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  • Report
  • 20 June 2023

Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2023: Chapter 2

Characteristics of crisis: Need and funding

chapter 2

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Four interactive charts let you explore global levels of crisis, vulnerability and need, the largest donors of international humanitarian assistance and how humanitarian financing is delivered.

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While the numbers of people in need of assistance rose significantly in 2022, the increase is part of a longer-term trend of rapidly accelerating humanitarian needs. Estimations show that needs have more than doubled over the past five years. Several large-scale protracted crises account for the bulk of humanitarian needs, with more than half of all people in need over the past five years living in just 10 countries. The humanitarian system’s response capacity has grown to match this rise in needs, with the number of people targeted to receive assistance doubling over the past five years.

Challenges remain on gathering consolidated data on the people reached by humanitarian interventions and despite efforts to improve data disaggregation. Where data is available (for only one-third of UN coordinated appeals), half of all people in humanitarian need are under the age of 18.

As in previous years, a small number of crises received the majority of humanitarian funding, with the 10 largest recipients receiving 63% of the total country-allocable funding in 2022. Ukraine received the highest amount of humanitarian funding of any country in a given year ever recorded, at US$4.4 billion.

Donors are faced with a complex set of choices on how and where to allocate their funding. In 2022 there was significant variation between the largest donors in the share of their total assistance allocated to country, regional or global levels, and to individual countries. The US, EU institutions[1] and UK allocated just 6% or less at the global or regional level, while Japan provided 55% and Germany 17%. In his Insight piece, Deputy Director General of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Michael Köhler, proposes solutions for more balanced humanitarian financing and suggests establishing national humanitarian funding targets to secure a more sustainable and equal sharing of financing.

Forced displacement was, as in previous years, a key driver of the rise in humanitarian needs in 2022, with an additional 16.5 million people displaced internally and across borders. Over 10 million of those people forcibly displaced were Ukrainians. The impacts of the Ukraine crisis also contributed to rising levels of global food insecurity with an estimated 265.7 million people facing crisis-level acute food insecurity across 60 countries in 2022/23. Among the countries affected, South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia experience some of the most severe food insecurity in the world. In their Insight piece, the Organisation for Children Harmony (TOCH, a South Sudanese NGO) recount their experience accessing the UN South Sudan Humanitarian Fund, calling for more predictable multi-year funding for actors working with affected communities.

Humanitarian funding to those sectors that directly address food needs (food security, nutrition and agriculture) rose by 53% in 2022. However, humanitarian food sector funding in crisis-level food insecurity remains at less than US$100 per person in four out of the five most severe food insecurity contexts. N4D reflect in their Insight piece on their work in Yemen to promote better multisectoral nutritional programming, highlighting the importance of local ownership and increased longer-term financing to build resilience.

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Who is receiving humanitarian assistance? Gender and age

Figure 2.1: The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has more than doubled in the last five years

Trends in people in need over the last decade, 2013–2022 and 2023 (preliminary)

Figure 2.1: The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has more than doubled in the last five years

Stacked column chart showing that numbers of people in need peaked in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic but in 2022 remained much higher than pre-pandemic.

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC), ACAPS and historic people-in-need figures extracted from GHA and Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) reports.

Notes: 2023 data is preliminary as of April 2023. People-in-need figures for 2019–2023 are based on the maximum number as of UN OCHA HPC year-final per-country estimates, where available for humanitarian response plans and ACAPS year-maximum per-country estimates. 2017 and earlier figures reflect the total number of people receiving humanitarian assistance under interagency coordinated response plans.

There has been a stark increase in needs when examined over the past decade. A multitude of factors have contributed to this increase, but primary drivers include the outbreak of new large-scale crises coupled with an increase in and ongoing prolongment of protracted crises.[2]

Improvements in needs assessments mean there is now a more comprehensive identification of the range of humanitarian needs. Data for years previous to 2018 is based on humanitarian population figures targeted by UN-coordinated appeals, meaning that people with humanitarian needs in countries without UN coordination structures were not included. As of 2018, annual figures have been based on independent assessments across all countries with humanitarian needs, providing a more comprehensive overview of the global panorama. This difference accounts for a 19% average increase in people in need from 2018 onwards, due to needs in countries outside of UN-coordinated appeals. However, this difference fluctuates across the years, making the data before and after 2018 not directly comparable. Taking these fluctuations into account, estimations show that needs have increased by at least three times, and potentially four, over the past decade.

  • Between 2018 and 2022, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has doubled from 199.1 million to 406.6 million.
  • While figures before and after 2018 are not directly comparable due to different data sources, estimations show that over the past decade the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance may have increased by four times. In 2013 at least 81.2 million people were identified by UN-coordinated appeals to be in need of humanitarian assistance, while in 2022 406.6 million people were identified by both UN-coordinated appeals and independent assessments.
  • As of April 2023, an estimated 404.3 million people in 83 countries are in need of humanitarian assistance. However, this figure is subject to change throughout the year and is likely to increase.

The response capacity of the humanitarian system has been significantly stretched by several large-scale crises that account for the bulk of needs. In most cases, these countries with very high numbers of people in need are experiencing protracted crisis, lasting five or more years. Across a range of contexts, the general trend is of increasing needs, with few crises abating or transitioning into longer-term recovery and development. Multiple layers of complexity, such as economic crises, accelerating climate impacts and shocks, and an absence of political solutions, are increasingly creating situations in which humanitarian actors must deliver throughout recurrent and overlapping crises.

  • Since 2018, more than half of all people in need lived in just 10 countries. In 2022, each of these countries had more than 10 million people in need.
  • Between 2018 and 2022, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Yemen were consistently in this top 10 list of countries. 16 other countries have featured among the top 10, with Afghanistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela present in 4 out of 5 years.
  • The largest yearly increase on record (excluding the additional responses in 2020 for the Covid-19 pandemic) was measured between 2021 and 2022 when humanitarian needs grew by 100.6 million people from an estimated 306.0 million people living in 73 countries in 2021 to 406.6 million in 82 countries in 2022. Contributing to this were large increases of over 10 million people in need in three countries (Ukraine, Pakistan and Myanmar).
  • Between 2018 and 2022, the number of people in need increased by at least 10% in 64 of the 102 countries with available data. It decreased in 14 countries. Increases in needs over this time period were particularly pronounced in protracted crisis countries.
  • Needs have more than tripled over this period in Ethiopia, from 7.9 million in 2018 to 28.5 million in 2022. The Tigray conflict in the north of the country, combined with drought in the south, has driven this increase, with a particularly sharp rise between 2019 and 2020 of an additional 10.3 million people in need (116% increase). The 2023 preliminary picture shows a further rise to 38.2 million people in need.
  • The increase in needs in Myanmar was even starker over this time period, rising sixteenfold from 0.9 million in 2018 to 14.4 million to 2022 (the largest percentage increase at 1570%). The rise in needs was particularly striking between 2021 and 2022, almost tripling in just one year (an increase of 10.7 million, or 289%).
  • In the past 5 years, needs also increased by 20.4 million people in Pakistan (a rise of 638%) to 23.6 million in 2022, by 13.9 million people in DRC (doubling to 27.0 million, and by 13.8 million in Afghanistan (130%) to 24.4 million. Yemen has also recorded consistently high levels of people in need, but this has remained stable between 22 and 24 million people in need during this period.

