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United Nations member states behind on funding for nations in crisis, officials say

The $25.4 billion sought for 2018 is needed to assist countries ravaged by war, famine or other humanitarian issues, officials with the UN say. 

A Yemeni child, seen on Aug. 6, is

A Yemeni child, seen on Aug. 6, is among displaced people from Hodeida who were set to receive humanitarian aid donated by a Turkish agency in the Yemeni district of Hajjah province on Aug. 6. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Essa Ahmed

UNITED NATIONS — UN member states have donated just over a third of the $25.4 billion in funds sought in 2018 on behalf of 40 nations facing humanitarian crises ranging from famine in Africa to war in the Middle East, officials with the organization said.

The $9.7 billion, or 38 percent of the target received by mid-August — nearly eight months into the year — at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is $1.4 billion more than was collected by the same point last year but it is still $15.7 billion short of the 2018 goal, officials said.

“Let me make it clear,” said Ursula Mueller, UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, while presenting the Global Humanitarian Overview of fundraising progress. “Insufficient funding for humanitarian operations costs lives. One hundred million people are looking to us for their hope and survival. We cannot to let them down.”

Appeals for assistance to the war-ravaged countries South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, account for the largest requests for money sought on behalf of 100 million people worldwide and more than half of the global appeal, she said. In fact, conflict is the main driver of need, officials said, but natural disasters constitute a significant portion of the requested funding.

The bulk of the funding goes to agencies comprising about 800 different humanitarian and non-governmental organizations that use the aid to bring assistance of all kinds to suffering populations.

“The UN is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I think many feel that human rights are not getting the appropriate attention today,” said Scott Carlin, a professor of geography at LIU Post in Brookville, of the humanitarian funding shortfall.

Carlin is serving on the planning committee for the UN’s 67th Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization conference on Aug. 22 and Aug. 23 in Manhattan and at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus on Aug. 24.

“We have to kind of restructure human rights as a very crucial issue,” he said. "And I think that’s one element of what this conference is addressing.”

Mueller said the $25.4 billion is the highest amount ever requested from the international community, adding that the UN’s humanitarian officials requested a fraction of the sum, $7.2 billion, in 2009.

More countries face crises and the need for help has expanded over the past decade.

The funds are categorized broadly as humanitarian response plans and regional response plans, and some countries have appeals pending for both causes.

This year is not an anomaly, the humanitarian overview shows, as at least since 2007, donors have not provided enough funding to meet requests made by UN officials.

In 2007, the UN requested $4.4 billion but $3.7 billion was collected. The gap between requests and money received widens significantly after that, with last year’s $23.5 billion request garnering half of that, $11.9 billion.

And while the total amount collected in 2018 is just over one third of what officials hope to collect, more than a dozen countries have not yet garnered one-third of the funds sought on their behalf.

The $9.12 billion request for Syria has drawn $3.3 billion, or 37 percent of its appeal, the plea of $2.96 billion for Yemen has yielded $1.84 billion, or 62 percent of its appeal, and South Sudan has received $943 million, or 29 percent of $3.25 billion sought.

Countries with less fortunate results include Haiti, which has received $22.7 million, or 9 percent of the $252.2 million UN officials have requested, and North Korea, which also received $12 million, or 10.8 percent of the $111 million sought.

Appeals for the occupied Palestinian territories, which received 24.5 percent of $540 million sought, and Ukraine, which received 27 percent of $187 million requested, didn’t fare much better.

The top donors include the United States, which has given $2.3 billion, the European Commission, which has provided $2 billion and another $852 million earmarked for refugees in Turkey, and the United Kingdom, which has provided $1.3 billion, according to UN records.

Saudi Arabia ($771 million), Germany ($764 million), United Arab Emirates ($733 million), Canada ($630 million), Sweden ($553 million) and Japan ($378 million) are the next most generous donors, according to UN records.

“What we would like to see is more donors responding and reliable donors giving more, of course,” said Russell Geekie, a spokesman for OCHA. “We use this money very wisely and effectively.”

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