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Tracking the Global Humanitarian Response to COVID-19

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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Executive summary

This report by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Development Initiatives (DI) analyses humanitarian funding to the Covid-19 pandemic response in 2020. It introduces new analysis by IRC and updates previous analysis provided by DI during 2020.

Key findings

• Humanitarian funding failed to keep pace with rises in Covid-19 cases and their consequences. The impact of Covid-19 contributed to an increase in humanitarian needs by 40% over 2019’s needs, and the gap between needs and funding grew.

• A total of US$6.6 billion of humanitarian grants was contributed to the Covid-19 pandemic response, including US$3.7 billion channelled to the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP). Just 39% of the GHRP’s funding requirements were met.

• By gross volume, the three largest recipients of overall humanitarian grant support for response to Covid-19 were Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan. A small number of donors carried a large portion of the Covid-19 humanitarian funding burden, among whom the largest bilateral contributors were the US and Germany, largely mirroring previous trends for humanitarian funding.

• A humanitarian system already under strain was unable to mobilise sufficient additional resources when faced with a global shock. Covid-19 funding requirements within the GHRP were consistently less well funded than other UN appeal requirements in 2020. Of 52 countries, just 5 received more than 75% of funding required, while 12 received less than 25%.

• Just 16.5% of all humanitarian funding to Covid-19 was provided directly to nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) (international, national and local), and just 20.5% of funds provided through the GHRP were channelled to NGOs. Critically, the reported data still does not show how much funding is passed down the funding chain to front-line implementers, for example from UN agencies to international and local NGOs.

• Data reported to the UN Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and published to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) has significant gaps, creating an incomplete picture of the response. For example, data on when, where and to whom funding is committed and how quickly it is disbursed is incomplete and inconsistent.
These gaps inhibit more effective planning and action.

Key recommendations

• Donors should provide sufficient timely, multi-year, flexible funding to meet increasing immediate and longer-term needs due to Covid-19.

• Donors should prioritise funding to front-line NGO implementers in fragile and conflict-affected contexts to ensure the response meets the needs of the most tracking the global humanitarian response to Covid-19 / 4 vulnerable and those most likely to be left out of the response. In some fragile and conflict-affected states, NGOs provide more than 75% of the health response.2 • Donors and aid organisations should normalise increased flexibility provisions introduced in the Covid-19 response and improve the accuracy of their reporting on the duration and earmarking of funding.

• UN agencies, which received the bulk (67.3%) of humanitarian aid for the Covid-19 emergency response, should report to FTS and publish to IATI data on the funding they sub-grant to partners for a more complete picture of how and where funds are being spent.

• Donors and aid organisations should update their financial data – including the dates of commitment and disbursement – regularly and frequently. FTS should retain dates of commitment and payment in its system to improve transparency on the speed of the response.

• The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), donors and IATI publishers should prioritise improvements to interoperability between IATI and FTS, to make reporting of humanitarian financing better streamlined, consistent and efficient.