Justine Greening: UK boosts Boxing Day funds for ‘forgotten crises’

In the wake of devastating Typhoon Haiyan, the world must not forget the scores of other, smaller scale disasters happening around the world, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has warned.

She announced that the UK would support a new rapid response fund, START, which will allow 19 pre-approved NGOs to draw down funding in the crucial first days and weeks of a disaster. The UK will provide up to £30m over three years to the fund.

The UK will also make a £60m contribution to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for 2014. The CERF fund was set up following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Its swift response to the Philippines provided critical assistance in the crucial first days, as the international response was mobilised. It also ensures that less high profile crises get support.

19 UK-based NGOs will form the START network, including Save the Children, World Vision and Oxfam. It is estimated the START members responded to 90 emergencies between them last year. The accumulated global impact of small scale crises often exceeds that of the major, high profile disasters – yet they are chronically underfunded. The fund will provide life-saving assistance to 10 to15 million people affected by disasters in the next three years.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

The Philippines response shows how vital it is to make life saving assistance available in the crucial first days of an emergency.

There are dozens of other, smaller scale disasters that happen around the world affecting millions of people each year. They do not make the news but these people need assistance, just as much as those affected by higher profile disasters. These funds will ensure that crises which do not make the headlines continue to have much-needed support.

The UK has been one of the biggest supporters of the UN’s fund since it was set up after the Boxing Day Tsunami. It makes sense to have a similar, single fund for trusted NGOs. This way we can have a faster response to these smaller crises, and one which is better coordinated than countries responding separately.

This year CERF provided emergency support across 45 countries. In 2013 it has:

  • Helped people affected by volcanic eruptions and drought in Eritrea;
  • Provided emergency health care and shelter to people displaced by violence in Rakine, Burma;
  • Helped control a polio outbreak in Yemen, caused by an influx of 35,000 Somali refugees; and
  • Provided medical assistance for an outbreak of dengue fever in Laos.

The number of people affected by crises is set to increase. In 2010 around 260 million people were affected by a disaster - that is predicted to rise to 375 million per year from 2015.

As well as funding via the UN CERF, the UK’s support for the START fund will help to leverage more money for disaster response internationally. Ireland has already backed the fund, while Scandinavian countries and the Gulf States are in discussions.

Often charities and NGOs have to rely on their own internal resources, while international funding can take weeks or months to arrive. START will cut bureaucracy for trusted NGOs and ensure they can still save lives in smaller disasters for which they may not have public fundraising appeals.

Nick Guttman head of humanitarian response at Christian Aid and the chairman of START said:

DFID’s very welcome backing for the START Fund is further evidence of the UK Government’s support for aid agencies to keep improving the way we help people struggling to survive in emergencies.

The START Fund is all about responding quickly to forgotten emergencies where international interest is low but human suffering huge. When people are in desperate situations, without food, water, shelter or medical care, the Start Fund will make it easier for aid agencies to get help to them quickly.

It’s a great example of how 19 major UK aid agencies are working with DFID to make UK humanitarian aid the best that it can be.

The CERF fund was set up following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. It is designed to bring different countries’ funding into one single pot that makes the international response faster and more effective.

A central fund with effective coordination by the UN has proven able to make a concerted response to emergencies, saving lives in the hours and days after disasters strike. It also helps reduce delays and confusion that can occur when many countries and agencies respond to the same disaster, without coordination. The UK also gave an additional £20m retrospectively for 2013, in recognition of the extraordinary demands put on the humanitarian community this year.

Notes to editors

  1. A full breakdown of CERF response in 2013 can be seen here: http://www.unocha.org/cerf/cerf-worldwide/2013
  2. The membership of START will be: Action against hunger, Actionaid, CAFOD, Care, ChristianAid, Concern worldwide, Handicap international, Helpage international, International medical corps, International rescue committee, Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Oxfam, Plan UK, Relief International, Save the Children, Tearfund, War Child, and WorldVision.
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