How Much Is 50 Million Lives Worth? Actually, $7.4 Billion

There are 50 million people caught in humanitarian emergencies around the world today. And if the international community wants to provide for their basic needs, it will cost $7.4 billion.

This is all from a report out today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The report surveys 14 global crises (Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, West Africa region, and Zimbabwe) to analyze the major humanitarian needs for each crisis.  This is what they find.

As you can see, two mega disasters–the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods–account for much of the projected needs for 2011. And man-made disasters like Sudan and DRC also account for a big chunk of the outstanding humanitarian needs.

What is tragic about this figure is that the international community has never fully funded humanitarian response.  If past is precedent, there is no way that donors will come up with $7.4 billion for things like food, basic health care, and basic shelter for people displaced by conflict or natural disaster. So far in 2010, the international community is about $4 billion (or 40%) short of fully funding humanitarian crisis response.

Spread across many wealthy countries, $7.4 billion need not be a significant outlay. But the fact is, there is no constituency demanding that governments provide food rations for IDPs in Yemen or tarps for flood affected victims in the Sahel.  And in the midst of tightening budgets, chances are that the gap between required funding and what is actually provided will grow ever wider.

As you can see from the chart below, the trend is already pointed in the wrong direction.