The Crisis in Disaster Relief

I have a column up on The Guardian’s website, arguing that the international community’s capacity to cope with the world’s humanitarian crises is crippled by an ever-widening funding gap

Has the international community been too slow to respond to Pakistan’s epic floods?

Judging by the numbers, it would appear so. To date, relief agencies have only received about two thirds of the $459.7m the UN calculated was required for the initial response to the worst natural disaster in recent history.

Yet, compared to other ongoing humanitarian crises around the world, this can be considered quite a robust effort. Excluding Pakistan, the United Nations is currently overseeing funding appeals for seventeen distinct humanitarian crises. Only six of these emergencies are funded above half of what the United Nations says is required for relief efforts. Haiti, despite all of the attention, has only received 70% of its $1.4bn appeal. No appeal has received more than 75% of funds requested.

When a flood, hurricane or drought strikes a poor country, the world looks to wealthier countries to fund an emergency relief effort led by UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations. Between the floods in Pakistan, the Haiti earthquake and these 16 other current crises, the international system for responding to humanitarian emergencies has reached the limit of what it can accomplish by depending on the generosity and goodwill of wealthy countries.

Read the rest!