Without immediate access to funding, response operations can be delayed in humanitarian emergencies. Unfortunately, the normal grant proposal process is not conducive to the urgency of these situations. To address this shortcoming, the United Nations (UN) has revamped the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a funding mechanism (either a loan or a grant) to expedite funding in crisis situations and facilitate a rapid humanitarian response.

Like a reserve account available for emergencies, the CERF enables agencies to rapidly respond to disasters or persistent humanitarian crises or to address critical needs for under-funded crises. In Haiti, CERF funds made it possible to speed up critical, time-sensitive projects to safeguard health and save lives prior to hurricane season, when flooding is commonplace. CERF funds were used to protect at-risk populations in two vulnerable areas by constructing 13,000 linear meters of dry rock walls on flood-prone ravines. Completed just in time, these new rock walls staved off the usual flooding that has so often devastated these communities during the rainy season.

The emergency funds also were used to reduce health risks to the population in Cité Soleil by cleaning a major drainage canal that crosses through the city and providing drinking water. Some 70,000 residents living along the canal benefited from this project, which helped contain the spread of disease caused by stagnant water and the proliferation of vectors. When time is of the essence, pre-designated funds help to ensure that response operations happen when they are needed most – immediately.  To read more about the CERF fund, visit http://ochaonline.un.org and click on the link to CERF.