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United Kingdom

UK Government boosts support for a more effective response to humanitarian crises

By Tim Ledwith

NEW YORK, USA, 16 June 2011 – Following a comprehensive review of its humanitarian response to natural disasters and armed conflicts, the Government of the United Kingdom has announced a series of steps to strengthen emergency-aid efforts worldwide.

VIDEO: 16 June 2011 - Afshan Khan, Director of UNICEF’s Public Sector Alliances and Resource Mobilization Office, discusses the expected impact of new UK Government support for a more effective response to large-scale humanitarian emergencies.  Watch in RealPlayer


The independent appraisal, known as the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review, suggested a range of specific reforms. Among them was an emphasis on providing more predictable funding to the UK’s humanitarian partners, better enabling them to respond to crises – especially in the critical early stages of a disaster or conflict.

To that end, the UK Department for International Development will increase support for UN agencies and non-governmental organizations that have demonstrated the greatest value for money in their relief operations.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2727/Ramoneda
A girl washes clothes in a bucket in a camp for people displaced by flooding in Jamshoro District, Sindh Province. UNICEF is the lead agency on water, sanitation and hygiene in large-scale disasters such as the 2010 Pakistan floods.

New UNICEF funding

UNICEF, in particular, is slated to receive £22 million (approximately $35.4 million) in new support for emergency-response and disaster-preparedness programmes over the next four years. It will use the funding to respond more quickly and efficiently to large-scale disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods of 2010.

UNICEF responds to an average of about 300 emergencies every year, and these crises have been increasingly severe.

“The UK funds are coming at a critical time,” said Afshan Khan, Director of UNICEF’s Public Sector Alliances and Resource Mobilization Office. “This support will be vital for us to ensure that we can place the right people in the right place at the right time in sudden-onset emergencies.”

Support for rapid response

To help country offices cope when major crises strike, UNICEF has developed a roster of staff who can be deployed anywhere in the world, within 48 hours, in specialized Immediate Response Teams. The UK funding will help pay for training and rapidly deploying the teams, thereby backing up country-level efforts to save the lives of vulnerable children and families.

The new funds are geared, as well, towards developing tools for monitoring UNICEF’s performance in emergencies – with an eye to improving overall management based on actual results on the ground. Funding will also be invested in bolstering UNICEF’s work with its partners, notably as the lead coordinating agency for water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition and education in crisis situations.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0070/LeMoyne
In January 2010, a girl holds a baby in a makeshift tent on the outskirts of earthquake-stricken Port-au-Prince. The Haiti quake was one of an average 300 emergencies that UNICEF responds to every year.

“This funding will strengthen our capacity and readiness overall,” said Ms. Khan.

Key recommendations

UNICEF’s plans for using the funds are in line with the key recommendations of the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review. Led by Lord Paddy Ashdown, the review panel focused on increasing the impact, efficiency, relevance and accountability of international relief.

The panel submitted its findings to UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell on 28 March. Mr. Mitchell, who commissioned the review, presented the government’s official response in Parliament yesterday.

“Lord Ashdown's report sets a challenging agenda for the 21st century,” he said. “It recognizes that while disasters are nothing new, we are experiencing a sudden increase in their intensity and frequency. It makes clear that this trend will only grow with climate change, population growth and greater urbanization.”

Building local resilience

In his own comments on the Ashdown Report, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake wrote in April that its findings were strongly aligned with UNICEF’s strategic thinking on crisis response. Among other points of agreement, he stressed the need to build resilience in local communities so that they are better prepared when emergencies arise and can recover from disasters more quickly and viably.

“This important review is timely, given the increasing number and scale of emergencies in recent years,” Mr. Lake stated. “The report will certainly contribute towards promoting an international humanitarian system that can better respond to these challenges.”



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