Aidex Voices

An overview of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ global trends and challenges in 2018 and 2019 outlook.

At present, one in every 70 people worldwide is caught up in a crisis. In 2019, nearly 132 million people across the world will need humanitarian assistance. Funding the most vulnerable with food, shelter, health care, emergency education, protection and other basic assistance will require an estimated US$25 billion.

The average humanitarian crisis in which there is a UN-coordinated response now lasts more than nine years - an increase from an average length of 5.2 years in 2014.

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, with girls in conflict settings 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.


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.


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.


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 most 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.


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


Over the year ahead humanitarian needs will remain extremely high. With 132 million across 42 countries in need of humanitarian assistance, predominantly driven by conflict and the majority of needs occurring in protracted crises lacking progress, political solutions must top the 2019 agenda.

Food security 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.


New technology and better cooperation will be deployed by the humanitarian community to deliver 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, 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.