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UN: World’s humanitarian needs will not be met as funds fall short

15 December 2023

Climate change and conflict mean bleak future, says OCHA

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Aid trucks wait at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, in October

Aid trucks wait at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, in October

WORSENING humanitarian emergencies around the world, including those in Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan, have left the United Nations with a massive funding shortfall of $46 billion in humanitarian aid for 2024.

The lack of money means that only half of the 300 million people in need of humanitarian support are likely to get it, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports in its Global Humanitarian Overview 2024, published last week. The Overview is an assessment of global humanitarian needs for the year ahead.

The outlook for millions of people next year is bleak, the OCHA warns, unless the international community can pledge billions more in funding to support those affected by conflict and climate change.

The UN’s head of humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, said: “In 2023, we received just over one third of the $57 billion required. This is the worst funding shortfall in years. Yet we still managed to deliver life-saving assistance and protection to 128 million people around the world.

“Humanitarians are saving lives, fighting hunger, protecting children, pushing back epidemics, and providing shelter and sanitation in many of the world’s most inhumane contexts. But the necessary support from the international community is not keeping pace with the needs.

“I think the Middle East as a whole, and Gaza and West Bank, is probably going to be the area of greatest need. But Ukraine is going through desperate times and a war that will restart in full swing next year. It will need a lot of attention.”

In East and Southern Africa, 74 million people are in need, many of them in Sudan, where the latest conflict has gone largely unnoticed owing to the war in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The UN says that one child in every five lives in, or has fled from, conflict zones this year. One in 73 people is forcibly displaced, a figure that has doubled in the past ten years; and 258 million are facing acute hunger. Climate change was now displacing more children than conflict, Mr Griffiths said.

Funding shortfalls this year left millions without assistance, in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Yemen, Nigeria, and elsewhere. As a result of this year’s shortfall, the UN has scaled down its funding requests for 2024, and will focus on those in only the very greatest need: about 180 million.

The $46.4-billion request for 2024 is ten million less than the sum originally requested in 2023.

The five largest single-country appeals are for Syria ($4.4 billion), Ukraine ($3.1 billion), Afghanistan ($3 billion), Ethiopia ($2.9 billion), and Yemen ($2.8 billion). The Middle East and North Africa require $13.9 billion, the largest total for any region in 2024.

The Roman Catholic aid agency CAFOD has called on the international community to respond with increased funding, including the UK.

The head of humanitarian policy at CAFOD, Howard Mollett, said: “The UN’s call for increased funding must be a wake-up call for wealthy states, including the British Government. The UK positions itself as a leader on the global climate crisis, but funding to East Africa has declined since 2017, just as the level of extreme hunger in East Africa, accentuated by El Niño, is rapidly increasing.”

David Westwood, director of policy and programmes for the children’s charity World Vision, said: “The consequences of a lack of funding can have a serious impact on the lives of extremely vulnerable children and their families, leaving them open to disease and extreme hunger, and placing lives at risk. But, as well as meeting the urgent humanitarian funding needs, more needs to be done to address conflict and climate change, which are some of the biggest causes of humanitarian needs.

“The overall picture is incredibly bleak, as evidenced by the World Food Programme’s November 2023 report that highlights the grim reality of 333 million people facing acute food insecurity, and an estimated 45 million children under five years of age suffering from acute malnutrition, underlining the urgent need for increased and sustained international support.”

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