The UN will spend in excess of $8bn on its peacekeeping missions this year, an increase of 17% on 2015. The overall budget is equivalent to 1.4% of US defence spending. The US was able to spend the equivalent of the entire peacekeeping budget on 34 F35 strike fighters. There are more than 100,000 peacekeepers wearing the blue helmet in 16 missions across the world, from Kosovo in eastern Europe to western Sahara in north Africa.
The budget for all medical care for the missions in 2016 stands at a little over $47m. To put that in context, a little known project known as “enterprise resource planning project” is budgeted for $31m this year, the equivalent of two-thirds of the medical budget. The project’s stated aim to “streamline administrative practices and boost efficiency throughout the organisation”. Medics in peacekeeping missions have long found themselves overstretched and underfunded. A 2009 audit of the UNmil mission in Liberia (UNmil) found inadequate training, no standard operating procedures, and lack of quality drugs being provided. Audits in 2009 and 2011 of the Ivory Coast mission (ONUCI) also found a lack of basic training. More recently, a report by the International Peace Institute entitled Healing or Harming? United Nations Peacekeeping and Health noted there was a problem “of peacekeepers providing healthcare to the local population in situations where the quality of medical care provided to the mission’s own personnel is not always in accordance with WHO guidelines”.