The rise in humanitarian needs over the past decade also points to the expanding responsibilities and remit of the humanitarian sector, as programming attends to a wider range of needs and over a longer timeframe.[3] In addition, system-wide shocks, like the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, have significantly increased the pressure on response capacity, and several large-scale crises have driven notable spikes in need simultaneously across multiple regions.

  • In 2020, an estimated 200.3 million additional people were considered to be in need of humanitarian assistance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, four emergencies drove a significant increase in people in need: Syria and the neighbouring region, Iraq, Yemen and South Sudan. The interagency appeals for these countries surpassed the billion dollar mark in 2016.[4]

Figure 2.2: People targeted to receive UN-coordinated assistance have doubled in the past five years

People targeted in countries with UN-coordinated response plans, 2019–2022 and 2023 (preliminary)

Figure 2.2: People targeted to receive UN-coordinated assistance have doubled in the past five years

Line and stacked column chart showing that although the number of UN-coordinated response plans has decreased since 2020, from 55 to 42, the number of people targeted has steadily increased from 178.6 million in 2021 to a projected 240.7 million in 2023.

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Humanitarian Action data portal, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and data from UN response plan documents.

Notes: 2023 data is preliminary as of April 2023. The number of people targeted under Covid-19 response plans in 2020 only includes data for the 17 Covid-19-specific response plans with available data on the number targeted to receive assistance; more people affected by Covid-19 were targeted for assistance under response plans that responded to other humanitarian crises alongside the Covid-19 pandemic.

A key indicator to understand how the humanitarian system is responding is the number of people targeted by UN-coordinated humanitarian responses and the number of people actually reached by these responses.[5] The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) collates information on people in need and targeted with humanitarian UN-coordinated response plans, including humanitarian response plans, regional refugee response plans and other types of emergency response plans.[6]

UN-coordinated humanitarian response plans capture identified needs across various sectors such as health and food security that are identified through a collaborative needs assessment process. They then set out how to meet those needs alongside the financial requirements to carry out this plan. However, UN-coordinated plans only target a proportion of those identified as in need of humanitarian assistance. In part, the number targeted may be impacted by the assistance provided by others and the need to ensure response coherence with other actors (including the national government, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and development actors). Other considerations that may determine the number of people targeted include prioritisation of needs, operational capacity restrictions and humanitarian access impediments.[7] The numbers of people targeted therefore give an indication of the reach of the UN-coordinated humanitarian response. Given that not all people identified as in need of humanitarian assistance will be targeted and thus reached, the extent to which UN-coordinated appeal requirements are fulfilled therefore provides only part of the picture of global humanitarian need and, as such, the extent of unmet need is larger than underfunding levels suggest (see the section titled ‘Was humanitarian funding sufficient? Appeals, donors and total assistance’ in Chapter 1).

The numbers of people targeted have steadily increased over the past five years, with the exception of a large spike in 2020, which saw a large number of people targeted by the UN-coordinated response plans for the Covid-19 pandemic. This rise far outstrips the growth in the number of plans, showing how increases in the number of people targeted have primarily been driven by the escalating needs in countries facing protracted humanitarian crises.

  • Since 2019, the number of people targeted in countries with UN response plans has doubled (from 120.8 to a preliminary 240.7 million people targeted in 2023).
  • In 2021, 67% of people identified to be in need under appeals were targeted with assistance. In 2022 and 2023,[8] targeting remained stable at around 66% of people identified as in need. However, given the significant rise in people in need, this stability in targeting reflects a growth in the ambition of UN-coordinated responses to meet rising challenges.
  • In 2020, only 60% of people identified under UN-coordinated response plans were targeted to received assistance (266.9 million people), as the humanitarian system was put under increased pressure due to additional Covid-19-related needs. Most of the ad-hoc Covid-19 plans for countries that did not already have UN-coordinated appeals were discontinued in 2021.
  • UN-coordinated response plans rose from 36 in 2019 to 42 in 2023, a 17% increase. The scale of this increase is much lower than the numbers of people targeted, the latter having doubled over the same time period.
  • Over two-thirds of the total increase in people targeted by UN-coordinated responses between 2019 and 2023 were in 22 out of 24 countries experiencing protracted crises, an additional 82.7 million people.

Increases in people targeted for humanitarian assistance occurred in the same countries that saw the largest spikes in people in need, with some of the largest increases in Ukraine, Myanmar and Afghanistan. Country-specific differences in the share of people in need that response plans targeted with assistance point to the restrictive and challenging operational conditions in which humanitarian actors are currently operating in some contexts. These challenges speak to the increasing complexity of crises (see Chapter 1).

  • The number of people targeted with humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan increased more than fivefold from 4.5 million in 2019 to 23.7 million people in 2023. Despite the challenging political and operational context, humanitarian actors increased the proportion of people targeted out of people identified in need of assistance from 71% in 2019 to 84% in 2023.
  • The scope of the humanitarian response plan for Ukraine has also expanded significantly, targeting almost fivefold the number of people in 2023 (11.1 million) than in 2019 (2.3 million) and managing to target a similar share of people in need despite a significantly larger response (63% in 2023 compared to 66% in 2019).
  • The number of people targeted also increased almost fivefold in Myanmar between 2019 and 2023, from 0.9 million to 4.5 million. However, in 2023, the interagency response is focusing its efforts on the most vulnerable people in rural areas given sharply rising needs, targeting only 25% of people in need compared with 100% in 2019. This is because of a shrinking operational space in Myanmar due to ongoing conflict, bureaucratic access constraints and violence against aid workers.[9]
  • Similarly, the interagency response in DRC now focuses its efforts on 10.0 million people targeted in the most vulnerable areas, which amounts to 38% of the identified population in need in 2023. This is a decrease from 70% in 2019 due to the identified needs more than doubling since then. Humanitarian access is also limited because of security incidents affecting aid operations, poor road infrastructure and administrative constraints.[10]
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Box 2.1

Challenges with ‘people reached’ data

Significant progress has been made on needs assessments (ensuring greater clarity on the numbers of people in need), the response requirements for different clusters[11] and prioritising the targeting of people in need, however monitoring and understanding the impact of interagency humanitarian response has been less consistent. One of the ways UN OCHA has tried to present a rough overview of the scope of assistance provided is through the number of people reached, although this metric has its challenges as outlined below. Since 2019, UN OCHA has provided increasingly consolidated data on the estimated number of people reached by at least one form of assistance (a term used by OCHA to describe assistance from programmes under at least one cluster’s remit) under interagency humanitarian responses, either through response plans or flash appeals. In 2022, consolidated data on people reached was available for 35 out of the 46 UN-coordinated response plans. However, the quality of these reported figures has repeatedly been put in question. At face value, the estimated reach of the humanitarian interagency response seems impressive relative to the levels of received funding. Yet certain inconsistencies point to an incomplete picture.

