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US$21.9 billion needed in 2019 as average length of humanitarian crises climbs

04 Dec 2018


Minova IDP site, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: OCHA/Eve Sabbagh

One in every 70 people worldwide is caught up in a crisis. Crises tend to last longer and be driven by conflict. In 2019, nearly 132 million people across the world will need humanitarian assistance. The United Nations and its partner organizations aim to assist 93.6 million of the most vulnerable with food, shelter, health care, emergency education, protection and other basic assistance, according the Global Humanitarian Overview 2019 (GHO) presented by Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock today in Geneva.

Funding requirements for 2019 amount to US$21.9 billion. This figure does not include the financial requirements for Syria, which will be confirmed upon finalization of the 2019 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan. It is expected that total requirements, including those for Syria, will be comparable to current requirements of around $25 billion.

The average humanitarian crisis in which there is a UN-coordinated response now lasts more than nine years, the companion World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2018 analysis by OCHA, also released today, shows. This is an increase from an average length of 5.2 years in 2014. This year, nearly three quarters of people targeted to receive assistance in 2018 are in countries affected by humanitarian crisis for seven years or more.

“The humanitarian system today is more effective than ever,” Mr. Lowcock said. “We are better at identifying different groups’ specific needs and vulnerabilities and quicker to respond when disaster strikes. Response plans are now more inclusive, comprehensive, innovative and prioritized.”

Global trends and challenges

The extremely high levels of humanitarian need in 2018 were triggered by some key factors:


More people are being displaced by conflict. The number of forcibly displaced people rose from 59.5 million in 2014 to 68.5 million in 2017. Crises exacerbate gender inequalities. Girls in conflict settings are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

Cost of natural disasters

Natural disasters and climate change have a high human cost. Disasters affect 350 million people on average each year and cause billions of dollars of damage.

Rising food insecurity

In just two years between 2015 and 2017, the number of people experiencing crisis-level food insecurity or worse increased from 80 million to 124 million people.

Protracted needs

The average humanitarian crisis now lasts more than nine years. Nearly three quarters of people targeted to receive assistance in 2018 are in countries affected by humanitarian crisis for seven years or more. Large protracted crises command the majority of resources. Between 2014 and 2018, just four crises – Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria – accounted for 55 per cent of all funding requested and received.

Insufficient funding despite donors’ generosity

Humanitarian organizations are increasingly successful in saving lives and reducing suffering, but many needs still remain unmet.

2019 outlook

8 July 2018, Afghanistan, Badghis Province, Qala-e-Naw: Children show signs of malnutrition and many have skin disease due to the dust, lack of water and low quality of the diet. Photo: OCHA/Philippe Kropf

Humanitarian needs will remain extremely high. In 2019, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries around the world will need humanitarian assistance, including protection. The majority of humanitarian needs occur in long-lasting crises in which there has been limited progress in addressing root causes. It is paramount that political solutions top the agenda for 2019.

Conflict will remain the main driver of humanitarian needs in 2019. Food insecurity will remain a major concern, particularly in areas affected by conflict and climate-related hazards.

Yemen is once again the worst humanitarian crisis in the world while humanitarian needs will remain at exceptionally high levels in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Sudan. Humanitarian needs have also worsened significantly in Afghanistan because of drought, political instability and an influx of returning refugees, and in Cameroon and the Central African Republic due to an upsurge of conflict and violence.

Improving humanitarian response in 2019

Nigerian refugees who fled their homes with their families after attacks by Boko Haram quench their first at a well in the Daresalam refugee camp, Lake Region, Chad. Credit: UNICEF

In 2019, the humanitarian community will focus on delivering more efficient and effective assistance and protection. Robust analysis of the urgency and severity of needs will allow this year’s humanitarian response plans to focus more on the extremely vulnerable. Improved monitoring and analysis of the effectiveness of collective response will inform better decision-making in 2019.

Similarly, coordination with development partners will be improved to ensure joined-up, complementary responses that meet urgent needs and address the root causes of vulnerability, so as to support progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ongoing initiatives aimed to efficiently meet the most urgent needs include cash-based assistance, which will be increasingly used, where possible, alongside other forms of assistance.

In conflict settings, aid providers will continue to build on lessons learned to deliver principled humanitarian assistance and protection, while strengthening systems and processes that keep aid workers safe.

Increasingly, predictive data will be used to trigger funding for early action to mitigate food insecurity and rapidly respond to emergencies caused by extreme weather conditions.