Last Updated 15th August 2022. The next update to the Index is expected in July 2023.

The Underfunded Crisis Index is a way to measure and compare the underfunding of humanitarian crises. It can help us to understand which crises are underfunded compared to how much funding they require to meet needs, and therefore help to advocate for more funding to the often neglected crises.

This index exclusively focuses on funding as we believe there is value in just looking at the numbers alone. However, there are other frameworks that include more factors and give a more comprehensive look at “forgotten crises”, which are also useful.

For more details on methodology see the Sources and Methodology section below. The key details you should know are: we are looking at crises that (a) have an active appeal this year (so that the index is relevant to today), and (b) have had at least three consecutive years of interagency appeals (so that we have a longer term view to account for any short term fluctutations).

Therefore, this will not tell you about funding today, or even in the last year or two. This will tell you about contexts that have been consistently underfunded over time.

Underfunding is then defined by how much funding has been received vs. how much funding was needed in the last five years.

Which humanitarian crises are underfunded?

30 contexts appear in the 2022 Underfunded Crisis Index. No contexts drop out of the index, and three contexts come into the index this year. These include two responses related to Venezuela – the country response enters at 4th most underfunded, and the regional response at 10th most underfunded.

Mozambique also joins the index as ‘moderately’ underfunded, after three years of different types of appeals (albeit with different focus – natural disaster and conflict).

The poor performance of regional refugee plans in Africa: 3 out of the top 5 most underfunded crises are regional refugee response plans. It is noticeable that these three regional plans, DR Congo, Burundi, and South Sudan, are are all in Africa (compared to regional plans in Venezuela and Syria). These three responses were also in the top 5 last year, and DR Congo and Burundi also receive a small amount of funding generally.

Good performance of Middle Eastern contexts vs. poor performance of African contexts: 7 out of the top 10 contexts that are underfunded are in Africa. Compare this to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the regional Syria response which have been minimally underfunded.

The distribution of underfunding is huge: there is huge inequity in the humanitarian world. Whilst assistance should be delivered according to needs, it seems that some needs count less when we pick up the bill. Less than $5 in every $20 needed has been delivered to the Regional DR Congo response plans. Yet nearly $19 in every $20 needed has been delivered to Afghanistan response plans.

2021 Index

We’ve published an updated 2021 Underfunded Crisis Index. The original index was published in a story last year. However, the index has been updated here to include more comprehensive data, particularly from the Refugee Funding Tracker which has more data regarding regional refugee response plans.

Sources and Methodology

In 2021, we published a one-off story that examined which humanitarian crises are the most underfunded. We’ve decided to update this information on a yearly basis here.

Classification

Our classification of underfunding is as follows:

  • Minimal underfunding: 80% or higher
  • Moderate underfunding: between 50% and 80%
  • Severe underfunding: between 40% and 50%
  • Chronic underfunding: 40% or under

Data Sources

Data for the index comes from two sources. In the first instance, data comes from OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS) which is the most comprehensive source of humanitarian funding data in regards to specific response plans. This is then complemented by using UNHCR’s Refugee Funding Tracker (RFT) which has more data on regional refugee response plans.

Methodology

Step 1: filter for contexts that are eligible for the index. Only contexts with an active appeal this year, according to FTS and/or the RFT, are eligible. Contexts that have not had an active response plan in the three preceding years are removed from the list.

Step 2: add up funding received and funding required over the past five years. Quite a simple step really. This is what we mean by ‘cumulative’ in the table. It’s just the sum of the past five years. Therefore, the ‘cumulative funding requirement met’ is: all funding received in the last five years divided by all funding required in the last five years. We’ve chosen this method as it measures all funding and all needs.

We also looked at whether to base the index on underfunding by appeal, in which case doing an average across the years made sense (e.g. if a context got 88%, 81%, 78%, 76%, and 50% of what they asked for in each yearly appeal in the last five years, that would equal an average of 75%).

However, in reality there’s not much difference between the two as noted in the original story, and underfunding by appeal would make all appeals equal in a sense. For example, if a context got 90% of $100m and then 10% of $1bn, the average of the percentages would be 50%, but if we look at the total (i.e. all funding and all needs), then it would be only 17% funded.

Therefore, given that there’s not much difference between the two, and ‘underfunding by appeal’ could be prone to this type of error, we’ve chosen to look at all funding received and required instead.

Step 3: sort by rank and voilà, we have an index!

Other useful frameworks

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has a special Underfunded Emergency Allocation that takes into account funding levels, as well as needs, risks, vulnerability, and the recommendations and consultations of colleagues. ECHO have also created a framework called the Forgotten Crises Assessment, or FCA. Similar to CERF, the framework is multi-dimensional, and takes into account media coverage, vulnerability, and a qualitative assessment.