By Leila Hatoum
At a time when global powers are spending over $1.7 trillion annually on arms and military programs, the world falls $15 billion short of financing global humanitarian projects to alleviate the suffering of over 125 million people.
These are the victims of armed conflicts, poverty, and natural disasters, and are in dire need of help, be it medical, social, or financial.
As the United States led global powers in military expenditure with $581 billion in 2014 —a staggering 34 percent share of what the top 15 leading countries spend on their defense systems—according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, tens of millions, mainly children, have died of hunger worldwide.
Meanwhile, China spent $129.4 billion while Saudi Arabia came in third in global spending on defense with $80.8 billion. Russia and the United Kingdom were ranked fourth and fifth with $70 billion and $61.8 billion respectively.
According to the U.N., the best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. This requires political will and determination at the highest level of global leadership which has the power to prevent and resolve conflicts.
In saying so, the U.N. has politely called on international players to get their act together and increase spending on the protection and improvement of the quality of life for people around the globe rather than feed the conflicts and political tensions shattering their lives.
According to U.N. experts, a gap of $15 billion between funding needs and actual donations “is a lot of money but in a world producing $78 trillion of GDP it should not be out of reach to find.”
That said, the world has witnessed a rise in armed conflicts since the turn of the century.
The most recent, the Syrian civil war, which killed hundreds of thousands and displaced six million Syrians since 2011, has triggered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
The mass exodus of Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries and Europe has placed a devastating economic and social strain on the host nations; one that requires urgent attention and ample international support.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned, during a short trip to Dubai last month, that “we are living in an age of the mega-crisis… the gap in funding is a solvable problem.”
But victims of armed conflicts are not the only ones in need of humanitarian relief.
Fragile countries at risk of natural disasters also require funding and contingency plans should be drafted with budgeted lines to directly tap into during national emergencies.
In Africa alone, 29 million people do not have access to proper nutrition, according to the World Food Program (WFP).
The international organization also warned last week of drought in Africa due to little rain, painting a bleak future for the continent.
According to WFP’s plea on January 28, there may be a substantial increase in the numbers of food insecure people in the near future because the Southern Africa region “is ill-prepared for a shock of this magnitude, particularly since the last growing season was also affected by drought. This means depleted regional stocks and high food prices.”