19 million more people in need of humanitarian aid as funding drops

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The number of people in need of humanitarian aid rose by 19 million between 2019 and 2020 as money spent by governments and EU institutions dropped by $284 million (1.2%), a Development Initiatives’ Global Humanitarian Assistance Report has found.

While the majority of donors increased their humanitarian spending in 2020, this was offset by cuts in funding by a few key donors including the UK, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Germany and the US increased funding by 27% and 6% respectively, but the UK Government cut total humanitarian funding by almost a third (31%), causing international humanitarian finance from governments to drop for the second year running.

“This data confirms what we feared – when the global crisis hit, key donors such as the UK turned inwards, and have left those most in need without vital support,” Angus Urquhart, Crisis and Humanitarian Lead at Development Initiatives said.

“More money is badly needed. Those who can help must step up, while the system that gets funding to those who are worst impacted by crisis needs urgent reform as we rebuild from the pandemic,”  he added.

The report reveals that Covid-specific humanitarian needs are woefully underfunded, with UN Covid appeals just 40% funded in 2020. At the same time the pandemic is diverting finance away from other urgent humanitarian needs, with the top 20 donors cutting $4.5 billion in non-Covid related humanitarian funding between 2019 and 2020. The shortfalls are impacting some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, which are also at the highest risk of the impacts of Covid-19.

Crises are becoming increasingly complex and drawn out, which is putting more stress on an already strained humanitarian sector. The data underlines the importance of development institutions like the World Bank in funding crisis responses.

While finance from multilateral development banks doubled between 2014 and 2019 (from US$5.4 billion to over US$10.7 billion), the analysis makes clear that the way these funds are distributed is vitally important.

“As the rest of the world recovers from COVID-19, people living in crisis are being left behind. We can’t “build back better” without tackling extreme poverty, reducing inequality and supporting the people who need it most”

“Now more than ever, providing support to countries and people worst impacted by crisis has to be a priority for governments worldwide. Failing to act on this data means choosing to leave people behind and setting back global stability and prosperity,” Fran Girling, Development Initiatives’ Senior Policy and Engagement Advisor and co-author of the report said.