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US DOS/US NIC: Global humanitarian emergencies: Trends and projections, 2001-2002

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The U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) has released a report identifying 20 humanitarian emergencies worldwide, affecting approximately 42 million people. "Global Humanitarian Emergencies: Trends and Projections, 2001-2002" predicts that the international community will continue to respond and provide aid to these countries, but that resources will remain below needs.
The total of 20 emergencies is an improvement over the previous year's finding of 25 humanitarian emergencies. Internal conflict, severe government repression, and natural disaster are some of the primary causes of the crises that have resulted in humanitarian emergencies, according to an introductory summary of the annual survey conducted by the NIC, a U.S. government strategic analysis group. In six other cases, countries have moved beyond conflicts or natural disasters, but are still facing critical humanitarian needs.

The 20 humanitarian emergencies identified in the report are in Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, Russia/Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Tajikistan and Yugoslavia.

The global report ranks the situation in Afghanistan among the most serious, and likely to worsen. "The humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate due to a forecasted 1 million ton grain deficit, continued fighting between the Taliban and opposition forces, the Taliban's sporadic resistance to Western humanitarian programs, formidable logistic challenges, and donor fatigue," the report says.

The other most serious humanitarian emergency noted in the report are in Colombia, Iraq and North Korea.

The complete report is available at

Following is the summary of the NIC report:

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Global Humanitarian Emergencies: Trends and Projections, 2001-2002

Scope Notes

This assessment focuses on humanitarian emergencies arising from manmade causes and major natural disasters. We do not address situations in which the need for development assistance or food aid is due primarily to chronic poverty or environmental degradation.

-- In this assessment "humanitarian emergencies" are defined as situations in which at least 300,000 civilians require international humanitarian assistance to avoid serious malnutrition or death. Our definition includes those situations in which people need protection in order to facilitate access to humanitarian aid.

-- The manmade causes we focus on primarily are armed, typically internal, conflict and repressive government policies. Secondarily, we note sudden economic emergencies and major technological occurrences, such as a nuclear power plant meltdown, as potential causes of humanitarian emergencies.

-- All these situations can be exacerbated by sudden or persistent natural disasters or widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The timeframe for this assessment is through December 2002.


The capacity and willingness of the international community to respond to humanitarian emergencies will continue to be stretched through December 2002. The overall number of people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance-now approximately 42 million-is likely to increase:

-- Five ongoing emergencies-in Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, North Korea and Sudan-cause almost 20 million people to be in need of humanitarian assistance as internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, or others in need in their home locations. All these emergencies show signs of worsening through 2002.

-- In addition, humanitarian conditions may further deteriorate in populous countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC) or Indonesia.

The total number of humanitarian emergencies -- 20 --is down from 25 in January 2000. Of the current emergencies:

-- Eleven are in countries experiencing internal conflict --Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, DROC, Indonesia, Russia/Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Uganda.

-- Two -- in Iraq and North Korea -- are due largely to severe government repression.

-- The remaining six-in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yugoslavia-are humanitarian emergencies that have entered the transitional stage beyond prolonged conflict, repressive government policies, and/or major natural disasters.

-- The primary cause of the emergency in Tajikistan is drought. Several other countries currently experiencing humanitarian emergencies-Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, North Korea, Somalia, and Sudan-also are affected by major, persistent natural disasters.

Current Emergencies of Greatest Concern

Four countries are of greatest concern because of the scale and persistence of their humanitarian emergencies; their significant impact upon continuing strategic interests of major outside powers, including the United States; and their importance for stability in their regions.

-- In Afghanistan, the humanitarian situation, already serious, is likely to worsen. Millions of people are at risk of famine as a result of a three-year-long drought and fighting, which has already forced some 3.6 million Afghans to flee to Pakistan and Iran. The humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate due to a forecasted 1 million ton grain deficit, continued fighting between the Taliban and opposition forces, the Taliban's sporadic resistance to Western humanitarian programs, formidable logistic challenges, and donor fatigue.

-- In Colombia, additional IDPs (internally displaced persons) -- on the order of thousands per month -- are adding to the existing roughly 1.5 million internally displaced persons. Attacks on civilians are likely to continue unabated and will likely increase, as paramilitary and insurgent groups fight for territory and control of the country's resources. Conditions are likely to deteriorate as a result of the absence of strong national programs to provide sustained assistance and the reticence of most international donors to provide funds.

-- Conditions in central and southern Iraq are unlikely to improve due to continued manipulation of the UN oil-for-food program by the government for political gain. Humanitarian conditions in central and southern Iraq will degenerate to the extent that Saddam Husayn exercises greater control over oil revenues. Conditions in northern Iraq are likely to continue to improve because UN management of the aid program will help ease the impact of any disruptions caused by Baghdad.

