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Global Humanitarian Overview 2020
by UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, agencies
3:18pm 27th Nov, 2019
A record 168 million people worldwide will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2020. Protracted conflicts, extreme weather events and crumbling economies have pushed millions to the brink of survival.
The United Nations in collaboration with hundreds of non-governmental humanitarian organizations today present the global overview of their plans to assist 109 million of the most vulnerable people caught up in humanitarian crises worldwide.
One in every 45 people on the planet are in need of food, shelter, health care, emergency education, protection or other basic assistance. The global humanitarian community stands ready to help and counts on the international community''s continued generosity to help them save more lives and alleviate human suffering in crises spanning 53 countries from Afghanistan to Zambia.
"Every day, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners deliver lifesaving aid to millions of people worldwide," Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message to donors. "I urge you to help us meet the humanitarian challenges that lie ahead in 2020".
Comparable figures show that the number of people in need globally has increased by some 22 million over the past year. The main drivers of need are protracted and highly violent conflicts, extreme weather events associated with climate change and under-performing economies.
The plans set out in the Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO 2020) aim to reach 109 million vulnerable people with aid and protection. The combined requirements are nearly US$29 billion.
"The brutal truth is 2020 will be difficult for millions of people. The good news is that the humanitarian response is getting better and faster in reaching the most vulnerable, including women, children and people with disabilities," Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said, launching the Global Humanitarian Overview in Geneva.
"In humanitarian crises, I continue to be amazed by people''s determination to rebuild their lives, and encouraged by their hope for a better future.
"Today we have laid out a plan to help those who need it most. But it will only work if everyone continues to play their part. Climate change, conflict and economic instability are devastating millions of lives. Together we must stand up, face facts, and fight back."
International donors have provided funds to the inter-agency appeals, but the needs continue to outstrip the funding.
In 2019, more people than forecasted needed humanitarian assistance, mostly because of conflicts and natural disasters.
Donors generously provided a $16 billion for inter-agency appeals between January and November 2019. Aid groups reached 64 per cent of the people targeted to receive aid through Humanitarian Response Plans in 22 of the countries for which data were available.
Recent trends and challenges
In 2019, many more people needed humanitarian assistance than we had forecast, largely because of conflicts and extreme climate events. Donors provided a record $16 billion for inter-agency appeals between January and November 2019.
Compliance with international law is declining. Armed conflicts are killing and maiming a record number of children, forcing them to flee their homes. They are becoming a lost generation. Women and girls are at higher risk of sexual and gender-based violence. One in five people living in conflict areas has a mental health condition.
Highly violent conflicts are causing widespread hunger, displacement, death and destruction around the world. They are taking a heavy toll on civilians, who account for 90 per cent of the casualties when explosive weapons are used in populated areas.
There were 791 attacks against health workers and health-care facilities in the first nine months of 2019, resulting in at least 171 deaths. In 2018, 131 aid workers were killed and 130 were kidnapped in 400 attacks. Attacks against health and aid workers are putting millions of people at risk by denying them care and aid.
Emerging trends and risks
Climate change is increasing people’s vulnerability to humanitarian crises. The world’s eight worst food crises are all linked to both conflict and climate shocks.
Infectious diseases are becoming more prevalent and harder to control, because of conflict, weak health systems, poor water and sanitation, and lack of access to vaccinations.
In 2019, 33 low-income countries were in, or at risk of, debt distress. Of these, 12 countries with humanitarian appeals are home to 40 per cent of the people in need of humanitarian assistance. A global economic slowdown could further increase vulnerability in countries already experiencing economic stress and debt problems.
Humanitarian needs and requirements
In 2020, nearly 168 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This represents one in about 45 people in the world, and is the highest figure in decades. The United Nations and partner organizations aim to assist nearly 109 million of the most vulnerable people. This will require funding of $28.8 billion.
The situation will keep getting worse unless climate change and the root causes of conflict are better addressed. On current trends, projections show that more than 200 million people could be in need of assistance by 2022.
The humanitarian system is more effective better prioritized, more innovative and more inclusive than ever. In the first nine months of 2019, humanitarian organizations reached 64 per cent of people targeted to receive aid through Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs).
Globally, at the start of 2019 some 821 million people were undernourished, including 113 million who suffered from acute hunger. Conflict is the key driver of hunger. By the beginning of 2019, armed conflicts and persecution had driven a record number of nearly 71 million people from their homes.
Regional and country overview
Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the number of people in need is expected to remain close to 2019 levels of 24 million, almost 80 per cent of the population. The humanitarian response in Yemen is also the world’s largest, despite huge challenges.
The conflict in Syria continues to drive the world’s largest refugee crisis, with 5.6 million refugees in the region. In addition, more than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced.
Humanitarian needs will also remain exceptionally high in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan.
In Sudan, a deepening economic crisis has significantly increased food insecurity and weakened essential services, including health, water and education. The new civilian authorities need more international support.
In the Sahel, displacement has dramatically increased, and hunger has reached critical levels. In the Lake Chad Basin, the humanitarian crisis shows no signs of abating as it enters its seventh year.
The needs have also grown significantly in several other countries, including Afghanistan, where almost one quarter of the population is likely to need humanitarian assistance following years of violent conflict, as well as severe drought.
In Venezuela, a deepening economic crisis has led to a severe reduction in the income of many households and a sharp deterioration in water, power and health services, prompting many to leave.
A deepening political and socioeconomic crisis has also significantly increased needs in Haiti, with 4.2 million people expected to be food insecure by March 2020.
Note to Editors:
The Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) 2020 launched on 4 December 2019 is an authoritative and evidence-based assessment of world humanitarian needs.
The Global Humanitarian Overview 2020 is based on Humanitarian Response Plans in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.
Other types of inter-agency plans are included for Bangladesh, DPR Korea and Venezuela/Regional. The GHO also includes Regional Refugee Response Plans for Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria.
* Access the report:
# Note: Total world military expenditure rose to US$1822 billion in 2018, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

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