The billion-dollar gap

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Somali mothers wait with their malnourished children at a clinic run by Medecins Sans Frontieres. Photo credit: DAI KUROKAWA/European Pressphoto Agency.

With the Horn of Africa crisis in full swing, it’s time to have a serious talk about international assistance…and by that, I mean $$$. But before we get into the who, where and how much, I want to define two very important terms that you will be hearing a lot more of in the coming weeks and months:

pledge, n. A statement of intent to make a contribution toward a cause.

funding, n. Money provided, or a legally binding contract to provide money, esp. by an organization or government, for a particular purpose.

As you can see, a pledge is a promise to pay up, while funding is the real deal. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the numbers. Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia need $1.99 billion in funding to help assist those affected by the drought. It sounds like a lot, but we’re actually halfway there. As of today, donor countries have provided $965 million — with $448 million coming from the US — but it’s still not enough. We still need about $1.02 billion in funding.

This $965 million has allowed the World Food Programme to feed 7 million people in the region, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to manage and operate refugee camps, and NGOs to provide additional assistance to struggling farmers, herders, sick people and malnourished children. Just imagine what we could do with full funding!

We’re somewhat on the right track. Donor countries have pledged $286 million toward the billion-dollar funding gap, but that still leaves us with an outstanding $739 million. So, donors need to do two things. First, make the remaining pledges. Then, follow through with them.

Our job will be monitor and track these pledges, and make sure that the flow of resources go right down to the recipient to help out those in need. In other words? We’re going to make sure that those pledges turn into funding.