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Start Fund Bangladesh ready to respond to an in-country crisis

First Start Network national fund is 'exciting moment' for humanitarian system

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Start Network’s new Bangladesh national fund is ready for its first crisis alert in a significant development for the humanitarian system.

The £10 million Start Fund Bangladesh, designed to enable aid agencies to respond early and fast to under-the-radar emergencies within the country, is funded by the UK government.

From this month (April) it can activate funding within 72 hours of receiving a crisis alert, and will be accessible to national and international Start Network member NGOs operating within Bangladesh.

It is the first national version of the global Start Fund, which has enabled quick response to floods, earthquakes, droughts and refugee crises on more than 100 occasions, in 51 countries, over the past three years. In its first phase, decisions on whether to activate the fund will be made globally by the Start Fund committee, while project selection will take place within the country.

As local experience grows, all Start Fund Bangladesh decisions will be made by member agencies’ staff in country, and membership will be opened to national NGOs. Over the fund’s initial four-year life span it will increasingly devolve to the Bangladesh level, with the ultimate aim of it becoming an independent, NGO-managed national fund.

Sean Lowrie, Start Network’s director, said:

“This new national Start Fund is an important step towards putting funding and decision making into the hands of humanitarian groups closer to the communities most affected by disaster. That was one of the aims agreed at last year’s World Humanitarian Summit, and Start Network is working to deliver it.”

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) Bangladesh office has been working with Start Network to set up the fund. Over its first six months it will be able to disburse a total of up to £1.25 million. Annemarie Poorterman, Project Manager at the Start Network who has worked locally to set it up, said:

“This is an exciting moment. With the help and hard work of our members in Bangladesh over the last three months, Start Fund Bangladesh is now ready to respond to emergencies that might otherwise not receive (timely) funding.

“Bangladesh has more than its fair share of crises of many kinds, and now there will be more help, more quickly and it will be better attuned to the needs of affected communities.

“We are working towards giving national and local organisations direct access to its funding during the second and third years of the project. That means international, national and local NGOs all working together to respond to crises within 72 hours. Over the next few months we’ll continue designing the Start Fund collaboration in Bangladesh, and thinking about how we can localise it further.”

The global Start Fund has responded to four alerts within Bangladesh over the past three years, making £1,550,000 available to assist communities affected by crisis. Helene Daniel, Bangladesh Country Director of Solidarites International, said:

“The Start Fund enables humanitarian organisations already on the ground to intervene rapidly, allowing a fast and effective emergency response for people in need. Straightforward solutions are used - such as in Teknaf, Bangladesh, where people fleeing violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar, since October 2016 have been provided with non-food essentials and drinking water. The fund covers basic humanitarian needs quickly and professionally, in a way that is sensitive to the local context.”

Start Network has recruited a local manager to lead a small national team, initially of four, who will provide administration of the fund. The team will be hosted in Dhaka at the offices of Action Against Hunger Bangladesh, which was selected as host in consortium with Christian Aid and Oxfam in Bangladesh (until 31 August 2017) through a competitive process.

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  • by David Wastell