Private donors step up to help Syria crisis, with US$398 million given last year, new research finds

Latest figures show that the Syria crisis received more private donations of humanitarian assistance than any other crisis in 2015. Development Initiatives published their Global Humanitarian Assistance report today, which finds that private donors reportedly gave US$398 million to the Syria crisis last year. This is a significant increase from US$114 million given to the same crisis the year before.

Private donors have historically responded more generously to natural disasters and sudden onset emergencies, and Syria has interrupted this trend. Private donations are being increasingly seen as an important source of funding for the response to humanitarian crises, and their total contribution to crises globally has increased, for the third year running, to an estimated US$6.2 billion, making up almost a quarter of total international humanitarian assistance contributions. The research also finds that this money is typically given via NGOs, who relied on private donations for 64% of their total funding in 2014.

A record total of US$28 billion was given globally last year, and the majority of this funding (US$21.8 billion) continues to come from government donors. In recent years there has been a significant increase from Gulf states, particularly the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, who collectively gave 11% of the global total from governments in 2015 – compared to 3% in 2011. These contributions have come in response to crises in the Middle East. Multilateral institutions such as the World Bank are also playing an important role in the region, supporting countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

Harpinder Collacott, Executive Director at Development Initiatives, said “In the face of such human suffering, the World Humanitarian Summit and other global processes have intensified the search for new types and scales of financing, including how development finance can play a greater role in preventing crises and responding to protracted displacement. Private donations and other forms of finance are playing a greater role and this is vital for the future. Crucially we need transparent, accessible and timely information on these resources so that they work together and respond effectively to need – and this is a big task now facing actors involved in providing humanitarian finance.”

The report also provides new analysis on different funding mechanisms that are emerging in humanitarian financing. These include an increase in insurance policies being taken out in countries faced with natural disasters, and the role of increasingly prominent actors like the multilateral development banks

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Contact: Emma Cooke, Communications Officer at Development Initiatives

E: T: +44(0)1179 272505


Notes to Editors:

  • Data graphics are available
  • Interviews can be arranged with Charlotte Lattimer, Senior Policy and Engagement Adviser and Sophia Swithern, Head of Research and Analysis


Key findings include:

  • When donations were considered as a percentage of gross national income, Turkey, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Sweden were the four donors that provided the most in 2015.
  • In 2014 Syria was the largest recipient of humanitarian assistance at US$2 billion followed by South Sudan, Iraq, Palestine and Jordan.
  • In 2015 the US was the largest donor of international humanitarian assistance at US$6.4 billion, followed by Turkey (where refugee hosting costs are included), the UK, EU institutions, Germany, Sweden and the UAE.
  • Shortfalls in funding to UN-coordinated appeals grew to 45%, with large disparities in funding between crises – for example, Iraq received 74% of funding requested while Gambia had only 5% of requirements met.
  • At least 76% of people living in extreme poverty – around 677 million people – are estimated to live in countries that are either politically fragile, environmentally vulnerable or both. However, the real number is likely to be much higher, since it is often those most at risk who are missing from poverty data.
  • The number of people displaced by violence and persecution globally is now a record 65.3 million, generating severe suffering and humanitarian need.
  • People affected by natural disasters over the last decade have predominantly been in Middle Income Countries. However in 2015, the number of people affected in Low Income Countries significantly increased, reaching 43 million – 48% of the total – placing further strain on already poor and vulnerable populations.


About Development Initiatives

Development Initiatives (DI) is an independent international development organisation that focuses on the role of data in driving poverty eradication and sustainable development. DI’s work on global humanitarian assistance provides objective, independent, rigorous data and analysis on humanitarian financing and related aid flows.