  • Across the 35 appeals with available 2022 data, 157.0 million people were estimated to have been reached with at least one form of assistance – this amounts to 85% of the number of people targeted under the same plans despite only 62% of these plans’ funding requirements being met.
  • This pattern is particularly notable for eight plans in 2022, where the estimated reach differs significantly from the coverage of funding requirements, signalling underlying challenges of consolidated data on people reached.
  • Some examples of these in 2022 include the flash appeal for Haiti, which only received 10% of requested funding yet reported to have reached 140% of people targeted, and the Mozambique Gombe Emergency Flash Appeal, which also only covered 37% of required funding yet reported to meet 123% of people targeted.

While a global aggregate estimate is produced annually as part of UN OCHA’s Global Humanitarian Overview, the consolidation or collection of figures at country-level is unclear. Research points to the different methods and incentives for agencies to calculate the number of people reached by their programmes, potentially leading to overestimates in some cases.[12] The Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluation of the Yemen crisis goes even further, stating that “the formulation of numbers reached [is] imprecise to the point of being almost meaningless”.[13] One big challenge is that this data is collected separately by each cluster, often with little standardisation across them, and therefore is difficult to consolidate.

Even in cases where estimations might be more accurate, the current data still does not reveal how well humanitarian needs have been met, meaning that the number of people reached should not be seen as a measure of the quality or impact of assistance. This was already recognised in 2016 by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee in its own guidance on humanitarian population figures.[14] It is also reflected in the findings of the Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluation of the interagency humanitarian Covid-19 response that “it was difficult to determine whether those who did receive assistance were in need, or most in need” in the context of “a humanitarian algorithm that prioritizes the overall numbers of people reached over addressing those in greatest need”, alongside a spiralling caseload and resource limitations.[15] This poses an important challenge for the humanitarian system as to how to meaningfully monitor the reach of the interagency response, and whether capturing people reached is a useful measure of the system’s performance.

Figure 2.3: Needs data on sex and age breakdown is incomplete, but it suggests a high proportion of children in humanitarian crises

Breakdown of people in need by sex and age, 2022

Figure 2.3: Needs data on sex and age breakdown is incomplete, but it suggests a high proportion of children in humanitarian crises

In 2022 only a third of the 46 UN-coordinated appeals provided data about the sex and age of people in need. Of these 50% (92.5 million people) were women and girls. And 49% (90.3 million people) were children aged 18 and under.

Source: Development Initiatives based on Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Humanitarian Action data portal.

Notes: Figures are for the 18 humanitarian response plans and other appeals in 2022 with people-in-need data disaggregated by sex and age. This represents 55% out of all people in need covered by UN-coordinated appeals in 2022. The female/male split by age categories is an estimate based on the overall figure of people in need for the humanitarian response plans in Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria and Ukraine. Figures for Ukraine are before the Russian invasion in February 2022. For the humanitarian response plans in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, and for the Lebanon Emergency Response Plan 2022 and Pakistan Floods Response Plan 2022, figures are estimated based on the food security cluster people in need.

Despite increasing efforts over the past decade[16] to disaggregate data on people with humanitarian needs and provide greater clarity on the demographic profiles of populations in crisis settings, in 2022 only a third of UN-coordinated appeals provided information on the proportions of women and children per crisis context. A recent review of sex- and age-disaggregated data in the humanitarian sector found that these gaps were due to a lack of accountability for existing standards, a lack of gender-specific expertise and capacity in crisis contexts, and increasing data collection at the project level that is not being communicated to the cluster or wider system level.[17]

  • Only 18 out of 46 UN-coordinated appeals[18] contained disaggregated data on people in need by sex (female/ male split), whereas 17 appeals contained data disaggregated by age (children under 18; adults from 18–59; elderly over 60).
  • In 2022, data was available for over half of all people in need under UN-coordinated appeals, close to 186.6 million people.

According to data available from these appeals, there is a relatively even split between men and women in their exposure to humanitarian crisis (though with differences between countries). In general, children under the age of 18 are particularly affected by humanitarian crises compared to adults and the elderly.

  • Females (women and girls) and males (men and boys) are equally affected by humanitarian crises, each accounting for 50% of people in need. This split is marginally different when just considering adults, with a slightly higher proportion of women affected by crisis (53%) than men (47%).
  • Half of all people in humanitarian need are children under the age of 18 (49%, or 90.3 million). In contrast, 30% of the global population is estimated under the age of 18 in 2022.[19]
  • Women and children make up 76% of people in humanitarian need.

Country-specific breakdowns provide a compelling case for improving the sex and age data disaggregation of people in need, as they enable insights into demographic profiles, specific needs and priorities for in-country responses.

  • Among the largest appeals with more than 10 million people in need, the proportions of the total population affected by humanitarian crisis are relatively consistent, with Afghanistan differing from the general trend with just 29% of those affected being children. This is notable as the proportion of people under 18 in Afghanistan was estimated at half the country population (50%) in 2022.[20]
  • Among other appeals, the Kenya Drought Flash Appeal 2022 had the highest share of female (61%) and children (69%) people in need covered by any appeal. This was due to a greater share of girls and women assessed to be in need in the drought-affected areas of the appeal, with a very low share of adult men (7.6%). This is higher than the trends across the general population in 2022, where half (51%) of people are estimated female and 45% under 18.[21]
  • In contrast, the Pakistan Floods Response Plan 2022 had the lowest share of female people in need (46%) due to higher levels of boys under the age of 18 assessed to be in need.
  • The Lebanon Emergency Response Plan 2022 had the lowest share of children (24%), lower than the country share of around a third (33%) of people estimated to be under the age of 18, but also due to the plan covering Lebanese and migrant adults facing increased levels of extreme poverty, food insecurity and the absence of social safety nets.

The demographic profile of Ukrainians in need has shifted following the Russian invasion in 2022.

  • Prior to the invasion, 2022 data from between January and March for 2.9 million people in need pointed to a higher proportion of women being affected (54%) than men and 13% of all people in need being under the age of 18. Furthermore, 30% of people in need in Ukraine at the beginning of 2022 were over the age of 60.
  • Sex- and age-disaggregated data was not available in 2022 following the invasion. However, the humanitarian response plan for 2023 in Ukraine, targeting 11.1 million people in need, showed a shift to 56% female, 27% children and 22% elderly.
  • The figures under the refugee response plan for displaced Ukrainians in 2023 vary to those in-country, with a higher proportion of children (38% of people in need) and a lower proportion of elderly persons (9.0%). Close to two-thirds of those in need are female. These proportions are higher in comparison to general demographic trends estimated for 2022, with 59% of Ukrainians being female and 18% under the age of 18.[22]

Read more on the quality and quantity of funding to women’s rights and women-led organisations in this report by IRC with support from DI.

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Where is humanitarian assistance targeted? Recipients and donor priorities

Figure 2.4: Ukraine was the largest recipient of humanitarian assistance in 2022

10 largest recipient countries of international humanitarian assistance

Figure 2.4: Ukraine was the largest recipient of humanitarian assistance in 2022

Bar chart showing the volume of humanitarian assistance received by 10 countries in 2021 and 2022. Ukraine has the largest increase, and received the most funding in 2022 at US$4390 million.

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS).

Notes: DRC = Democratic Republic of Congo. Data is in constant 2021 prices. Totals for previous years differ from those reported in previous GHA reports due to deflation and updated data.

