11 crises to watch in 2023

UNOCHA

As the war in Ukraine dominates the international headlines, dozens of other humanitarian crises need our urgent attention. Most of them are driven by conflict and climate shocks, compounded by pre-existing vulnerability and inadequate access to services. This year sets a new record, with UN agencies and humanitarian partners requiring US$51.5 billion to help 230 million people who need emergency assistance in 68 countries.

In addition to Ukraine, here are 11 crises on our radar.

Esha Mohammed, a herder and mother in Eli Dar, in Ethiopia's Afar Region, July 2022. Credit: UNOCHA/Liz Loh-Taylor

Esha Mohammed, a herder and mother in Eli Dar, in Ethiopia’s Afar Region, July 2022. Credit: UNOCHA/Liz Loh-Taylor

The Horn of Africa

When it comes to the deadly impact of the climate crisis, the Horn of Africa is now in unprecedented territory. It has endured five consecutive failed rains, and a sixth is now predicted in March.

Continued drought will bring prolonged catastrophe to people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, with at least 36.4 million people needing emergency assistance to survive, up to 26 million of them acutely food insecure. Famine risk will remain for people in two districts of Somalia. More than 9.5 million livestock have already died, and more deaths are anticipated, destroying herders’ and farmers’ livelihoods.

Humanitarians reached more than 17 million people with some form of assistance in 2022, but further scale-up of food, nutrition, health and other life-saving services is urgently needed to help people survive over the coming months.

A woman peers out of her residence in Haiti's southern peninsula. Credit: UNOCHA/Christian Cricboom

A woman peers out of her residence in Haiti’s southern peninsula. Credit: UNOCHA/Christian Cricboom

Haiti

Humanitarian needs in Haiti sharply escalated in 2022 and are predicted to increase further in 2023, as the country experiences a disturbing rise in violence and political turmoil amid soaring inflation and a third consecutive year of economic recession. Almost half the population now suffers from hunger, and for the first time in Haiti’s history, at least 19,000 people face the risk of famine.

Armed gangs control strategic access routes in the country and in the capital, Port-au-Prince. They are also committing grave abuses, including widescale sexual and gender-based violence, forcing entire communities to flee. “We are overrun by constant violence, they are firing constantly; at any moment we risk being hit by a stray bullet,” said a resident of Cité Soleil, in Port-au-Prince.

During recent months, gangs have blocked Haiti’s main oil terminal, paralysing the economy and closing schools. Meanwhile, a fresh cholera outbreak has now spread to nine departments.

While this complex crisis endures, the number of people who will need humanitarian assistance this year is expected to reach 5.2 million, up from 4.9 million people in 2021. Humanitarian agencies are calling for $715 million to respond.

A woman cuts firewood in Tiwega 1, a camp for displaced people in Kaya, in Burkina Faso's Centre-Nord Region. Credit: UNOCHA/Michele Cattani

A woman cuts firewood in Tiwega 1, a camp for displaced people in Kaya, in Burkina Faso’s Centre-Nord Region. Credit: UNOCHA/Michele Cattani

The Sahel

Armed violence and insecurity in the Sahel increased in 2022, with parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger worst hit. The violence is expected to worsen in 2023. Some 419 security incidents killing 1,100 people were reported in November 2022 alone. Education, health, and water and sanitation services, which were already weak, have been further disrupted – more than 11,100 schools across the Sahel are now shuttered. The region is also hard hit by the climate crisis, with prolonged drought making farming and livestock rearing impossible for many.

The number of people who need humanitarian assistance and protection in the region, comprising Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, will reach 37.8 million in 2023, a jump of 3 million on 2022. But the region is chronically underfunded – in 2022 humanitarians received only half of the money required to help people in need.

Jalalabad, Afghanistan. A cash distribution for families displaced by conflict and violence, to help them prepare for winter. Credit: UNOCHA/Charlotte Cans

Jalalabad, Afghanistan. A cash distribution for families displaced by conflict and violence, to help them prepare for winter. Credit: UNOCHA/Charlotte Cans

Afghanistan

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 saw a major deterioration in the country’s human rights and humanitarian situation, with both rural and urban areas in crisis. Afghanistan is now one of the worst places for women and girls, with their near eradication from schools and universities, workplaces and public society. Security incidents and attacks by non-State armed groups continue.

The recent ban on female aid workers has impacted aid operations across the country. At the same time, Afghanistan is entering its third consecutive year of poor rains and its second year of crippling economic decline.

Despite the major scale-up of humanitarian assistance in 2022, aid levels have been sufficient to prevent catastrophe but not to move people out of crisis. In 2023 and beyond, a staggering two thirds of Afghanistan’s population – 28.3 million people – need humanitarian aid and protection.

Two recently displaced Yemeni women in front of their shack in a desert camp in Aden, south Yemen. Credit: UNOCHA/Giles Clarke

Two recently displaced Yemeni women in front of their shack in a desert camp in Aden, south Yemen. Credit: UNOCHA/Giles Clarke

Yemen

Years of conflict in Yemen have left people’s lives and livelihoods in tatters. A truce from April to October 2022 led to a decrease in civilian casualties and displacement, but the country’s humanitarian outlook has not improved, as millions of people continue to live in desperate conditions. Poverty, hunger and disease are rampant, while health, education and other basic services hang by a thread.

