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We need to do everything possible to save lives
by UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, agencies
UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, agencies
10:07am 6th Jan, 2024
Launch of the Global Humanitarian Overview 2024. Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator (Extract):
As enter 2024, almost 300 million people around the world are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection – 300 million people.
And we know the causes. New and resurgent conflicts around the world with deep and long-lasting consequences, almost none of which are resolved and become what we call intractable.
This year, we have seen the eruption of yet more brutal conflicts. In Sudan in April and, in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in October, joining the myriad other unresolved conflicts that have kept millions of people in the state of prolonged need. A year ago Ukraine, Syria, Yemen to name only a few.
The global climate emergency has continued to spiral out of control. 2023 has been the hottest year on record. We have seen multiple concurrent climate disasters, from Tropical Cyclone Freddy in southern Africa to wildfires in Europe, and the other devastation wrought by storm Daniel in Libya. And we were lucky to escape famine in the Horn of Africa. More children are now are displaced by climate than by conflict.
Persistent unequal economic pressures, climate disasters, disease outbreaks and other factors are significant drivers of need. Across the world more people are displaced than at any time since the beginning of this century: One in every 73 people around the world, a ratio that has been doubled in more than 10 years.
Nearly one in five children around the world is either living in or fleeing from conflict. 258 million people are facing acute food insecurity or worse. Disease outbreaks continue to cause significant loss of life, with deadly cholera outbreaks in 29 countries. In Sudan, fueled by a overstretched health system, with shortages of vaccines and lack of access to clean water and sanitation.
In the face of such immense challenges, the humanitarian community, has continued to provide some form of assistance this year to 128 million people worldwide – a heroic effort thanks to the generosity of many people. These efforts save lives. They make a decisive difference in many crises.
Across the humanitarian community, we continued our efforts to make humanitarian action more efficient, more effective and accountable to those we serve. We are aim to empower more affected people and to devolve more direction and decision making to the local level. More than ever, it’s time to put those affected by crisis at the center of our decision making.
But these efforts have taken place against the backdrop of a severe and ominous funding crisis. In 2023, we have so far received just over one third of the $57 billion required, making this the worst funding shortfall in years.
The result is that many people, around 38 percent of those targeted through our emergency-specific plans in countries, did not get the humanitarian assistance we sought to provide. Throughout the year, humanitarian agencies had to make painful decisions, including cutting life-saving food, water and health programming.
The World Food Programme reports that for every one per cent cut in funding - 400,000 more people fall into serious food insecurity. And we would like to hope, to not continue this trend into next year.
In preparing the Global Humanitarian Overview for 2024, we have worked hard with robust, evidence-based appeals anchored in the most comprehensive analysis of needs, with an even more disciplined focus on the most urgent life-saving needs as the overwhelming priority.
On behalf of more than 1,900 humanitarian partners around the world we assess we require $46 billion to assist 181 million people in 72 countries in the most urgent humanitarian need in 2024.
We are also issuing a wider call to action. Humanitarian assistance cannot be the entire solution – everyone needs to be part of this process. It is time to redouble our efforts to look at the root causes of humanitarian need: Conflict, climate change and economic dynamics. It is time to look at ways to back durable solutions.
We are facing an increasingly multipolar, fragmented, competitive and unstable world. It’s a world in which we’re seeing the multiplication of State and non-State actors, with 175 million people, now believed to be living under the control of armed groups.
It’s a world that is increasingly globalized, increasingly interconnected, in which a crisis in one place affects millions of people in other places and provides challenges to multilateral action and stability.
In these challenging times, more vigorous diplomatic action is required in support of swift humanitarian response. We need to engage with all parts of international communities to reach the people in communities whose lives have been so quickly turned upside down.
Just look at Sudan. At how the humanitarian situation is so badly unravelling, in the context of so little diplomatic progress.
If we are to overcome increasingly complex challenges to humanitarian action, which we will see in 2024 – it’s all of us, who need to come together to play our part. The most important role the international community can play in crises is to do everything possible to save lives, to reconfirm that we are, at our core, one humanity.
Remarks by Joyce Msuya, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator:
The world is in the midst of one of the largest humanitarian crises of the modern era, with the devastation wrought by conflict, climate change and economic hardship fuelling unprecedented levels of suffering.
