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POLICY November 2008

BRIEF

Over-Reliance on Supplemental Funding
for Humanitarian Accounts
Recommendations
Problem
As a leader in humanitarian response, the United States must demonstrate its
The unpredictable, reliability and commitment to assisting those affected by conflict and natural
stop-and-start disasters by fully funding the humanitarian accounts in the regular appropriations
supplemental
process. The accounts in question are International Disaster Assistance (IDA),
funding for
humanitarian Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA), Emergency Refugee and Migration
accounts leads Assistance (ERMA), Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and Contributions for
to inefficiencies, International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) in the State, Foreign Operations
disruptions and appropriations bill, and the food aid accounts in the Agriculture appropriations bill.
shutdowns of A U.S. national development strategy adopted by Congress and the Administration
urgently needed
would provide an overarching vision and mission for U.S. humanitarian programs
life-saving
assistance. It has and bring coherence to the planning process for humanitarian budgets.
become standard
for administration Actions
budget requests
and regular • Administration: Request full funding for these accounts in the regular budget
appropriations request based on historical requested levels, historical supplemental funding levels,
bills to under-fund and projected needs from the relevant agencies;
humanitarian
• Congressional Budget Committees: Set the overall discretionary spending cap
accounts, using
supplemental and the recommended allocations for the International Affairs Budget (Function
funding to cover 150) high enough to accommodate full funding for these accounts;
the shortfall later • Appropriations Chairs: Set the State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee alloca-
in the budget tion high enough to accommodate full funding for these accounts;
year. The costs • State, Foreign Operations Subcommittees: Fully fund these accounts in the
are irreversible:
appropriations bills, based on projected needs (calculated as detailed in the first
lost lives, stunted
children and the point above); and
spread of disease. • Administration and Congress: Rely on supplemental funding only for truly unan-
ticipated emergencies.

Results
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Suite 210 Predictable, robust funding will allow the U.S. to be a reliable partner in international
Washington, DC 20036
humanitarian efforts and respond efficiently to new emergencies without divert-
202-667-8227
reform@interaction.org ing funds from ongoing humanitarian programs. It will enable more efficient use of
scarce humanitarian dollars, improve crisis readiness and save more lives.

www.interaction.org
Background
With budget ceilings increasingly tighter, the hu- • Lives lost. Disruption in the delivery of services has seri-
manitarian accounts1 in appropriation bills have become ous consequences: lost lives, malnourished children and
vulnerable to reductions during the regular appropriations the spread of disease. Funding may be restored but the
process. This practice is based on an expectation that the damage incurred is irreversible.
humanitarian accounts stand a better chance for mid-year,
emergency supplemental funding than accounts that fund Example: FY 2006 Migration and Refugee Assistance
long-term development. (MRA). In Fall 2005, cuts to the FY 2006 refugee aid account
The following graph of requests and appropriations for in the annual appropriations bill triggered cutbacks to
the International Disaster Assistance account clearly illus- refugee programs in Liberia, Guinea, and Kenya. In Kenya,
trates the trend: the taller black bars are the total amount budget cuts caused a 10% reduction in health care services
eventually provided in each fiscal year (regular plus sup- provided to the large Kakuma refugee camp that sheltered
plemental appropriations), while the shorter bars are the refugees from nine different nations, including Sudan, So-
request and regular appropriations, normally provided to- malia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ward the start of the fiscal year. Example: FY 2006 Sudan. Greatly reduced humanitar-
ian funding for FY 2006 caused deep cuts in programming
in Darfur. The reductions meant that 100,000 people who
had been receiving food in FY05 were no longer being fed.
Funding cuts also affected other critical services. Water and
sanitation services were cut in Nyala, the capital of South
Darfur, affecting over 125,000 people.

What needs to be emphasized is that under-funding ap-
propriations for the humanitarian accounts in the regular
appropriations bills causes program cuts, delays and disrup-
tions that carry serious, irreversible human consequences, re-
gardless of any eventual “makeup” funding in supplementals.
Low funding in the regular bills results in:
• Uncertainty. Managers of assistance programs do not
know until the middle of the fiscal year (or later) if more
funding will be forthcoming – budget guidance is uncer-
tain, and management decisions are postponed. If there
is a supplemental, it can take weeks or months before any
money is allocated.
• Disruption in the field. Uncertainty and delay at the be-
ginning of the year can lead to drastic scale-backs and
shutdown of programs. Nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) try to keep programs running with private fund-
ing, but triage often results and deep cuts may mean that
NGOs must close offices and lay off staff.

