Critical under-funding exacerbated by COVID-19 has pushed displaced people to the edge and the situation would worsen if timely funding was not got, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.
Warning that millions of displaced people are in need of protection and assistance, the UNHCR said that they have only received just 49 per cent (4.5 billion dollar) of the 9.1 billion dollar required for its global operations this year.
In its report “Consequences of Under-funding in 2020”, the UNHCR said that the host communities are feeling the pinch of massive under-funding. This is because COVID-19 crisis continued to increase humanitarian needs globally, the UN agency added.
With the agency receiving less than half of the fund, the UNHCR said that the consequences would be devastating for low- and middle-income countries. These countries have 85 per cent of the world’s refugees. In most of these countries, the pandemic has destabilized economies, exacerbated internal displacement and reduced access to asylum.
Calling the Covid -19 pandemic as a “force multiplier”, the UNHCR report said that a shortage of resources for humanitarian operations could have devastating impacts for millions of people around the globe. It would put women and children at heightened risk and disrupt vital services including, health, shelter, water and sanitation and many other essential relief programmes.
The shortage of funds would affect Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Central Mediterranean route, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Venezuela.
The report noted that some instances of underfunding were due to new needs resulting from COVID-19. However, it said that there were other also reasons prior to the Covid.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T Clements said that violence, persecution and civil strife continued to uproot millions and the coronavirus pandemic had destabilised entire sectors of the economy, with millions depending on fragile incomes that are now at risk.
Clements opined; “In these unprecedented times, the world needs to broaden its focus making sure displaced populations and their generous but under-resourced hosts are not forgotten. The time to step up support is now.”
The UNHCR said that underfunding had brought to halt many of its programmes. It said that child protection, health services, education, support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, sanitation, hygiene and water activities are on the brink of being cancelled or scaled down. The report notes that child protection and psycho-social care services in Ugandan settlements that hosted South Sudanese refugees were scaled down in 2020 due to lack of funding. “Further reductions in the number of case worker staff will result in at-risk children not receiving home monitoring visits,” the report said.
It also said that they might be forced to reduce or stop its winterisation assistance to displaced people in Syria and Syrian refugees in the region. It also noted that UNHCR was forced to end its support to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan in March because of the lack of funds.
The report notes that the UN Agency would be forced to stop or reduce the assistance to Venezuelan families.
The UNHCR has called for contributions so that resources can be targeted to where the needs are the greatest.