Every day we hear and read about the scale and impact of humanitarian crises around the world: Millions of people have been affected by the deteriorating crisis in Syria, families continue to flee violence in the Central African Republic and, most recently, more than 4 million people were made homeless by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Humanitarian agencies need the support of the international community, including donors, to respond to these crises immediately and effectively. One of the largest and most reliable sources of humanitarian funding is the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
In 2013, more than US$473 million has been released from CERF to enable fast delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by natural disasters and other crises in 45 countries.
“The Central Emergency Response Fund is a fund by all countries, for all countries,” said UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos. “It is helping us to ensure that those who need our assistance receive it – quickly, effectively and efficiently.”
Here are three things you need to know about CERF:
1. A fund by all countries, for all countries
Since its inception in 2006, CERF has allocated over $3.4 billion to support lifesaving relief efforts in 88 countries. The funding, which comes from governments, regional and local authorities, the private sector and foundations, is allocated to UN agencies and the International Organization for Migration.
In 2013, 62 countries contributed to CERF, including 13 of them such as Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar, who also benefited from the allocations. The majority of funding went to critical efforts in Sudan, Syria and the Philippines. In September, USG Amos announced the largest single CERF contribution ever – $50 million to support aid efforts in Syria.
“The CERF contribution represents a show of solidarity with the people of Syria as the funds come from donors, large and small, across the world,” said Ms. Amos.
2. Quickly, effectively and efficiently
CERF is built to respond immediately at the onset of a crisis. This year alone, over $299 million – well over half of all allocations – went towards funding rapid response projects, including efforts to provide emergency shelter to communities displaced by conflict in north-eastern Pakistan and to meet the urgent needs of families affected by drought in Bolivia.
In November, two days after Typhoon Haiyan swept across Philippines, CERF released over $25 million to enable agencies to respond quickly to the needs of communities across the affected region.
“We’ve all seen the pictures coming through – the scale of devastation in the Philippines is massive. Therefore we require the mobilization of a massive response,” said OCHA’s Operations Director John Ging.
Today, CERF remains one of the top donors of the Haiyan humanitarian response.
3. Exceptional year for low-profile emergencies
A third of CERF’s funding is earmarked for emergencies that require support urgently but have fallen out of the international spotlight. In 2013, $175 million in allocations have helped to boost humanitarian response for underfunded crises in every corner of the world - from Djbouti to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to Haiti.
“So far, 2013 has been an exceptional year for allocations to lower-profile emergencies,” said Ms. Amos in a briefing to Member States in September. “A growing number of people around the world are in need this year, and humanitarian operations are struggling to meet the demand.”
One of the largest funding allocations for an underfunded emergency this year went to Somalia, including efforts to improve malnutrition and prevent the spread of polio. An estimated 2 million children under five were immunized against polio as a result.