30 May 2013
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Nov 2011, Dadaab, Kenya: In 2012, a record-setting US$485 million in CERF funding was dispersed to 546 projects in 49 countries and territories. Photo: Internews

Last year was a record-breaking year for the Central Emergency Response Fund.

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released its Annual Report for 2012. Established by the UN General Assembly in 2006, the Fund is designed to support UN agencies and their partners deliver assistance to people affected by natural and man-made disasters in a timely, equitable and predictable way.

Since its inception, CERF has allocated nearly US$3 billion to help people affected by disasters, conflicts or other types of crises in 87 countries and territories around the world.

Here are five things you need to know about CERF in 2012:

1.“2012 was a record year for CERF,” says Valerie Amos, the United Nation’s Humanitarian Chief in her introduction to the Report. More requests for CERF funding were received than ever before. In response, a record-setting $485 million was dispersed to 546 projects in 49 countries and territories.

CERF was crucial in supporting humanitarian response in nearly every major emergency response worldwide. From multiple, multi-million dollar allocations to help people displaced by the conflict in Syria to a $312,000 grant to help agencies fight cholera in Ghana, CERF was there.

2. Demand for rapid response funds continue to grow. CERF’s rapid response window provides cash in the immediate wake of a disaster or crisis, or when an existing situation takes a dramatic turn for the worse. In 2012, $327 million in rapid response funding was sent to 44 countries.

Rapid response funds helped UN agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) immediately respond to humanitarian crises in countries including Syria, South Sudan, Niger and Yemen, as well as to the tiny southern African nation of Lesotho, where a grant of $6.2 million helped agencies provide emergency assistance and health care to tens of thousands of people in the grip of a food crisis.

3. CERF is there, even when the world’s attention is not. CERF’s underfunded emergency window is for crises that have not attracted, or are unlikely to attract, sufficient money to meet all the life-saving needs of the people affected. In 2012, $158 million in aid of this kind was provided to 21 countries. Of this, $104 million was allocated at the beginning of the year so that agencies could better plan what they needed to do.

“Millions of people need help around the world in places which have fallen out of the headlines,” said Valerie Amos, announcing this allocation. “These funds will help to save lives.”

In Haiti, emergency cash for underfunded crises meant that the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF and IOM could repair sewage facilities in Port-au-Prince, helping protect people against cholera.

4. CERF funds saved lives in a wide range of humanitarian emergencies. More than 40 per cent of CERF funds went to support people displaced by conflicts and violence, a sadly predictable fact given 2012’s humanitarian landscape (such as in Mali, South Sudan, Syria and Myanmar).

Nearly one quarter of funds – about $115 million – went to provide food assistance. Not surprisingly, the World Food Programme once again received the largest share of funding among all of the humanitarian agencies.

A total of $78 million went to fight disease outbreaks, including in Sudan where $2.5m helped UN agencies and IOM fight the worst outbreak of yellow fever the country had experienced in 20 years and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where $750,000 helped contain an outbreak of Ebola.

5. The line between donors and recipients is disappearing. Sixty-nine countries, as well as several corporations, regional governments and dozens of private individuals invested more than $427 million in CERF in 2012. Since its inception, CERF has been supported by 125 of the 193 Member States. Forty-one countries have both contributed and received assistance.

But… 2012’s records may be short-lived. In the first five months of 2013, CERF has provided almost $170 million in rapid response and underfunded emergency allocations. In January, donors pledged $384 million to support CERF – putting fundraising ahead of the pace set in 2012.

The full report on CERF’s 2012 activities can be found here.