costa.

We don’t want to throw stones. It would have been much better if the appeal for Ukraine was 100% funded in about one day. But suppose we would like to see the same response to all other humanitarian crises.

Tom Bir-Costa, WHO spokesperson for West and Central Africa

The needs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to 5.5 million internal refugees and some 30 million people suffering from hunger, are enormous, but they receive little attention, neither from Western leaders nor from the media.

‘Extreme emergency’

“We are compelled to respond to extreme urgency, not urgency. […] The NRC spokesperson emphasized that when a new wave of people is displaced due to the bloody attacks, we must stop our activities elsewhere to provide assistance to them.

The situation is similar in South Sudan, another African country that has been hit by a devastating civil war.

The leaders of the World Food Program announced, Monday, that due to lack of funds, they were forced to limit the distribution of food aid this year to 4.5 million people suffering from severe hunger, 1.7 million less than expected.

PHOTO ED RAM, Agence France Press

A mother stands by the bed of her malnourished child at a Somali hospital in early June.

The organization said that all options were considered before reaching this measure, which comes after the rations distributed in 2021 were halved to allow it to continue helping the largest number of families.

The head of the WFP’s local chapter, Adenka Badejo, said in a statement she was “deeply concerned” about the impact of the new cuts on the population left behind.

Their difficulties will be compounded by the high prices of basic foodstuffs, fueled in part by the conflict in Ukraine and the resulting decline in wheat exports.

Families will have to resort to skipping meals, selling basic necessities or child labor to make ends meet.I Bajo.

Humanitarian needs far exceed the funding received this year. If this continues, we will face more significant and costly problems in the future.

Adeyinka Badejo, Director of the Local Branch of the World Food Program

Mr. Per-Costa noted that funding for humanitarian needs for countries that have been in crisis for years has generally tended to decline.

“European Central”

“There is fatigue and weariness among donors and policy makers who do not see the light at the end of the tunnel despite the importance of the money being injected,” he lamented.

Dimension also plays an important role in the reaction of donor countries and their populations, notes the representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which explains part of the great interest the Ukraine conflict is receiving through a form of “Eurocentrism”.

When war knocks on Europe’s doors, people get anxious. Cultural proximity works like geographic proximity. “There is also a new aspect to consider,” notes Mr. Per-Costa, who urges donor countries not to forget Africa.

“When funding is short, you have to make impossible choices, decide who gets help and who doesn’t. It is very difficult.”

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