UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need

UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need
Significant portions of the UK's latest contribution will be distributed directly to vulnerable Syrians. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 31 December 2020

UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need

UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need
  • The pandemic and conflict present acute danger of humanitarian crises, including famine, during 2021.
  • The UN needs $35 billion in order to meet the needs of the world’s 160 million vulnerable people.

LONDON: The UK has committed to donate an additional £47m ($64m) in humanitarian aid during 2021, following warnings that the coming year will see dramatic rises in food insecurity, malnutrition and starvation.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said on Wednesday that the additional money would be divided between 11 countries facing acute crises, including Syria and Yemen.

“This extra emergency UK aid will mean people can feed their families and prevent these crises from escalating into widespread famine. We hope to see other donors step up to the plate with some extra funding to prevent these global crises getting worse,” said British foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

Vulnerable Syrians will receive £8m ($10.9m) in direct aid, parts of the African Sahel will receive the same, and the remainder will be channelled through the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which has been forced to cut its aid distribution due to shortages in funding.

The additional £47m in funding will go some way to counteracting the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on developing countries.

Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in the UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview that this year “the virus caught the world off guard,” but that it was the world’s poorest nations being hit the hardest by the secondary effects of the pandemic: economic recession, political insecurity and a halt on vaccination programs.

The conditions created by the virus are “a toxic mix that has driven humanitarian need to levels unimaginable at the start of the year,” he said.

WFP predicted in June that, in the countries where it is active, food insecurity would rise by 80% as a result of the pandemic, affecting 270 million people. The UN has since warned that the dual crises of conflict and the pandemic could cause particularly acute devastation in places like Yemen, which is entering its 7th year of conflict since Iran-backed Houthi forces seized the capital Sanaa.

Despite the UK’s contribution, the UN, the WFP, and other agencies still face significant shortfalls in their budgets for 2021. Lowcock said that $35 billion in funding is required for the UN to meet the needs of 160 million vulnerable people globally — a figure that could be difficult to meet as countries facing economic hardship slash their foreign aid budgets.