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July 12, 2023

A threat to lives, dignity and hope: UNHCR's most underfunded programs in 2023

For more than 70 years, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has played a vital role in providing protection, assistance and solutions to millions of forcibly displaced and stateless individuals worldwide. However, in 2023, the organization is facing a significant challenge due to underfunding — exacerbating the already dire circumstances faced by forcibly displaced and stateless people and increasing the burden placed on host countries and communities.

In 2023, only 32 percent of UNHCR’s global budget has been covered, compared to 58 percent in 2022. Based on current trends, UNHCR projects it will receive $1 billion less in 2023 compared to 2022, and will be forced to reduce or cut critical programming. This will affect every part of UNHCR’s work to respond to, protect and empower forcibly displaced people. 

Of particular concern are UNHCR’s 13 underfunded activities, where cuts in assistance could prove to be catastrophic. Learn more about three of UNHCR’s 2023 underfunded activities and how your generosity can make a difference.


Needs: $122 million
Funded: 33%

Despite efforts to establish a path to peace after 60 years of armed conflict in the country, Colombia continues to grapple with multiple forced displacement crises. As Colombia strives to welcome and include millions of Venezuelans who have fled their country and cannot return home, conflict and armed violence persist in some regions, causing the displacement of more than 900,000 Colombians since the signing of the country’s Peace Agreement in 2016.

Indigenous, rural and Afro-Colombian communities are most susceptible to forced displacement — often being confined to areas controlled by armed groups. Despite Colombia's strong protection and legal framework, more than 6.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) still require assistance.

Working effectively with the government to improve the response to internal displacement, UNHCR will need to sustain its presence in field locations in 2023 in order to bolster coordinated efforts to monitor and quickly respond to displacement needs.

Additional funding is urgently required to help communities to identify and address risks and take action with authorities to provide long-term solutions for displaced populations. The operation requires at least $70.53 million to provide crucial aid like cash assistance and protection to IDPs and asylees. This funding will also help with solutions such as legalizing informal settlements, and return and relocation processes.


Needs: $320 million
Funded: 24%

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has led to severe economic and developmental setbacks, resulting in 21.6 million people requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. Within the country, more than 4.5 million individuals have been internally displaced, while 90,700 people, primarily from Somalia and Ethiopia, are registered as refugees and asylum-seekers.

Despite some progress in refugee assistance programs, UNHCR still faces challenges in providing comprehensive assistance to refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs and returnees due to limited funding, bureaucratic obstacles, shrinking humanitarian space and restricted access.

In 2023, UNHCR funds available for operations in Yemen must reach or exceed the 2021 level of $176.38 million in order to ensure that displaced communities receive vital necessities like cash assistance.


Needs: $414 million
Funded: 21%

Since conflict erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, more than 1.4 million people have been displaced within the country. An additional 460,000 individuals have fled to neighboring countries like Egypt, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Ethiopia — including the more than 100,000 refugees who have returned to South Sudan.

Despite the large number of people affected by the conflict, the funding provided to UNHCR has not been enough to match the scale of the displacement. As of June, UNHCR has only $13.7 million available — which is just 5 percent of the estimated $277.4 million needed to respond to the emergency.

The current displacement crisis adds another layer of complexity to an already challenging situation. Sudan already hosts approximately 15 million refugees, asylum-seekers and IDPs – or around 14 percent of the total population UNHCR cares for globally – even prior to the current crisis.

UNHCR's regular programs in the country were already underfunded prior to the emergency, further exacerbating the situation and impeding its ability to respond to the needs of both existing and newly displaced populations.

In 2023, funds available for operations in Sudan must reach 2021 levels of $169.93 million, if not more, to continue providing vital support to refugees and other displaced individuals. This support includes essentials such as shelter, household items, clean water, sanitation services, healthcare and educational resources.

How you can help…

Refugees and other displaced people are being pushed to their stretching point. Between rising prices, ongoing conflicts, climate emergencies and shrinking levels of lifesaving assistance, even more people are being forced to make the difficult decision to flee their homes.

With a projected $1 billion decrease in funding, UNHCR will have to make impossible decisions with dire consequences. Your generous support today can make a lifesaving difference for millions of refugees and displaced people living in vulnerable conditions.