1 International Disaster Assistance (IDA), Migration and Refugee Assistance
(MRA), Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA), food aid
and peacekeeping accounts (PKO and CIPA).
POLICY November 2008

PAPER

Why Dependence on
Supplemental Funding
Hurts Humanitarian Programs

T
he annual appropriations cycle has become a two-step process. In addition to the regu-
lar annual appropriations bills, mid-year supplemental appropriations bills are now an
expected part of the budget process, in large part because much of the Defense Depart-
ment’s budget for the Iraq war has been covered through mid-year supplementals. There is
therefore now an expectation of a second chance each year to fund certain programs.
With budget ceilings increasingly tighter, humanitarian accounts (disaster, refugee, and food
aid) in annual appropriations bills have become vulnerable to reductions during the regular
appropriations process because of the expectation that these accounts stand a better chance
for mid-year supplemental funding than accounts that fund long-term development. There
is an assumption that a stronger case can be made that funding is urgently needed for com-
plex humanitarian operations. The tables and charts at the end of this document illustrate the
trend: the budget request and regular appropriations have routinely been less, sometimes
significantly less, than what is eventually found to be necessary and is appropriated.
Let there be no mistake, however, cutting appropriations for the humanitarian ac-
counts in the regular appropriations bills causes program cuts, delays and disruptions
that carry very serious, irreversible human consequences, regardless of any eventual
“make-up” funding provided in supplementals.
Uncertainty and delay: Managers of foreign aid accounts do not know until the middle of
the fiscal year if more funding will be forthcoming – budget guidance is uncertain, and normal
management decisions must be postponed. If there is a supplemental, it can take weeks and
months before it passes through Congress and is delivered to the president for signature. In-
ternal agency processes to allocate funds and make grants can take several more weeks.
This uncertainty and delay at the beginning of the fiscal year can lead to drastic scale-backs
and shutdowns of programs. Without U.S. Government grants, NGOs will rely on private fund-
ing to try to keep programs running – resorting to triage in order to continue life-saving op-
erations. But deep cuts may mean that NGOs have to close offices, let staff go, and shut down
services.
Disruption in the delivery of these life-saving services have, by definition, serious conse-
quences: lost lives, stunted children, and the spread of disease. Food pipelines and nutrition
programs, inoculations for children, safe deliveries for mothers, medical care for the sick, efforts
1400 16th Street, NW
to provide shelter and protect the vulnerable – all of these can come to a screeching halt when
Suite 210
Washington, DC 20036
humanitarian funding is cut and programs are shut-down. Funding may eventually be restored,
202-667-8227
but the damage incurred is irreversible. It is not possible to “backfill” urgently needed life-saving
reform@interaction.org assistance such as food, water, primary health or emergency obstetric care.
When humanitarian accounts are cut, unanticipated crises can deplete reserves. When
there is no funding left for contingencies, reaction times slow and lives may be lost when
www.interaction.org disaster strikes.
Vicious cycle: Existing, ongoing humanitarian programs though all three countries were experiencing emergencies.
may be “starved” as the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Although some of these programs later benefited from late-
(OFDA) is required to pull together resources to provide year funding infusions from the FY 2006 Supplemental bill,
emergency assistance late in the fiscal year—meaning that the delays hurt real people.
supplemental funding will be needed once more to make FY 2006, Sudan: Greatly reduced humanitarian funding
up for this dangerous borrowing game. Furthermore, what for FY 2006 caused deep cuts in programming in Darfur.
frequently gets “borrowed” or diverted is funding intended These reductions meant that 100,000 people who had been
to help prevent and mitigate future emergencies. The reduc- receiving food in FY05 were no longer being fed. Funding
tion in prevention and mitigation leads to many emergen- cuts also affected the provision of other critical services. Water
cies recurring again and again. and sanitation services were cut in Nyala, the capital of South
Costly inefficiencies: If cuts in regular appropriations bills Darfur, affecting over 125,000 people. Beyond the immediate
force office closings and release of staff, it is expensive to re- impacts on the most vulnerable populations in Sudan, the
start operations late in the fiscal year using supplemental scale-back of operations had other serious implications:
funding. Key staff members may be lost because they have • Heightened insecurity for NGO staff as services provided
sought work elsewhere; cancelled leases must be renego- to host communities were scaled back.
tiated. The uncertain budget climate also makes trying to • Increased movement of host communities into Internally
manage grants and programs, recruit new staff, and plan for Displaced People (IDP) camps in order to access increas-
the future very difficult. ingly unavailable basic services.
Diminished credibility: The stop-and-start nature of pro- • Difficulty in ability of delivery organizations to implement
grams resulting from uncertain funding may cause recipients quality programming due to uncertainty about future
and other global relief organizations to question the reliabil- funding.
ity of the U.S. government and U.S.-based NGOs as partners
in relieving human suffering. We therefore ask Congress:
• Do not cut humanitarian programs in regular appropria-
Real-life Examples tions bills thinking the cuts can be “made up” in a supple-
