Early humanitarian action can save lives, money. But it comes with uncertainty
“They did a lot of work of trying to convince the donors of CERF to allocate this funding on this basis of uncertainty. This $140 million may be small compared to the total humanitarian budget, but for us, it is huge,” said Paris Kazis, program policy consultant at the World Food Programme, which has been increasing its early intervention efforts with support from anticipatory financing.
“We recognize this uncertainty, and it is part of the approach. It is up to the implementing agency to define what risk levels they are willing to take.”
But while anticipatory humanitarian financing has risen over the last few years, donor funding remains relatively low. A lack of hard, long-term evidence showing the benefits of anticipatory financing contributes to donor reluctance, experts say.
The unpredictable nature of slow-onset and sudden environmental events is another factor that has discouraged donors.
“It’s a bit of a vicious circle, because you need money to generate the evidence, but you need evidence to generate money. At a certain point, we have to make a deal with donors [on scientific forecasts] — can we live with what we have so far? And then if that works, let’s invest more,” said Shirin Merola, a forecast-based financing coordinator for Africa at WFP.
Merola acknowledged this reality, noting that there is no “100% guarantee we are going to be right every time.” She also noted that while this method of humanitarian intervention is growing, it is not intended to replace traditional forms of emergency and humanitarian response.
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