Despite there being 46 UN-coordinated humanitarian responses in 2022, 10 crises received nearly two-thirds of all international humanitarian assistance. The share of total funding (funding channelled inside and outside of UN appeals) (see Figure 1.4 in Chapter 1) received by the 10 largest recipients in each year has varied little over the past decade. Over this period, however, the number of humanitarian crises has increased, suggesting a greater concentration of total funding among the largest recipients. A large majority of funding goes to countries experiencing protracted crisis.

  • In 2022, the top 10 recipients of humanitarian assistance received 63% of the total country-allocable funding, an increase from 2021 (60%). Over the past 10 years the average has been 64%, with the proportion accounted for by the 10 largest recipients varying relatively little each year, from a high of 70% in 2018 to a low of 58% in 2020.
  • Out of a total US$140.2 billion country-allocable international humanitarian assistance received across 2018–2022, 10 countries received 63%, while five accounted for 43%.
  • 13 countries have featured in the top 10 recipients of international humanitarian assistance between 2018–2022. Seven countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Yemen, and DRC – have consistently appeared during this timeframe.
  • In total, 158 countries received international humanitarian assistance in 2022, with 134 receiving over US$1 million and 102 receiving more than US$5 million. This is a slight increase from 2021, when 155 countries received international humanitarian assistance, 112 over US$1 million and 91 over US$5 million.
  • Protracted crisis countries received 92% of all funding (US$32.8 billion) in 2022, an increase on 2021 when protracted crisis countries received 88% (US$24.8 billion).

International solidarity for humanitarian needs in Ukraine following the Russian invasion significantly altered the profile of the top 10 countries receiving the most international humanitarian assistance. Ukraine moved from the position of 31st largest recipient in 2021 to the largest recipient in 2022.

  • Ukraine received US$4.4 billion of international humanitarian assistance in 2022. This far exceeds amounts that previous largest recipients have received; for example, in 2021 Yemen received US$3.3 billion.
  • Afghanistan was the second largest recipient in 2022, receiving US$3.9 billion, an increase of 85.5% from 2021 (US$2.1 billion), and almost five times the funding received in 2020 (US$780 million).
  • Funding dropped for both Yemen and Syria, the two largest recipients in 2021. Yemen received US$2.7 billion in 2022, down 19% from 2021 (US$3.3 billion). Syria received US$2.5 billion in 2022, a reduction of 5.2% from 2021 (US$2.6 billion), following a 15% reduction from 2020.

Figure 2.5: The share of funding provided by donors often varies between crises

Share of funding provided by the top five donors to the largest three crises (by US$), 2022

Figure 2.5: The share of funding provided by donors often varies between crises

Infographic shows that the US was the largest donor to the top 3 crises, and Germany the third largest to all 3, but other donors rank differently for each.

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS) data.

Notes: Figure shows country-allocable international humanitarian assistance from top donor governments and EU institutions only (it excludes funding to global, blank and to multi-destination countries). Data is in constant 2021 prices.

Donors are faced with a complex set of choices in how and where to allocate budgets across an ever-growing set of needs (see Figures 1.2 and 1.4 in Chapter 1 and Figure 2.1 in this chapter). This is in addition to the question of how much humanitarian assistance each can afford to provide (see Figure 1.6 in Chapter 1). Part of this decision-making relates to initial choices about targeting funding to specific countries experiencing crisis directly or whether to provide flexible funding at the global or regional level. In this regard, in 2022 there was significant variation between the largest donors in the share of their total assistance allocated at the country and the global or regional levels.

  • The US, EU institutions and UK allocated almost all assistance to specific country contexts with 6% or less provided at the global or regional level (4.4%, 1.4% and 6.3%, respectively).
  • This is in marked contrast to other donors: Japan allocated more than half its assistance to the global or regional level (55%), Sweden more than a third (37%) and Norway more than a fifth (23%). Slightly lower – but still comparatively large – shares were provided by Germany (17%) and Canada (11%).

Ongoing discussions around the need for more quality funding, including within the Grand Bargain, focus on the importance of a significant share of funding being provided softly-earmarked or unearmarked.[23] Analysis in previous Global Humanitarian Assistance reports indicates that this flexible funding, to UN agencies at least, has been reducing in recent years. Between 2016 and 2021, UN agencies have reported that the proportion of the total funding they received unearmarked reduced from 19% to 13%. Limited transparency of how softly earmarked or unearmarked funding is spent means it is difficult to identify where and how this funding supports responses to particular crises or needs.

What are the patterns of funding by volume of the largest donors?

Looking more closely at humanitarian assistance that is allocated to specific countries can provide some indication of how donors are prioritising this earmarked funding and how choices between donors vary. Using publicly available information it is unfortunately not possible to determine how well these funding decisions were coordinated between donors. However, analysis of the published data that is available on donor funding to individual countries can help to contribute to a better understanding of where donors decide to allocate limited resources in the context of a system that is globally underfunded. By volume of funding to these countries, the US, Germany and EU institutions consistently provide the most international humanitarian assistance, as they do globally, though there are a few cases where other donors provide notably large volumes to individual crises.

  • In 2022, the US provided the largest volume of assistance to all of the 10 largest humanitarian crises.
  • The second and third largest donors of country-allocable international humanitarian assistance, Germany and EU institutions, were also consistently among the five largest donors by volume to these ten crises in 2022.
  • There are however a few notable examples of individual donors giving significantly more to individual crises than might be expected given the overall volume of country-allocable assistance they provide globally. The UK was the second largest donor of international humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in 2022, but the fourth largest globally. Saudi Arabia was the second largest donor to Yemen, while being the eighth largest globally. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made the third largest contribution to Ethiopia but in 2022 was the eleventh largest donor globally.

What share of donors’ total country-allocable funding do they give to individual crises?

The findings below reflect donor funding behaviour to the six countries that received the most humanitarian assistance in 2022: Ukraine, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Ethiopia. Analysing the share of their total country-allocable assistance[24] donors provided to individual crises gives an indication of the extent to which those contexts were prioritised. This funding behaviour should be considered in the context of how well needs were met in a given context. Response plans in the Ukraine, Afghanistan and Somalia were comparatively well funded (74% or more of requirements), while response plans in Yemen, Syria and Ethiopia only had around half of their requirements met in 2022. There is significant variation between donors in the proportion of their total country-allocable assistance that they provide to these individual crises.

  • The US stands out as being particularly consistent in the proportion of its global total of country-allocable assistance that it provided to the largest crises in 2022, providing around 8% to Ukraine (8.3%), Afghanistan (7.8%), Ethiopia (8.2%) and Somalia (7.6%), and 6.4% to Yemen and 6.7% to Syria.
  • Greater variance is evident in the proportion of the total country-allocable assistance provided by Germany and EU institutions, the next largest donors in 2022. Germany provided 15% to Syria and just 3.4% to Somalia. EU institutions provided 13% to Ukraine and below 4% to both Ethiopia (3.7%) and Somalia (3.8%).
  • There are even more stark differences in 2022 allocations by other countries. The UK provided 42% of all its country-allocable assistance to Afghanistan; France allocated 31% and Canada allocated 20% to Ukraine. Saudi Arabia provided 68% of its country-allocable assistance to Yemen and the UAE allocated 36% to Ethiopia.