FY 2006 Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA): In mental without problem or cost. Fully fund all the core
Fall 2005, cuts to the FY 2006 refugee aid account in the an- development and humanitarian accounts in regular ap-
nual appropriations bill triggered the following: propriations bills.
• In Liberia, programs to help refugees return to the country • Expect humanitarian crises to occur, and appropriate suf-
were cut back just when successful democratic elections ficient funds at the start of the fiscal year to be ready for
and a new president offered a possible return to peace the next crisis.
and normalcy.
• In Guinea, education programs for displaced children Q&A
were threatened. Funding for the regional certification Q: If cuts have to be made during the regular appropri-
exam was cut, leaving students who could not afford the ations process, why shouldn’t the accounts most likely to
certification fee with a lost school year. get supplemental funds get cut?
• In Kenya, budget cuts caused a 10% reduction in health A: Those accounts should not be cut because such cuts re-
care services provided to the large Kakuma refugee camp sult in lost lives, stunted children, and the spread of disease,
that shelters refugees from nine different nations (75 per- regardless of eventual supplemental appropriations. The dam-
cent are southern Sudanese, 20 percent from Somalia, age from cuts to these accounts in the regular appropriations
and the rest from Burundi, the Central African Republic, bills is not reversible mid-year! Both short-term humanitarian
Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda assistance and long-term development reconstruction pro-
and Uganda). grams are vitally important to fight global poverty and cre-
ate a better, safer world for our future, yet together they use
FY 2006 International Disaster and Famine Assistance a mere 0.7% (7 tenths of 1%, or 0.007)1 of the appropria-
(IDFA): Cuts to the disaster aid account in FY 2006 meant tions budget. If cuts have to be made, they should be made
that a significant portion of the Office of Foreign Disaster elsewhere.
Assistance’s (OFDA’s) budget was diverted to respond to Q: Even if recent history shows that supplemental ap-
the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Some humanitar- propriations have been needed every year, how can one
ian country programs were quickly downsized while OFDA
waited six months for supplemental funding to replenish
1 Total in the FY2006 Foreign Operations appropriations bill for Humanitar-
funds used for earthquake response. Programs in Burundi, ian and Development Assistance divided by total enacted FY2006 appro-
Côte d’Ivoire, and Eritrea could not get off the ground, even priations. $8,344,556! $1,210,920,325,000= 0.68%
be certain that disaster – tsunamis, hurricanes, earth- stan earthquake, the Asian Tsunami and the recent crisis in
quakes – will strike and that funding will be needed? Isn’t Lebanon force OFDA to draw significant funds and resources
it better to wait and seek funding after disaster strikes? away from continuing crisis situations. The IDFA account
A: While no one can foretell the future, the pattern of re- needs to be funded adequately in regular appropriations to
cent major disasters is established and unlikely to go away. limit the disruptions and uncertainties caused by reliance on
According to a recent report from the World Bank’s Indepen- supplemental appropriations.
dent Evaluation Group, “the reported number of disasters
has been increasing, growing from fewer than 100 in 1975 to TABLES AND CHARTS891011
more than 400 in 2005.”2 The following tables and charts illustrate the pattern of
After a crisis, the first few hours and days are when the two-part appropriations that has emerged for IDFA, MRA/
most lives can be saved – and they can only be saved if res- ERMA and food aid. Data for these tables and charts comes
cuers move quickly. For example, the rapid and robust re- primarily from USAID budget tables and from appropria-
sponse to the Asian Tsunami prevented many more people tions bills.
from dying from disease and hunger-related causes in the
aftermath of the disaster.
Appropriate resources must therefore be available to make
sure that disaster response teams move within this critical
window. It is also important that rapid response not happen
at the expense of existing programs—“borrowing” funding
may lead to the perverse outcome of lives lost in other areas
of the world due to a diversion of critical resources.
Q: Congress usually approves the president’s requests
for the IDFA account and also provides supplemen-
tal funding. Why does Congress need to approve more
funding for the IDFA account in the Foreign Operations
Appropriations bill? Isn’t approving the president’s re-
quested level and providing additional funding later in
the fiscal year enough?34567
A: No. Such a two-stage process is unwise, because the
uncertainty generated by the two-stage
appropriations process costs lives and
creates significant inefficiencies. OFDA’s
International Disaster Assistance (IDA/IDFA)
recent annual operating year budgets Year Request Regular Annual + Supps = Total Appropriated
Appropriation
have been around $500 million – a level
that is significantly above the president’s FY02 $200,000,000 $381,500,0003 $40,000,000 $421,500,000
yearly IDFA requests and congressional FY03 $235,500,000 4
$288,115,000 $143,800,000 5
$431,915,000
IDFA appropriations. As has been noted, FY04 $435,500,000 6
$253,993,000 $290,000,000 7
$543,993,000
a two-step appropriations process has
been highly disruptive to humanitarian FY05 $384,896,000 $367,040,000 $207,856,000 8
$574,896,000
programs in places like Sudan, Northern FY06 $355,500,000 9
$361,350,000 $217,630,000 10
$578,980,000
Uganda and Eastern Congo that are ad- FY07 $348,800,000 $361,350,000 $165,000,000 $526,350,000
dressing continuing emergencies. Unan-
FY08 $297,300,000 $319,739,000 $330,000,000 11
$649,739,000
ticipated emergencies such as the Paki-

