Donors pledge a record US$576.5 million to UNHCR for next year

News Stories, 7 December 2010

© UNHCR/F.Noy
A refugee helps put up a UNHCR tent in the Cameroon. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the largest recipient of UNHCR assistance.

GENEVA, December 7 (UNHCR) Donor governments today pledged almost US$600 million for the UN refugee agency's operations next year in helping forcibly displaced and stateless people worldwide.

The US$576.5 million pledged at a special conference in Geneva is the highest amount to have been contributed through a single pledging session and represents 17.3 per cent of UNHCR's US$3.32 billion projected requirement for 2011.

The amount, which was pledged a week before UNHCR celebrates its 60th birthday, is US$99 million more than was committed at the equivalent session a year ago.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres thanked donors for their support, noting their generosity at a time of global economic difficulties. "These pledges give us a clear indication that in 2011 we will be able to maintain, and perhaps even to enhance, the level of our activities," Guterres told donors. "Taking into account the global economic and financial situation [this] is I believe a very clear demonstration of your support and your commitment."

UNHCR has changed its budgetary approach in recent years. Previously its annual budget basis was derived from anticipated donor support, however in 2009 it moved to an approach aligned to the actual needs of displaced populations under its care. For 2010, global needs have reached US$3.28 billion. Donors have responded so far this year by providing close to US$1.8 billion, the highest amount to have been received in a single year.

Some 72 per cent of UNHCR's budget is devoted to the needs of refugees and asylum-seekers, however in recent years the agency has been increasingly involved with assisting internally displaced people. For 2011 it is also devoting more attention to the reduction and prevention of statelessness, which by some estimates affects as many as 12 million people.

Worldwide, there are 43 million forcibly displaced people, the majority of whom are of concern to UNHCR. This figure includes 15.2 million refugees, 27.1 million internally displaced and 983,000 asylum seekers.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the largest recipient of UNHCR assistance, accounting for 45 per cent of the total needs, followed by 17 per cent for the Middle East and North Africa and 13 per cent for Asia.

UNHCR is almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions, mostly from governments. As such, it acts as a vital funnel for international funding towards the needs of the world's displaced.

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Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

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