How do donor contributions to a crisis compare to their overall share of global funding?

Some sense of the prioritisation of funding to individual crises by donors, in comparison to other leading donors, is given by the variance between the proportion of total assistance that donors provide globally and the share they make up of the total to individual crises. The more prominent examples noted above in relation to the share of donor totals provided to particular crises continue to stand out from this perspective. It also shows where donors may, relative to one another, be carrying a greater or lesser financial burden. While the data on country-allocable assistance includes funding channelled inside and outside of UN-coordinated appeals, with the majority of funding allocated against UN appeal requirements, the scale of appeal requirements and the extent of coverage provides some context for the allocation decisions made by donors.

  • In 2022, the Ukraine Flash Appeal had requirements of US$4.3 billion, with funding covering 88% of those needs. Looking at the largest donors to Ukraine in 2022 demonstrates the relative prioritisation between donors. 28% of total funding to Ukraine was from the US – considerably below the 41% of global funding accounted for by the US. Relatively, other donors are contributing more. 4.9% of total assistance to Ukraine was from France; this is more than double the 2.0% France accounts for globally. Excluding the five with the largest contributions, all other donors made up 41% of funding to Ukraine – this is compared with an average of 25% that donors outside of top five for each crisis made up globally in 2022. This demonstrates that the financial responsibility for donors of the Ukraine crisis is shared more widely than for other crises.
  • UN appeal requirements for Afghanistan were US$4.4 billion, with coverage of 74% of those needs in 2022. As in Ukraine, the US accounted for a smaller share of total funding, 29% compared to its global share of 41%. Conversely the UK made up 14% of all funding to Afghanistan, more than three times its 3.7% share of global assistance. It’s notable that as the fourth largest donor globally, the UK does not appear among the top five donors to Ukraine, Syria or Ethiopia.
  • Yemen had similarly high UN appeal requirements to Ukraine and Afghanistan for 2022, at US$4.3 billion, though the level of coverage was notably lower at 54%. While, at 35%, funding from the US was below its global average, the very high share of contributions from Saudi Arabia to Yemen at 16% stands out relative to its share of global country-allocable assistance at 1.7%.
  • In Syria, with UN appeal requirements of US$4.4 billion and coverage of just 49%, Germany’s contributions were high relative to its share of global assistance, accounting for 27% of total assistance to Syria in 2022 compared to its global share of 13%. Norway also provided a higher share, 2.7%, compared to its 1.2% global contribution.
  • In Ethiopia, with UN appeal requirements of US$3.3 billion and 50% coverage, and Somalia with requirements of US$2.3 billion but higher coverage of 86%, the high share of funding accounted for by the US, above its average to all countries, is most obvious. In Ethiopia, US funding made up 55% of all contributions, while in Somalia the share was even greater at 59%. Also of note is the high share accounted for by the UAE to Ethiopia, 6.9% of the country-allocation compared to a global share of just 1.2%.
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Michael Köhler

Deputy Director-General, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Since August 2019, Dr Köhler has been Deputy Director-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations in the European Commission’s DG ECHO where he coordinates the worldwide EU humanitarian aid activities. From April 2022 to February 2023 (inclusive), he also served as Acting Director-General at DG ECHO.

Humanitarian needs are at an all-time high and continue rising. Meanwhile, the gap between humanitarian needs and available resources globally continues to expand. We must step up efforts to decrease the needs and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian action. In parallel, however, we will also have to increase the resources available to meet the surging humanitarian needs.

One key challenge is the patterns of funding: a very small number of major donors account for the bulk of global humanitarian funding, and the increase in volume of funding provided remains too timid from one year to the other, despite a significant increase of needs since 2020 (largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic) and in 2022 due to the Russian war against Ukraine. As a consequence, global humanitarian funding continues to rely heavily on a very limited number of donors: the 10 largest humanitarian donors provide more than 80% of all funding, far more than their collective share in global wealth. 66% of recorded humanitarian funding stems from the US, the EU (Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) and Germany alone.

Increasing humanitarian funding in times of economic instability, caused not least by the knock-on effects of Russia’s war against Ukraine, is not easy – even for those who so far have not contributed to a degree commensurate with their economic stature. But failing to help people in desperate need is not really a viable option. Humanitarian aid is first and foremost a moral imperative. This is why we provide it and will continue to do so. But humanitarian aid is more than just an emergency-based paradigm.

There is a need to think “outside the box” of considering humanitarian aid as solely philanthropically motivated and move towards discussing the benefit of humanitarian aid as an investment in resilience and stability for a global common good. When we talk about humanitarian assistance, we should not shy away from enriching the discourse with elements such as anticipatory action, resilience, migration, stability, peace and security as well as climate aspects. At the same time, we need to continue supporting every effort to further improve transparency and auditing of how humanitarian aid is spent, upholding accountability to both beneficiaries and taxpayers and illustrating efficiency gains made by humanitarian actors in exchange for increased funding.

If we want to reach beyond the “usual suspects”, we need to adapt our narrative accordingly. And we should be open to be inspired and to learn from each other. Take the example of Spain: earlier this year, Spain passed a law that foresees that by 2030 Spanish cooperation actors as a whole will collectively allocate at least 10% of Spanish official development assistance (ODA) resources to humanitarian action. The law has been the result of broad public participation, political consensus, willingness to reform and an understanding of humanitarian action as an intrinsic part of foreign policy. Establishing a concrete funding target is not only a clear political statement, but it also helps to build peer pressure and make contributions more comparable. Likewise, it can help to depoliticise humanitarian action, while giving humanitarian aid levels more visibility, creating incentives and allowing to pay tribute to performing donors.

The EU and its Member States remain committed to secure additional humanitarian funding in order to ensure a more sustainable and balanced sharing of humanitarian financing, both within the EU and beyond. It is necessary and beneficial to broaden the donor base and, in particular, to bring more emerging and new donor states on board.

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How did displacement and food security relate to crisis in 2022?

How many people were forcibly displaced in 2022?

Figure 2.6: The numbers of forcibly displaced people across the globe increased by almost 20% between 2021 and 2022, to more than 100 million people

20 countries with the largest forcibly displaced populations, 2021–2022

Figure 2.6: The numbers of forcibly displaced people across the globe increased by almost 20% between 2021 and 2022, to more than 100 million people

Stacked bar chart showing breakdown of largest forcibly displaced populations, with refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and Venezuelans displaced abroad. Syria, Colombia, DRC and Ukraine have predominantly internally displaced persons.

Source: Development Initiatives based on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Index For Risk Management (INFORM) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) data.

Notes: DRC = Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 20 countries are selected based on the size of displaced populations that were hosted in 2022. 'Displaced population' includes refugees and people in refugee-like situations, internally displaced persons (IDPs), asylum seekers and other displaced populations of concern to UNHCR. Other displaced populations of concern to UNHCR includes Venezuelans displaced abroad. IDP figures refer to those forcibly displaced by conflict and exclude those internally displaced due to climate or natural disaster. Data is organised according to UNHCR's definitions of country/territory of asylum. According to data provided by UNRWA, registered Palestine refugees are included as refugees for Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. UNHCR data represents 2022 mid-year figures, and UNRWA data for 2022 is based on internal estimates.

