12 Places in the World That Need More Humanitarian Support Now
Every year, UNICEF responds to hundreds of emergencies. Here are 12 underfunded crises where donor support is urgently required.
UNICEF is calling for increased support from the donor community to help close critical funding gaps that are limiting the reach and impact of 12 important — and in many cases overlooked — emergency relief operations.
Every year, UNICEF responds to hundreds of humanitarian emergencies, from climate-induced natural disasters to armed conflicts to disease outbreaks. In many countries where UNICEF currently has boots on the ground, UNICEF and partners are responding to multiple crises at once.
In 12 specific places, throughout 2022, resources repeatedly fell short of what was required as situations deteriorated — and humanitarian needs escalated. UNICEF relies on voluntary contributions from governments, nonprofits, the private sector, individual donors and others to fund its humanitarian work, including emergency programs.
On Dec. 5, UNICEF released new individual crisis appeals for these 12 emergencies as part of its broader global plan for Humanitarian Action for Children in 2023.
Here is a closer look at each situation and why more support is urgently needed now:
There are 940,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. The country is vulnerable to climate-induced disasters such as cyclones and landslides; severe flooding has affected 7.2 million people, including 3.5 million children, in the northeast. The COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies further contribute to the challenging conditions, straining fragile systems. Vulnerable children and families need help accessing health care and nutrition services.
Despite sustained efforts by the humanitarian community, significant needs remain unmet across sectors, with only 1.25 million people having received one or more form of humanitarian assistance or service. UNICEF’s humanitarian action plan in Bangladesh seeks to reach 15.3 million children in need. It is only 17 percent funded.
There are major challenges to delivering humanitarian assistance in Burkina Faso due to increased control of certain areas by armed groups, while violence and insecurity has increased the number of people in need of that assistance by 40 percent, from 3.5 million to 4.9 million. More than 1.7 million people — including over 1 million children — are displaced across the country. Malnutrition among children is widespread and getting worse, with as many as 180,000 children suffering from severe wasting and in need of immediate treatment. Other programs — in health, child protection and water and sanitation — need scaling up.
The country office remains severely underfunded with an 81 percent funding gap and no pipeline in sight.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
DRC remains one of the world's most complex and acute humanitarian crises. Protracted armed conflicts have forcibly displaced 6 million people.
An estimated 27 million people are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity — a 38 percent jump compared to January 2021 — making the country the most food insecure in the world.
There are 2.5 million children who are acutely malnourished. And the number of children recruited by armed groups nearly doubled in the first three months of 2022, compared to the last three months of 2021.
Fighting in the eastern provinces triggered a wave of displacements; gender-based violence cases have increased by 50 percent. The country needs help preparing for the possible spread of Ebola from neighboring Uganda.
Displacement camps are very cramped, UNICEF regional director Marie-Pierre Poirier recently told the BBC. Many people are "living in small huts with just leaves and so on, on volcanic lava sites, making it very difficult to dig for water, very precarious conditions," Poirier said.
Providing safe water and hygiene supplies to those in need are top priorities for UNICEF and partners as reported cases of cholera are "starting to skyrocket," Poirier added. "It's already double than last year. But in the last three weeks, it’s tripled every week."
UNICEF is helping Uganda respond to an outbreak of Ebola — working to scale up risk communication and community engagement in order to reinforce the importance of early reporting and treatment seeking, and adherence to key prevention protocols (such as isolation); and coordinating prevention and preparedness efforts through six neighboring country offices: South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Kenya and Tanzania.
Providing mental health and psychosocial support for impacted families is also a priority, along with addressing stigma and otherwise supporting the reintegration of survivors within their communities.
More funding is urgently needed to bolster all of these efforts.
After more than three years with no cases of cholera reported in Haiti, on Oct. 2, 2022, health authorities declared a cholera outbreak. As of Nov. 3, there were 523 confirmed cases and 106 fatalities reported, and 4,655 suspected cases under investigation. Children under age 9 represent 40 percent of the suspected cases.
This cholera crisis comes on the heels of a surge in violence to unprecedented levels (including systematic gender-based violence) amid rising food insecurity. A record high of 4.7 million people in Haiti face acute hunger. There is widespread socioeconomic and political turmoil, and growing civil unrest. Access to and from the main point of entry for fuel and supplies remains blocked since September, severely impacting transportation and the functioning of basic services and infrastructure, including the operation of hospitals, water distribution facilities or communications infrastructure.
