Sida responds to humanitarian mega-crises
2014 saw a major surge in the number of humanitarian crises around the world and there are no signs of a slowdown. Indications for 2015 point to an even worse situation, with the escalation of armed conflict in Iraq and Ukraine and food shortages in Somalia and South Sudan. More extensive humanitarian support is needed, why Sida has decided to distribute nearly two billion SEK to the worst trouble spots.
2015 looks to be a year of major humanitarian challenges. Today, over 51 million people are displaced by armed conflict and many more will be forced to flee their homes.
"We have a very worrying time ahead of us with a dramatic increase of the world's humanitarian needs. UN appeals for support to various crises have increased from five billion USD to over 16 billion for the past eight years", says Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Director General of Sida.
Sida has recently decided on a support to emergency humanitarian crises of 1.7 billion SEK to 19 major crises during 2015. Another 242 million SEK will be distributed to 16 smaller crises, selected according to specific criteria.
A novelty this year is the fact that a significant share of the overall humanitarian budget will be placed in a reserve fund of 712 million SEK – funds that can be disbursed within 24 hours when a humanitarian crisis is aggravated or if natural disaster strikes.
There are currently a record number of ongoing crises that have been classified as "mega crises" by the United Nations – in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Iraq. These crises continue to grow and affect an increasing number of people, many of them displaced by armed conflicts. There are also a large number of protracted crises – for example in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia – as well as increased food shortages in Somalia and South Sudan and conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.
"It used to be the case that these types of crises eventually slowed down, but today it's difficult to see an end to them. There is a significant risk that the number of refugees – already at its highest level in modern times – will increase as the crises in Iraq and Ukraine are deepened", says Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.
Sweden was the world's fourth largest donor to the UN's emergency appeals in 2014, following the U.S., UK, Japan, Germany and Canada. Many of today's urgent humanitarian problems, however, cannot be solved with the help of aid funds.
"These crises require a political solution so that people can recover and rebuild their lives again, but finding these solutions is not a task for humanitarian actors", says Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.
One pressing challenge for both organizations and their personnel when trying to assist civilians with emergency humanitarian aid, is the fact that humanitarian law – allowing for the protection of civilians, as well as their access to care and medicines, food, clean water and somewhere to live – is not respected. Neither the aid workers' right to humanitarian assistance and protection is respected, which considerably complicates their ability to operate.
"It's about being able to implement and follow up humanitarian efforts. Many aid workers have been killed and there is a risk of kidnappings. The consequence is that we cannot reach all the people in a satisfactory manner. Helping people affected by armed conflict is becoming more expensive, more difficult and more dangerous", says Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.