Record numbers of people will need help in 2020


A record 168 million people worldwide will need help and protection in crises spanning more than 50 countries in 2020, the UN emergency relief chief said, appealing for donor aid of $29 billion.

Climate shocks, infectious disease outbreaks and intensifying, protracted conflicts, resulted in global needs increasing by about 22 million people in the past year Mark Lowcock said, at the launch of the UN humanitarian affairs co-ordination office’s (OCHA) Global Humanitarian Overview in Geneva.

“In 2020, nearly 168 million people worldwide will need humanitarian assistance and protection. That represents one person in 45 on the planet. It is the highest figure in decades.”

Another disturbing trend is armed conflicts “are killing and maiming a record number of children. More than 12,000 were killed or maimed in conflict in 2018 and 2019 was worse,” he said.

Women and girls are at higher risk of sexual and gender-based violence than in the past and one in five people living in conflict areas has a mental health condition.

In a call to donors, the UN relief chief said the UN and partner organisations including the Red Cross and other NGOs “will aim to assist 109 million most vulnerable people”.

More communities were affected by conflict and yet more “were affected by climate change-related events than projected,” Lowcock said, in reference to more frequent droughts, flooding and tropical cyclones that disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable.

In terms of scale, Yemen “is going to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” in 2020 after nearly five years of war. “The number of people in need is expected to remain close to this year’s level of around 24 million people, 80% of the population.”

Funding is needed for other protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan ($732 million for 9.4 million people), Burundi ($104 million for 1.7 million people), Iraq ($520 million for 4.1 million people), Syria ($3.3 billion for 11 million people) and the Central African Republic ($388 million for 2.6 million people), among others.

Illustrating a growing disregard by combatants for international humanitarian law, Lowcock said there were 800 attacks on healthcare workers and facilities in the first nine months of 2019 claiming 171 lives.

The unexpected scale of infectious disease outbreaks helped drive needs to unprecedented levels.

“In Africa, in the first three months of 2019, 700 % more measles cases were reported than in the same period last year,” Lowcock said, in reference to the more than 5000 measles fatalities in the Democratic Republic of Congo since January.