Today we’re launching the 2013 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report, the most comprehensive annual snapshot of how the world responds to conflict and ‘natural’ disasters.
The year of recurring disasters
The report looks mainly at 2012, when there were no ‘mega-disasters’, in terms of fatalities like the Japanese tsunami or the Haiti earthquake, but when the perpetual vulnerability of poor people in places like the Sahel to conflict, hunger and other repeated shocks and stresses was exposed.
The report highlights the shocking death toll of the severe food insecurity and famine in Somalia, which was at its worst in July 2011. We now know that around 257,000 people died between October 2010 and March 2012.
The data dramatically shows the human cost of a delayed response to slow-onset crises such as Somalia. If action had been taken earlier, including measures to reduce the risk of disaster, many more lives could have been saved.
Room for reform
A lot of humanitarian assistance still tends to be planned through short-term projects and organised in silos. However, donors are beginning to recognise the need to deal with complexity and work with longer time frames.
The latest UN appeal for Somalia has a three-year planning horizon, as opposed to earlier one-year appeals. This is a useful step towards realising that many humanitarian crises are acute manifestations of on-going problems – and need to be funded and managed accordingly.
In 2012, humanitarian assistance from OECD countries fell by 11%. This was partly because there were fewer people in need, but is also a reflection of tightening of aid budgets driven by wider austerity measures.
Meanwhile, the proportion of humanitarian assistance from non-OECD countries grew significantly, with Turkey emerging as the fourth largest government donor in 2012. It is likely that much of the country’s contribution was spent looking after Syrian refugees within Turkey itself.
We wrote this year’s report in the shadow of the horrendous situation in Syria, where the human impact of the crisis is increasing exponentially. At the time of writing there were 1.6 million refugees and just before we went to print the UN launched its largest ever appeal in response to the Syrian conflict, requesting $5.2 bn. How the world responds to this extremely challenging situation will be the story for next year.