Downturn to Cost Billions in Aid to World's Poor
In South Asia, the mood is calmer, partly because most countries are less reliant on international donors than in Africa, where aid makes up close to half some national budgets.
Agencies in India told Reuters they had secured resources for the coming year but were cautious.
"It is important to ring those alarm bells of concern at this time because across South Asia there are people who are already teetering on the edge and a sustained wound to the head would be fatal," said Sarah Crowe, regional head of communications for the U.N. Children's Fund.
The World Bank has warned that almost 40 percent of 107 developing countries are highly exposed to the effects of the credit crunch and up to 53 million more people are being trapped in poverty as economic growth falters.
The British-based agency Oxfam points out that a fall in remittances from migrant workers will have a huge effect in countries such as Bangladesh, where one family in every village is dependent on them.
Experts say it is hard to predict how far the global downturn will cut into aid budgets. Italy has halved its 2009 assistance and Ireland has cut 17 percent from its overseas aid in three reductions since July.
"We realise that the government finds itself in extremely difficult circumstances with tough choices to make, but it is shocking that the option taken has hit at the poorest and most vulnerable," said Tom Arnold, chief executive of Dublin-based agency Concern Worldwide.
Aid contributions from European Union countries, which had been expected to top $92 billion in 2010, could be $15 billion to $25 billion less because of currency weakness and lower growth, according to Nick Highton of the London-based think-tank Overseas Development Institute.
"Just when poor countries are most going to need it is when rich countries draw in their horns," he said.