Worldwide, humanitarian needs are rising, driven by conflicts that know no end, and chronic natural disasters whose effects last for years. Today more than 128 million people in 33 countries need humanitarian aid to survive — a figure not seen since the Second World War. “With this staggering level of need, now more than ever, world leaders need to step up their support to the world’s most vulnerable people,” says the UN’s Humanitarian Chief, Stephen O’Brien. “Those who are already giving need to continue their support, while new actors must also seize the opportunity to save lives.” Here, we outline 12 forgotten crises that rarely make the headlines but urgently need support this year.
Last year, the number of people forced to flee their homes in Afghanistan reached over 1 million as violence mounted in the northern and southern regions, where the Taliban has taken over swaths of the country. “Families have lost their homes and livelihoods. Displaced people are living in tents, unable to feed their children who have had little or no education,” said Humanitarian Chief, O’Brien following a trip to Afghanistan last year. “This pattern of prolonged conflict must end to avoid another generation of children being lost to war and suffering.”Alarming levels of malnutrition now affect 2.7 million people, 1 million of them children under age 5.
Central African Republic
Over the past four years, Central African Republic has experienced a major political crisis. This has resulted in a violent conflict that has affected almost the entire population and left some 2.3 million people, over half the population, in dire need of assistance.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
About 60 per cent of the population in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is considered to be food insecure — in other words, 15 million out of 24.9 million people. One quarter of the population does not have access to essential health services, and 1.7 million children are at risk of deadly childhood diseases.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Armed conflict and insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have created one of the world’s most protracted and complex humanitarian crises. In 2016, 7.3 million people were affected by regional and local armed conflict, especially in the mineral-rich eastern part of the country. Insecurity is now mounting in the Kasai and Tanganyika provinces, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, and leading to fears of further displacement.
The Lake Chad Basin
Boko Haram-related violence in the four countries that border Lake Chad (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) has affected 30 million people and forced 11 million to need urgent assistance. Homes have been torched, possessions looted and livelihoods destroyed, forcing people to flee, blocking them from farming and fishing, and leading to border closures. The result is a dramatic rise in hunger levels, while tens of thousands of people in north-east Nigeria are living in famine conditions.
Armed conflict, political instability and a collapsing economy have disrupted the lives of 3 million people across Libya. Once a middle-income country, Libya is now home to 2.4 million people who need protection or assistance, as they have little or no access to health care, sufficient food, clean water, homes or schools. This includes the forcibly displaced, refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, who traveled to Libya in search of work.
Two successive years of drought, exacerbated by El Niño, have left 850,000 people in need of help in Madagascar. In the worst-affected areas, families are resorting to selling their assets and land, eating cacti and seeds for food, and migrating in search of more-fertile conditions.
Despite a 2015 peace deal between the Government and armed groups, armed attacks, banditry and insecurity prevail in northern Mali. The insecurity continues to force people to flee their homes, stopping farming and disrupting pastoralist routes that are an economic mainstay in the north.
The Sahel comprises parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal — countries that between them have some of the highest poverty levels and lowest human development indicators in the world. Even in a good year, i.e., when the rains are on time and in sufficient quantity, millions of people will face hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel. In 2017, an astonishing 30 million people here (just under half the population of Britain) will not have enough to eat.
After more than two decades of violence, Somalia is making progress on the political front, but acute humanitarian needs persist. Flooding, drought, conflict, persistent protection challenges and disease outbreaks contribute to Somalia’s fragility, exacerbated by displacement and returns of Somalis from neighbouring countries. This year 6.2 million people — or more than half of the country’s population — need assistance.
Uganda is now a safe haven for refugees from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. It is currently hosting 865,385 refugees, the vast majority of them from South Sudan. Hunger levels are expected to increase this year due to poor rainfall.
In Yemen a child under age 5 dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes. Armed conflict continues to intensify in Yemen, with daily air strikes and armed clashes. This, combined with structural poverty and chronic drought means 10.3 million are reliant on humanitarian assistance, making Yemen the largest food security emergency in the world.
None of the 37 countries that were part of the 2016 Global Humanitarian Appeal received 100 per cent of their humanitarian funding needs, but each of the above crises received less than 40 per cent. Twice a year, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocates underfunded grants to the least funded emergencies with the highest levels of risk, vulnerability and humanitarian need. This is determined by analysing funding levels; vulnerability indicators, such as FEWS NET food insecurity data; INFORM conflict-risk data; human rights indicators; and other information. On 30 January, CERF released $100 million to help more than 6 million people in nine of the above-mentioned severely underfunded crises: Cameroon, DPRK, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Uganda. Eight of the nine recipients are in Africa and will receive 94 per cent of the allocation.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.