Nearly one out of every five children is either living in conflict or fleeing from it. The number of people suffering acute food shortages caused mainly by climate-related disasters has doubled in the space of a year. The displacement crisis is now worse than any we have seen this century.
And today’s conflicts are more intense than ever. In just two months, 17,000 civilians have reportedly been killed in Gaza, the majority of them women and children.
In the face of all of this, humanitarians around the world have continued to display astonishing levels of sacrifice, resolve and courage as they strive to reach people in their darkest hour.
This year, thanks to the generous contributions of donors, the humanitarian community helped 128 million people with some form of assistance. This is a sign that efforts to strengthen humanitarian action are working.
We are now more efficient, effective and accountable. We have devolved more power to frontline responders. And we’re getting better at anticipating threats so that people can prepare for disaster before it strikes. Yet despite these herculean efforts, millions were not reached.
Donor funding this year fell far short of needs. Indeed, 2023 will be the first year since the global recession that finance for humanitarian emergencies is lower than the previous year.
As a result, humanitarian agencies have had to make increasingly painful decisions, cutting life-saving food, water and health programming, with devastating results for so many.
In Afghanistan, a country in the grips of famine, we have had to cut food deliveries to 10 million people. In places like Myanmar and Haiti, we have had to stop the construction of emergency shelters, which left almost a million people without a place to live, exposed to extreme weather and natural disasters.
In Nigeria, we could only reach 2 per cent of women in urgent need of sexual and reproductive health services and gender-based violence prevention.
We cannot allow this trend to continue into next year. That’s why today – on behalf of more than 1,900 humanitarian partners, the majority of them local and national NGOs – we are urging donors to fully fund our appeal for US$46.4 billion.
This money will provide a lifeline to 181 million people in 72 countries – men, women and children whose lives have been shattered by war, climate change, economic hardship and other disasters.
Although the amount we’re asking for is less than last year, this does not mean the global humanitarian situation has improved. It means we have had to focus our efforts on the people who face the greatest threat to their lives.
Faced with cuts, we have had to get creative, working tirelessly to prepare robust, evidence-based appeals, anchored in in-depth analyses. Thanks to this work, we know exactly what needs to be done.
First, more support than ever will need to be channelled through local and national partners to ensure that humanitarian action is truly grounded in people’s priorities. In Mozambique, I met women going door to door to speak with survivors of the world’s most powerful cyclone. These women understood the needs on the ground and were able to respond with speed and flexibility to ever shifting priorities. We must do even more to empower groups like this.
Second, we need to step up efforts to prepare communities for disaster. Anticipatory action not only protects lives; it reduces the financial cost of humanitarian action, allowing us to do more with less.
Third, we must prioritize humanitarian diplomacy if we want to get life-saving aid into countries where armed groups and bureaucratic barriers have cut off tens of millions of people.
Having just returned from COP28, and before that from some of the countries worst hit by climate shocks in East and Southern Africa, I want to end with a word about the climate crisis.
As humanitarians working on the frontlines of the world’s disaster zones, we know the future that scientists warned us about has arrived. Our planet is now hotter than it has been for at least 12,000 years. Human activity has pushed the planet into a new age – an age of fire, heat, flood and drought unlike any humanity has faced.
This year we saw record-breaking heat supercharge natural disasters and extreme weather planet wide.
In Libya, flash floods killed at least 4,000 people, with thousands still missing, and displaced more than 40,000 people. In Canada, wildfires burned an area of forest roughly the size of Syria.
So far this year climate and weather-related disasters affected more than 44 million people, causing more than 18,000 deaths.
The climate crisis is also turbocharging the world’s existing humanitarian crises, plunging people already reeling from disaster into even greater depths of misery.
The humanitarian community is doing everything it can to respond. We are providing immediate, on-the-ground support to the world’s most marginalized and affected. We’re finding ways to support longer term resilience even as we provide life-saving assistance. And we’re delivering fast, effective assistance through our pooled funds to local organizations operating in the most fragile places.
But the pace and scale of change is rapidly outstripping our ability to respond, stretching an overburdened system to breaking point.
Our message is clear: there is no humanitarian solution to the climate crisis. Unless we address the root causes of this crisis by taking aggressive steps to mitigate climate change and build resilience, the humanitarian system will be overwhelmed.
