The 2013 Global Humanitarian Assistance study reports that in 2011, the international humanitarian response reached 17.9 billion dollars, 12.9 billion of which came from governments and 5 billion from private voluntary contributions. Pakistan, Somalia and the Palestinian territories were the top three recipients of international humanitarian aid, receiving 1.4 billion, 1.1 billion and 849 million dollars respectively. And in 2012, Somalia once again accounted for the largest aid appeal, alongside South Sudan, with funding requirements of more than 1 billion dollars.
As a report by the United Nations (UN) and US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network has already highlighted, earlier intervention by the international community in Somalia between 2010 and 2012 could have saved many lives; over the two-year period when the drought crisis was at its worst, nearly 260,000 Somalis (around 4.5% if the population) are believed to have died from hunger. Quoted in the Guardian, the director of Development Initiatives, the research group which published the humanitarian assistance figures, said “the response to slow-onset crises such as Somalia is often late, resulting in huge numbers of unnecessary deaths”.
Agencies and international bodies are trying to learn lessons from what happened in Somalia by investing in food security and poverty reduction mechanisms at an earlier stage. The crisis in Somalia is generally credited with being responsible for significant changes in thinking about humanitarian aid. The authors of the report therefore note that, while humanitarian assistance mostly remains short-term, there is now a UN consolidated appeal with a three-year planning horizon for Somalia, from 2013-2015. This three-year appeal is the first of its kind and viewed as a major advance in the move to more predictable funding.
However, for now, Somalia remains a fairly isolated case of longer-term humanitarian investment spending on a large scale. (In 2011, the amount of money spent on disaster prevention and preparation was less than 5% of the total spending). And at the time of the report’s writing, the Somalia appeal had generated just 16% of the asked-for funds, the second lowest-funded consolidated appeal in 2013. This compared with 28% of funds received for the huge appeal launched in 2013 for Syria, of 5.2 billion dollars.
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