UNHCR’s annual meeting of its executive committee, bringing together 140 states, came to a close Friday 9 October. Much attention was focused on the Afghan situation, and the world’s largest humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria leading to refugees arriving in the thousands in Europe. However, the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, also urged donor countries not to forget the needs of the millions of people displaced from protracted crises creating refugee emergencies in several regions of Africa.
In 2015, conflict, violence and human rights abuse are expected to impact the lives of about 14.9 million people in Africa. Despite the severity of the situation in several African countries, many operations remain seriously underfunded and risk becoming forgotten crises. Very affected by the funding shortfall are the Mali, Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan crises.
Denmark has responded to this plea from the High Commissioner by immediately releasing more than USD 4.5 million from its USD 8.8 million emergency funding for UNHCR. This will go to three situations in Africa: South Sudan, Central African Republic and Mali.
“UNHCR appreciates the strong collaboration between UNHCR and Denmark. Denmark’s continued expression of solidarity including through its continued funding is critical for ensuring solutions for refugees in regions impacted by new or protracted refugee situations”, says Pia Prytz Phiri, UNHCR Regional Representative for Northern Europe.
In particular the CAR and the South Sudan crises, have developed into some of the largest refugee and IDP (internally displaced person) situations in Africa, forcibly displacing more than 3.3 million people across a region with very limited support capacities. Many of the displaced people, including children, are acute malnourished, need urgent medical care and are severely traumatized by the horror of the violent conflicts. In Northern Mali over 50,000 people recently fled out of fear and desperation, following renewed violence and insecurity. War, drought and starvation had earlier forced some 137,000 Malians to seek refuge across the borders, and over 100,000 remain displaced within Mali. Combined with the cruel conditions of the desert, this war is aggravating a grave humanitarian situation. The entire Sahel region continues to suffer from drought and crop failure, generating an acute shortage of food and water.
Denmark’s funding will support UNHCR to provide life-saving assistance by distributing shelter, water, food and medical aid to the displaced people, while also registering them to protect and provide basic human rights. The funding will also enable UNHCR to invest in education and livelihood activities that will result in refugee empowerment and more long-term sustainable solutions.
Denmark’s emergency funding will in addition assist ongoing efforts, as part of the Special Mediterranean Initiative, in the Horn of Africa and the North Africa sub-regions to address a range of activities in countries of origin, first asylum, transit and destination. Furthermore, Denmark recently contributed with USD 3.8 million to UNHCR’s work to stabilize the displaced population in around Syria.
Denmark is one of UNHCR’s top strategic donors. In 2014, Denmark ranked as UNHCR’s 11th largest donor with USD 77.2 million in contribution. Denmark is the only government donor to contribute with an emergency fund at the start of the year which UNHCR can distribute where the need is most urgent. In addition, Denmark contributes annually with a large un-earmarked contribution which enables UNHCR to respond immediately to emergencies. In addition, un-earmarked contributions can be used multiple times throughout a budget year for different refugee situations and are crucial in funding forgotten crises. UNHCR is almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions, mostly from governments.