2022 The State of the Humanitarian System – Press release

07 Sep 2022

Fractured international community undermines delivery of humanitarian aid, leaving hundreds of millions facing cascading crises of conflict, COVID-19 and climate disasters 

•    A breakdown of trust and cooperation within the international community is failing people affected by disasters and preventing humanitarian aid workers from doing their jobs

•    International agreements are being flouted globally, compromising the ability of the humanitarian system to respond

A landmark study released today by ALNAP, a global network of humanitarian agencies, shows how war, hunger, climate change, and the economic impacts of COVID-19 combined in unprecedented ways to drive over 250 million people into crisis in 2021, doubling the number of people in need of assistance in just 5 years.
A lack of coordinated global leadership is emboldening several national governments and armed groups to deploy outright physical violence or insidious tactics of menace and obstruction to prevent the delivery of impartial humanitarian aid. Attacks on aid workers rose by 54% between 2017 and 2020 and local humanitarian responders regularly face intimidation and threat of physical violence. 
The State of the Humanitarian System 2022 combines new and existing data to provide a comprehensive overview of humanitarian need and assistance for people facing crisis across the world. It shows that the need for humanitarian aid reached an all-time high between 2018 and 2021, peaking in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While funding for humanitarian aid reached an estimated $31.3bn in 2021, almost double what it had been a decade before, humanitarian organisations were only able to reach 46% of those identified as being in need of support. 
Conflicts, the number of which rose from 83 in 2010 to 175 in 2020, are preventing relief workers from doing their jobs and driving the highest-ever totals of refugees and people fleeing violence. Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, around 80 million people worldwide had been forced to flee their homes because of conflict or climate change, the highest ever number. The majority of these - over 53 million people - were internally displaced, and while disasters remained the predominant cause of internal displacement, in 2021 conflict-induced internal displacement reached its highest level in a decade.
Drawing on surveys and interviews with humanitarian practitioners in countries around the world, the report records how conflict situations are forcing humanitarians to compromise on their principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in order to reach people affected by crisis. As a result, crisis affected people in multiple countries say they are not receiving enough support, and some feel left behind by the international community. There are examples of intelligence officials vetting lists of relief recipients and governments expelling or suspending agencies if they speak out against abuses. Aid workers have reported having to choose between delivering aid only to people living in territory controlled by specific factions or delivering no aid at all.

Speaking at the global launch of the State of the Humanitarian System Report in Nairobi today, Dr Asha Mohammed, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society said:

“With the increasing and complexity of humanitarian crisis around the globe, the importance of increasing the role played by local actors in addressing these crises cannot be overemphasised. Unfortunately, this report shows that we have backtracked from the gains made during COVID-19 when a big part of the humanitarian response was by local actors. The future of humanitarian work is local and for meaningful change to happen we cannot continue with cosmetic approaches. To reach the last mile and enhance cost effective approaches in a shrinking funding environment, we must ensure local actors are well positioned and supported.”  

Alice Obrecht, Co-author and ALNAP’s Head of Research, said: 
“We are seeing that the humanitarian system is under direct threat in countries around the globe, and we cannot take multilateral support for international humanitarian law as a given. In the face of escalating conflicts and the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, crisis is becoming the norm. The world must renew its commitment to the global social contract, with a respect for the rights of people affected by crisis at the centre of this.”
Sara Pantuliano, Chief Executive of global thinktank ODI said:
“The last few years have been characterised by global emergencies and this report provides us with the most comprehensive evidence so far of the consequences of a lack of international cooperation. If we carry on as we are, the implications for everyone – wherever they are in the world, rich and poor countries alike - are dire; as the fuel supply crisis and summer heatwaves have shown, no-one is immune from the impacts. We need a new multilateralism to address our common challenges. The humanitarian endeavour, while far from being the only source of support for people in crisis, is an example of humanity at its best. It’s not about aid, but about compassion and global solidarity.”

Notes to editors

1. About ALNAP’s The State of the Humanitarian System report 

Humanitarian action can be a lifeline to people experiencing the worst that conflict and disaster can inflict. For those who deliver assistance and protection, the stakes could not be higher – and the obligation to learn and improve is therefore paramount. 
For over a decade, ALNAP’s State of the Humanitarian System report (SOHS) has supported this learning by providing a unique, evidence-based understanding of the system and how well it works for affected people. 
The 2022 SOHS looks at the period from January 2018 to December 2021 a period that encompassed the global COVID-19 pandemic as well as multiple armed conflicts - and draws comparisons with previous editions to take the long view on trends, accomplishments and challenges in the humanitarian system. 
Based on a huge body of evidence including exclusive research with crisis-affected people and practitioners, SOHS addresses key questions about performance and effectiveness in areas such as hunger and mortality prevention, as well as giving a comprehensive picture of funding, resource flows, staffing and organisations. 
The full text of the 2022 edition will be available here on Wednesday 7 September. 

2. About ALNAP

Established in 1997 following an international evaluation of the response to the Rwandan genocide, ALNAP is a global network (of NGOs, UN agencies, members of the Red Cross/Crescent Movement, donors, academics, networks and consultants) dedicated to learning how to improve response to humanitarian crises.

3. For further information please contact Rowan Davies on 07754 292920 // r [dot] davies [at] alnap [dot] org

4. Further information:

Recent years have seen major interconnected crises
•    Between 2018 and 2021 the number of people recognised as needing humanitarian assistance grew by more than 70%. 
•    In 2020 just half of humanitarian requirements were funded, a record low. 
•    By September 2020, 51.6 million people were recorded as being directly affected by an overlap of floods, droughts or storms and COVID-19.
The problem of hunger and food insecurity is getting worse
•    Between 2017 and 2021 the number of people facing acute food insecurity rose by 33%, from 124 million to an estimated 161 million. 
•    The system’s response to food crises is under-resourced, and this situation is expected to worsen with the effects of the war in Ukraine.
•    In a survey of crisis-affected people food emerged as their most important need (cited by 38%), and these communities are also deeply concerned about the diversion of food aid through corruption.
•    Climate change is changing the shape of hunger crises, making them slower to develop and more cyclical. 
COVID-19 drastically increased the scale of need while reducing the economic capacity to cope with it
•    The economic shocks associated with COVID-19 pushed around 97 million people below the extreme poverty line. 
•    In what the head of the WHO called a ‘catastrophic moral failure’, wealthy countries failed to equitably share COVID-19 vaccines.
•    An uncoordinated response shows that there are urgent questions about the capacity of global leadership to respond effectively to pandemics in the future.