Chaikok Cha, 10, is treated for kala azar, in Lankien, South Sudan, where a conflict has left communities more vulnerable to the tropical disease - AFP
AFP: The United Nations appealed Monday for a record $ 20.1 billion (18.6 billion euros) to provide aid to a surging number of people hit by conflicts and disasters around the globe.
“Suffering in the world has reached levels not seen in a generation,” said UN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien.
“Conflicts and disasters have driven millions of children, women and men to the edge of survival,” he said in a statement launching the annual aid appeal, stressing: “They desperately need our help.”
The global appeal from UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations aims to gather funds to help more than 87.6 million of the some 125 million people expected to require assistance next year.
Conflicts and serious crises are raging in 27 countries, and six of them – the Central African Republic, Burundi, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen – have spilled over to surrounding regions, bringing the total number of countries currently in peril to a staggering 37, the UN said.
The conflicts have already forced more than 60 million people to flee their homes worldwide, with those escaping violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan especially sparking Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.
“Mass movement of people, be it refugees or people fleeing within their own countries, has become the new defining reality of the 21st century,” UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said.
“The international humanitarian system is all too often the only safety net that exists for people fleeing wars,” he said, insisting: “It has to be funded on a scale that’s realistic and commensurate with today’s immense challenges.”
With so many conflicts raging out of control, the UN said the amount needed next year was five times more than what it requested a decade ago.
The appeal also dwarfs the $ 16.4 billion requested last December in the initial appeal for 2015.
But as needs soar, donor countries are increasingly struggling to fund a multitude of often chronically underfunded aid programmes. Donors have only managed to provide 49% of the amount needed this year, and full funding of the 2015 appeal is highly unlikely.
“Humanitarian organisations approach the end of this year with a funding gap of a record $ 10.2 billion,” the UN statement said, warning that the shortfall in funds was having very dire consequences on the ground.
The World Food Programme has for instance been forced to scale back desperately needed assistance for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, even temporarily halting food handouts to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Jordan.
“It is clear that with the present level of resources, we are not able to provide even the very minimum in both core protection and life-saving assistance,” Guterres said.
World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan also stressed the desperate need for more funds.
“The number of people now affected by conflicts and other crises is unprecedented, with an unprecedented impact on their health,” she said in the statement.