Citing COVID-19, climate and wars, UN asks donors for big jump in funding

FILE PHOTO: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivers his opening remarks at the Paris Agreement signing ceremony on climate change at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, US, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
When the United Nations made its last appeal for humanitarian aid funding before the pandemic, it asked donors for about $29 billion. But in the past year alone, there has been a huge jump in the number of people needing help. And so, the UN is asking for more aid — $41 billion.

As the pandemic enters a third year, and the toll of conflicts and climate change rise, the UN said Thursday that it needed to help 183 million people in 63 countries who are suffering the consequences. That compared with 100 million people at the time of the last appeal, in 2019.

More than 1% of the world’s population are now displaced by conflicts and disasters, Martin Griffiths, the UN emergency relief coordinator, told reporters in Geneva in announcing the organization’s 2022 funding drive. About 45 million people now face famine, some as a result of climate change.

The pandemic has already forced 20 million people into extreme poverty, he said, citing World Bank estimates, and the new omicron variant would further ratchet up the economic damage. “With COVID continuing to threaten us and continuing to mutate, we will continue to see increased humanitarian needs,” he said.

The funding needed for humanitarian aid has doubled in four years and nine country programs now required aid of more than $1 billion each, according to the UN At the top of the list are Afghanistan and Syria, which each need more than $4 billion. They are followed by Yemen, which needs $3.9 billion.

International aid in 2021 averted the threat of famine in South Sudan and Yemen where UN agencies provided food for 10 million people.

But many aid programs are severely underfunded, forcing aid agencies to cut back food rations. “Without immediate and sustained action to prevent famine, humanitarian needs will far exceed those in the last decade,” the UN said in its appeal.

Griffiths expressed particular alarm over the conflict in Ethiopia, where the UN is trying to distribute aid to 9 million people in the war-torn north and an additional 21 million people in the rest of the country.

He also highlighted political challenges to providing assistance to Afghanistan, where the effects of severe drought and economic collapse have left 24 million people confronting acute hunger. But international aversion to aiding the Taliban has led to a freeze on international reserves and banking transactions.

Donor governments needed assurances that funding did not empower the Taliban, Griffiths said, but to enable payment of employee salaries, “the world has to understand that there is a need for putting money through state structures.”

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