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Humanitarian aid hits record $22 bln in 2013 amid major crises

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 24 Jun 2014 00:15 GMT
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Ravaged coconut trees are seen as workers stand on the new corrugated iron roofing on the reconstructed house of Roberto Retanal in Palo, Leyte province, central Philippines, on December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Humanitarian aid rose to a record $22 billion in 2013, in response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and major conflict-related crises in Syria and Central African Republic – but more than a third of needs were still left unmet, new data showed on Tuesday.

The increase in the international humanitarian response - from around $18 billion in 2012 when there were no big new disasters - comes from growing contributions by both government donors and private funding sources, according to research from the Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme of the UK-based think tank Development Initiatives.

Humanitarian needs are continuing to expand, with U.N.-coordinated appeals requesting a record $16.9 billion already this year, as the Syria emergency worsens. 

"It's great that we are seeing record levels of response, but we need to see that sustained," said Dan Coppard, GHA's director for research and analysis. 

The figures are a preview of key findings from the programme's annual report on humanitarian aid, to be released in September.

Nine of the 10 largest government donors in 2013 increased their funding from the previous year, with state money accounting for three quarters of the total international response. The United States, Britain, Turkey, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Norway and France all gave more, while only the Netherlands did not.

Contributions from private sources – individuals, trusts, foundations and businesses – are calculated to have risen by 35 percent.

Governments outside the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) committee of traditional donors are also giving more, GHA said. These newer donor states contributed $2.3 billion in humanitarian assistance in 2013, with their share of government aid doubling since 2011.

More countries are "recognising they have an international responsibility", Coppard said, something he said gives reason for optimism relief aid could keep up with growing need.

Despite public and private donors digging deeper, U.N.-backed aid appeals in 2013 - which aimed to assist 78 million people and called for $13.2 billion - were only 65 percent funded. The crisis in Syria, which has displaced some 9.5 million people, received 37 percent ($3.1 billion) of the money that did come in for those appeals.

DISPARITIES

The data pointed to disparities in the geographical distribution and timeliness of humanitarian response, GHA said.

"The time taken for donors to respond at scale to acute crises triggered by sudden natural hazards can vary enormously in the first weeks and months," it pointed out. For example, the response to Typhoon Haiyan in the first month afterwards was half that of the Indian Ocean tsunami appeal in 2005, measured by the proportion of needs met.

And the response to conflict-related emergencies is even slower, the data showed. Appeals for South Sudan, Syria, Central African Republic and Yemen remained more than 50 percent unfunded six months after they were launched.

Meanwhile, donors tend to cherry pick crises. Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and the Palestinian territories have consistently appeared in the top 10 list of aid recipients over the five years to 2012, while other countries including Nepal, Myanmar and Algeria continue to be a low priority, GHA noted.

Protracted crises in places where millions live in long-term poverty are still capturing the bulk of official humanitarian assistance – around two-thirds of funding from OECD donors in 2012.

While acknowledging greater efforts on the part of both humanitarian and development agencies to build resilience to disasters, Coppard called for a more preventative approach – especially when faced with the growing impacts of climate change for which "we're not particularly prepared". 

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