Western slowdown squeezes funds for NGOs

The debt crisis in Europe and slowdown in the US have created ripples in the remotest of Indian towns and villages.

Kolkata: The debt crisis in Europe and slowdown in the US have created ripples in the remotest of Indian towns and villages, with NGOs feeling the pinch due to cutbacks of 20-40 percent by Western donors. Many small NGOs are facing a viability problem with their coffers drying up. Some have had to shut down their projects.

According to Child In Need Institute (CINI), a Kolkata-headquartered NGO which runs projects in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, funds from foreign countries to organisations like it in India have been cut by 20 percent and upwards.

"Foreign funding to NGOs has been reduced dramatically. It has become very tough for us. Many small organisations operating in the poorest areas of the country are facing acute viability problems," CINI`s additional director Rajib Halder said.

Halder said funds from Europe to the institute, which is a recipient of international development organisations like Unicef, CARE, Save the Children and Britain`s Department for International Development (DFID) have been trimmed down by about 20 percent compared to last year.

"European countries are saying that unemployment there is rising alarmingly; so why do we fund India instead of supporting our own NGOs?" he said.

He, however, said CINI has emphasised on domestic funding following the reduction of foreign funds which started from 2008-09.

The institution, which had got a grant of USD 40,000 (Rs 20 lakh) from the World Bank in 2009, also receives support from Central and state governments.

But the problem is acute for many relatively small NGOs, for which government funds are very irregular.

Delhi-based Prayas, mainly engaged in imparting free education to poor children and working women, is going through a tough time following the slowdown.

"The economic crisis in the US and the EU has directly affected us. This year, the funds we got from these countries are very limited. This is badly affecting our projects," the NGO`s general secretary Amod Kanth said.

Kanth, a former special commissioner of Delhi Police, founded the NGO in 1988. Today it runs projects in eight states.

Sanlaap, which works in the area of women`s rights, combating human trafficking and forced prostitution, said it has had to close some of its child protection units in different districts of West Bengal as foreign donors have cut 40 percent of their funds.

"We have been suffering due to dearth of funds since the global financial crisis of 2008. This time the problem has become more challenging as many foreign donors have been withdrawing funds," said Tapati Bhowmick, senior programme coordinator of Sanlaap.

She also alleged that government funds for the organisation`s different projects were irregular. "Ultimately, it is poor children who are being affected," said a worried Bhowmick.

"The government should come forward to support us. Why do we have to depend on foreign funds?" she added.

Madhu Basu, founder secretary of Economic Rural Development Society (ERDS), said: "We are not getting funds from the US and European countries. Foreign donors have reduced their funds by about 50 percent compared to last year."

ERDS has been working for sustainable development of villages in some of the backward districts of West Bengal since 1982.

Basu said the organisation`s initiatives on the elderly have been badly hit after global NGO HelpAge withdrew its funds.

He said some of their traditional US-based donors too have pulled out.

"Due to this, projects on youth education and child trafficking are also being affected," he added.