The total numbers of people forcibly displaced internally and across borders have been consistently on the rise over the past decade.[25] However, 2022 marked an even sharper rise in global displacement numbers, doubling the annual increases observed between 2019 and 2021. This rise comes in conjunction with the increased demand for funding in countries experiencing crises, with 100 million more people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022 (see Figure 1.1 in Chapter 1), and with increased in-country spending for refugee hosting (see ‘Was humanitarian funding sufficient? Appeals, donors and total assistance’, Chapter 1). The overall rise in the number of displaced persons was primarily driven by the invasion of Ukraine, as well as increases in internal displacement in Somalia and Myanmar.

  • In 2022, the total number of displaced people increased to 107.5 million, an increase of 18.5% (16.5 million people) compared to 2021. Annual increases between 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 were significantly lower, at 3.7% and 8.4%, respectively.
  • 59% of this total were people forcibly displaced within their countries of residence (internally displaced persons, or IDPs) due to conflict and violence: a total of 62.5 million people. The total number of IDPs increased by 9.2 million in 2022, a 17.3% rise – significantly higher than the 10.7% annual increase from 2020–2021.
  • Refugees accounted for 31% (33.1 million people) of the displaced population in 2022, an increase of 22.2%, following a 1.8% decrease in 2020–2021.
  • Asylum seekers represented 4.7% of all displaced people in 2022, an increase of 7.8% (following a significant decrease of 21% in 2020–2021).
  • Venezuelans displaced abroad accounted for 5.0% of global displacement numbers, a sharp rise of 21% (0.9 million people) in comparison to the previous year (2.1%).

This significant rise in forcibly displaced people was driven directly by the invasion of Ukraine, and by its indirect knock-on effect on global food insecurity. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), three-quarters of the countries experiencing food security crises had internally displaced populations.[26] Needs were further compounded by the ongoing economic and social consequences of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Displacement increased across a range of ongoing protracted conflict settings and also due to record levels of flooding and drought.[27] Large increases in four countries drove the overall rise.

  • The largest increase in forced displacement occurred in and from Ukraine – 5.1 million people were internally displaced in 2022, a near sevenfold (589%) increase from 2021. A further 5.4 million people were displaced across borders from Ukraine in 2022.
  • Germany became host to 1.0 million displaced people in 2022, an increase of 39% on the previous year. Of this increase, 875,000 people came from Ukraine, 42,000 from Syria and 24,000 from Afghanistan.
  • Internal displacement increased significantly within Myanmar (by 57%, or 0.8 million people) and in Somalia (by 11%, or 0.9 million people).
  • Increases across the remaining 20 countries with the highest numbers of displaced people ranged from 0.1 to 0.5 million, with the exception of Uganda and Türkiye, which saw decreases of 38,016 and 96,901 people, respectively.

Accelerating climate impacts, including shocks and slow-onset pressures are increasingly recognised as driving and contributing to humanitarian needs, including internal and cross-border displacement (see Figure 1.2 in Chapter 1 and Chapter 4).

  • At least 8.7 million people were estimated to be internally displaced due to disasters at the end of 2022, a 45% increase on the previous year, with 32.6 million people temporarily displaced by disasters over the course of the year.[28]

Unsurprisingly, the countries with the highest levels of humanitarian needs (see Figure 1.2 in Chapter 1 and Figure 2.1 in this chapter) are also prominent countries of origin of displaced people. In parallel, a handful of countries continue to host the majority of forcibly displaced people, and these same countries face the highest amounts of humanitarian needs and financial requirements. Forcibly displaced people continue to face protracted displacement with limited access to durable solutions, while multiple waves of crises compound existing challenges and needs.

  • Almost half (44%) of all displaced people lived in just 10 countries, 7 of which are low-income countries.
  • Five countries each hosted more than five million forcibly displaced people (both refugees and IDPs) in 2022. In four of these five countries (Ukraine, Syria, Colombia and DRC), the majority of the displaced population constituted people displaced internally. The exception was Türkiye, where the refugee population (3.7 million) was more than triple the IDP population (1.1 million).
  • With limited return and long-term crises in many countries, trends in the numbers of refugees originating from individual countries vary little year-on-year. This pattern is evident in 2022, with Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar all among the largest five countries of origin for refugees – as they were in 2021 – but joined by Ukraine, following the Russian invasion. Beyond Ukraine, the largest increases in refugees by country of origin came from Palestine (an additional 400,000 people), Afghanistan (+100,000), Myanmar (+32,000) and Somalia (+22,000).
  • Trends among the largest populations of IDPs follow a similar pattern in 2022, again with Ukraine joining Syria, DRC and Colombia, which had the largest numbers of IDPs in 2021. Yemen overtook Afghanistan in fifth place, with an increase from 4.3 to 4.5 million IDPs. The largest increases in internal displacement occurred in Somalia (+0.9 million), Myanmar (+0.8 million), Nigeria (+0.4 million) and Sudan (+0.4 million).

Regions more affected by humanitarian crises continued to take on a larger share of the hosting responsibility, with the trend in numbers hosted by region similar in 2022 to 2021. The notable exception was in Europe and Central Asia where numbers almost doubled. Despite this rise, sub-Saharan Africa remained the region hosting the largest numbers of displaced persons, hosting 11.5 million more than Europe and North America combined.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa hosted the largest number of displaced persons in 2022, with 35.7 million people (34% of the global total), an 8.8% increase on 2021. The region hosts 45% of the global total number of IDPs and 22% of the world’s refugees.
  • The number of displaced people in the Middle East and North Africa grew by 1.3 million, to account for 22% of the global figure. This is the second largest regional displaced population, of which 9.9 million were refugees and 12.7 million were IDPs.
  • With the invasion of Ukraine, the numbers of refugees and IDPs in Europe and Central Asia nearly doubled in 2022, from 11.4 to 22.2 million people. This amounted to 21% of global displaced persons, with 12.5 million refugees hosted across Europe. Germany was the only country in Europe and Central Asia to feature in the top 20 hosting countries, with 2.2 million refugees in 2022.
  • North America hosted only 1.8% of the global displaced population in 2022, at 1.9 million people. This number is largely made up of asylum seekers (1.5 million people), with only 0.4 million refugees in the region who have actually been granted asylum.
  • East Asia and the Pacific hosts 2.2% of the global displaced population. The total numbers of displaced people in the region rose by one-third due to the ongoing crisis in Myanmar.
  • In other regions, the numbers of displaced populations remained largely static between 2021 and 2022.
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What were the trends in the severity of and funding for food insecurity in 2022/23?

Rising levels of global food insecurity, which is an increasing driver of humanitarian crises, are contributing to and exacerbated by intersecting dimensions of risk, such as high-intensity conflict, socioeconomic fragility and vulnerability to climate change impacts. Almost half (48%, 197.2 million) of all people in need in 2022 were living in countries facing this combination (see Chapter 1). These intersecting dimensions are contributing to, and exacerbated by, rising levels of global food insecurity, which is an increasing driver of humanitarian crises. In certain contexts, like South Sudan, a severely constrained humanitarian response further enables consistently severe food security.

