Difficult times ahead for Humanitarian Geneva

This is an onsite edited excerpt of the G|O Briefing newsletter

One in thirty-three people in the world today needs financial help. That’s 12 more than the previous years. The upward trend will most likely endure, and their potential helpers are in dire financial straits themselves because of the pandemic.
International organizations and NGOs based in Geneva will be under major financial stress next year, all while they try to respond to the social, humanitarian, and economic crises that will unfold next year as a result of the pandemic, climate change, and conflicts.

According to the new global appeal launched by OCHA this Tuesday, 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This means 1 in 33 people worldwide needs help—a significant increase from 1 in 45 people a year ago. The UN and partner organizations aim to assist 160 million people most in need across 56 countries, which will require US$35 billion.

But funding will be an issue, and, in 2020, the gap was a clear indication of the challenges that lie ahead. The Global Humanitarian Overview 2020 presented initial funding requirements of US$29 billion to assist 109 million of the 168 million people in need. By April, requirements had reached US$31 billion following the finalization of several response plans in the first quarter of the year and the addition of the COVID-19 crisis in March. By mid-November, requirements had reached US$39 billion to assist 265 million of the 441 million people in need in 64 countries. Despite high levels of contributions this year—over US$17 billion—the gap between requirements and funding is larger than ever: US$22 billion.

If COVID-19 altered the landscape of the humanitarian response in 2020, international organizations have decided to integrate the pandemic into their ‘regular’ Humanitarian Programme Cycle for 2021.

The largest appeals will involve Syria, where an additional 1.9 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2021; Yemen, where after almost six years of protracted conflict and economic blockades, half the population is in acute need; the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where increasing numbers of people are suffering from acute food insecurity, the economic situation is deteriorating, food prices are rising, and populations are affected by flooding and localized conflict; Afghanistan, where an additional 4.5 million people are in need due to escalating poverty, rising food insecurity, political instability, and widespread conflict; and Ethiopia, where the desert locust infestation and the pandemic have resulted in a further 2.1 million people needing humanitarian assistance. The recent conflict that has broken out in the Tigray region also risks severely deepening the humanitarian crisis.

In light of the challenge, Oxfam International, Save the Children, CARE International, Humanity & Inclusion, International Rescue Committee, Norwegian Refugee Council, and World Vision International are calling for the international community to scale up engagement with actors on the ground to facilitate better access to the most vulnerable people. They also called on governments to commit funding now to support the scale-up of the global humanitarian response in 2021 and ensure that country-specific and regional humanitarian appeals are fully funded.