The protracted conflict has cost Yemen an estimated $120 billion in economic growth, leading to a collapsing economy and soaring inflation, which have intensified humanitarian needs.

In 2022, aid agencies managed to assist 10.7 million people each month on average, but funding shortages coupled with massive access obstacles, including bureaucratic restrictions, attempted interference and attacks on aid workers, severely curtailed operations. In 2023, more than 21 million people across the country will need humanitarian assistance and protection.

A woman cuts firewood in the flooded Rubkona town, South Sudan. Credit: UNOCHA/Sarah Waisna

A woman cuts firewood in the flooded Rubkona town, South Sudan. Credit: UNOCHA/Sarah Waisna

South Sudan

In 2023, humanitarians required $1.7 billion to reach 6.8 million people in South Sudan. People across the country continue to endure conflict, violence and weather shocks, including intense flooding. These factors, when combined with underlying poverty and weak services, have triggered high levels of displacement, disease outbreaks, disrupted livelihoods and food insecurity. Projections indicate that 8.2 million people, or two thirds of the population, may experience severe food insecurity by the peak of the lean season, between May and July.

Protection concerns are increasing, and an estimated 2.8 million people, especially women and girls, are at risk of gender-based violence.

“To best help people who experience a myriad of needs, strong partnerships are required to save more lives and alleviate suffering,” said Joseph Inganji, OCHA’s Head of Office in South Sudan.

Internally displaced people in Stadium camp, Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria. Credit: UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

Internally displaced people in Stadium camp, Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria. Credit: UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

Nigeria

Nigeria is experiencing a complex mix of crises, including insecurity and widespread hunger in the north-east, which has left 2 million people displaced, 4.4 million people severely food insecure and 1.7 million children acutely malnourished. On top of this, Nigeria experienced its worst flooding in a decade last year, affecting more than 4 million people.

This year 8.3 million people will need assistance, and humanitarians aim to reach 5.9 million of the most vulnerable among them.

Children in Bekaa, Lebanon. Credit: UNOCHA/Julie Melichar

Children in Bekaa, Lebanon. Credit: UNOCHA/Julie Melichar

Lebanon

Against a backdrop of weakened governance and political paralysis, Lebanon is facing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that is affecting all residents, including Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugees and migrants.

Humanitarian needs are expected to increase this year, with approximately 4.1 million people requiring humanitarian support, including access to safe water and sanitation. Yet humanitarians continue to face operational access constraints due to the breakdown of law and order, political impasse and instability, and heavy bureaucratic impediments.

Maw Pray Myar, her daughter and husband flee to Thailand from Kayah State, eastern Myanmar. Credit: UNOCHA/Siegfried Modola

Maw Pray Myar, her daughter and husband flee to Thailand from Kayah State, eastern Myanmar. Credit: UNOCHA/Siegfried Modola

Myanmar

The people of Myanmar continue to face an unprecedented political, human rights and humanitarian crisis that is posing grave protection risks to civilians, limiting access to vital services, including health and education, and driving deep food insecurity. Humanitarian needs have worsened across the country, with 17.6 million people needing assistance this year as conflict continues to rage, causing unprecedented levels of displacement and property destruction. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) steeply increased to more than 1.4 million last year.

A combination of considerable underfunding of the response, inflation, access restrictions and service interruptions has resulted in many needs going unaddressed and worsening over time. Half of Myanmar’s school-age children – or 4 million children — have not been to school in two years.

The end of 2022 saw most development partners restarting paused programmes, allowing humanitarian partners to return to core life-saving responses. This will hopefully allow for progress, provided access and funding constraints are removed.

Children walk home from school in Idleb, Syria. Credit: UNOCHA/Ali Haj Suleiman

Children walk home from school in Idleb, Syria. Credit: UNOCHA/Ali Haj Suleiman

Syria

Waking up in Syria today means looking at a bleak future. More than 11 years into the crisis, Syria still has the world’s largest number of IDPs, at 6.8 million, and the largest number of people in need since the conflict began. Humanitarian and economic indicators continue to deteriorate, with basic services and other critical infrastructure on the brink of collapse, a continuing cholera outbreak and climatic shocks.

Syria is one of the world’s most complex humanitarian and protection emergencies. At least 15.3 million people need humanitarian assistance in 2023. Meanwhile, conflict continues in parts of the country, bringing daily fear of attacks.

Displaced families in Fatundu, in DRC's Kwilu Province, sleep in classrooms. Credit: UNOCHA/Wassy Kambale

Displaced families in Fatundu, in DRC’s Kwilu Province, sleep in classrooms. Credit: UNOCHA/Wassy Kambale

Democratic Republic of Congo

Across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 26.4 million people – or one in four people – need humanitarian assistance. Last year, acute malnutrition hit 6.4 million people, mainly children under age 5, a number that has not decreased for 20 years. Armed conflicts and gross human rights violations, including sexual violence and violations against children, continue to trigger mass people movements. Some 5.7 million people are internally displaced, the highest number on the African continent.

Severe yet preventable epidemics, such as measles, yellow fever, cholera and malaria, take a significant human toll every year due to poor infrastructure, constraints to health access and a low vaccination coverage. DRC ranks among the countries with the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Humanitarians have assisted DRC for decades, but until a solution to conflict is found, needs will only continue to increase and the funding gap widen.

FootnotesText: Anna Bliss Jefferys – Layout: Alioune N’Diaye

© 2023 UN Humanitarian

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