Figure 2.7: Countries with the largest populations facing food insecurity may not be experiencing the most severe food security

Top 15 countries experiencing food insecurity by population size and food insecurity gap, 2022/23

Figure 2.7: Countries with the largest populations facing food insecurity may not be experiencing the most severe food security

Chart showing severity and change in severity of food insecurity. Somalia and Afghanistan show most significant change, with DRC having the largest number of people experiencing food insecurity in 2023.

Source: Development Initiatives based on Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)/Cadre Harmonisé (CH), and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Humanitarian Programming Cycle (HPC).

Notes: Acute food insecurity numbers and phases as reported/projected by the year's closest IPC survey. People living in 'crisis' (i.e. Phase 3) or higher food insecurity are shown. The food insecurity gap change is calculated based on an adapted Foster-Greer-Thorbecke (FGT; α=1) index, which weights higher phases of food insecurity.

In 2022, the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity continued to grow, driven by a food crisis in the Horn of Africa and the Ukraine crisis.

  • In 2022/23,[29] an estimated 265.7 million people were facing crisis-level acute food insecurity[30] across 60 countries. This is an 8.0% increase (from 246.1 million people) from 2021/22 and over double the number of people facing severe food insecurity (115.2 million people) before the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Large numbers of people experiencing food insecurity were concentrated in just a few countries. The countries with the five largest populations facing food insecurity (DRC, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen and Nigeria), represented almost two-fifths (38%, 101.5 million people) of the people facing food insecurity in 2022/23.
  • DRC (24.5 million people) and Ethiopia (20.1 million people) had the largest populations facing food insecurity.
  • The biggest growth in the populations facing food insecurity happened in DRC (+16.9 million people) and Myanmar (+14.4 million people) between the years before the Covid-19 pandemic and 2022/23. In the years before the Covid-19 pandemic, Ukraine had only 300,000 people facing food insecurity. In 2022/23, Ukraine had 11.1 million people facing food insecurity.

Read about the role of local and national actors in the response to the current hunger crisis in South Sudan in this report commissioned by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).

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The Organisation for Children Harmony (TOCH)

Marko Madut

Founder and Executive Director

TOCH is a South Sudanese national NGO, established in 2008. TOCH implements a diverse portfolio of programmes covering emergency responses to social development issues with a particular focus on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees, child protection, women’s empowerment and addressing underlying causes of poverty across their programmes.

In 2022, South Sudan faced its fourth consecutive year of unprecedented flooding and, going into 2023, an estimated 7.7 million people are likely to face severe acute food insecurity – IPC Phase 3 or above – during the April-July lean season. Climate change continues to worsen agricultural productivity and even community infrastructures like schools and health centres are frequently submerged in water. The current crisis in Sudan has already started to see an influx of refugees and returnees to various states in South Sudan, which can only exacerbate the food crisis. Additionally, South Sudan is heavily dependent on imported food supplies, and crises in Ukraine and now Sudan continue to inflate the market and threaten whatever coping strategies families already have.

TOCH, in partnership with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and Trocaire, has been responding to the food crisis in Gogrial West and East in Warrap State with funding from Caritas Norway and Secours Catholique. Through this support, TOCH was able to tackle food insecurity through distribution of ox ploughs, local seeds and vegetable seeds. 18 agricultural extension workers provided technical skills to local farmers to increase productivity and adapt to climatic changes in the environment. Through this project, they have seen an increase in productivity among local farmers. Cash assistance also accompanied the programme, supporting families through the lean season.

Local and national organisations like TOCH are on the frontlines of responding to the food crisis in South Sudan. Having worked with these communities for years, they understand the context, the needs and have good relationships to be able to deliver high quality response, including in locations where international NGOs are unable or unwilling to access. Yet, the funding landscape for local and national NGOs (L/NNGOs) in South Sudan is challenging. Funding towards food insecurity has seen little change in the last three years, while needs continue to grow, leading to a reduction in available resources from donors. Preference still goes to funding larger international organisations perceived to have less ‘risk’, and when L/NNGOs are funded, there is reluctance to cover overhead costs, capacity strengthening and security costs, which are essential in contexts like South Sudan.

In partnership with CAFOD and Trocaire, TOCH was able to access the UN South Sudan Humanitarian Fund in 2021 for a multi-sectoral response including food security and livelihoods. The pooled fund is hugely beneficial, but many L/NNGOs still feel unable to access it directly, and last year the total percentage directed to L/NNGOs had decreased substantially. Additionally, the fund dictates which locations and sectors can be responded to, meaning the support is not dependable year-on-year even for those able to access it. More predictable multi-year and multi-sectoral funding is essential. Competing needs and requirements of various donors – including different capacity assessments, due diligence and adhering to different policies, reporting structures and timelines – adds extra pressure to L/NNGOs. These processes must be simplified, and funding for the food crisis must be increased and made more accessible for those organisations working on the ground with these communities every day.

14 of the 15 largest populations facing food insecurity are in countries experiencing protracted crisis. Food insecurity can be both a measure of population size and the severity at which a population is facing food insecurity.

The intensity of food insecurity can vary between populations, and measuring these ‘gaps’ in food security can both help to create a more complete picture of vulnerability and foster a more complete understanding of the required interventions to help the population.[31] Greater ‘food insecurity gaps’,[32] represented as a percentage, signify more severe food insecurity. Most countries with populations assessed as experiencing food insecurity have national food insecurity gaps of between 5% and 20%, though the most severely affected subnational areas can register gaps as high as 50%. On average, countries experiencing protracted crisis have higher food insecurity gaps than others.

  • The average food insecurity gap for countries experiencing protracted crisis is 10%, compared to an average food insecurity gap for others of 6.0%.
  • The countries with the most severe food insecurity in 2022/23, as measured by the food insecurity gap, were South Sudan (food insecurity gap of 29%), Yemen (28%) and Somalia (24%). These three countries have consistently experienced some of the most severe food insecurity in the world. The populations facing food insecurity in these countries are 7.7 million people for South Sudan, 19.0 million people for Yemen and 8.2 million people for Somalia.
  • In comparison, the largest populations facing food insecurity in DRC (24.5 million people) and Ethiopia (20.1 million people) had respective food insecurity gaps of 8.8% and 13%.
  • Between the years before Covid-19 and 2022/23 the severity of food insecurity worsened most significantly in Somalia (from 9.1% to 25%) and Afghanistan (from 11% to 20%).

Read more from DI on the relationship between concurrent humanitarian crises and acute food insecurity.

Figure 2.8: The US represents half of all food sector funding in the last five years, and substantially increased their funding in 2022

Top five donors for food insecurity, 2018–2022

Figure 2.8: The US represents half of all food sector funding in the last five years, and substantially increased their funding in 2022

Clustered column chart showing that the US has consistently been the largest donor of food sector funding since 2018.

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS).

Notes: Data is in constant 2021 prices.

