2024, a challenging year for the humanitarian world

Published on Tuesday 16 January 2024

In recent years, conflicts and humanitarian crises have multiplied and intensified. Human rights and humanitarian law violations will continue to deteriorate in 2023. And in the years to come, conflicts, impacts of the climate crisis and economic inequalities will remain the main drivers of humanitarian needs. They will trigger waves of displacement and reduce access to income and essential services such as health and water. True to its mission, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL is committed to providing dignified and appropriate assistance to people in the most difficult contexts. Let’s look ahead to 2024. 

A world that is increasingly violent and dangerous for civilians and humanitarian workers 

The Conflict Barometer, which ranks the intensity of violent conflicts – from non-violent disputes to war – observed a total of 363 conflicts worldwide in 2022. Of these, around 60%, or 216, were fought violently, compared to the 204 violent conflicts out of 355 in 2021. The region with the highest number of conflicts classified as ‘full-scale wars’ remained sub-Saharan Africa. Conflict intensity has increased over time: 2022 was the deadliest year since 1984, with 204,000 battle-related deaths, 142% more than the previous year. 

The figures for 2024 are even more alarming in the context of ongoing conflicts such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Sahel and Sudan.    

These armed conflicts are causing unprecedented levels of vulnerability and human suffering. They lead to population displacement, and they pose significant challenges to protecting people. According to the latest available data, it is estimated that by mid-2023, more than 110 million people will have been forcibly displaced by conflict. 57% of them had remained within their own country. In Sudan alone, 6.3 million people have been displaced since the conflict began in April 2023. This is the largest internal displacement crisis in the world. In addition to conflict and violence, natural disasters have also been a cause of internal displacement. During 2022, 32.6 million internal displacements were reported due to disasters – mainly floods, earthquakes or storms – and 8.7 million people remained displaced at the end of 2022. 

Humanitarian operations are made extremely difficult by armed conflicts. Humanitarian workers are confronted with violence and insecurity, which are compounded by bureaucratic obstacles. This situation increases the cost of humanitarian operations and makes it more difficult to access vulnerable populations.  

SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL operates in six of the seven countries ACAPS considers to be extremely difficult to access: Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, and Yemen. In 2024, despite the difficult and risky contexts, we are committed to remaining at the forefront of interventions in these countries where the needs are. 

Humanitarian funding largely insufficient to meet all needs  

For the first time since 2010-2011, humanitarian funding fell in 2023 compared to 2022, when record amounts of additional funding were mobilised, particularly for the response in Ukraine, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In 2023, there was a shortfall of almost US$37 billion against consolidated funding requirements, with only 35% of the required funding received. This is the lowest ratio of funding to needs ever recorded. While the beginning of 2023 saw an increase in absolute funding compared to the same period in 2022, notably through ‘flash’ appeals to support earthquake victims in Syria and Turkey, this positive trend was not sustained as the year progressed. Donors failed to provide the resources required to meet the needs identified by the UN. 

This situation jeopardises the ability of humanitarian organisations to meet the needs of people affected by crises. The lack of funding for water, sanitation and hygiene and food security (only 36% of funding requirements have been met for these two sectors) has put populations at greater risk of disease and famine due to cuts in food rations or drinking water. Underfunded crises are more difficult to manage, can have more severe consequences and can develop into ‘over-crises’. Cuts in essential emergency services often lead to an increase in the number of people in need of assistance in the future, by reducing people’s capacity for resilience. 

En 2024, nearly 300 million people will need humanitarian aid and protection, i.e. 4% of the world’s population, compared with 363.2 million in 2023. The United Nations and humanitarian organisations aim to help 181 million of these people, 64 million fewer than in 2023. ‘And it is not because there is no need, it is because we have had to prioritize urgent life-saving need as our core business.’ said Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, in his speech at the launch of the Global Humanitarian Outlook 2024. 

If needs are decreasing, it is because progress has been made in some regions and living conditions have improved. But it is also because budgetary constraints are forcing us to rationalise costs and prioritise people in need, allowing us to help some but denying aid to others. 

