Humanitarian needs, costs will intensify in 2017, UN says

By Amy Lieberman 17 November 2016

John Ging (right), director of operations at the Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, briefs journalists on Haiti, Sudan and South Sudan during the daily briefing by the spokesperson for the secretary-general. On the left is Farhan Haq, deputy Spokesperson for the secretary-general. Photo by: JC McIlwaine / United Nations

A new overall approach to funding humanitarian work is pressing, as an escalation in both need and crises is expected for next year, according to John Ging, the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Affairs’ operations director.

“I am bringing to global leaders again a worsening situation, an escalation in humanitarian need, an increase in the numbers and a higher price because conflict is increasing and intensifying,” Ging told reporters at the U.N. headquarters Wednesday afternoon.

“There has to be something new, a new approach. People like myself just can’t continue to come here and give the same message without reaction or response.”

Ging did not detail what any new approach should look like, but he said the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump — and its threat to translate its often xenophobic “America first” campaign rhetoric into actual policy — is not yet causing OCHA to reconsider what it would do without the United States as a major funder and supporter.

“The largest donor to humanitarian action to the world is the United States of America and it says that it is from the people of the United States,” Ging said in response to a question from Devex at the press briefing. “My experience in over 25 years of this work is that politics here in this country has not affected, in my experience, the generosity of the U.S. people. And so I will work on that basis.”

Ging spoke following a recent trip to Sudan, South Sudan and Haiti. The hopscotch tour “reflects the pace of humanitarian challenges globally,” he said.

“The fact that I have to go to three countries on a single mission gives an idea of how things are going in the world.”

Ging spoke of the funding and political challenges facing those carrying out humanitarian work in each country, as well as the particular threats against aid workers in South Sudan.

Global appeals for humanitarian crises, on average, are less than 50 percent funded, Ging said.

The funding response to Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, which landed Oct. 4., has been particularly slow and not consistent with what the U.N. normally receives in the first month following an emergency appeal for a natural disaster — usually reaching close to 60 percent of a funding target. Haiti’s emergency funding appeal for $120 million has been met by close to 40 percent, so far.

“That means a lot of unnecessary suffering,” Ging said.

He questioned the funding priorities of the Group of Seven and Group of 20 countries and the fraction that is typically allocated to humanitarian action.

The humanitarian response for the protracted crisis of Sudan has been funded at 43 percent of the requested $952 million. South Sudan is the most successful humanitarian appeal in terms of funding, with 75 percent of its nearly $1.3 billion target met.

Sixty-seven aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since December 2013, according to U.N. estimates, making it the most dangerous country for humanitarian and development work.

The situation for aid workers in Syria and other countries is “also appalling,” said Ging, noting that he did not intend to directly compare countries in this regard. But the the risks facing aid workers in South Sudan right now is “totally unacceptable,” he said, as he sees colleagues taking “huge risks, as well as [showing] massive dedication to the mission.”

South Sudan was the most alarming country of the three that Ging visited, in terms of deterioration of governance capacity and escalation in fighting, he said. The U.N.’s special adviser on genocide visited the country with Ging and has expressed that “we may be on the cycle toward genocide,” Ging said.

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About the author

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Amy Liebermanamylieberman

Amy Lieberman is a reporter for Devex, based out of New York, where she covers global development around the city and out of the United Nations. She has previously worked as a freelancer, reporting on the environment, social justice issues, immigration and development. Her coverage has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Slate and The Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. She received her M.A. in politics and government from Columbia Journalism School in 2014.


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