There are a few sectors that directly address food needs, specifically food security, agriculture and nutrition. In 2022, these sectors made up two-fifths of all humanitarian funding, the largest share in the last five years. Overall funding to food sectors has risen, with increasing contributions from most of the five largest donors, with the exception of the UK. This rise is largely attributable to increased funding channelled to the crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

  • Total funding to humanitarian food sectors (food security, nutrition and agriculture) rose sharply in 2022, reaching US$15.8 billion in funding, a 53% increase over 2021. Since 2018, the top five donors (the US, Germany, EU Institutions, the UK and Canada) have represented around 80% of all food sector humanitarian assistance.
  • Between 2018 and 2022, the US has consistently been the largest donor of food sector humanitarian assistance. Since 2018, US funding has increased year-on-year in both volume and share of all food sector assistance, rising from US$4.2 billion (43%) in 2018 to US$8.3 billion (55%) in 2022.
  • Germany also significantly increased the volume of its food sector humanitarian assistance in 2022, with an increase of 65% (US$1.5 billion in 2021 to US$2.5 billion in 2022).
  • The UK has decreased the amount of food sector humanitarian assistance it provides since 2019, from a five-year high in 2019 of US$879 million to US$540 million, a 39% decrease reflecting shifts in overall UK ODA spending.

Overall, food sectors (food security, agriculture and nutrition) made up the largest share of UN-coordinated humanitarian appeal requirements in 2022 and are, on average, slightly better funded than other sectors, including education, health and protection.

  • On average, food sector requirements in UN-coordinated appeals were 59% funded in 2022 (compared to an average of 56% for other non-food sector requirements[33]). Total food sector requirements represented 44% (US$23.1 billion) of all appeal requirements and represented 46% (US$13.6 billion) of funding. Of the largest 10 country appeals in 2022, food sectors represent US$15.4 billion of requirements (52%) of overall requirements, and US$9.5 billion (50%) of overall funding.

However, the extent to which appeals are funded varies between countries.

  • Ethiopia had the second largest population facing food insecurity in 2022 and the largest share of food sector requirements (73%, US$1.4 billion), which were only 44% funded.
  • Ukraine’s humanitarian response plan had the lowest share of requirements made up by food sectors (22%, US$931 million). Food sector requirements were 85% funded.

Figure 2.9: Food sector funding is less than US$100 per person per year for many of the populations facing the most severe food insecurity

Food sector funding per person in the countries with the highest food security gaps

Figure 2.9: Food sector funding is less than US$100 per person per year for many of the populations facing the most severe food insecurity

Line chart showing that Somalia’s level of food sector funding per person is the highest of the countries with the highest food security gaps, but it has fallen since 2020. Afghanistan’s has risen substantially between 2020 and 2022.

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS), UN country based pooled funds (CBPFs), Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)/Cadre Harmonisé (CH), and UN OCHA Humanitarian Programming Cycle (HPC).

Notes: CAR = Central African Republic. Data is in constant 2021 prices. Figures are per person living in 'crisis' (Phase 3) or higher acute food insecurity. Acute food insecurity numbers as reported/projected by year's closest IPC survey.

Alongside drought and conflict in 2022, rising food prices have made it difficult to alleviate worsening food insecurity, especially in countries experiencing protracted crises or multiple years at crisis levels of food security.[34] While the rise in the number of people facing food insecurity has been accompanied by increases in donor funding, particularly from the US, humanitarian food sector funding per person in crisis-level food insecurity is less than US$100 a year (less than $0.30 a day) for four of the five most severe food insecurity contexts.

  • Somalia experienced the largest decrease in per person food sector spending (from US$266.9 to US$157.9), which also experienced the biggest change in the severity of food security (see Figure 2.7). Similarly, per person spending has fallen in Yemen (from US142.7 to US$68.6) and South Sudan (US$113.7 to US$94.5), the two countries with the most severe food insecurity over the same period.
  • Other countries, however, have seen rising per person expenditure. Between 2019 and 2022/23, Central African Republic (from US$51.3 to US$71.7) and Afghanistan (from US$14.6 to US$91.3) saw large increases in their per person food sector spending.
  • Per person food sector spending fell between 2019 and 2022/23 in the countries with the largest populations facing food insecurity, DRC (down 40% to US$17.8) and Ethiopia (down 10% to US$57.5). That there is less per person spending in these countries may reflect their less severe food security, but this could also be attributable to other trends such as regionalisation or donor preferences.
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Chris Leather

Co-founder & Director, N4D

N4D helps governments and their partners reduce malnutrition through evidence-based, scaled up action from local to global levels. We support nutrition leaders to share, access and operationalise learning and influence decisions and actions from the bottom up. Our current focus is on supporting local actors, in contexts of protracted crises, to lead the scale up of multisectoral actions by both humanitarian and development actors to prevent and respond to malnutrition.

Since August 2022, N4D[35] has been supporting the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat in Yemen to bring international humanitarian and development actors together with line ministries, local NGOs and other local actors in order to coordinate the scale-up of interventions across health, food and agriculture, trade, water, sanitation and education sectors. The work focuses on mobilising more development financing that addresses food insecurity and other underlying drivers of malnutrition, alongside on-going humanitarian assistance.

As highlighted in this report, rates of severe food insecurity and malnutrition in Yemen are amongst the highest in the world. However, the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan was only 46% funded. The food security and agriculture sector received 56% of its requirements and the nutrition sector a significantly smaller proportion (38%). As in other protracted crisis situations, international financing in Yemen is predominantly short term and inadequately focused on building resilience and strengthening the capacities of local actors. Humanitarian aid made up 71% of all bilateral ODA to Yemen,[36] highlighting the limited provision of development assistance aimed at addressing underlying causes of humanitarian need and promoting more sustainable development outcomes. As a consequence, approximately 19% of the population remain at severe risk of famine and a further 34% are unable to meet basic needs without depleting their assets and increasing their vulnerability to malnutrition.[37]

More sustainable outcomes require high-level leadership from across the full range of stakeholders to ensure alignment with nationally led priorities, coordination with line ministries and increased coherence between humanitarian and development actions. The endorsement by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the Yemen call to action for more sustainable solutions was a significant step in building this high level commitment.[38] National and subnational governance mechanisms are being strengthened to harness the comparative advantages of humanitarian and development actors, align actions with collective outcomes and promote mutual accountability.

A stronger collective in-country voice calling for increased longer-term financing to build resilience and prevent humanitarian needs will help deliver results. However, political constraints in donor countries, including fears that aid will be diverted for political reasons or that the provision of development aid will legitimise de facto political authorities, remain as key obstacles to more and better funding. Strengthening national and local multi-stakeholder accountability mechanisms is a key element of tackling such concerns, complemented by intensive engagement with the political oversight bodies of donor agencies and supported by a strengthened evidence base on what works to drive more sustainable outcomes in protracted crisis contexts. Over the next couple of years, N4D will be joining forces with Development Initiatives to address these issues, extending the ongoing support in Yemen to two other protracted contexts and supporting local actors to influence the way in which financial assistance is provided in these situations.

Use interactive tools to explore the data

Four interactive charts let you explore global levels of crisis, vulnerability and need, the largest donors of international humanitarian assistance and how humanitarian financing is delivered.

Explore the data


  • 2
    A country with a protracted crisis is defined as one that has had UN-coordinated country response plans or country components of regional response plans for at least five consecutive years in 2022.
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