With systems on the verge of collapse, many areas lacking safe water provision, access to toilets and waste management, there is a high risk of a rapid rise in cases; thousands of children and families are increasingly exposed. Support is urgently needed to help UNICEF scale up the cholera response in these extremely challenging circumstances.
Severe drought has dramatically increased the number of children and families in need of humanitarian assistance in Kenya, from 2.1 million to 4.1 million, between September 2021 and June 2022. It is estimated that 942,000 children under 5 require treatment for acute malnutrition — including 229,000 children who are severely malnourished. The country office needs support to procure basic medicines and other health supplies.
Civil conflicts and a worsening economy have left nearly one-third of Myanmar's population in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 1.4 million people are internally displaced. An unprecedented number of cases of grave child rights violations in armed conflict have been reported. Some 4.5 million children have limited or no access to education. And child health services, including routine immunization and malnutrition response, are in urgent need of support to prevent disease outbreaks and preventable child deaths.
The humanitarian situation in Pakistan has deteriorated over the past months due to unprecedented, catastrophic flooding, impacting an already highly vulnerable population. An estimated 20.6 million people, including 9.6 million children, need humanitarian assistance due to the floods.
Damage to public and communal water supply systems and sanitation facilities has resulted in 6.3 million people in need of immediate WASH services, forcing children and families to drink contaminated water and exposing them to the threat of water- and vector-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dengue and malaria.
Cases of acute watery diarrhea and malaria have increased, and 1.6 million children are estimated to be in need of treatment for severe wasting. Damage to health facilities and the loss of essential medicines and cold storage capacity have reduced access to health care services. Over 25,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed in the floods while other schools are being used as shelters for displaced people, further impeding access to education.
Protection concerns — abuse, neglect, gender-based violence and psychosocial distress — persist.
With winter approaching, those who have been displaced by the floods as well as those who are returning to damaged houses, their livelihoods lost, are vulnerable to winter conditions. The political situation remains volatile in the country amid economic woes, including rising prices and high inflation.
South Sudan is facing its worst humanitarian crisis with two-thirds of the entire population in need of humanitarian assistance — almost double the people in need when civil war broke out in 2013.
Severe flooding — exacerbated by climate change — has devastated entire communities. There is acute and widespread food insecurity. UNICEF is looking to scale up nutrition, child protection and other programs to reach more children and families in need.
State of Palestine
The situation in the State of Palestine remains a protracted protection crisis characterized by ongoing occupation, with around 2.1 million people needing humanitarian assistance, including 1.1 million children.
Recurrent escalations of hostilities — the most recent taking place in Gaza in August 2022, resulting in the deaths of 44 Palestinians, including 16 children — are exacerbating needs. UNICEF is working with partners to improve access to safe water, a top priority. UNICEF is also working to scale up health programs to offset the high cost of services, access challenges and lack of availability of treatment and medicine, particularly in Gaza.
Children in Syria continue to face one of the most complex emergencies in the world. Two-thirds of the population requires assistance because of a worsening economic crisis, continued localized hostilities, mass displacement and devastated public infrastructure. UNICEF estimates there are 6.9 million children — many of them displaced — in need of humanitarian assistance.
A recent cholera outbreak has spread to all 14 governorates and threatens to reverse numerous gains made to date, particularly for vulnerable families in northeast and northwest Syria living in crowded informal settlements or areas with insufficient access to safe water.
Nine in 10 families live in poverty. Over half are food insecure due to skyrocketing prices of food and other essential commodities. Only half of all health centers and two of every three schools are fully functional. According to recent surveys, over 70 percent of communities reported child marriage and 84 percent reported child labor.
Widespread food insecurity and malnutrition — stemming from almost eight years of conflict and the country's near-total socio-economic collapse — are the prinary drivers of humanitarian needs in Yemen. More than 23.4 million people, including 12.9 million children (almost 75 percent of the country's population) need emergency assistance.
Some 2.2 million children under 5 years of age are acutely malnourished — including more than 500,000 children who are suffering from severe wasting. Children and women remain at high risk of being killed or maimed, exploited or abused. There is high risk of child labor and child recruitment into armed groups. Over 8.8 million children need protection services, and 8.5 million children require support to get back to school and continue with their education.
Large-scale displacement due to conflict, recurring climate shocks and insufficient access to safe water and sanitation increases risks of disease outbreaks.
Only half of Yemen's health facilities are functional, and immunization rates have stagnated. UNICEF estimates that 28 percent of children under a year old are missing out on routine vaccinations.
For each of these emergency situations, UNICEF has the expertise and the partnerships required to deliver support and protection to vulnerable children. Help UNICEF scale up operations on the ground and reach more children in need. Donate today.