For more than 51 million of the world’s most vulnerable people, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was a lifeline in 2021, providing them with swift, high-quality assistance, no matter where they were.
CERF disbursed US$548 million for humanitarian assistance in 40 countries in 2021 — the second highest amount in the Fund’s history. Over $413 million was allocated through CERF’s rapid response window. Living up to its reputation for speed, the Fund responded within days or even hours of crises hitting. For instance, within hours of an earthquake striking Haiti in August, CERF enabled relief agencies to step up life-saving support for 280,000 people in need.
Flexibility underpinned this speed, with CERF responding to requests from UN Resident Coordinators and Humanitarian Coordinators even when information about crises was not yet complete. For instance, when a fire tore through the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar,
Bangladesh, UN agencies and partners immediately launched responses to help 59,000 people, confident that CERF funding was imminent.
In 2021, CERF continued to prioritize early and anticipatory action, to get appropriate help to people before the peak of a crisis. It launched three new anticipatory action pilots: in Nepal for severe flooding, in the Philippines for typhoons and in Malawi for dry spells. When Ebola broke out in Guinea in February, CERF quickly allocated $5 million to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading to neighbouring countries. Later in the year, when thousands of people were projected to becomes displaced in Yemen’s Marib and Al Jawf regions, CERF released funding to help them prepare.
CERF was also a lifeline for an estimated 8 million people caught in critically underfunded crises that did not receive sufficient donor support, disbursing $135 million to 12 crises through its Underfunded Emergencies window. This funding was vital in sustaining and scaling up life-saving interventions.
CERF continued to enhance its practical measures to prioritize the most vulnerable people and ensure that women, girls and people living with disabilities had access to support. Through its tracking of age and gender in all programmes it funded, CERF ensured that 70 per cent of its 2021 funding contributed to gender equality.
OCHA has the unique privilege of managing CERF and the Country-Based Pooled Funds, allowing them to complement each other geographically, sectorally and sequentially. For instance, when Lebanon faced critical fuel shortages, CERF funding to the World Food Programme helped to keep water stations up and running, while the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund supported fuel for hospitals and health clinics.
My thanks to all donors who generously supported CERF’s success. Once again, it lived up to its description as “a fund for all, by all”, with 54 Member States and observers contributing to the Fund in 2021 – including eight past recipients of CERF funding.
Despite this generosity, we have a long way to go to reach the $1 billion annual target that Member States committed to in 2016. I hope that in highlighting the unique potential and achievements of CERF, this report can help us reach that goal.
Martin Griffiths Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.