29 April 2009
A sudden crisis like an earthquake, cyclone, war or famine demands an immediate response from the international community.
Those caught up in such a crisis simply cannot wait for public appeals to be launched and for pledges of support to become a reality.
At the end of 2005 the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) sought to improve its ability to respond to such crises by creating the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which aimed to hold a total of $450 million to use in urgent and forgotten crises.
DFID, on behalf of the UK, is the largest single donor, and have backed the establishment of this fund from the outset.
This case study is part of a series showing how DFID's work with international organisations is a critical part of the UK's effort to reduce poverty. See also DFID Partnerships: Helping Pakistan's flooded farmers
How it works
Nepal: In September 2008, the Koshi River, with one of the largest river basins in Asia, breached its eastern embankment, creating havoc in the affected districts. Tens of thousands of people were displaced and the force of the water led to 80 percent of the river changing its course, rendering parts of the flooded areas completely inaccessible.
A local UN worker, Yadab Bastola recalls: “Thousands of locals fled their homes as the raging river inundated entire villages, demolished houses and swept away huts after it breached the embankment at West Kusaha. Some farmers were completely cut off and flooding swept away underground optical fibers, destroying telecommunications”.
Following an appeal by the Government, in coordination with the international humanitarian community, the CERF allocated $3.6 million in emergency funding.
Relief activities include shelter construction, the provision of domestic items, safe water, sanitation and hygiene support, food assistance, livestock support for affected farmers, healthcare, and temporary learning facilities for displaced children. An estimated 70,000 people benefited.
Democratic Republic of Congo: In 2008, CERF provided seven million dollars to tackle cholera and other water-borne disease, resulting in an overall reduction in cholera cases.
Mr. Constantin, an epidemiologist working in DRC, claims that, “based on surveillance data in South Kivu, there has been a 17% reduction in cholera cases from 2007 to 2008...there is no doubt that the various prevention projects have served to reduce the death rate due to cholera in this zone”. CERF helps millions around the world, but the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been its biggest single recipient.
As mandated by the UN, CERF commits a third of all its funds, not simply to emergencies, but to redress imbalances in the distribution of global aid by supporting forgotten and underfunded crises.
Improving humanitarian aid
In its first 30 months CERF has supported humanitarian efforts in 60 countries – providing food, shelter, clean water and healthcare for tens of millions of people.
Although DFID is the largest single contributor to CERF (£80 million to date), the way the fund is set up means that any country can become a donor - more than 100 Member States as well as private sector donors have contributed $1.5 billion to CERF so far.
The advantages of CERF are clear. It enables small donations from countries who wouldn’t normally spend, and has also made the delivery of that money more timely, more predictable, and has improved distribution of funds in a crisis.
It provides a lifeline for those caught up in a crisis, meaning that the needs of individuals are more likely to be met, and met quickly.
Facts and stats
- DFID leads the UK government’s response to humanitarian disasters in co-operation with international organisations such as the United Nations, with charities and other agencies, and with the governments of the countries affected.
- Every year, around 250 million people are affected by natural disasters.