Existing funding to biggest regional refugee crises represents only 1% of global spend on weapons

Funding is critically needed to support refugee protection, self-reliance and innovation

GENEVA, 20 JUNE 2020 – World Refugee Day 2020 sees funding for refugee response plans at an all-time low. Despite the added threat of COVID-19 across all refugee hosting countries, international financial support is significantly lower than this time last year.

The total amount required to respond to the 6 regional refugee response plans globally represents only 11% of what experts estimate as the volume of international arms trade per year, while the amount received as of June this year represents a mere 1% of that.

“Now, more than ever, when global solidarity is the only solution to COVID-19, CARE calls on donors and states to share responsibility for the burden of hosting refugees. Although the percentage has declined in the last two decades, Low Income Countries continue to host the majority of refugees,” said Delphine Pinault, CARE International Humanitarian Policy Advocacy Coordinator.

As of the middle of June 2020, a total of $1.12 billion has been received out of a required $10.86 billion‬‬ (10.3%) to support joined up regional responses to some of the biggest refugee crises around the world. “While we are seeing a pattern of needs and required funding increasing year on year, the percentage of funding actually received has dropped year on year,” said Emma Naylor-Ngugi CARE Regional Director for East, Central and West Africa.

Funding is critically needed to support refugee protection, self-reliance, and innovation. Across the globe, from Jordan to Uganda to Ecuador, refugees are involved in a wide range of self-initiated, small scale projects to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak. All this stands at risk of being lost if more and immediate funding is not committed to support refugee communities.

“Despite being amongst the most at risk of exploitation, violence, and poverty, we see women refugees making extraordinary contributions to the societies in which they live,” said Nirvana Shawky, CARE’s Regional Director for MENA. “On the front line of the COVID-19 response, experienced doctors and nurses are providing their services as volunteers, and community workers are raising awareness about the pandemic through phone services. Whether they are Syrian, Sudanese, Palestinian, Iraqi, or Yemeni, we are inspired every day by refugees across the region showing resilience, overcoming challenges in their daily lives, and giving back to their hosting communities.”

The resourcefulness, self-reliance and proactive response by refugees to support their own communities and find solutions in the face of COVID-19 is mirrored across the globe.

“Refugees in our region have adapted in incredible ways to fight the adverse effects of this pandemic,” said Naylor-Ngugi. “In Uganda for example, we have seen women start making masks and supporting the prevention of COVID-19 in their communities. But the stark reality is that this time next year, more gaps in life saving services will need to be filled by refugees themselves and the solidarity to their often very poor hosts, potentially exceeding their capacity to cope, because there is no money.”

“While many people may think of refugees as passive recipients of support or assistance, CARE knows well that this often does not fit the reality,” noted Gareth Mace, CARE’s Deputy Regional Director- Program Quality. “In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, we are working with and alongside Rohingya community volunteers – many of whom are women – who are taking the lead on important responsibilities like awareness raising on COVID-19 and ensuring social distancing during distributions.”

Of the 6 current regional or joint refugee response plans, 4 are under 10% funded, with the appeal for the Democratic Republic of Congo refugee crisis just over 3% funded, despite being 6 months into the year. The South Sudan regional refugee response plan has received 5 times less funding than this time last year. These 6 response plans cover around 1/4 of the over 79.5 million people displaced at the end of 2019.

“Refugees have little choice but to live in camps or with host communities – it is not uncommon for 20 people or more having to share a space normally suitable for five,” said Claudine Awute, CARE Regional Director for West Africa. “On top of this, they are being asked to take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19. If they can’t afford the bare minimum, and are forced to live in places where space is at a premium, how can they really protect themselves against this pandemic?”

“Venezuelan refugees have responded with resilience and amazing innovative thinking, contributing to their communities,” added Tatiana Bertolucci, CARE Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Anibal comes to mind – a Venezuelan in Ecuador who despite the pandemic did not lose hope to train and become a barber. He speaks eagerly about his plans, and never lets the setbacks in life get to him. Like Anibal, let’s not forget the contribution to our society refugees bring and our duty to protect them.”


CARE has spokespeople available. For media inquiries, please contact:

Lama Alsafi
media@care.ca | 613-228-5641 Notes to editors:
  • For this analysis, CARE focused on the 6 existing Regional Refugee or Joint Response plans covering Burundi, DRC, the Rohingya crisis, South Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela as these cover the broadest range and number of refugees globally. However, they do not cover some large refugee displacements such as Somalis in East Africa, Nigerians in West Africa and Afghanis in Asia and Europe which have country level plans. Country level Humanitarian Response Plans for these displacement crises also remain seriously underfunded.
  • In June 2019, the Syria Refugee Response and Resilience Plan (3RP) plan was 30% funded, the Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan was 18% funded, the South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan was 21% funded, the Democratic Republic of Congo Regional Refugee Response Plan was 12% funded, and the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Joint Response Plan was 33% funded.
  • UN OCHA funding standings, as of 16 June 2020.
  • According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), calculating the international arms trade is complicated by government data sets using different definitions and methodologies that are not directly comparable. In 2017, SIPRI estimated that the total value of the global arms trade was estimated to be around $95 billion. While their most recent trends report does not give a figure, SIPRI experts this year estimated the volume of the international arms trade at around $80 to 100 billion per year. The percentage comparisons in this release are based on the upper end of that estimate, as it is likely that this figure is far higher. The US Department of State World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2019 Report, for example, estimates the global annual value of international arms transfers to have risen to $195 billion. For this release, the percentages have been rounded up for brevity. However, the actual percentages are:
    • total amount required to respond to the 6 regional refugee response plans: 10,864,595,28 9 of $100 Billion = 10.864595288999999%; and
    • the amount received as of June this year: 1,121,861,0 21 of $100 Billion = 1.121861021%.

About CARE Canada:

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE develops solutions alongside women and girls in developing countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty and out of crisis. CARE stands with women and girls around the world in economic empowerment. We bring women, girls, and their communities together to challenge inequality while facing issues like food insecurity, climate change, and emergency relief in times of crisis or disaster. CARE works in 100 countries around the world.

To learn more about CARE Canada, visit www.care.ca

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