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Start Fund's role

In under-the-radar crisis

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Each year the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations office (ECHO) releases the Forgotten Crisis Assessment (FCA) index, which uses four indicators* to highlight humanitarian crises where the affected populations either do not receive enough international aid, or no aid at all.

These crises are characterised by low media coverage, a lack of donor interest (as measured through aid per capita) and a weak political commitment to solve the crisis, resulting in an insufficient presence of humanitarian organisations. Since its inception, the Start Fund has also focused on forgotten crises, or to use its own term ‘under-the-radar’ crises, defined as those which are not the subject of, or linked geographically or thematically to, an active emergency response, whether or not it is coordinated by the respective, responsible government or the international system. For this reason, there is often crossover between the crises that appear on the FCA index and to those that the Start Fund responds.

In 2018, the Start Fund was alerted to 10 of the 26 crises that appeared on the FCA index, 9 of which were subsequently allocated funding. However, this number does not reflect the extent to which the Start Fund supports forgotten or ‘under-the-radar’ crises. This is because no comprehensive crisis index exists within the humanitarian sector and the FCA Index highlights medium to larger-scale crises, whereas many Start Fund alerts are for crises that are smaller.

In 2018 alone, the Start Fund was alerted to 83 crises (73 of which did not appear on the FCA Index), and 57 of which were allocated funding having been deemed to meet the Start Fund niche.

In part, thanks to the global membership of the Start Network the Start Fund is alerted to crises that often receive little attention from international donors or media, and in some cases even neglected by national media.

In January 2018, the Start Fund was alerted to the involuntary displacement of some 5,000 people, forced to live in small impromptu camps in the area surrounding the town of Chalchihuitán, in Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas due to an agrarian conflict involving two indigenous communities. Among Mexico’s poorest and most marginalised communities before they were forced out of their homes, the indigenous Tzotzil Mayan residents received little assistance and after a series of deaths in the camps due to cold and malnourishment, the Start Fund was alerted by CADENA who were subsequently awarded funding to respond.

Similarly, in May 2018, when Cyclone Sagar made landfall in East Africa and heavy rainfall caused a series of deaths and forced some 30,000 to leave their homes in Djibouti, the Start Fund was alerted by Norwegian Refugee Council. As Djibouti is not a high-profile country for humanitarian response and not many donors responded, it was noted that Start Fund provided crucial support and was a stepping stone to mobilise further funding and attract more donors for the responding agency.

As the Start Network looks to the future and seeks to expand its membership to national and local organisations, it is all but certain that the Start Fund will be alerted to more of these kinds of crises: underfunded, neglected by the media and not subject to international responses. Whether they are ‘forgotten’ or ‘under-the-radar’, the Start Network will be there to support and respond.

Read more on how Start Fund operates here.

* the Index for Risk Management vulnerability index, media coverage, public aid per capita and a qualitative assessment of geographical units by experts)

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  • by David Burt