-- North Korea will remain a significant humanitarian challenge due to the severity of the food deficit, restricted international access to those in need, its collapsed economy and weakened infrastructure, its exposure to frequent major natural disasters-both drought and flooding-and the large number of people affected. Over eight million people-more than one-third of the country's population-are in need of food aid. Absent significant economic reform, North Korea will continue to depend on large-scale humanitarian aid, the bulk of which will be provided by the United States, South Korea, Japan and China through 2002.

Other Current Emergencies

Other current humanitarian emergencies are of concern because of the scale and projected outlook for the crisis, as well as the likelihood that the emergency will spread and destabilize neighboring countries and regions.

-- Humanitarian conditions in Burundi, Sudan, and Tajikistan are likely to deteriorate further.

-- We expect current conditions in Angola, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Uganda either to remain about the same or deteriorate somewhat.

-- Humanitarian concerns in Azerbaijan, Russia's Chechnya region, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Indonesia are likely to remain at or near current levels.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Region at Risk

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region at greatest risk of a major new or significantly worse humanitarian emergency through December 2002. Most of Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from abject poverty, intense ethnic rivalries, and grossly inadequate communications and transportation infrastructure-conditions that make the region especially vulnerable to humanitarian emergencies and hinder response efforts. Genocidal conflicts aimed at annihilating all or part of a racial, religious, or ethnic group, and conflicts caused by other crimes against humanity-such as forced, large-scale expulsions of populations-are particularly likely to generate massive and intractable humanitarian needs.

-- In Yugoslavia's Kosovo region conditions among the ethnic Albanian majority are likely to improve, but conditions for Serb and Roma minorities may deteriorate.

-- Conditions are likely to improve in the Republic of Serbia outside of Kosovo.

Potential Emergencies

Through 2002, seven potential emergencies are of greatest concern. We list them in order of their probability of developing.

-- An escalation of ethnic tensions leading to full-scale civil war in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would destabilize southeastern Europe by displacing tens of thousands of Slav Macedonians and sending hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Albanian refugees into neighboring countries.

-- In Zimbabwe, food shortages and political violence -- fueled by high inflation, unemployment, racial tensions and land reform issues -- in the run-up to the winter 2002 election could precipitate a humanitarian crisis by spring 2002, causing refugee flows into South Africa and elsewhere in southern Africa.

-- In Haiti, continuing economic stagnation, political stalemate, and internal unrest, if left unchecked, will raise political tensions. A severe economic downturn and a resurgence of serious human rights violations would lead to a renewed outflow of thousands of people.

-- Kenya -- already suffering one of its most serious droughts in a half-century -- faces rising political and ethnic tensions in the run-up to presidential elections in December 2002, which could prompt large-scale refugee flows. Because much of the humanitarian aid to Sudan and the Great Lakes region in Central Africa passes through the Kenyan port of Mombasa, instability in Kenya and any resulting deterioration of the infrastructure would affect the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the region.

-- Tens of thousands of economic migrants and foreign workers are likely to flee Côte d'Ivoire in the coming months if the government resorts to xenophobia as a tool to discredit its primary opposition, much of whose support comes from immigrants and Muslims.

-- A renewed conflict between nuclear powers India and Pakistan over Kashmir could expand into a full-scale war, displacing over a million people. The potential scale of a humanitarian emergency would be even greater in the unlikely event of a nuclear exchange.

-- The probability of a humanitarian emergency in Nigeria is low through December 2002, but the impact of such an emergency would be significant. The country's challenges include poor economic performance and ethnic instability.

Humanitarian Response

We judge that major donor countries will continue to respond quickly and provide substantial amounts of humanitarian aid in short-term emergencies resulting from natural disasters and in severe new emergencies caused by conflict or government repression. Funding for humanitarian aid in long-lasting crises, including many in Africa, will, however, continue to fall well short of targeted needs unless signs of achieving a settlement emerge.

-- The ability and willingness of Western donor countries to provide humanitarian aid will be constrained somewhat if the global economic slowdown worsens.

Consensual humanitarian responses will continue to be substantially more numerous than forceful humanitarian interventions against the will of a local government or local combatants. Government and international humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often will attempt to deliver relief to civilian groups at risk, but many governments will continue to be highly wary of forceful humanitarian interventions:

-- Major Western donor countries will increasingly invest in a range of conflict prevention efforts as well as political and economic initiatives in post-conflict settings, rather than deploying military forces during the course of a conflict.

Despite some improvement in the responsiveness and capacity of humanitarian agencies in recent years, limits imposed by budgetary constraints and bureaucratic competition among the major UN agencies and international NGOs-as well as the problems associated with operating in conflict situations-will continue to hamper the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.

-- In the absence of adequate security, an increasing number of UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) will withdraw, at least temporarily, from particularly dangerous humanitarian operations.

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(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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