Humanitarian Funding: the gap between life and death

 In Advocacy Hub, Funding & Partnerships

At a recent VOICE event where we discussed the humanitarian funding gap, Milward Mwamvni had us reflect on the following question:

Whose life is worth saving?

Milward Mwamvani, LM International (EU-CORD member)

For most, this will be an abstract type of discussion. We might expect a lively debate with someone cracking a joke at the end, and then we all move on.

But it is a very practical question for those at the forefront of humanitarian action.

The European NGO humanitarian network VOICE, of which EU-CORD is a member, recently launched its 2022 policy resolution ‘An urgent call to protect principled humanitarian aid.’ 

To take a few statistics from the resolution: 

  • 303 million people are expected to need humanitarian aid in 2022. 29 million more than in 2021.
  • 181 million people are expected to reach a crisis level of hunger in 2022 in 41 countries/territories.
  • One person is likely to die every 48 seconds from acute hunger in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

At the same time, most appeals to support humanitarian efforts are significantly underfunded. The Global Humanitarian Overview which is the world’s most comprehensive, evidence-based assessment of humanitarian needs calculates that, in 2022, the humanitarian community has only 20% of the funding it needs.

The humanitarian community has always had to make difficult decisions when assessing whether a community, household or person should receive humanitarian assistance.  

With increasing pressure on humanitarian budgets, those decisions get harder. And the impact of those decisions – on those we have to say no to – is leading to acute suffering and, in increasing cases, death.  

The amounts needed can sound like a lot, but with the largest 20 public donors contributing 96% of all international humanitarian assistance allocations, there is scope for other actors to contribute. Indeed, we have seen in response to the Ukraine crisis that additional funding can be made available – it just needs to be made available for other situations as well.

This is reflected in the VOICE policy resolution recommendations:

VOICE calls on the EU and its Member States (MS) to consistently uphold principled humanitarian aid worldwide through the adoption of the following set of recommendations:

Principled humanitarian aid

Ensure that the speed and scale of funding generously provided to Ukraine becomes the new normal and is replicated for all important humanitarian crises, current and future

Guarantee humanitarian aid funding allocations prioritise life-saving aid and are not reallocated for any political or economic considerations

Systematically include humanitarian exemptions to all EU and MS sanctions regimes

Funding share and allocation

Substantially increase humanitarian aid funding to cover the increasing and record humanitarian needs

International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

Promote and uphold IHL, protect civilians and support humanitarian access

Whose life is worth saving?

An influential figure was once asked the similarly phrased question ‘who is my neighbour?’ The conclusion that we are asked to draw from the story he gave in answer is everyone – irrespective of country of origin, race, gender, religious affiliation (or none), or status……. 

It has been 2,000 years since this principle of assistance based on humanity and impartiality was articulated. In 2022, with all the knowledge and resources available to us, is our ambition to the question ‘whose life is worth saving’ really going to be ‘around 20%?’

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