The U.N. refugee agency will have to make “severe cuts” unless it gets extra funding soon, its chief said on Monday, warning cuts could lead to more malnutrition and child marriages as well as unrest in some of the world’s poorest regions.
The war in Ukraine has sent millions fleeing, and there are now more than 100 million people forcibly displaced in the world. This, along with an ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, floods in Pakistan, and violence in Cameroon, has caused the budget of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to balloon to a record of almost $11 billion.
“I regret to inform you that for the first time during my tenure, I’m worried about UNHCR’s financial situation,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a speech to member countries’ representatives in Geneva after being reappointed as head of the agency last month.
“If we do not receive at least an additional $700 million, especially for our most underfunded operations, between now and the end of this year, we will be forced to make severe cuts with negative and sometimes dramatic consequences for refugees and host communities,” he added.
The United States is by far the agency’s biggest donor, contributing over $2 billion so far this year.
Now, 12 of the agency’s programs are funded at 50% or less, a spokesperson said. Asked which of them might be cut, the spokesperson expressed concerns about parts of the Middle East, including Yemen, and Ethiopia.
“We fear the consequences (of cuts) will be far reaching — from increasing malnutrition rates to rising risks of increasing gender-based violence, child marriage, labor exploitation, increased tensions and unrest within local communities over resource scarcity, and so on,” the spokesperson said.
In the same sweeping speech in Geneva, Grandi also said he was worried about the impact of cold weather during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter on some 6.2 million people internally displaced in Ukraine.
“I share the government’s concerns about the looming winter,” he said, adding that the elderly and disabled were especially vulnerable.