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Thank you all for being here for this important event. I was recently in the town of Djibo, in the north of Burkina Faso, not far from borders with Mali and Niger. Tens of thousands of people are now in Djibo after fleeing violence from the armed groups waging war.
Many of these people are cattle herders who cannot sell their livestock at the market, as it has been shut down. The delivery of food, medicine and other essentials is also blocked.
Djibo sits in the Sahel region – a part of the world hardest hit by the climate crisis. The Sahel is heating up at one and a half times the pace of the global average, meaning that people in the region must endure a deadly cycle of drought and flooding that has wiped out incomes for millions of farmers and herders, and left millions of children malnourished.
Hunger. That is the result of this deadly combination of violence, displacement and climate crisis. And too often, this hunger spells death for young children.
But regardless of age, few people are immune from the suffering. In Djibo, I met a 19-year-old youth who wept as he told me of the hunger he and his friends were experiencing.
His fate, and the fate of millions of others like him, is why we are here today. The Global Humanitarian Overview, or the GHO, is our annual humanitarian appeal that goes some way to showing people living on the sharpest edge of suffering that we will stand by them and do our part to help.
But the message of this year’s GHO is stark. This time last year, 274 million people needed humanitarian assistance. This was already a 17 per cent rise from the previous year.
For 2023, that number has leapt yet again, bringing the number of people in need to 339 million.
That is larger than the population of the United States. It also means 1 in every 23 people on the planet needs emergency assistance to survive.
Behind these figures lie some very disturbing trends.
Hunger levels have grown year on year for the past four years. Next year 222 million people will not know when or even if they will eat another meal.
Nearly 1 million people will be at risk of starvation due to catastrophic levels of hunger in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
The number of people displaced globally continues its steady rise, reaching a record 103 million.
Global public health trends are rocky, with a rise in mortality from epidemics like cholera and COVID-19. Infant vaccine coverage has experienced its biggest drop in 30 years, which could prove disastrous to future generations.
The pandemic also swerved us off track to end extreme poverty by 2030 – a swerve from which we have not yet recovered.
These trends mean that gender parity is also skidding off the rails, as women and girls are hardest hit by poverty and hunger. It will now take four generations to achieve global gender parity.
We are all too familiar with the principal drivers of these trends.
First, conflict. Prolonged conflict, instability and violence that grind on for years without any letup, such as in Syria and Yemen.
And fresh conflicts. This year, the world reeled as war was waged in Ukraine, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of people; wiping out electricity and water supplies; destroying hospitals, schools and homes; and triggering one of the world’s worst displacement crises since the Second World War.
Second, the climate emergency, which is claiming the lives of the most vulnerable and is fast outpacing the world’s feeble attempts to stem it.
It is a painful injustice that the countries that have contributed the least to this crisis are among the most at risk.
The Horn of Africa is enduring a fifth successive failed rainy season. And record flooding has submerged entire villages and harvests in Nigeria and Pakistan.
These facts alone should be enough to spur global leaders into action, but sadly they are not.
Third, the world is still experiencing the pandemic’s effects, which caused economic instability, disrupted markets and increased poverty.
So, it is hardly surprising that the humanitarian response system is being tested to its limits.
But I still retain hope, because the higher the pressure, the more determined humanitarians are to step up to the challenge.
This GHO is the most comprehensive assessment of global humanitarian needs, based on rigorous analysis that puts people in need at the centre of its planning.
It is also an appeal to donors to support the response to hunger, disease, gender-based violence and economic collapse in crises worldwide.
This year, we received $24 billion in funding – 47 per cent of our goal. Though this fell far short of what was needed, humanitarians used the funding to reach 145.2 million people, or close to 80 per cent of our target.
With this aid we provided increasing value for money. One example of this is that while the number of people in need has more than doubled in five years, funding requirements have increased only one and a half times.
With the funding we received, we provided food assistance to 157 million people. Aid and protection to displaced people in 46 countries. And emergency health care to more than 40 million people in the first half of the year.
In Afghanistan, humanitarians scaled up to reach more than 27 million people with some kind of assistance.
In the Horn of Africa, we reached millions of people with nutrition treatment, food aid, emergency health care and other essentials.
In Ukraine, we implemented the largest humanitarian cash assistance programme in history. By the year’s end, we will have transferred $1.7 billion to more than 6 million people.
As conflict continued to wield suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, humanitarians provided food, shelter, medicine and other essentials to 5 million people.
And as the impact of conflict continued to destroy lives in Yemen, humanitarians assisted an average of 10.6 million people each month.
The pooled funds played an important role in all these efforts. A crucial lifeline, they enabled partners to swiftly respond or scale up by providing $1.7 billion for principled needs-driven programming.
We also made important progress in policy and approach.
By acting early, ahead of crises, we reduced humanitarian needs and made resources more efficient in dozens of countries, including Ethiopia, Nepal, Somalia and South Sudan.
We were better at listening to people’s feedback, and we shifted programmes accordingly.
And we took important steps to empower local response. Local and national organizations are now included in at least 80 per cent of Humanitarian Country Teams and receive more than a third of country-based pooled funding.
A particular effort went into empowering women’s organizations. In Afghanistan, for instance, the Afghan Women’s Advisory Group now advises the Humanitarian Country Team, while in Kenya, a network of women-led organizations guide humanitarian drought response.
Humanitarian negotiations to access people in need underpinned humanitarian response in many parts of the world. Country-level negotiations were complemented by high-level diplomacy.
For instance, months of negotiation with the Governments of Russia and Ukraine, and aided by the Government of Türkiye, led to a landmark agreement for the passage of grain and other foodstuffs through the Black Sea, which brought relief to millions of people.
Looking ahead, this year’s GHO is ambitious.
Ten country programmes have needs above $1 billion – they include Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria,
Ukraine and Yemen.
Requirements have grown in many countries. They include Haiti, where mounting violence, staggering inflation and an outbreak of cholera have increased needs by more than 90 per cent.
There’s Lebanon, where financial collapse has caused needs to soar.
Afghanistan, where drought and a crackdown on women’s rights have left more than 28 million people in need.
And West and Central Africa, and Asia and the Pacific — the regions with the largest numbers of people in need.
The 2023 GHO outlines how we can support the 230 million of the most vulnerable people in 69 countries. But to do this, we require $51.5 billion.
This figure marks a grim milestone.
But let us try to put it into perspective.
This $51.5 billion will offer a lifeline of hope to 230 million people. Surely that is a price worth paying.
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