Year in Review

Families fleeing from their homes as a result of fighting between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Boys in front of a bullet-ridden wall in Bamako, Mali. © Marco Dormino - MINUSMA



An L3 emergency is the highest level of crisis declared by UN and partner agencies. The Emergency Relief Coordinator declares an L3 emergency after consultation with Principals of partner organizations from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, weighing the scale, complexity and urgency of the crisis, as well as international capacity to respond.



Corporate emergencies are rapid-onset or rapidly escalating crises requiring OCHA’s highest level of response. The Under-Secretary-General for OCHA declares a corporate emergency after considering the scale, complexity and urgency of the situation, as well as OCHA’s capacity to respond in the affected country and region. Corporate emergencies prompt all parts of OCHA to prioritize support to the offices involved.


The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is the part of the United Nations responsible for supporting humanitarian organizations and Governments around the world to ensure a fast, flexible and coherent response to disasters and other emergencies.

In 2013, OCHA coordinated humanitarian assistance for 81.21[1] million people affected by the world’s worst crises. It had an operating budget of US$277.3 million.

2013 was a challenging year for the global humanitarian system. Three level-three (L3) emergencies—the highest-level crises for the UN and partner agencies—were declared during the year: the Central African Republic (CAR), the Philippines and Syria. In addition, crises in Mali and South Sudan were designated as “corporate emergencies”, triggering OCHA’s highest response.

In Syria, the number of people who needed humanitarian assistance more than doubled, from 4 million in December 2012 to 9.3 million by December 2013. A total of 6.5 million people were internally displaced by the fighting, half of them children, and the number of refugees from Syria rose from about 500,000 to 2.3 million. By December, 2.5 million people who needed assistance were largely out of humanitarian workers’ reach, including more than 240,000 people living under siege conditions.

In November, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the central Philippines. It was the strongest storm ever to make landfall, killing more than 6,000 people, leaving millions homeless and causing massive destruction to infrastructure and livelihoods. An estimated 14 million people were affected.

In CAR, tensions were high throughout the year. But following the 5 December attack on the capital, Bangui, the country descended into widespread civil disorder. More than 1,000 people were killed and more than 900,000 people had been displaced by the end of the year. Almost half the population of 4.6 million people required assistance.

In December, violence broke out in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. Within two weeks, nearly 200,000 people were displaced, including some 57,500 people who sought protection and shelter in UN peacekeeping bases across the country.

As the demand for humanitarian assistance grows, so do the challenges of delivering it. More aid workers were attacked in 2013 than in any year since record keeping began in 1997, with 337 aid workers attacked and 119 killed. This is compared with 276 aid workers attacked in 2012, of whom 69 were killed. Humanitarian aid workers struggled to keep pace with huge population movements in 2013, as millions of people fled violence and disasters, and thousands of people who urgently needed help remained out of their reach.

Humanitarian needs continued to grow in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, Myanmar, occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and the Sahel. These are countries and regions where conflict has become protracted.

In DRC, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by fighting between Government forces and armed groups, bringing the total number of displaced people to 2.7 million. Despite recent improvements in food security, Somalia’s humanitarian crisis remains among the largest and most complex in the world, with an estimated 2.9 million people (approximately 30 per cent of the population) in need of humanitarian support.

Sudan continued to be one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies, with 6.1 million people needing humanitarian assistance. In Yemen, conflict, poverty and the slow pace of development meant that about 10.5 million people remained food insecure and 1 million children were acutely malnourished. Across the Sahel, more than 20 million people, or one in seven inhabitants of the region, were food insecure at the end of the year, despite 2013 being a better year for agriculture. An estimated 577,000 children died of malnutrition and preventable health-related causes in the Sahel in 2013.

In crisis situations, whether caused by natural disasters or conflict, the long-term impact on children and families is devastating. Basic necessities are not available: people often cannot get health care, food, clean water or education. For those who are displaced over long periods, the impact can last a lifetime.

[1] Figure represents the sum total of beneficiaries in countries with a 2013 strategic response plan.