International Aid Groups Scramble for Funding

With political turmoil and the global financial crisis putting a damper on the generosity of governments and individual donors, aid agencies working to address humanitarian emergencies around the world are beginning to run short of funds, Reuters AlertNet reports.

A recent spike in humanitarian emergencies in developing countries comes at a time when the balance sheets of governments and individuals in rich countries have been battered by volatile credit and equity markets. As a result, aid groups in Sri Lanka that are struggling to meet the basic needs of nearly 300,000 people displaced by the country's civil war have warned that they only have enough money to continue operations for another three months. And while aid groups working in Pakistan have issued an appeal for more than $500 million to provide relief to millions displaced by a government offensive against Taliban militants, to date they have only raised 16 percent of the total.

The additional demands on humanitarian groups mean there is even less money to feed millions of hungry people in poor countries still suffering from last year's spike in food prices. The UN World Food Program, for example, has increased its 2009 budget from $5.2 billion to $6.4 billion, with the goal of providing food aid to 105 million people in 74 countries, but so far has received just 18 percent of the budgeted amount from donor governments, compared to 25 percent at the same time last year. In response, WFP has cut food aid to 600,000 people uprooted by conflict in northern Uganda and may have to cut rations for millions more in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Indeed, the twin food and financial crises have forced a number of aid agencies to make tough choices. British charity Christian Aid, for instance, said it could use about four times the �400,000 ($636,000) it has raised to date to provide aid for displaced Sri Lankans.

"There doesn't seem to be enough money flowing through the system to give the [displaced] three meals a day," Robin Greenwood, the group's Asia and Middle East head, said. "What is happening at the moment is we're having to put plans for early recovery work on hold because we've only got the budget for immediate relief, whereas in a normal situation we'd be doing both."

Megan Rowling. "Aid Agencies Struggle as Soaring Global Needs Outpace Funding." Reuters AlertNet 05/28/2009.