DfID backtracks on pledge of 'new' $249M for Somalia and South Sudan

DfID headquarters in London. Photo by: Steve Cadman / CC BY-SA

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Feb. 25 to include additional information from DfID on new funding to Somalia.

The U.K. Department for International Development has backtracked on an announcement it would offer 200 million British pounds ($249 million) in new assistance to Somalia and South Sudan in the wake of famine alerts issued by the United Nations, clarifying that most of the money had already been unofficially budgeted to the two countries for the 2017-2018 period but had not been allocated for humanitarian relief.

A DfID spokesperson told Devex that the full 100 million British pounds ($125 million) committed to South Sudan and some of the 100 million British pounds committed to Somalia had already been unofficially earmarked for the countries but was dedicated to humanitarian relief efforts and released immediately following the U.N. alert. Most of the money that will be sent for relief efforts in Somalia does represent new funding to the country, the spokesperson said

In a statement released on Monday, the agency had pledged “new packages of life-saving U.K. aid for South Sudan and Somalia,” describing it as “new U.K. support to provide lifesaving food, water and emergency healthcare which will save more than a million lives in each country.”

However, a report in The Guardian newspaper questioned whether the funding for South Sudan was “new,” suggesting that humanitarian workers there had already been working towards this budget.

UK pledges $249M to South Sudan and Somalia in response to famine

The U.K. Department for International Development will offer 200 million pounds ($249 million) in new humanitarian support to famine-struck South Sudan and Somalia. The EU and Norway are also committing funds, for a total of $342.8 million, while the U.N. has released emergency funds to tackle the effects of drought in the region.

The DfID spokesperson confirmed to Devex that the department had shared unofficial budget figures with partners in both South Sudan and Somalia as the situation in those countries continued to deteriorate, to help them prepare and implement a response quickly — in line with common protocol for planning aid budgets in fragile contexts.

Those draft figures, which had not been made public, showed that most but not all of the 200 million British pounds announced on Monday as new funding was in fact already being considered for aid projects there.

However, none of the money had been allocated by sector. Monday’s announcement reflected a decision to dedicate the funds to humanitarian relief and to release it immediately rather than to allocate it to other sectors, such as economic development or health, at a later date.

A DfID spokesperson told Devex that the agency has “urgently pulled forward our support for South Sudan to ensure that more can happen now to meet the desperate humanitarian need.”

The funds will be made immediately available to the U.N. and nongovernmental organization partners working in South Sudan and Somalia to provide food, water, shelter and respond to emergency medical needs now and in the coming months.

Had DfID not diverted the funds to humanitarian aid, most would have been spent on aid projects in Somalia and South Sudan in other sectors through the standard competitive bidding process, the agency confirmed.

The shortfall caused by bringing the funds forward will be addressed, the spokesperson added.

For more U.K. news, views and analysis visit the Future of DfID series page, follow @devex on Twitter and tweet using the hashtag #FutureofDfID.

About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a former U.K. correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.