Migration & Refugee Assistance
FY2016 Funding Recommendation:
President's FY2016 Request
InterAction's FY2016 Recommendation
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that the number of forcibly-displaced people is the highest since the post-World War II era: 51.2 million people, including 16.7 million refugees. The MRA account helps meet the needs of refugees and other displaced people, whose survival depends heavily on the international humanitarian system. This account is also critical in assisting the estimated 6.3 million refugees living in protracted crisis situations, and in supporting innovative, long-term, sustainable policies that can reduce the costs of responding to emergencies.
Armed conflicts in countries around the world have forced people to flee across borders at a faster rate than ever before. An increasingly large number of refugees are fleeing the violence in Syria, straining the resources of neighboring countries and threatening to further destabilize a volatile region. This is in addition to the millions of refugees around the world caught in crises that have received less attention, such as Mali, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where people still need support until they can start new lives.
Most refugees live in precarious conditions and often lack access to the most basic elements of survival: health care, safe shelter, clean water, and education. Refugees often cannot safely return home, and 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries with little capacity to support them. U.S. investment helps stabilize host nations and demonstrates our support for their efforts to shelter and provide for the most vulnerable.
The recommended funding level of $3.3 billion would allow for an appropriate response to the Syria crisis, provide for the needs of South Sudanese refugees, and advance the protection of women and girls, internally displaced persons, victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and stateless persons.
Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)
Over the past four fiscal years, Congress has provided Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds to increase the level of funding for the primary accounts used to respond to international conflicts and disasters: International Disaster Assistance (IDA) and Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA). OCO was created to house temporary spending related to operations and programs in "frontline" states. In recent years, humanitarian funds from OCO have totaled nearly half of the overall available resources for MRA (42%) and IDA (51% in FY14). In FY15, OCO totaled 70% of both the IDA and MRA budgets.
These funds are critical to allow the U.S. to respond to humanitarian crises. However, InterAction and our members are concerned that so much spending in a temporary account puts humanitarian funding levels at risk as OCO funds decrease over time. Furthermore, we know that for many of the major humanitarian crises occurring around the world, such as Syria, there is no clear resolution in sight.
The Administration should work with Congress to incrementally move OCO humanitarian funding into the base IDA and MRA budgets. Doing so would reflect the true spending levels the U.S. has committed over the past several fiscal years to humanitarian response, and ensure that a major humanitarian funding shortfall won't arise should OCO funds be eliminated in future budget years.
Helping mothers in Pakistan
For over three decades, Pakistan has witnessed the largest protracted refugee crisis in the world. The country currently hosts approximately 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees. The possibility of returning to Afghanistan for many refugees is tenuous at best, with the constantly shifting security situation, lack of employment opportunities and limited basic social services in Afghanistan.
In Pakistan’s isolated Balochistan province, refugees often struggle to access health services, especially those relating to maternal and child health. The maternal mortality ratio is 785 per 100,000 live births, which is well above the national average of 276 per 100,000 live births, in large part due to a lack of skilled birth attendants, as most deliveries take place at home.
Mercy Corps has been working with Afghan refugees in Balochistan since 1986. With the support of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and funding from the Migration and Refugee Assistance account, Mercy Corps has been implementing a program in the Quetta district of Balochistan since 2005 to help current and future mothers get the medical care they need. Last year, the program created seven family health centers, each with an in-house family health counselor and four birthing stations that are available to women 24/7. The centers also provide additional family health services that were previously unavailable to the refugee population. Since the centers opened in 2012, thousands of women have had the opportunity to give birth safely, and over 100,000 Afghan refugees have been given access to life-saving healthcare.
Additionally, the program provides competency-based clinical training for young women to become Community Midwives (CMWs) and establish home-based workstations, providing skilled local care for pregnant and new mothers. The CMW model has been expanded throughout Balochistan with the support of USAID.
Photo Credit: Jarrett Basedow, Mercy Corps