Kasai, DR Congo: Shabani (left), 3, Ngalula (middle), 7, and Kevine (right), 9, having their poor unique meal of cassava bread. Due to the lack of food in the region, thousands of women and children suffer from acute or severe malnutrition. Photo NRC/ Ephrem Chiruza

Alarming lack of funding claims lives

Published 17. Jul 2018
Half way into the year, humanitarian organizations have only received 35 per cent of the money needed for relief worldwide.

“Our humanitarian relief is a matter of life or death in many horrific war and disaster zones. The lack of funding leaves many desperate families without assistance. Mothers are forced to cut back on food for already malnourished children. Girls and boys are deprived of education and hope,” warned Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland. 

By the end of June, the international community had only provided US$9 billion of the US$25 billion needed for humanitarian assistance around the world, according to figures from the UN.

“It is outrageous that UN member states find an incredible US $1.7 trillion for military expenditure, but are willing to provide less than one per cent of this for relief to the many millions of victims of wars and disasters,” said Egeland.

“The money needed is more or less the same as the initial price tag for president Donald Trump’s planned wall, or about half the price of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. It is not a question about what the world can afford, but a question about priorities,” he added.   

The humanitarian appeals, put together by the UN and partner organizations, reflect the expected need for global relief funding in 2018. While the needs have increased substantially over the last decade, the available aid has not kept pace, leading to a large funding gap.

Half way into the year, humanitarian organizations have only received 35 per cent of the money needed for relief worldwide. Graphic: NRC


Despite the scale and the brutality of its crisis, DR Congo is one of the countries that have received the least funding so far this year, with only about 21 per cent of the UN appeal covered. The country topped NRC’s latest list of neglected displacement crises and may very well repeat, unless donor countries immediately increase support.

In the Kasai region, cholera is rapidly spreading due to the poor water, sanitation and health infrastructure, claiming an increasing number of lives. In the same region, nearly 400,000 children risk deaths due to severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF, yet nutrition remains one of the lowest funded sectors in the current humanitarian response.

There are positive examples we must heed. The recent Ebola outbreak response is a very good example how an acute crisis can be averted when funding and capacity is deployed rapidly. When the outbreak was declared in May 2018, USD 57 million was released within ten days. This same efficiency and will should be applied to the broader humanitarian crisis in DR Congo.


DR Congo and Ethiopia had received the least funding compared to the needs. Graphic: NRC


“DR Congo is one of the countries where the funding gap is already claiming lives. Because of insufficient money, humanitarians are left with impossible choices, such as having to decide which of the communities affected by conflict and displacement should receive aid, and which must try to survive without,” added Egeland.  

The international community is also failing to provide sufficient support to Congolese refugees in the region. By June, the UN and partners had only received 6 per cent of the aid needed for Congolese refugees in Uganda. There is also an alarming funding gap for humanitarian response in several other countries that have received a large number of refugees, like Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, and Bangladesh.

“World leaders have promised better international responsibility sharing, but so far these promises ring hollow. Men, women and children, who have had their lives turned upside-down by wars and conflicts and, who need protection, are the ones paying the price,” Egeland said.