Fmr UN official calls for major overhaul to refugee assistance programs

World Today

U.N. refugee officials said they’re struggling to cope with the demand for their services.

More than 22-million refugees around the world need assistance. The UNHCR says the system wasn’t designed to help that many people.

As CGTN’s Liling Tan reports, one former U.N. official is calling for a major overhaul of the programs.

“We usually globally operate with about 50 percent of funding which means we can’t do as much as we need to do in order to keep people safe and meet their most basic needs,” Ninette Kelley, the director of the New York Office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

The U.N.’s humanitarian system isn’t just broke. It’s also broken, writes Professor Paul Spiegel, a former official at the U.N. refugee agency, in a report published in The Lancet.

“The humanitarian architecture was created for a different time, so it does need to be changed,” Spiegel said. “Even though more money is coming in, it’s not sufficient compared to the needs. The needs are still outpacing funds.”

Today’s refugee population stands at 22.5 million and counting, due to new emergencies and ongoing conflicts. Imagine having to generate enough money to feed, clothe and house a population nearly three times the size of New York City, across multiple crises and conflict zones.

Spiegel is recommending that aid agencies consider reforms tailored to the needs of each refugee and host community, such as providing cash cards for refugees to spend locally, or helping to fund a host nation’s healthcare system. The U.N. Refugee Agency said such programs are already underway, thanks to an ambitious new U.N. refugee response plan adopted in September that combines humanitarian aid with development assistance.

“In other words, let’s bring in the development funds that usually go to host countries to help their service providers, but also expand inclusion for refugees and top that development funding up so we have a more robust response to help both communities over the longer term,” said the UNHCR’s Kelley.

Kelley said Lebanon joined forces between humanitarian and development funding to allow the country to improve the educational system while also expanding it to accommodate refugee children. She said that approach can also be applied to improving healthcare systems.