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UN taps private sector for humanitarian funding

Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | The United Nations on Thursday launched what it called a “global first” to harness private-sector funding and expertise to help tackle humanitarian crises around the world.

The Nigeria Humanitarian Fund Private Sector Initiative (NHF PSI) has been set up to strengthen the response to the effects of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the country’s remote northeast.

More than 27,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2009.

Nearly two million people are still homeless, while 6.1 million — many of them children — need life-saving assistance.

But those involved in the relief effort have complained about a lack of joined-up response as well as funding shortfalls for much-needed food, shelter, sanitation and other projects.

There have also been reported cases of food aid being diverted by corrupt local officials.

The UN resident humanitarian coordinator and UNDP representative in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said the initiative was a “global first” as well as a “measurable and accountable” way to improve the response.

It provided a “simple, powerful funding mechanism to pool resources, funding and innovation to create a more effective response to the humanitarian crisis”, he told a launch event in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

The fund, to be managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was “a unique opportunity to create a blueprint for future private sector engagement” around the world, he added.

Private sector firms would contribute to the fund and the UN body would allocate financing according to its priorities.

The UN special representative in West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, said there was a need for a “paradigm shift” in funding for emergency and relief efforts.

National government, international aid agencies and the world body were responding to an increasing number of crises, stretching limited resources.

In Nigeria, for example, some $1.05 billion is needed to fund projects this year but as of the end of September, $583 million or 55.6 percent had been received, the UN said.

Seventeen governments from Ireland to South Korea had provided $70 million to the NHF since it was launched in May last year.

But there are hopes that by extending it to the Nigerian private sector more money will be raised — and provide a model for other countries to follow suit.

Chambas said the potential of having leading private-sector companies involved in a “country-based pooled fund” was “enormous”.

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