2 Independent Evaluation Group. “Hazards ofNature, Risk to Development.” 8 $100,000,000 (Emergency Hurricane, 10/04, PL 108-324).
World Bank. October 18,2006. http://www.worldbank.org/ieg/naturaldi- + $17,856,000 (Sudan Emergency).
sasters/ + $90,000,000 (Tsunami & Wartime, 5/05, PL 109–13)
3 $235,500,000 9 Does not include Emergency Food Assistance request of $300,000,000
+ $146,000,000 Emergency Response Fund (ERF) – IDA. previously requested elsewhere (PL Title II).
4 Does not include extra $50,000,000 requested for humanitarian and re- 10 $56,330,000 (Avian Flu, 12/05, PL 109-148)
construction activities in Afghanistan after 9/11. + $161,300,000 (Wartime and Hurricane, 6/06, PL 109-234).
5 Emergency Wartime, 4/03, PL 108-11. 11 The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill (PL 110-161) included $110 mil-
6 $235,500,000 IDA + $200,000,000 famine fund. lion in emergency funding for the IDA account. This emergency funding
7 $220,000,000 (Iraq/Afghanistan, 11/03, PL 108-106) + $70,000,000 (De- was not included in the base funding level used in the FY09 Continuing
fense approps, 8/04, PL 108-287). Resolution.
Refugee Assistance (MRA & ERMA)
Year Request Regular Annual + Supps = Total Appropriated
Appropriation
FY02 $730,000,000 $820,556,00012 $820,556,000
FY03 $720,565,000 $807,716,000 $80,000,000 13
$887,716,000
FY04 $800,197,000 $785,472,000 $25,000,000 14
$810,472,000
FY05 $749,789,000 $793,600,000 $120,400,000 15
$914,000,000
FY06 $932,770,000 $812,790,000 $75,700,000 16
$888,490,000
FY07 $888,000,000 $887,900,000 $130,500,000 $963,400,000
FY08 $828,500,000 $867,814,000 $546,000,00017 $1,413,814,000

Food Aid (P.L. 480 Title II)
Year Request Regular Annual + Supps = Total Appropriated
Appropriation
FY02 $835,000,000 $945,000,000 $13,820,00018 $958,820,000
FY03 $1,185,000,000 $1,440,575,000 $369,000,000 19
$1,809,575,000
FY04 $1,185,000,000 $1,184,967,000 $0 $1,184,967,000
FY05 $1,185,000,000 $1,173,041,000 $240,000,000 20
$1,413,041,000
FY06 $885,000,000 $1,138,500,000 $350,000,000 21
$1,488,500,000
FY07 $1,218,500,000 $1,214,711,000 $450,000,000 $1,664,711,000
FY08 $1,219,400,000 $1,219,400,000 $850,000,000 $2,069,400,000

