2017 Has Been An ‘Unprecedented Period Of Humanitarian Need’, Say Aid Agencies
|Jasmin Gray 30.12.2017|
From hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing a horrific programme of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, to hundreds of children succumbing to starvation each day in war-torn Yemen, 2017 has been a year marked by a series of deadly crises.
With four of the highest-level humanitarian emergencies currently under way, millions of people whose lives have been destroyed by the war in Syria are also in dire need of help, as are those caught at the centre of “Africa’s world war” in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This complex web of ongoing conflicts has led charities to dub 2017 an “unprecedented period of humanitarian need”.
“It has been a very bad year, definitely,” Red Cross’ disaster management coordinator Luke Tredget told HuffPost UK.
“We have seen huge, incredibly challenging disasters around the world,” he said.
According to the charity, the number of people requiring food assistance this year peaked at 83 million – almost double the number in 2015.
Meanwhile, the world’s displaced population currently stands at 65.6 million.
Not only is that the highest figure since World War II, but is the equivalent of everyone in the UK being uprooted from their homes due to conflict or persecution.
“What is really worrying is not just the size of the numbers involved, but that this is taking place in really complex conditions where the response that aid agencies can give is not straightforward,” Tredget continued.
“It’s intertwined with political factors and other complex issues. So in places like Yemen, Somalia, south Sudan and northern Nigeria, we really are up against an unprecedented set of challenges.”
The sentiment is one echoed by Lydia Sparrow, a humanitarian response officer for Save The Children.
“With natural disasters, the appeals are sharp and distinct,” Lydia Sparrow from Save The Children explained.
“We have an emergency response, there will be a surge in donations from the public, and then we move into a recovery phase.
“But when you’re looking at conflict situations like Syria and Yemen, the context continues to change, with spikes in tension and outbreaks of disease.”
Oxfam’s head of fundraising Tim Hunter added: “These situations are certainly harder to fundraise for because they – and their effects – tend to go on for months, if not years and years.”
The Syria emergency alone has been going on for almost seven years, with millions of people still displaced from their homes. A whole generation of Syrian children are growing up without having ever stepped foot in their homeland, stuck instead in refugee camps in nearby countries.
“There is a notion that when people flee during a conflict, they will go back to their homes relatively quickly,” Hunter continued.
“Tragically, that is not what usually happens in those situations – the average time someone spends in a refugee camp is somewhere between 15 and 20 years.”
Tradget added: “It’s sad to say that most of the biggest crises have been going on for several years and it’s therefore very unlikely that we are going to see those situations improve in the near future.”
But what can Brits – many of whom have never been within a thousand miles of these emergencies – do to help?
“The thing that I always say to people is that if you want to help during these crises, making a one-off donation is obviously really good,” Hunter explained.
“But for organisations like Oxfam and others working in this area, doing something on a regular monthly basis is what allows us to be there and stay during these long protracted crisis. It’s our lifeblood.”
Sharing information about these crises is another key way to support aid agencies, according to the Red Cross.
“A lot of these emergencies are hard to fundraise for because they’re not often featured in the mainstream press,” Tradget said.
“People just haven’t heard of them.”
2017′s biggest humanitarian crises
A civil war in Yemen – one of the Arab world’s poorest countries – has left more than 12,000 civilians caught in the middle of the conflict dead or injured.
According to Amnesty International, “horrific” human rights abuses and war crimes have been committed throughout the country. Meanwhile, a blockade on parts of the country by the government has left millions on the brink of starvation.
Rohingya Muslim crisis
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled persecution in Myanmar this year, crossing the border into Bangladesh in a desperate attempt to avoid what the UN has branded a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
While the group have faced discrimination for decades, an outbreak of violence in August sparked a mass exodus of Rohingya from the country.
They are now struggling in desperate conditions in refugee camps, battling malnutrition and outbreaks of disease.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)- often referred to as “Africa’s world war” – has reportedly claimed the lives of up to six million people through violence, malnutrition and disease.
According to aid agencies, the DRC is the worst affected in the world by conflict displacement, with more than 1.7 million people forced to flee their homes.
A civil war that began in Syria almost seven years ago has devastated the country, killing thousands of civilians and forcing millions to flee their homes. Many have left the country altogether.
According to UNICEF, 8.5 million children have been affected by the Syrian war – six million of whom who are trapped inside the country and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
A further 2.5 million are now living as refugees in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.