Extraordinary scale of humanitarian crises drives spending to a record level, yet needs still not being met

New data on current trends in humanitarian financing

New research from the Global Humanitarian Assistance programme of Development Initiatives has shown the level of international humanitarian response rose to a record US$22 billion in 2013 in response to the extraordinary scale of humanitarian crises, yet over a of third of needs were left  unmet.

2013 saw millions of people affected by three very different major crises – in Syria, Central African Republic (CAR) and Philippines – each designated by the UN as the highest level emergency. Individually and combined with other crises, these placed unique demands on humanitarian responders and donors.  In 2013, 37% (US$3.1 billion) of funding for UN-coordinated appeals is thought to have gone to the Syria crisis.

UN-coordinated appeals targeted 78 million people for assistance in 2013 and called for US$13.2 billion in funding. Overall UN-coordinated appeals were 65% funded, leaving over one-third of identified needs unmet. Needs are continuing to rise: as of 19th June, UN-coordinated appeals requests totalled a record US$16.9 billion.

The rise in the level of total humanitarian response comes from a growing contribution from both government donors and private funding sources. All but one of the ten largest government donors in 2013 increased their funding from the previous year, and total contributions from private funding sources in 2013 look to have increased by 35%. Contributions from donors outside the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) have almost trebled since 2011.

Key findings include

  • The level of international humanitarian response rose to a record US$22 billion in 2013.
  • UN-coordinated appeals targeted 78 million people for assistance in 2013 and called for US$13.2 billion in funding.  65% of this funding appeal was met.
  • 37% of funding for UN-coordinated appeals is thought to have gone to the Syria crisis in 2013.
  • Government donors accounted for three quarters of the international response, contributing US$16.4 billion – a rise of 24% from 2012.
  • Contributions from individuals, trusts, foundations and corporations rose steeply to an estimated US$5.6 billion in 2013 (35% increase from 2012 levels).
  • There is considerable disparity between the timeliness of response to natural disasters and to chronic and complex crises, as well as to the financing of different UN appeals. In 2013 Mauritania’s appeal was 83% funded compared with Djibouti’s, which was 36% funded.
  • Humanitarian assistance represented around 1% of the combined domestic and international resources of its top 20 recipients in 2012. As a comparison, domestic expenditure accounted for just over two-thirds of total resources in these countries.

The research is a preview of the key findings from the forthcoming 2014 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report which will be released in September 2014. A preview of top findings from the Report will take place during ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS) in New York on Tuesday 24th June 2014.


  1. The 2014 Global Humanitarian Assistance report from Development Initiatives will be released in September 2014 and will provide further detailed analysis and a comprehensive overview of all areas of humanitarian financing.
  2. List of info graphics available for use by press:
    • International humanitarian response, 2008 – 2013
    • Top 20 government contributors of international humanitarian assistance, 2013
    • Humanitarian assistance from government donors (2004-2013).
    • Top 10 largest changes in international humanitarian assistance from government donors and EU institutions (2012-2013).
    • Funding and unmet needs, UN-coordinated appeals, 2004 -2013.
    • Top 10 recipients of international humanitarian response, 2012.
    • Forgotten crises
    • Best and worst funded appeals, 2004-2013
    • Timeliness of funding response to four natural disasters: Indian Ocean tsunami-earthquake, Haiti earthquake, Pakistan floods and Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan.
    • Timeliness of funding response to five UN appeals, 2013: conflicts and complex emergencies in Syria, Central African Republic, Yemen and South Sudan.
    • 2012 resource mix for the top 20 recipients of humanitarian assistance between 2003-2012.
    • Long, medium and short-term recipients of official humanitarian assistance from DAC donors, 1990-2012
    • Long, medium and short-term recipients of humanitarian assistance: levels of poverty, domestic resources and humanitarian assistance.
  3. Private funding refers to funding from individuals, trusts and foundations and companies and corporations.
  4. Dan Coppard (Director for Research and Analysis) is available for interview. Please contact us if you would like to arrange
  5.  The ten largest government donors in 2013 were: US, UK, Turkey, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Norway, France and Netherlands.
  6.  Development Initiatives (DI) exists to end absolute poverty.  Through objective, high-quality research and analysis, we inform decisions at all levels that deliver better use of resources. We champion transparency, enable effective use of information and support others to deliver practical tools and systems for people to hold their representatives to account and to inform policy and practice. We have centres in the United Kingdom, Kenya and Uganda and have partners globally including governments, academic institutions, the private sector and citizen representatives. To find out more about our work visit www.devinit.org
  7.  The Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme, run by DI, attempts to track the myriad interconnections involved in humanitarian response: the response to need; the provision of finance; the actors involved; the funding mechanisms used; and the countries and projects prioritised. GHA provides a ‘no spin’ service to anybody involved in humanitarian programming and performance – that means governments, UN and NGOs, journalists and researchers, and individuals in countries giving and receiving aid. More information on GHA  and further resources can be found at www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org


View the Global Humanitarian Assistance 2014 report summary


Sarah Dalrymple (Advocacy & Engagement Advisor),

T: (+44 (0)7887522053 or +44 (0)7896442055)

E: (sarah.dalrymple@devinit.org)