Africa Has a Huge Refugee Crisis, Too. This Mega Funder is on the Case

While the flood of migrants from the Middle East into Europe is getting lots of attention right now, sub-Saharan Africa is also dealing with various refugees crises related to various wars. One funder that's helping these refugees is the Gates Foundation.

People don't tend to think of this foundation as a big player in humanitarian relief, but that's a mistake. While responding to such crises is not a top foundation priority, it's quite active in this area. Given the size of Gates, even its relatively small areas of grantmaking can be substantial, as we often point out. Grantmaking in recent years has included some giving to deal with the huge Syrian refugee crisis, as well as making other humanitarian grants in the Middle East. 


Yet, given the Gates Foundation's investments in African global health and development, it shouldn't be surprising that it would single out refugee issues on this continent.

A case in point: the Gates Foundation recently awarded $1.5 million over two grants to address the needs of those who have been displaced by the ongoing conflicts in South Sudan, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.

International Medical Corps received a one-year, $800,000 grant to support its emergency response work involving displaced people in South Sudan, and Save the Children Federation received a one-year, $700,000 grant to advance its work addressing the needs of refugees living in Burundi, Tanzania, DRC, and Rwanda.

Both grants were awarded through the foundation’s Emergency Response issue area, which is a part of its larger Global Development program. Gates further breaks down its Emergency Response grants into the three categories of rapid onset, slow onset, and complex emergencies. Both rapid and slow onset grants are often reserved for sudden disasters such as typhoons and protracted droughts. Complex emergency grants are those that are earmarked for conflict and military action situations.

The foundation has an established history of providing funding to African countries that have endured years of conflict such as Sudan, DRC, and Darfur. Earlier this year, we reported on a Gates grant to help Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram.

Related: Here's One Funder That Hasn't Forgotten Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram

The human misery caused by the conflict in South Sudan has been especially acute lately, and many funders have taken a pass in helping out on this one. So Gates is especially important here, along with other funders willing to wade into an especially difficult situation, such as the IKEA Foundation. 

Related: Ikea Foundation Goes Where Other Funders Won't. This Time: Sudan

And although Gates has, indeed, been slow in its response to the ever-growing Syrian refugee crisis—to date, it’s given Mercy Corps nearly a half-million dollars toward its water and sanitation efforts related to the crisis—the foundation is definitely attuned to the plight of refugees and displaced people in Middle Eastern regions, as shown by its grantmaking related to Iraq and the Gaza Strip.

Clearly, the Gates Foundation isn’t afraid to jump in to help the people of some most politically polarized regions of the world. Since 1999, Gates has dedicated around 25 percent of its emergency response funding to various conflict crises around the world.