Pakistan aid effort in jeopardy due to lack of funds

Published Saturday, June 13, 2009  |  

A group of nine major international aid agencies said yesterday that their aid effort of reaching over 1 million victims of the fighting in Swat valley of Pakistan was under threat due to a lack of funds, stated a public statement made by ActionAid.

"The agencies face a shortfall in excess of £26m ($42m)," it stated describing the bleak future for the victims of Pakistan army onslaught on militants in the Swat Valley and its surrounding areas bordering Afghanistan.

According to the source, World Vision faces an £7.5m ($12.1m) shortfall while Oxfam and Save the Children both face deficits of £4 million ($6 million) each. Oxfam will have to close its programmes to the 360,000 people it had planned to assist if money does not arrive by July. Concern Worldwide will also have to close its programme mid-July, just when the health risks will escalate due to the onset of the monsoon rains.

"This is the worst funding crisis we've faced in over a decade for a major humanitarian emergency. Some 2.5 million people have fled their homes. One month into this emergency, Oxfam is £4 million short and will have to turn our backs on some of the world's most vulnerable people. In the same period after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, we had £14m committed from the UN, governments and the public," said Jane Cocking, Oxfam's Humanitarian Director.

Not only the aid agencies are facing the funding crisis but the UN too is handicapped as out of it $543m appeal made it has only received $138m so far. Which is a 75 percent shortfall. Therefore, out of the 52 organisations requesting UN appeal funds, 30 have received no funds at all.

The number of displaced people increasing:
The source said, the vast majority of the funds the UN appeal has received came before the recent outpouring of people from the Swat valley, which swelled the number of displaced from 500,000 to 2.5 million people in early May, largest internal displacement of people in Pakistan's history. Since May rich countries have contributed a mere $50m to the UN appeal, a minuscule nine percent of the total required.

The generosity plummeted in times of global recession:
The US, the world's richest nation, is by far the greatest contributor to the fund at $68m, giving 12.5 per cent of what is required since the initial crisis began in October 2008.

The sixth richest country, the UK, has given 1.6 percent of requirements, Japan, the world's second largest economy, has given 1.4 percent, Germany, fourth richest country, has given 1.3 per cent, Canada 1.0 percent, Australia 0.8 percent, Norway 0.4 percent, Italy 0.3 percent, Netherlands 0.3 percent, Sweden 0.2 percent, France 0.02 percent.

The agencies said that besides little money going into the UN appeal, the problem was also that even less money is being dispersed to frontline agencies from the appeal. In a humanitarian crisis speed of delivery is vital.

Earlier governments would give part of their aid money directly to frontline agencies. Now when governments do give aid money, it tends to go to the UN which then passes it on to agencies working on the ground. Though the UN system can improve coordination and reduce duplication of effort, the allocation of money to frontline agencies takes far too long. The UN funding system needs to be complimented with other diverse ways of getting aid money as swiftly as possible to those saving lives.

Five weeks into the escalation of the crisis, the UK's Department for International Development says that it will now directly fund those front line non-governmental agencies working within the UN appeal. Welcome as this change is, it will require other donors to be equally as flexible to cover the agencies' £26m shortfall.

Fear of the coming Monsoon rain:
"With monsoon rains due by July, serious health risks will increase as water sources become contaminated and sanitation worsens. At a time when the risks of malaria, respiratory inspection and diarrhoea start to escalate, agencies will be forced to close down our programmes.

"The only reason we haven't faced a massive humanitarian meltdown is the generosity of families and communities of modest means who've looked after the vast majority of those who've fled the fighting. With so many mouths to feed, these communities will soon be running on empty," said Carolyn Miller, Chief Executive of Merlin.

"The world's richest nations need to dig much deeper into their pockets to help," she concluded.