Humanitarian organizations face “heartbreaking” choices

Major humanitarian organizations in several crisis-hit countries are being forced to make “heartbreaking” decisions due to a lack of sufficient donations to meet the needs of the population, while the attention of Western countries and their leaders is mobilized by the war in Ukraine.

Posted at 5:00 am

Marc Thibodeau

Marc Thibodeau
The press

The situation in Africa is of particular concern, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which for the first time put ten countries on the continent at the top of its annual list of the most neglected crises.

Tom Peyre-Costa, the organization’s spokesman for West and Central Africa, said in an interview on Tuesday that needs in the region are growing steadily, while funding from humanitarian-aid-rich countries does not follow the same upward trajectory.

When a conflict like the one in Ukraine arises, leading to a large solidarity movement, “we see a re-allocation” of available funds rather than an increase, he points out.


PHOTO EDGAR SU, REUTERS ARCHIVE

Residents of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, line up to receive goods distributed by the Red Cross on June 10.

The United Nations and several partner organizations launched a $1.7 billion humanitarian emergency appeal in response to the Russian invasion in early March, which was met almost immediately.

The situation is very different in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where only 44% of the sums requested by the UN last year have been raised, notes Mr. Peyre-Costa, who lives in Kinshasa.

We don’t want to throw stones. All the better if the appeal for Ukraine was 100% funded almost in one day. But suppose we would like to see the same response for all other humanitarian crises.

Tom Peyre-Costa, spokesman for the organization for West and Central Africa

The plight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has 5.5 million internally displaced people and nearly 30 million starving, is enormous but receives little attention from Western leaders and the media.

“Extreme Emergency”

“We are forced to respond to extreme urgency, not urgency. […] When a new wave of people is displaced due to bloody attacks, we must stop our activities elsewhere to come to their aid,” the NRC spokesman said.

The situation is similar in South Sudan, another African country ravaged by a devastating civil war.

World Food Program (WFP) officials said Monday that a lack of funds has forced them to limit food aid distribution this year to 4.5 million people suffering from severe hunger, or 1.7 million fewer than expected .


PHOTO ED RAM, AGENCY FRANCE-PRESS

A mother lies at the bedside of her malnourished child in a Somali hospital in early June.

The organization said all options were considered before coming to this measure, which comes after reducing the portions distributed in 2021 by half so it can continue to help a maximum number of families.

The head of WFP’s local branch, Adeyinka Badejo, said in a statement that she was “extremely concerned” about the impact of the new cuts on the population left behind.

Their difficulties are exacerbated by the rise in the prices of basic commodities, fueled in part by the conflict in Ukraine and the resulting drop in wheat exports.

Families must resort to skipping meals, selling basic necessities, or doing child labor to make ends meet, said Ms.me Badejo.

Humanitarian needs far exceed the funds received this year. If this continues, we will have to deal with even more important and costly problems in the future.

Adeyinka Badejo, director of the WFP local branch

Mr Peyre-Costa pointed out that, in general, the funding allocated to the humanitarian needs of countries that have been in crisis for years tends to decrease.

“Eurocentrism”

“There is tiredness and exhaustion among donors and policymakers who, despite the importance of the funds injected, do not see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he laments.

The remoteness also plays an important role in the response of donor countries and their people, notes the NRC official, who explains some of the intense attention being paid to the Ukraine conflict with a form of “Eurocentrism”.

“When war knocks on Europe’s doors, people are concerned. Cultural proximity works like geographic proximity. There is also an aspect of novelty that needs to be taken into account,” notes Mr Peyre-Costa, who urges donor countries not to forget Africa.

“When funding is tight, you have to make impossible decisions, deciding who gets help and who doesn’t. It’s very hard. »

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