12 $705,556,000 MRA (1/02, PL 107-115) + $15,000,000 ERMA (1/02, PL 107- lion in emergency funding for the MRA account. This emergency funding
115) + $100,000,000 Emergency Response Fund-MRA. was not included in the base funding level used in the FY09 Continuing
13 ERMA (4/03, PL 108-11). Resolution.
14 Emergency Supplemental-Darfur humanitarian crisis (8/04, PL 108-287), 18 FY 2002 Supplemental-Title II (8/02, PL 107-206: Title I, sec. 104(b)).
MRA. 19 Wartime Supplemental Title II. Includes $69,000,000 under the Emerson
15 Emergency Supplemental (5/05, PL 109-13), MRA. Trust Fund (4/03, PL 108-11).
16 Emergency Supplemental, (6/06, PL 109-234), MRA. 20 2005 Wartime & Tsunami Supplemental (5/05, PL 109-13).
17 The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill (PL 110-161) included $200 mil- 21 FY 2006 Global War On Terror Supplemental Title I (6/15/06, PL 109-234).
POLICY November 2008

BRIEF

InterAction Public Policy Working Group
Organization URL
Academy for Educational Development www.aed.org
Action Against Hunger www.actionagainsthunger.org
Action Aid www.actionaid.org
Adventist Development and Relief Agency www.adra.org
International
Africare www.africare.org
Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. www.akdn.org
Air Serv International www.airserv.org
American Friends Service Committee www.afsc.org
American Jewish World Service www.ajws.org
American Red Cross www.redcross.org
American Refugee Committee www.archq.org
AmeriCares www.americares.org
Bread for the World www.bread.org
CARE www.care.org
Catholic Medical Mission Board www.cmmb.org
Catholic Relief Services www.crs.org
Center for Health and Gender Equity, Inc www.genderhealth.org
Centre for Development & Population Activities www.cedpa.org
(CEDPA)
CHF International www.chfinternational.org
Child Health Foundation (CHF) www.childhealthfoundation.org
Christian Children’s Fund www.christianchildrensfund.org
Church World Service www.churchworldservice.org
Concern Worldwide www.concernusa.org
Congressional Hunger Center www.hungercenter.org
Counterpart International www.counterpart.org
Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc www.ecdcinternational.org
Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the www.favaca.org/
Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA)
Food for the Hungry www.fh.org
Friends of the World Food Program www.friendsofwfp.org
Global Health Council www.globalhealth.org
Habitat for Humanity International www.habitat.org
Heartland Alliance www.heartlandalliance.org
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society www.hias.org
Heifer International www.heifer.org
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Suite 210
InsideNGO www.InsideNGO.org
Washington, DC 20036 Institute for Sustainable Communities www.iscvt.org
202-667-8227 Interplast www.interplast.org
reform@interaction.org Int’l Catholic Migration Commission www.icmc.net
Int’l Center for Research on Women www.icrw.org
Int’l Crisis Group www.crisisweb.org
www.interaction.org International Medical Corps www.imcworldwide.org
InterAction Public Policy Working Group (cont)

Organization URL

Int’l Orthodox Christian Charities www.iocc.org
Int’l Reading Association www.reading.org
International Relief & Development www.ird.org
International Rescue Committee www.theirc.org
Jesuit Refugee Services USA www.jrsusa.org
Joint Aid Management www.jamusa.org
Life for Relief and Development www.lifeusa.org
Lutheran World Relief www.lwr.org
Management Sciences for Health www.msh.org
MAP International www.map.org
Medical Teams International www.medicalteams.org
Mental Disability Rights International www.mdri.org
Mercy Corps www.mercycorps.org
Minnesota International Health Volunteers www.mihv.org
National Peace Corps Association www.rpcv.org
ONE Campaign www.one.org/
Opportunity International www.opportunity.org
Oxfam America www.oxfamamerica.org
Pact www.pactworld.org
Pan American Development Foundation www.padf.org
PATH www.path.org
Pathfinder International www.pathfind.org
Physicians for Human Rights www.phrusa.org
Plan USA www.planusa.org
Population Action International www.populationaction.org
Project HOPE www.projecthope.org
ProLiteracy Worldwide www.proliteracy.org
Refugees International www.refugeesinternational.org
Relief International www.ri.org
RESULTS, Inc. www.results.org
Save the Children www.savethechildren.org
The Hunger Project www.thp.org
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) www.refugees.org
U.S. Committee for UNDP www.undp-usa.org
U.S. Fund for UNICEF www.unicefusa.org
Winrock International www.winrock.org
Women for Women International www.womenforwomen.org
Women Thrive Worldwide www.womenthrive.org
World Vision www.worldvision.org
World Wildlife Fund www.worldwildlife.org