The IRC’s Watchlist 2019 highlights the countries we believe are at greatest risk of experiencing the worst humanitarian crises over the coming year.
• This year the Watchlist has 21 countries on it, down from 23 for Watchlist 2018. There are two new additions to the Watchlist (Cameroon and Nicaragua) and four countries have dropped off (El Salvador, North Korea, the occupied Palestinian Territories, and the Philippines). These changes reflect both our evolving analysis of the developing situations in these countries and the partially updated methodology used for this year’s Watchlist.
• The IRC is responding to the crises in all Top Ten countries, mostly with a dedicated country program. The IRC’s Colombia country’s program is leading our response to the emergency in Venezuela by working with Venezuelans who have fled across the border. The IRC is not currently responding to the crises in Mexico, Nicaragua or Sudan, but decisions about where and how the IRC responds are constantly kept under review.
• All countries that appear in this year’s Top Ten appeared somewhere in last year’s Watchlist. Likewise, all of the countries from last year’s Top Ten appear somewhere in this year’s Watchlist. The only changes to the Top Ten are that Ethiopia and Somalia have been added while Iraq and Myanmar have dropped out. We did not rank the Top Ten for 2018 so it is not possible to compare the rankings.
• The Top Ten is dominated by countries that are experiencing internal conflict, whether across large parts of the country or localized to specific areas. The key exception is Venezuela, where the country’s economic collapse has driven a deterioration in living conditions that has been as rapid as declines only previously observed in conflict zones.
• Food insecurity is a major factor in many countries in the Watchlist and nearly all of the Top Ten, illustrating the strong links between conflict and food insecurity. During 2018, crisis (IPC 3) or worse levels of food insecurity have been reported in parts of Yemen, DRC, South Sudan,
Afghanistan, CAR, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia. Severe food shortages have also been reported in Venezuela (where there is insufficient data to make reliable assessments) and, at times, in locations in Syria that have been isolated due to conflict (for example, the Rukban settlement on the Jordanian border).
• Internal and external displacement are also important trends. UNHCR says around 40 million people are displaced internally around the globe, and that the Top Ten accounted for nearly 22 million (56% of the total). Figures for refugees provide a less accurate picture, given they do not include most of the 3 million people who have fled Venezuela in recent years (who are designated as migrants), but the Top Ten have still produced at least 13 million refugees, 65% of the global total.
• Communicable diseases are also an important factor affecting the humanitarian situation in many Watchlist countries, particularly in areas where political or conflict-related developments have undermined the local health system. Most notably, Yemen is currently in the middle of the world’s worst cholera outbreak while DRC is battling the second worst Ebola outbreak in history.
• Several countries on the Watchlist, most notably Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Libya and Nigeria, are due to hold elections in 2019 (or late 2018) that could be a prompt for greater instability and thus humanitarian needs in 2019.