Spotlight on CERF Responses to New Crises in the Middle East


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An uprising in Libya began in February 2011 and led to a crisis that made delivery of aid increasingly difficult as security conditions deteriorated. CERF focused some of its support on the provision of common services to help the humanitarian community operate more safely. The Fund gave WFP in Libya a rapid response grant of $444,000 in support of its role as lead agency in the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster to ensure the humanitarian community had adequate information and communication technology capacity. These funds helped establish emergency data and voice services in two areas of the country, and also helped provide information and telecommunication training for UN and NGO staff. With no commercial air service operating in the country, and roads insecure, CERF gave $1 million to WFP to establish Humanitarian Air Services for UN agencies and NGOs.

Events in Libya also caused outward migration and consequent humanitarian needs in neighbouring countries. Libya was host to over two million migrant workers, including a significant number of migrants from North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Niger, to the south, has common accessible and relatively safe borders with Libya, and many West Africans fleeing the unrest chose to travel home to their country of origin through Niger. At the peak of the crisis in March, some 4,500 people travelled through Niger each week. The sudden influx of migrants overwhelmed the response capacity of health services, creating an emergency. Existing water and sanitation services were ill-equipped to accommodate the enormous influx of refugees, putting intense pressure on migrants and host populations. In June 2011, CERF allocated $3.7 million to IOM, WFP, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to provide humanitarian relief and protection to vulnerable migrants.

The large population displacement caused by the Libyan crisis put a significant humanitarian burden on Tunisia, to the north-west, where at the highest point of influx an estimated 1,500 people crossed the border each hour. In response, CERF allocated $5 million to the Humanitarian Country Team in Tunisia to meet the most urgent needs, including the delivery of clean water and food, and sanitation, hygiene and medical services at border crossing points.

In June, CERF provided $1 million to address humanitarian concerns arising from civil unrest in Syria. Ensuring access to basic health services and securing the livelihoods of affected people were determined to be the most urgent priorities by the humanitarian country team. WHO received a rapid response grant to strengthen emergency medical facilities at three hospitals in cities affected by the crisis, including the provision of emergency equipment and medicines, and specialized training for existing health care providers. CERF allocated $250,000 to UNFPA to provide reproductive health support at hospitals in affected areas, while UNRWA received $125,000 to improve health services for 28,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria. CERF funds enabled the timely delivery of essential medical supplies and medicines to quickly fill the gap in health services. Community outreach campaigns conducted by mobile teams and clinics were effective in minimizing delays in reaching targeted beneficiaries with reproductive health and emergency obstetric care services. In October and November 2011, CERF provided an additional $2.6 million to 6 UN agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to assist an expanded humanitarian response in affected areas. CERF supported more than 1.5 million people in Syria in 2011.

Yemen also experienced considerable civil discord. A large number of demonstrations and associated violence were sustained over several months, with high numbers of injuries and wider protection concerns recorded across the country. In response, CERF provided $6 million to UN agencies in Yemen in May. Following the further displacement of some 320,000 people the north, CERF gave an additional $9 million in rapid response grants to humanitarian partners in July. The Fund made it possible for locally procured emergency medical supplies that had been pre-positioned in Sana’a, the capital, to reach beneficiary populations in the south in less than 48 hours. CERF assistance meant UNICEF could promptly respond to conflict-affected IDP and host communities in 10 governorates, and monitor and report on child protection concerns through a network of local partners.