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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, remarks at the launch of the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview in Geneva, 2 December 2021

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A warm welcome to everybody both here and, of course, online, for this important event.

When I was last in Ethiopia, a few weeks ago, I met a group of women in Mekelle, in Tigray, all of them survivors of sexual assault.

Those assaults about which we read so much, so clearly, in the months before.

It was a very difficult and also a very deeply moving encounter.

It was very difficult to know how to speak to each other and how to engage with such trauma still apparent in their faces, in their remarks and in their behaviour.

But what struck me most was their response to the question when we asked them finally: tell us what you want for your children. And the children were running about in the safe space where we were meeting.

They didn’t talk of education for their children, or safety. They said their top worry was food. It made me wonder if these women had lost all sense of hope, or a future. Their focus was only on day-to-day survival.

The usual response to those questions is to talk about education for their children and a better life and a safe future. But not from these women. These women had no horizon of such kind. They said their worry was food for today and food for tomorrow.

They had lost, and were perhaps not even aware of, a sense of hope or progress, which is so natural to our humanity, because of the events that had brought them there and the conflict that kept them there. Their focus was solely, and brutally, on day-to-day survival.

Of course, crises like the one in northern Ethiopia that led to their pain, can only be solved by political solutions. But today, as we launch the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview, to which the Secretary-General has just referred, my goal is that this appeal can go some way to restoring a glimmer of hope for those women and for many more like them across the world.

The message of this year’s GHO is urgent. As we have heard from the Secretary- General, humanitarian needs are still rising.

At the beginning of this year, 2021, already 235 million people needed humanitarian assistance and we estimate that number will rise to 274 million in 2022.

This marks a doubling of requirements over the last four years. And these numbers will inevitably rise further as the year progresses.

To give us all some sense of the scale of this challenge: if everyone requiring emergency aid lived in one country, it would be the fourth-largest country in the world.

That’s what we’re facing, and more importantly, that’s what they are facing.

The 2022 GHO includes the world’s largest-ever humanitarian appeal of US$4.47 billion for Afghanistan, followed closely in scale, in terms of volume, in terms of quantity, by appeals in Syria and Yemen.

The drivers of these global needs are familiar to all of us. There is nothing particularly new.

They are conflict, political instability, the growing climate crisis, and the impact of the pandemic which has recently reminded us of its presence.

Instability worsened in several parts of the world this year, notably Ethiopia, that I referred to, Myanmar – also sometimes forgotten, and now, of course, Afghanistan, while prolonged conflicts – and I referred to two of those in Syria and Yemen, but there are many others – continue.

The scale of the climate crisis means that no corner of the world is immune from intensifying weather-related shocks. COVID-19 has already claimed at least 1.9 million lives directly across the countries included in this appeal, while also contributing to a rise in poverty and disrupting economies and basic services.

I think the World Bank had estimated that 20 million people more entered the poverty line as a result of the pandemic. And one shocking fact is that for every three months of complete lockdown, it is estimated there are 15 million more cases of gender-based violence, which is an appalling statistic.

Countries with humanitarian emergencies remain most vulnerable to a new variant like Omicron because, of course, their lack of vaccines and the degree to which we have not achieved vaccine equity and slow recovery from the shock of 2020.

Combined, these multiple forces have left a significant number of the world’s population forcibly displaced – 1 per cent of the world’s population is displaced – and 45 million people in 43 countries on the edge of famine.

In most crises – and this is not news – women and girls suffer the most, as pre- existing gender inequalities and protection risks are heightened by crisis.

When crises hit, communities themselves are always and everywhere the first to respond on the front lines. They are the first responders and I have seen this vividly in my visits to northern Ethiopia in which camps for internally displaced people were maintained through the generosity of the local communities adjacent to them.

People in those communities were selling their assets to maintain solidarity with their compatriots.

We in the international community are here to stand in solidarity with those communities and with those in need and we need, of course and do, to step up when our help is needed.

Looking ahead, the 2022 GHO lays out how we can support 183 million of the world’s most vulnerable people – a deliberate reduction from the 274 million – at a cost of $41 billion, which is a 17 per cent increase on last year. It’s the world’s largest appeal to alleviate hunger, killer diseases, gender-based violence and, crucially and vividly, economic collapse.

It lays out detailed plans to meet needs in food security and nutrition; health; water, sanitation and hygiene; gender equality; protection and education; shelter; and other essential items in the hardest-hit countries.

And it comes from a lengthy process of detailed analysis by our colleagues in the field in the various countries for which these response plans have been drafted. These are objective assessments by professionals. This is not guesswork.

This year, in 2021, we aimed to reach 153 million people through plans at the country level. We were able, thanks to the generosity of many of you here, to reach 70 per cent of that target. 107 million people were the recipients, beneficiaries of our partners in those countries and received assistance from all the agencies, many of which are here today.

The funding we did receive and the generosity that is behind it enabled us to provide emergency health services to tens of millions of people. In Yemen alone, we reached 10 million people with outpatient care with the efforts of WHO and other agencies.

It enabled us to reach 2.4 million people in 39 countries with gender-based protection services, including prevention, risk reduction and response. I would note that protection assistance that those women so urgently needed, is often the least well-funded of the sectors and it needs more of our attention.

It helped us fight acute hunger in six at-risk countries in 2021: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, southern Madagascar, a new arrival on this terrible list, north-east Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. This included pulling over half a million people in South Sudan back from the brink of famine.

And it allowed us to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in cash assistance – this is a phenomenon we will see more and more of as these years go by as an effective delivery method in many, many places – to families in need in most emergency settings. Cash assistance gives those families back the right to choose their own priorities.

This year, we also made progress in important areas.

We saw improved collaboration between international agencies and local responders on the front lines. And I’m very grateful to the agencies for that.

Agencies that are set up to provide their own profile, to provide their own expertise, to run their own projects, but which yield to each other in cooperation in a way that we see very rarely in international enterprises and I am grateful to the international community for that.

We ensured that humanitarian assistance targeted the needs of women and girls, and people living with disabilities – and there is more to be done there – and that it supported overlooked sectors – I’ve referred to protection, but also emergency education, which is particularly important when it relates to education for the displaced.

More country teams of these agencies prioritized protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. An issue of dominant importance for those of us with a duty of care for the actions of our staff and those with whom we work.

In many places our advocacy and negotiation efforts to secure access paid off, though reaching people in need remains one of our biggest challenges and we plan to do that better and smarter in the year ahead.

We need to keep up the momentum on all of these issues.

But funding for the GHO is a benchmark of our global solidarity for those women and so many like them.

Let us restore hope for the people we serve through your generosity, through your commitment and through your actions. Let’s do that for them and for all of us.

Thank you very much.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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