On 4 December 2018, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released the 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO). The document intends to outline the outcome of 2018 global humanitarian efforts and put forward goals and financial expectations for the upcoming year. The full document can be found here.

The overall sentiment towards humanitarian aid in 2018 has been a positive one. Global humanitarian funding has reached a new high of $22 billion, surpassing the $21.5 billion raised in 2017.

Between 2008 and 2015, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.2 billion to 736 million, a marked difference showing that despite conflict and continuing need for assistance, there are achievements being made to combat global suffering.

“Despite the challenges, the humanitarian system is more effective and impactful than it has ever been. We are better at identifying different groups’ specific needs in crises and quicker to respond when disasters strike. Response plans are more inclusive, comprehensive, innovative and prioritized. We have a better picture of needs and vulnerabilities. And we have dedicated networks in more than 20 countries to protect people from sexual exploitation and abuse. All of these factors allow us to design effective responses that save lives and protect livelihoods.” –United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock

In 2018 it became apparent that crises are lasting longer on average than ever before, with the average crisis being measured at 9.3 years. Crises are also becoming more diverse in cause, with a multitude of factors interacting as we saw in 2018. A combination of natural hazards, armed conflict and human vulnerability prove to be the main drivers of global humanitarian crises today.

Populations in conflict areas are also younger than ever, and rapid growth to urban density can amplify the impacts of disasters and conflicts. Climate-related disasters (floods, storms, droughts) now account for more than 90% of the world’s disasters and affect the greatest number of people.

Food insecurity continues to be a growing issue for humanitarian aid organizations. Countries with the highest levels of undernourishment tend to be those recently or currently experiencing violent conflict, which disrupts food production and undermines agricultural development. From 2017 to 2018, the combination of conflict, drought and acute food insecurity left more than 20 million people facing or on the brink of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Attacks on aid workers remain an ongoing issue that prevents aid from being delivered to areas critically requiring humanitarian assistance. Between 2014 and 2017 there were 660 attacks recorded, with nearly 90% of victims national aid workers. Attacks are also becoming more violent, with an increased number resulting in death.

In 2018, 1 in every 70 people was impacted by ongoing crises, and will require humanitarian aid heading into the 2019 year. The 2019 GHO data shows us that the humanitarian community is continuing to deliver where needs are highest, reaching tens of millions of people in 41 countries in 2018. These needs will not subside into 2019. Catch Part 2 of this article for a summary of humanitarian aid plans in 2019 as outlined by the year’s Global Humanitarian Overview.


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Photo courtesy of UNHCR/F. Noy via Flickr


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