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Refugees bear cost of massive underfunding

Briefing notes

Refugees bear cost of massive underfunding

9 October 2018
Burundi. High Commissioner visits Great Lakes refugees and calls for increased support
Burundian returnees gather in Higiro Village, northern Burundi for the arrival of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

Funding for the world’s forcibly displaced and stateless people is becoming increasingly squeezed, with barely more than half of needs being met, and worsening hardship and risks for many refugees, other displaced people and the communities they live among. This is according to a new report released today by the Donor Relations and Resource Mobilization Service of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

With 68.5 million people forcibly displaced worldwide as of the start of this year, funding by governments for refugee and other displacement situations has seldom been more pressured. Based on contributions to date we expect funding for 2018 to meet just 55 per cent of the $8.2 billion that is needed. This compares to 56.6 per cent in 2017 and 58 per cent in 2016. In short, donor funding is falling increasingly behind as the number of forcibly displaced worldwide has grown.

And the consequences for refugees and internally displaced people in particular are becoming all too real. In situation after situation we are seeing increases in malnutrition, health facilities being overcrowded, housing and shelters becoming increasingly dilapidated, children either in overcrowded classrooms or doing without school altogether, and growing protection risks because of shortages of personnel to deal with unaccompanied children or victims or sexual violence.

Six refugee and displacement situations globally are particularly badly hit. These include Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Syria and Somalia situations.

UNHCR expresses particular thanks to donors of flexible funding whose critical support has been essential to mitigating the impact by allowing us to direct funds where they are most needed. 

Burundi situation

The Burundian refugee situation is at present the lowest funded of any situation globally. At present just 28 per cent of the US$206 million needed has been received. The impact on the 400,000 refugees in neighbouring countries is acute.

Food ration cuts have left refugees with insufficient to feed families. Shelters are in desperate conditions in places, health centres are struggling to cope with the number of patients, classrooms are overcrowded, and capacity to help unaccompanied children and survivors of sexual violence is very limited.

In Tanzania, some 52 per cent of the 232,716 Burundian refugees there are still living in emergency shelters designed for short term use – even years after their arrival. In the absence of school buildings, almost 18,000 refugee children are making do with classes beneath trees.

In Uganda’s Nakivale settlement thousands of refugee families are using overcrowded communal latrines, with risk of disease outbreaks, little privacy, and exposure of women and children in particular to protection risks. Education is very basic, with insufficient learning materials and overcrowded classrooms.

The lack of funding has stopped UNHCR’s cash-based assistance programme in Rwanda’s Mahama camp for 19,500 families, severely affecting refugees’ ability to meet their own basic needs.

Congolese situation

In conflict-affected Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as well as countries hosting Congolese refugees, of the total US$369 million needed for its programmes and those of its partners UNHCR has so far received just 31 per cent.

Limited funding is affecting the ability of humanitarians to provide livelihood activities, especially to young people, and access to education and health. In countries of asylum that are hosting  nearly 800,000 refugees, settlements and camps are full to capacity but still need to accommodate new refugee arrivals.

Minimum standards in food distributions, nutrition, health and other basic needs are often hard to meet.

Inside DRC, funding is urgently needed to decongest camps for the displaced and sites to stem the spread of communicable diseases.

Afghanistan situation

As the conflict nears its fourth decade, some 2.4 million Afghans live in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran as refugees and some 1.9 million people are displaced inside Afghanistan. The requirements for these three UNHCR operations for 2018 are 32 per cent funded against the needs of US$304 million.

Inside Afghanistan, the lack of funding is affecting UNHCR projects in 60 locations. These projects include assisting some 132,700 Afghan families with rehabilitation and construction cash-for-work, provision of solar panel home lightening systems, support to micro-business or provision of youth and women friendly spaces.

In Pakistan, which is hosting some 1.4 million Afghan refugees, the lack of funding is affecting free primary education to 57,000 refugee children as well as basic health services across 54 refugee villages. A lack of access to social services, such as health and education, and reduced livelihood training opportunities risks forcing refugees to move onwards.

In Iran, the shortage of funding means fewer vulnerable refugees are benefitting from a subsidised premium for the national health insurance scheme and the most vulnerable refugees would not be able to afford enrolment. Lower support for the primary health care system reduces the availability of services in remote locations. Less investment in the education system limit the number of Afghan children able to enrol in schools.

South Sudan situation

The ongoing conflict in the world’s youngest nation has forced some 2.4 million people into becoming refugees, while an additional two million are displaced inside the country. There the needs of US$783 million are just 33 per cent funded.

Without enough funds the food pipeline for refugees is being frequently interrupted. High rates of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rates are reported in asylum countries, compounding pre-existing protection challenges faced by the South Sudanese refugees prior to their flight in particular for women, children and youth.

Full rations have only been available in in Kenya and Uganda and to three-quarters of refugees in the Central African Republic. Only some 7 per cent of South Sudanese refugees live in semi-permanent shelter.

In Sudan, about 80,000 refugees are still without access to latrines across all 10 camps. In some cases over 70 people have to use a single communal latrine. Some 57,000 refugees living in informal settlements in Khartoum are going without any assistance.

In Uganda, limited resources means not having enough staff to ensure quality of child protection services and adequate follow up on children in care arrangements. There is one caseworker for every 150 children, and children make up some 63 per cent of the refugee population. Water provision to refugees also remains below what is required.

Syria situation

Some 5.6 million Syrian refugees in the region and another 6.2 million displaced inside the country are directly affected by the funding shortfall. UNHCR’s requirements of US$1.968 billion for the Syria situation are currently only 35 per cent funded.

UNHCR is working with partners to provide winter protection and help for 1.3 million Syrian refugees in the region, and 1.35 million internally displaced people and returnees inside Syria. Winter cash assistance is particularly important in Lebanon and Jordan, and is an efficient and critical means of support to refugees during the cold weather.

Without more funding, the cash assistance will stop in November. This could have a devastating impact on refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon, where the majority live below the poverty line. Funding is badly needed for around half a million refugees to pay rent, meet daily needs and maintain access to essential services.

Rising health care costs are increasing the risk of refugee families not getting even the basic medical services they need, such as child immunizations. Resources are needed to provide health care support for some 35,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees in the region, particularly in Jordan and Lebanon.

Somalia situation

Over a million Somali refugees are hosted in six countries with another two million displaced inside the country. UNHCR requirements of US$522 million for Somalia situation are so far 37 per cent funded.

After decades of conflict, Somalis have made some progress, but the situation remains fragile and needs continued support. Failure to support refugees and host communities risks a deterioration in humanitarian conditions, a perception of lack of support to host communities, and could precipitate returns before the Government of Somalia is ready to receive and absorb them.

More details about the most underfunded situations can be found in the brochure available here.

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