BELMONT, North Carolina — On August 8, 2022, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would contribute $15 million to the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). This is the largest U.S. contribution to CERF in history, reflecting unprecedented levels of need within the international sphere.
CERF plays a critical role in helping those living in extreme poverty, a duty that has become even more pertinent in the face of the burgeoning global food crisis. Additionally, the lingering economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic compounded with supply chain strains due to the Russia-Ukraine war threaten to push 40 million more people across the globe into poverty and food insecurity. Global support of institutions such as CERF will be crucial to alleviating suffering amongst the world’s most vulnerable regions.
What is CERF?
CERF is a humanitarian relief fund that the U.N. Secretary-General launched in 2006. The fun expands upon the Central Emergency Revolving Fund, a $50 million loan facility adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1991. CERF comprises of a $450 million grant component, which enables U.N. agencies and its partners to respond rapidly to global emergencies.
The grant component of CERF is a vital facilitator of humanitarian action that includes two elements: rapid response grants and underfunded emergency grants. Rapid response grants encourage early action in crisis situations, enabling national teams and their regional partners to undertake coordinated relief efforts as soon as a crisis hits. Underfunded emergency grants work to bolster the humanitarian response to ongoing crises. This permits CERF to sustain prolonged aid initiatives in a way that mitigates perilous funding gaps. The $15 million USAID pledge to CERF will bolster fund reserves for these two grant programs, enabling CERF to continue providing aid to those in crisis situations.
Importance of CERF Allocations
As a critical emergency relief fund, CERF allocations respond to the needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations. According to CERF’s 2021 annual report, the emergency relief fund allocated more than $538 million worth of aid to 40 countries across the world. This is the fund’s second-highest expenditure to date, allowing U.N. agencies to reach 51 million people in a single year.
CERF allocations provide critical resources and services such as health care, water, sanitation and food assistance. Additionally, CERF’s grants and loans support anticipatory action plans that bolster vulnerable regions against climate disasters such as prolonged flooding and extreme drought.
In 2022, CERF allocations have focused on responding to the needs of those most vulnerable to acute food insecurity. This includes many of the nations that the U.N. Office for Coordinated Global Affairs’ Global Report on Food Crises 2022 designated to be at the highest risk for deterioration. The largest proportion of CERF’s rapid response grants in 2022 has been allocated to Ukraine, providing those most affected by the conflict with health care, shelter and crucial supplies such as food and water.
African nations plagued by the ongoing drought and internal conflicts, such as those within the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region of West Africa, have received the second highest concentration of CERF’s rapid response grant allocations in 2022.
Nations suffering from ongoing humanitarian crises, such as Yemen and Syria, are the largest beneficiaries of CERF’s underfunded emergency grants in 2022.
Funding of CERF
Since its creation in 2006, CERF has provided nearly $5.5 billion in aid to over 100 countries worldwide via its various humanitarian partners.
In its 17 years of existence, CERF has received a total of $8.3 billion in contributions. CERF’s top five donor countries, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany, contributed over half of this amount. Additionally, many countries that were once CERF recipients have also become CERF donors, according to its website.
The recent $15 million USAID pledge to CERF is notable as it reflects the U.S. government’s acknowledgment of unprecedented levels of international humanitarian need. Despite this, there is still a significant gap between U.S. contribution capability and its actual contributions. Luckily, there are countless other institutions that are bolstering CERF’s grant reserves and thus their ability to provide assistance to those in need. These CERF donations will remain vital as economic hardship related to inflation and global supply chain disruption continue to push more regions into crisis.
– Mollie Lund