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UNHCR funding crisis

Briefing notes

UNHCR funding crisis

22 October 2002

A press release is available at the back of the room explaining the urgency of funding UNHCR's current fourth - quarter shortfall of $80 million. Unless we get more money by the end of this month, we'll be forced in November to halt a number of our operations.

Our budget has increased this year primarily because of the huge needs in Afghanistan. But while the Afghanistan programme has now been fully funded, others - particularly in Africa - are suffering. To get through the remainder of this year, we still need $80 million to maintain at least minimum standards for refugees.

At the start of the year, UNHCR needed to raise $802 million for its 2002 annual programmes. When it became apparent in mid - year that contributions were not matching needs, we reduced that budget to $726 million in July, and then again last week by another $16 million - to $710 million. In all, some $92 million in cuts have already been made this year, affecting both headquarters and the field.

In a letter sent to top donor governments last week, UNHCR warned that if no new contributions were received by the end of October, we would be unable to provide our field offices with the necessary funds they need to carry out their work for November and December. This could mean a further reduction still in operations. Planning for field operations in specific countries requires substantial lead time. Currently, however, the unpredictable cash flow means we are unable to confirm to field offices that they will be able to carry out their plans. This "hand - to - mouth" situation has led to frustration among field staff and leaves UNHCR with little or no cushion to deal with any new emergencies.

Our most pressing needs are in Africa right now, where we have numerous protracted refugee situations. But the shortfall is being felt globally. Affected programmes range from water, health, education and agricultural projects for Eritrean refugees and a reduction in security in Tanzanian camps to cuts in the provision of winter clothes for children in the Caucasus and the cancellation of a planned relocation of refugees in Thailand and Papua New Guinea currently staying in insecure border regions. A region-by-region description of the affects is also available at the back of the room and we'll have further information on the UNHCR website about the very real human impact of these cuts on individual refugees, so please have a look at that.