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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, Washington, D.C., 2 December 2021

News and Press Release
Originally published


Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this launch. Before I start, I just want to say how clear a clarion call were the remarks just now from Samantha Power.

I certainly very much agree that we cannot continue to just exponentially increase the budget and the footprint of humanitarian assistance. In fact, I had a very useful meeting in with the World Bank in the last hour precisely looking at those issues.

So, I think Samantha has given us some important and central instructions on things we need to look at in the coming year and beyond.

I would like to start with a story that I have told before. It was about the time a few weeks ago when I was in Mekelle in Tigray in northern Ethiopia. I met a group of women, survivors of sexual assault, in a safe house Natalia [Kanem] funded by your excellent agency [UNFPA].

It was an extraordinarily difficult and moving encounter. I must confess that at times during this encounter I felt the need to leave, to stop the difficulty of the encounter. I feel we have all been in those circumstances. I felt so bad for the women – 25 or so of these women with their children running around – who were being obliged to speak to us.

Of course, the tragedy was that they could hardly speak to us with clarity because of the trauma that had not yet been removed because of the terrible things that had happened to them in previous months.

As I have said elsewhere, what struck most, what encapsulated the real tragedy of that situation, was their response when we asked them about what they wanted for the future of their children. They did not talk of education for their children, or the future safety and security of their families. Their concern was food – food for today. They had no horizon or hope for a future. They just had a need for survival.

This I think was perhaps the most tragic aspect of that encounter.

This kind of experience is not limited to particular countries. It’s one that we know happens so often in so many parts of the world.

I echo Samantha’s points about the need to put the needs and voices of women and girls central to the way we go about our business.

Crises like the one that led to their pain on that day which had been a pain with them for months, as Samantha says, can only be solved by political solutions.

I honour Jeff Feltman and other envoys doing their best in very difficult circumstances.

But today, as we launch this 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview, my goal is that this appeal can go some way at least to restoring a glimmer of hope for those women and many more like them across the globe.

The message is urgent.

Humanitarian needs are still rising. As we have already heard at the beginning of this year, already 235 million people needed humanitarian assistance. Now this is rising in 2022 to 274 million.

It’s an astonishing number. And it’s a doubling of requirements in the last four years.

To give you some sense of the scale of this challenge: if everyone requiring emergency aid lived in one country, it would be the fourth most populous country in the world.

That is a shame on us.

In most of these crises women and girls suffer the most, as pre-existing gender inequalities and protection risks are heightened.

One frightening statistic that has struck me in my recent reading is that in every three months in a period of lockdown, we see an increase of 15 million incidents of gender-based violence. That tells us something profoundly sad and wicked about humanity.

It tells us something extraordinarily important about who should be our priority to aid.

And it tells us something about the need to address inequalities of power in a very central fashion. And [this goes] beyond the management of the humanitarian community.

This global overview for 2022 includes the world’s largest-ever humanitarian appeal of US$4.47 billion for Afghanistan, followed closely in scale by appeals in Syria and Yemen.

As Samantha has said, the drivers of these appeals are quite familiar.

Conflict primarily and the political instability that goes with it, the growing climate crisis, and the impact of the pandemic.

Instability worsened in several parts of the world this year, notably Ethiopia, Myanmar and now Afghanistan, while those prolonged conflicts that Samantha referred to continue to evade all efforts at resolution.

The scale of the climate crisis means that no corner of the world either is immune from intensifying shocks and thus for the need for assistance.

I join others to congratulate Samantha and her team at USAID for signing up to the Climate Charter, which is clear, succinct and important.

COVID-19 has already claimed almost 2 million lives across the countries included in this GHO, while also contributing to a rise in poverty. I believe an additional 20 million people are estimated by the World Bank to have slid into poverty as a result of the pandemic.

And as we know from days just gone by, the pandemic has not left us yet.

These multiple forces – pandemic, climate, conflict, disasters – have left 1 per cent of the world’s population forcibly displaced.

Forty-five million people in 43 countries are on the edge of famine. And of course, many millions more are nearing that appalling predicament.

It is worth remembering – I have had the privilege of seeing it and I imagine many others here have too – that when crises hit, it is communities themselves that are always the first to respond. They are the first responders to the needs of people affected by crisis.

And their assistance, without denigrating for a moment the generosity of many countries and of the US here in Washington, but their generosity often shames the rest of us. I’ve seen it very vividly, particularly this year in northern Ethiopia and in Syria.

So we should stand here in solidarity with them. For the generosity of local people helping those they see beside them.

Looking ahead, the 2022 GHO lays out how we can support 183 million of the world’s most vulnerable – a prioritization down from 274 million, at a cost of $41 billion, which is a 17 per cent increase on last year.

It’s no surprise that it’s the world’s largest appeal ever for humanitarian assistance.

It lays out detailed plans which have been worked on for months by our colleagues in these countries in the agencies who know their business so well. These are detailed plans, based on objective assessments, to meet needs in food security and nutrition; health; water, sanitation and hygiene; gender equality; protection and education – often the orphans of these appeals – shelter; and other essential items.

This year, we aimed to reach 153 million people through plans at the country level.
Thanks to the generosity of all, we were able to reach 107 million of those people.

It’s an astonishing achievement. Seventy per cent of our target were reached with assistance of some kind.

Emergency health services, sanitation, outpatient care.

In Yemen alone, we were able to reach 10 million people with outpatient care. I know Yemen and I know how difficult that environment is to operate.

2.4 million women and girls in 39 countries were provided with the services they need to cope with gender-based violence, and which is never enough as I saw that day in Mekelle.

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

This year, we also made progress in how we do this business in important areas.

Collaboration improved between international agencies and local responders on the front lines.

But we still forget them. We still don’t see them clearly as the first responders. And we still don’t support and build their capacity and enlarge their footprint beyond ours. [This is important] partly for respect, but also for effectiveness.

We ensured that humanitarian assistance targeted the needs of women and girls, and people living with disabilities, and that it supported overlooked sectors such as protection and emergency education.

There was more prioritization of work on sexual exploitation and abuse, a duty of care to our staff and to those our staff are in contact with.

I would like to thank Natalia Kanem who has been the champion this year, trying to get us in the international agencies to put this issue at the top of our agenda because it is a duty of care. That must come first to those of us who have those responsibilities.

And finally, I want to repeat what I said earlier on, which is that funding is a mark of solidarity. But let us not forget that the first solidarity that is palpable and noticeable to those in crises is their neighbours.

I want to relate a story of when I was in Gaziantep on the Turkish border of Syria back in late August. Gaziantep is a city that has been inundated with Syrian refugees and has hosted so many of them for so many years. I met in a local community centre with young students in their early teens. On one side of the room were Turks, on the other side of the room were Syrians, all living together in this community, helped by this centre.

I asked a young woman from the Turkish side: “You have had these people come to your city and take over your services and push aside some of your people to get to treatment in health clinics and hospitals: how has it been?” She said it’s been an opportunity to show our solidarity.

This was a young teenage girl in Gaziantep. And the question was not prepped.

This was her speaking, and she was speaking to all of us.

Thank you very much.

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