• Briefing
  • 25 June 2019

Briefing: Key trends in global humanitarian assistance 2019


Published ahead of our Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2019, this snapshot of the key trends in global humanitarian assistance provides clear and independent top-line analysis of the latest data on international financing at work in humanitarian situations.

Our briefing on key trends in global humanitarian assistance focuses on: how much is given, who provides it, where it goes and how it is delivered.

Additional information on international financing at work in humanitarian situations (including sources and notes for the graphic below) can be found in our accompanying factsheet.

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Key trends in global humanitarian assistance

Humanitarian assistance in numbers -  June 2019

Crisis can disproportionately impact people in poverty. Limited access to resources among the poorest people can exacerbate vulnerability to crisis, while experiencing crisis can draw people further into poverty. In 2018, countries which were the subject of humanitarian appeals for two or more consecutive years were home to 9% of the global population. Yet they accommodated just over a fifth (21%) of the global population in poverty, living on less than $3.20 per day, and a third of the global population in extreme poverty (33%), living on less than $1.90 per day. This data supports other evidence highlighting the trend that poverty is increasingly concentrated in crisis contexts.

Domestic governments should be the primary responders to crisis, using their own revenues, with international humanitarian assistance complementing where necessary. Yet, in countries with consecutive humanitarian appeals, non-grant government revenue accounted for only 58% of all available resources in 2017, compared with 75% for other developing countries. Resourcing and coordinating humanitarian and development responses to crisis, and to poverty in crisis contexts, is therefore vital.

International humanitarian assistance remains a critical resource for meeting the needs of people affected by crisis. In 2018, international humanitarian assistance continued a five-year trend of growth; while the pace of growth has slowed, rising by just 1% from 2017 to an estimated US$28.9 billion, there has been an estimated increase of 30% (US$6.7 billion) since 2014.

In aggregate, contributions of international humanitarian assistance from governments and EU institutions grew by US$0.7 billion from 2017 to US$22.6 billion in 2018. Among the 20 largest contributors, increases were made by seven governments (three increasing by more than 10%), with 13 reducing the volume of assistance provided (eight by more than 10%). The overall growth in international humanitarian assistance was driven by increased contributions from two countries in the Middle East and North of Sahara region. The United Arab Emirates provided US$2 billion of assistance in 2018, an increase of US$1.7 billion from 2017, while Saudi Arabia contributed US$1.3 billion, a rise of US$806 million. In contrast, aggregated contributions by European and North and Central American governments decreased. These were down by US$1.0 billion and US$446 million, respectively.

International humanitarian assistance continued to be concentrated in a small number of crises. In 2017, 10 countries accounted for 63% of all country-allocable humanitarian assistance. Syria, Yemen and South Sudan received almost half of the assistance to these 10 countries (30% of total country-allocable humanitarian assistance). Of the assistance directed to the 10 largest recipients, 59% went to countries in the Middle East and North of Sahara region, with 34% flowing to countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The majority of direct government funding for international humanitarian assistance (64%) was channelled to multilateral agencies in 2017, increasing from 60% in 2016. Conversely, private donors provided most (85%) of their assistance to NGOs. Funding to NGOs as a proportion of total international humanitarian assistance increased slightly, from 33% in 2016 to 34% in 2017.

The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2019

The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2019 (published by Development Initiatives in September) built on this analysis, presenting the most comprehensive assessment of the complex and evolving financing landscape. This year’s report contains new and detailed analysis of financing to protracted crisis situations.

To hear crisis finance experts discuss current and emerging trends, view our webinar, ‘Financing trends in crisis-affected contexts: Launch of the 2019 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report’, which was took place on 2 October. You can find the recording and presentation slides here.