"Three Places — Besides Syria — Where The U.N.’s Help Is Most Needed"
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week issued its annual appeal to the international community, seeking $12.9 billion to fund its aid assistance programs throughout 2014. Intended to provide relief for more than 52 million people living in crisis worldwide, these programs are designed on a country-by-country basis to provide funding for U.N.-sponsored and third party Non Governmental Organization efforts to distribute food relief and provide access to clean drinking water, shelter and basic health services. While most reports have focused on the $6.5 billion allocated to relieve refugee suffering in the Syrian civil war — a record amount for any one country — it is imperative to remember that there are 20 other states in which these funds will be used to aid populations in need. Here are 3 examples:
• $406 million, Afghanistan: The unstable political, economic and security transition has left more than 9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, specifically women and children in rural areas. Unfortunately, only 5 million are expected to actually receive aid due to logistical difficulties in reaching remote provinces and escalating attacks on aid workers. Violence continued to rise across the country in 2013 as deaths among Afghan women and children climbed 38 percent and war-related civilian casualties rose 60 percent according to OHCA’s figures. Furthermore, OHCA’s Afghanistan Humanitarian Country Team predicts that persistently weak economic growth caused by rampant corruption, an exploding budget deficit, high unemployment and weak agricultural production will likely only increase these percentages. The $406 million U.N. appeal for treatment of traumatic injuries and basic health services for women and children is vital to mitigating civilian casualties which the U.N. places at 2,730 dead and 5,169 injured in 2013 alone.
• $501 million, Yemen: The near total collapse of the country’s infrastructure following the revolutions against the Saleh regime has left it facing an endemic humanitarian crisis where 14.7 million are expected to need some form of assistance. Due to massive internal displacement, 10.5 million have little or no access to secure food sources, 1.08 million children are malnourished, and 8.6 million have no access to health care services such as emergency medicine, reproductive care or pediatric treatment to combat malnourishment or commonly fatal childhood diseases such as diphtheria, polio, and measles, according to OHCA. Nearly 70 percent of the population is threatened by lack of access to clean water and millions have had their livelihoods destroyed by the nation’s economic collapse, from which Yemen is in only the nascent stages of recovery. With the $501 million, the U.N. seeks to provide food relief as well as adult and child health services to 7.6 million people, while also providing funding to 86 different NGOs working to promote a stable economic recovery and political transition.
• $247 million, Central African Republic: Fighting in the country — first in the form of former rebels targeting civilians, now increasingly armed groups targeting each other and civilians — has raged since the coup last March. Moreover, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army remains active in certain southern portions of the country. So far, the violence has left 2.2 million people in need of assistance, including 533,000 internally displaced persons and interventions by the French military to stop the killing have so far proved unsuccessful. As the U.N. continues to send more emergency aid teams into the country to try and establish a foothold for humanitarian relief, the $247 million is crucial for establishing a presence in the ten most heavily effected regions throughout the country. With no end to the conflict in sight, these funds will be used to establish a system of adequate aid distribution to reach those forced to flee from the rampant ethnic and sectarian violence that threatens to turn the conflict into a genocide.
OHCA also names the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Myanmar, the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan as nations in critical need of assistance to prevent massive humanitarian suffering. Though violence and suffering in Syria continues to rage on, other populations though out the world continue to suffer and they too merit attention.
Dan Maher is an intern with the Center for American Progress' National Security and International Policy team.