We have been warned about what awaits us should we fail to act:
Within a little more than 20 years, more than 1.6 billion people could be exposed to severe and extreme drought. That’s four times today’s number. And the number of people living in ‘very high’ crisis risk countries will roughly triple.
Given this nightmare scenario, it is imperative that donors support resilience and climate adaptation alongside humanitarian relief. The money for the transition is clearly there. Last year G20 governments spent a record $1.4 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies.
This is 30 times more than what we need to fund this year’s humanitarian appeal. That fact alone should give us pause.
This year’s global humanitarian overview paints a picture of a world plagued by multiple, escalating, and interconnected crises. Among them a spiralling climate emergency that is adding more fuel to the fire.
Yet it also paints a picture of a humanitarian community that has grown more skilled, more efficient and faster at reaching people in their time of greatest need.
And so I would ask you for a moment to imagine what might be possible if this community received the funds it needed. Imagine how many more millions of people we could reach, how many more we could help to rebuild and repair lives upended by the world’s disasters. This is the world I want to see us build together. And I know you do too.
Dec. 2023
Working with partners, UNICEF aims to reach 94 million children with life-saving assistance.
Across the globe, children and families are facing unprecedented humanitarian crises. Around 300 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and protection as devastating earthquakes, climate-related disasters, disease outbreaks and new and surging conflicts have left tens of millions of children and their families reeling.
But despite the record needs, the situation isn’t hopeless. We know how to reach the children at greatest risk. Decisive and timely humanitarian action combined with flexible funding and close work with local partners can save children’s lives now, while also sowing the seeds of future development.
Through its 2024 Humanitarian Action for Children appeal, UNICEF is appealing for $9.3 billion to reach 94 million children with life-saving assistance – whenever and wherever it is needed.
“Millions of children continue to be caught in humanitarian crises that are growing in complexity and scale, and that are increasingly stretching our resources to respond,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
The unpredictability, volatility, and protracted nature of emergencies today is taking a heavy toll on children and families. From earthquakes in Afghanistan, Syria and Turkiye, to conflict and violence in Ukraine, Sudan, the State of Palestine and Haiti, to massive displacement in Democratic Republic of the Congo, emergencies can strike or escalate with little or no warning.
In conflict zones, children endure the harsh realities of violence and displacement, facing the daily threats of physical harm, emotional trauma, and the disruption of their education and essential services. At the same time, children in areas affected by violence contend with the pervasive impact on their well-being, grappling with the psychological toll of instability, and the heightened risk of exploitation and abuse.
"Around the world, war continues to upend the lives of children. We estimate that today, 460 million children are living in, or fleeing from conflict zones. And wherever violence occurs – in places like Burkina Faso, Haiti, Sudan – children suffer first, and they suffer most.
"Many children living in areas affected by conflict are injured or killed. They may lose family members or friends. With many displaced multiple times, risking separation from their families, losing critical years of education, and fraying ties to their communities. I have seen firsthand too much of the horrible toll that conflict exacts on children.
Climate change is worsening the scale and intensity of emergencies. Wreaking havoc on young lives by causing severe droughts, heatwaves and more intense storms. In regions struggling with its impacts, children bear the brunt of environmental challenges, jeopardizing their health, creating food and water insecurity.
Food insecurity like that experienced in the Horn of Africa. Or the 2.4 million children in South Sudan and the central Sahel who suffered from severe wasting in 2023 because of drought linked to climate change.
It’s critical that UNICEF and local partners have support, so that children living through an emergency can have the life-saving aid and protection they need, where and when they need it. Timely and flexible funding can help save lives today, while also allowing UNICEF and partners to respond effectively to new and emerging risks before it’s too late or even more costly.
The 2024 appeal includes support for major crises in Afghanistan, Syrian Refugees, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ukraine. Critically underfunded emergencies include Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Haiti, Ethiopia, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Bangladesh.
“UNICEF and partners are committed to providing a comprehensive response to the many humanitarian crises affecting children, including the impacts of conflicts, climate change and natural disasters,” said Russell. “Children should not be paying with their lives and their futures. They need continued access to essential services, like health care, safe water, basic sanitation and education".
"Working together through principled humanitarian action, we can reach the most vulnerable children, offering them the support they need for a brighter future".

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