The UN has warned that the need for humanitarian aid is skyrocketing worldwide and will reach an all-time high next year, as the pandemic, climate change and conflict push more people to the brink of famine.
The United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA on Thursday appealed for a record $41bn to help 183 million people who are the most in need of life-saving assistance – up from the $35bn requested for 2021 and double the amount sought four years ago.
The number of people in need “has never been as high as this”, Martin Griffiths, the head of OCHA, told a news conference on Thursday.
“The climate crisis is hitting the world’s most vulnerable people first and worst. Protracted conflicts grind on, and instability has worsened in several parts of the world, notably Ethiopia, Myanmar and Afghanistan,” Griffiths said.
In its Global Humanitarian Overview report, OCHA said 274 million people worldwide will need some form of emergency assistance next year, up 17 percent from the figure for 2021, which was a record high.
It said one in 29 people will need help in 2022, marking a 250 percent increase since 2015 when one in 95 needed assistance.
The appeal, which pulls together needs from an array of UN agencies and their partners, is likely to fall short of its ambitions.
This year donors provided more than $17bn, less than half of what the UN requested.
“We’re aware that we’re not going to get the $41bn, much as we will try hard,” Griffiths said.
The UN humanitarian chief cited estimates by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization that 45 million people are at risk of famine in dozens of countries.
“Humanitarian aid matters,” Griffiths said, adding that the UN was able to stop famine affecting half a million people in South Sudan and delivered health care to 10 million people in Yemen.
Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five extensive crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5bn sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, the UN agency said in a report to donors.
In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, economic shocks, and severe food insecurity.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic correspondent James Bays said an emergency appeal for Afghanistan in September was more than 100 percent funded, but the collapse of the economy coupled with the worst drought in decades meant that much more funding is now needed.
“UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths struggled when asked to name the worst crisis,” Bays said.
Griffiths eventually settled on Ethiopia, saying the capacity that would be needed to respond to the East African country’s implosion was “almost impossible to imagine.”
But he stressed there were many other dire situations, with violence and unrest continuing to force millions to flee their homes.
By 2050, as many as 216 million people could be forced to move within their own countries due to the effects of global warming, OCHA’s report estimated.
Climate change is contributing to rising hunger and food insecurity, with famine-like conditions remaining a “real and terrifying possibility for 45 million people in 43 countries around the world”, it warned.