Two out of five people in need would be left without assistance, the lowest ratio ever between those targeted by UN-coordinated humanitarian plans and those in need.   

The largest number of people in need of humanitarian assistance – 74.1 million – are in the East and Southern Africa region. The crisis in Sudan accounts for almost 40% of this total. 

Persistent inequalities in sustainable and dignified access to water, sanitation and hygiene, to food, to an adequate and diversified income and to safe and secure shelter. 

In 2024, several million people will once again see their rights to food, water and shelter violated. The causes are multiple and interdependent, three of which are of particular concern to us.  

  • Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones, the harmful effects of which are felt most acutely by people in poor countries.   

The climate crisis is a multiplier of threats. It exacerbates humanitarian needs, increases the risk of conflict, triggers displacement, exacerbates food insecurity and threatens public health. 

The risks associated with the climate crisis will increase without adequate financing and mitigation measures. Under a pessimistic scenario, the number of countries classified as being at ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk of crisis will rise from 36 today to 52 by 2050: the number of people living in countries at ‘very high’ risk of crisis will roughly triple, from 580 million to 1.5 billion. 

The El Niño warm-weather phase, which began in June 2023, is expected to exacerbate these risks. El Niño is a climatic phenomenon that occurs when the surface waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean warm. It can cause drought in some regions and flooding in others. 

  • An increase in epidemics linked to contaminated water and lack of sanitation  

Extreme weather events can lead to water shortages, disrupt sanitation systems, and threaten public health by facilitating the spread of infectious diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.  

For example, after a decade of progress in the fight against cholera, there has been a resurgence of the disease. More, larger, and deadlier epidemics have occurred in the last two years. Cholera outbreaks are to a large extent due to poverty and displacement caused by conflict, with the threat being amplified for people living in overcrowded areas that lack adequate basic sanitation facilities. In the event of flooding, the risk of transmission is exacerbated by the proximity of contaminated flood waters. 

  • Water facilities under attack during conflicts   

The proliferation and intensity of armed conflicts, whether when water infrastructure are targeted or when a party to a conflict uses restriction of the supply of water to conflict-affected populations as a tactic, has impacts on access to water, hygiene, and sanitation. According to UNICEF, these violations of international humanitarian law impede access to drinking water and sanitation for 48 million people. 

  • Food insecurity remains a major concern    

In the early months of 2024, the most serious health risks are likely to be related to malnutrition. El Niño is expected to reduce agricultural yields in many parts of the world. This could lead to food shortages and increased malnutrition, which weakens the immune system and makes people more susceptible to infections.   

In addition to climate change, poverty and inequality are the main global causes of chronic malnutrition – poor people simply cannot afford to eat a sufficiently healthy and nutritious diet. Inadequate nutrition, particularly in the first 1,000 days of life, can have irreversible effects on children’s health and physical and cognitive development.    

Armed conflict is the leading cause of acute hunger, disrupting food production, essential infrastructure and services, and access to income. By April 2024, five countries or territories – Burkina Faso, Mali, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, South Sudan and Sudan – have been identified as particularly vulnerable: populations are already facing, or at risk of facing, famine or a deterioration to catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity (IPC/CH 5). 

Humanitarian aid alone cannot solve all these challenges. We must work together for sustainable policy changes to tackle the root causes of humanitarian crises:    

  • Scaling up funding to truly “leave no one behind”, including the hardest-to-reach populations in the most fragile contexts. To achieve this, development, climate, and humanitarian donors must improve their collaboration and funding tools to better anticipate and respond to crises and conflicts. 
  • States and parties to armed conflict should respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in accordance with their obligations. The humanitarian community strives to use diplomacy to bear witness to the reality on the ground and to violations of international humanitarian law, but it does not hold the political solutions needed to end conflicts in its hands. 

The year 2024 is expected to be a new period of difficulty for people in vulnerable situations. This means that, as humanitarian actors, we must be demanding. But humanitarian aid cannot solve all needs. To address the root causes of vulnerability, we must collectively raise awareness of the role, shared responsibilities, and resources of the humanitarian sector. In this collective effort, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL and its local and international partners will continue to work as closely as possible to meet needs.