Disasters don’t harm everyone equally, but disaster response can be more equitable. Supporting overlooked crises and communities is a start.
The past few years have fundamentally changed how many of us live and engage with our communities. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals, nonprofits, governments, and corporations gave in radical ways and came together like never before to support one another. We should celebrate this.
However, systemic inequities—including in access to funding—continued throughout the pandemic and until today.
Recognizing this pattern is especially important as disasters increase in frequency and severity. Recovery from disasters, including pandemics, isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. It’s highly unequal, with the most vulnerable people and communities bearing the brunt of long-term consequences.
That means giving thoughtfully to communities most affected and under-resourced is a moral imperative for making the world a better place. As more resources reach these communities, more equitable recovery is possible.
The private sector is recognized in moments of crisis for its ability to quickly mobilize resources and strengthen emergency preparedness and recovery. Your company can play a critical role in tipping the scales and giving where others do not, bringing relief to communities forgotten in the headlines.
But the question is: Who and what is underfunded in crisis response and recovery?
We hope this list serves as a helpful starting point and sparks new ideas for your future giving.
Funding for complex humanitarian emergencies remains a challenge. That includes war, famine, and other human-made social and political crises. The United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, estimates 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2022—31 million more people than in 2021. In monetary terms, this looks like $41 billion in philanthropic giving is required to meet people’s needs this year. Dedicating funding to protracted and complex humanitarian emergencies is even more critical now as COVID-19 adds to the challenges. Despite new variants and the secondary effects of COVID-19 like increased domestic violence, funding for pandemic response efforts and public health programs more broadly has slowed.
LGBTQIA+, BIPOC-Led, and Mutual Aid
Just as certain types of crises receive less funding, so do certain communities in crisis-impacted areas. That includes LGBTQIA+ and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-led groups. These communities are often disproportionately affected even before disasters strike because of their race, gender, and sexual identities. Nevertheless, they consistently receive less philanthropic funding. That is reflected in a report by Funders for LGBTQ Issues highlighting how Black LGBTQI+ communities received only 5% of all LGBTQ funding in the United States, thus representing less than .01% of all foundation funding in 2018.
In good news, a 2021 report suggests Indigenous groups received increased support and recognition during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with Indigenous people, people of color, and LBGTQI+ communities disproportionately affected before, during, and after disasters, future funding for these communities remains vital to support them through emergencies. That could include private funding to these groups via donations to mutual aid networks, a practice of solidarity and supportive collaboration found within BIPOC and queer communities for centuries and increasingly recognized during the pandemic.
Immigrant, Undocumented, and Refugee Led
In disaster giving, there is consistently less funding for refugee, immigrant, and undocumented communities. Government emergency funding—like that during Hurricane Ida—often excludes undocumented groups and those with diverse residential statuses. Inequitable funding for undocumented and immigrant communities during disasters is problematic because these communities are often critical responders during crises. For example, one in five essential workers in the US are immigrants, many of whom have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Corporate funding can make a huge difference in ensuring these communities receive equitable support during and after crises—support that matches the true importance of these community members.
Beyond overlooked communities and types of neglected crises, there are also areas of response and operations that are underfunded. One of these is mental health and psychosocial care. Funding for post-disaster mental health and trauma support is critical and impacts how communities build back after a crisis. That is because disasters—mostly unpredictable—leave communities in a state of shock. They lose familial bonds, property, and other tangibles that previously offered them security.
When we measure the impact of disasters by their social and economic damage, rather than the emotional suffering they cause, ensuring funding for post-disaster mental health care becomes difficult. That is highly problematic for disaster-prone communities that may experience repeated trauma from recurring disasters and disproportionately impacted BIPOC individuals, children, rural societies, and other populations that have less access to resources and frequently live with pre-existing trauma due to systemic inequity. Regardless of size or type, disasters can have a traumatic impact on survivors. And that trauma requires greater attention through programming and funding.
This non-exhaustive list of underserved disaster communities and response areas may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Although companies cannot tackle the world’s problems alone, their teams can play a critical role in addressing these inequities in times of disaster.
Private corporations and their philanthropic branches accounted for 14% ($4.1 billion) of total international humanitarian assistance provided by private donors between 2015 and 2019. From GlobalGiving’s data it is clear that between 2018 and 2021, the total amount corporate donors gave to disasters grew significantly.
Corporate giving enabled millions of dollars in emergency funds to reach community-led organizations at the front lines of disaster response in 2021. That is important because grants are often awarded to large international organizations. While they play an invaluable part in crisis response, local (and less visible) community-led organizations are critical partners in providing disaster relief and strengthening communities through recovery.
However, it is important to understand that the pandemic has shaped the spike in corporate disaster giving. Nearly 60% of recent corporate giving to disasters through GlobalGiving supported COVID-19 response efforts, far outpacing overall disaster giving in the past four years.
Although it represents substantially more funding to crises other than natural hazards in 2020, it doesn’t represent an increase in giving to humanitarian crises across the board, like the neglected crises in Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela. As much as 95% of recent corporate giving to support humanitarian crises was for COVID-19 relief efforts. While this makes sense considering the pandemic’s severity, it demonstrates how some areas of disaster response end up underfunded.
But the private sector can help ensure the most vulnerable communities are supported. Strategic, thoughtful, out-of-the-box giving must be the vision. And as the world grapples with more disasters, neglected crises and communities need your strategic giving now more than ever.
Learn how GlobalGiving can help your company support neglected crises and underfunded communities.
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