Today, more than 135 million people need humanitarian aid, more than the populations of the UK and France combined. But 30 million of them are not even targeted for assistance as wars cause most humanitarian crises, and warring parties prevent their victims from reaching aid.
Oxfam supports nearly 1 in 10 of the men, women and children in humanitarian crises. In 2015-16, we gave 13.7 million people humanitarian aid - among the 22.2 million direct beneficiaries of Oxfam's development and humanitarian programmes, 55% of them women and girls, altogether.
Updated March 2018
Hunger and War in a Harsh Environment
Millions of people cannot reach humanitarian aid, because they are trapped in conflict, or deliberately prevented from getting the food and other vital goods that they need.
- In 2018, hunger still stalks the world's worst humanitarian crises, including Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and north-east Nigeria - almost all of which are driven or exacerbated by conflict. The proportion of undernourished people in countries in conflict and protracted crisis is almost three times higher than that in other developing countries.
- 815 million people were chronically undernourished in 2016. After declining for years, this number has been rising again since 2014, because of devastating conflicts such as in Yemen, and the deadly combination of conflict and climate-related shocks, such as in drought-hit Somalia. In 2016, the UN estimated that more than 53 million people were food insecure - without reliable access to sufficient food - in crises affected by both conflict and droughts, floods or other
climate-related disasters, in 10 countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan.
- Women are more likely to be food secure than men in every region of the world. Globally, the difference is small, but the biggest gender gap is in Africa, where 25.2% of women and 23.7% of men were food insecure between 2014 and 2016.
- Millions of people cannot reach humanitarian aid, because they are trapped in conflict, or deliberately prevented from getting the food and other vital goods that they need. More than 11 million people in Yemen, 8 million in Nigeria, and 2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo need aid but are not even included in the numbers targeted for international aid. As Oxfam Yemen Director Shane Stevenson said in January 2018, "This is a war waged [in Yemen] with 21st century hi-tech weapons, but the tactic of starvation is from the Dark Ages."
Atrocities against Women and Civilians
- In 2018, 25 years since "rape as a weapon of war" entered the vocabulary of humanitarian crises, in Bosnia and Rwanda, sexual and gender-based violence remains almost universal in modern conflicts. The UN report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence for 2016 exposed a horrifying level of sexual violence in 19 countries in conflict, from DR Congo to Syria, and post-conflict settings such as Sri Lanka. In 2014, the UN
reported estimates of conflict-related sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo ranging from 18% to 40% of women and girls, and from 4% to 24% of men and boys.
- While it is widely accepted that women in the security forces can help make them more responsive to women's needs, in 2016 the UN still reported that women made up only 3% of UN military peacekeepers, and in 2018 there were only 560 women compared to 15,346 men among military peacekeepers in the UN's biggest mission, MONUSCO, in DR Congo.
- In 2016, 78% of those killed or injured by landmines were civilians. This was the 3rd year in a row that landmine casualties increased, bringing their number almost back to the level recorded in 1999. Far better reporting, however, probably means that the number of landmine casualties has dramatically reduced since the Ottawa treaty to ban landmines was agreed in 1997.
- Two-thirds of the rise in landmine casualties in 2016 were in Yemen, whose conflict, alongside Syria, has come to epitomise the widespread killing and harming of civilians in gross violation of the rules of war. In 2016, Syria remained by far the world's most deadly conflict, killing another 50,000 people.
- In most if not all conflicts, women and men are not only hungry for peace, but for a just peace that resolves the grievances that may have helped cause the conflict, and upholds the rights of all groups and all people. Yemen, for instance, has had the biggest gender gap in the world for many years up to 2017, and many Yemeni women's organisations are campaigning for a peace that will significantly reduce that. According to interviews with 235 Yemeni women
in 2017, 70% believed that Yemeni society has become more accepting of women working after the current conflict, while at the same time 58% said that the current insecurity was preventing women working now. While a real peace process in Yemen has yet to begin, around the world only half of peace the agreements made in 2016 included any gender-specific commitments.
Refugees and Displaced People
Developing countries, not Europe, hosted 84% of the world's refugees at the end of 2016.
- In 2017, 6,142 migrants died trying to reach safety around the world, including 3,139 who drowned or died from hypothermia in the Mediterranean.
- In 2016, 31.1 million more people were newly displaced within their own countries, above and beyond the millions forced to flee their homes in previous years. 24.2 million of these fled disasters, while 6.9 million fled conflict and violence.
- This latter figure helped bring the total number of people fleeing conflict, violence, and human rights abuses at the end of 2016 to more than 65 million. Almost two-thirds of them remained within their own countries, with more than half that number accounted for by 5 countries: Syria, Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
- Women make up marginally less than half of all refugees, and have done so in every year between 2003 and 2016. But in South Sudan, for instance, it has tended to be women and children who flee, while young men stay behind in an attempt to safeguard their families' livelihoods.
- Developing countries, not Europe, hosted the vast majority of the world's refugees, 84%, at the end of 2016.
Disasters and climate
- In 2017, a UN-backed study warned that 14 million people each year are likely to be displaced by disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and tropical cyclones.
- In 2016, over 377 million people were already estimated to be affected by disasters associated with natural hazards.
- In the decade up to 2014, 87% of disasters were climate-related - though 70% of the 700,000 disaster deaths in that period were caused by earthquakes.
- In 2015, 55% of those killed by the earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal were women and girls, and women accounted for 61% of deaths from Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, and 70-80% in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But in 2017 the UN still reported that only 27% of 146 countries reviewed had a significant commitment to a gender perspective in their work to reduce the risk of disasters.
- Relatively little aid is spent to reduce the risks for those likely to be affected by disasters, or to help them to be more resilient. But the potential impact of such aid is enormous. In 2015, the UN estimated that a global investment of $6 billion a year could save $360 billion in less damage and fewer economic losses over 15 years.
Missing money, Unequal aid
Many vital UN humanitarian appeals in 2017 received less than half of the funding required
- In 2016, for the third year in a row, humanitarian assistance made up 13% of total Official Development Assistance.
- In 2017, the world's governments gave a record amount, nearly $14 billion, to UN Humanitarian Response Plans. But this was only 59% of what the UN asked for, leaving a larger shortfall, more than $9.5 billion, than ever before.
- Many vital UN humanitarian appeals in 2017 received less than half of the funding required, including for Ethiopia (45%), Haiti (40%), Pakistan (33%), and the Central African Republic (39%). These are striking figures even though UN appeals accounted for slightly less than half of total international humanitarian assistance in 2016. (A comparable figure for 2017 is not yet available.)
- There is a long way to go to achieve the target for 2020 to focus 25 per cent of humanitarian funding on local and national responders as directly as possible, a key part of the 'Grand Bargain' that came out of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. In 2015, even the governments and international agencies that have since agreed the 'Grand Bargain' - presumably the most committed to local action - gave only an estimated 12% of their funding to local and
national organisations of all kinds, but less than 0.5% directly without an intermediary.
- Civil society organisations receive an even smaller share of the limited funding given to local and national bodies; while only 2% of international humanitarian assistance reported to the UN in 2016 went directly to local and national bodies, local and national NGOs received a mere 0.3% directly.
- Private funding for humanitarian aid continued to rise every year from 2013 to 2016, and is predominantly made up of donations from individuals, rather than trusts or corporations. In 2015, almost 70% of private humanitarian funding was from individual members of the public.
- In 2014, less than 1% of aid to fragile states and economies targeted gender equality significantly.