Home Challenging Poverty COVID-19 & climate change—United Nations, allied agencies ring alarm bell

COVID-19 & climate change—United Nations, allied agencies ring alarm bell

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• The world in dilemma – United Nations & partners say 235 million people require humanitarian assistance in 2020
• $35 billion to meet humanitarian needs next year to help the most vulnerable
• “Stand with people in their darkest hour of need”, — Antonio Guterres
• Climate change and rising global temperatures presents bleak outlook for humanitarian needs in 2021 – UN

United Nations and allied agencies have alerted the global community that 235 million people worldwide will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021 – an increase of 40 per cent in a year. UN-coordinated response plans just released aims to reach 160 million of those most in need of life-saving support. The estimated cost is $35 billion.

A statement from the UN coordinated support to people affected by disaster and conflict reveals that the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the world to “stand with people in their darkest hour of need”. ’Fifty-six countries affected by humanitarian crises and the fallout of the pandemic are included. The Global Humanitarian Overview 2021 and media resources released by the organizations in Geneva

The UN News states that ‘’In an appeal for $35 billion to meet humanitarian needs next year, Mark Lowcock said that the global health crisis had impacted dramatically people already reeling from conflict, record levels of displacement, climate change shocks. He said that “multiple” famines are looming. The situation is “desperate” for millions and has left the UN and partners “overwhelmed”, he added.

“The picture we are presenting is the bleakest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs in the period ahead that we have ever set out. That is a reflection of the fact that the COVID pandemic has wreaked carnage across the whole of the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet.”

‘Darkest hour’ Echoing Mr. Lowcock’s call for global solidarity, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the world to “stand with people in their darkest hour of need”, as the global pandemic continues to worsen. Although the humanitarian system had delivered “food, medicines, shelter, education and other essentials to tens of millions of people “the crisis is far from over”, the UN chief insisted in a statement.

The shock of COVID-19 has pushed the number of people who need humanitarian assistance worldwide to a record high – up by 40 per cent compared to the same time last year. If all those who will need humanitarian aid next year lived in one country, it would be the world’s fifth largest nation, with a population of 235 million. The UN and its partners aim to help 160 million of the most vulnerable people who face hunger, conflict, displacement, and the impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local and global humanitarian organizations stand ready to save lives and livelihoods and respond to the special needs of women and children as well as people with disabilities and mental health needs. They need solidarity and funding from the rest of the world.The Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) 2021 sets out 34 response plans covering 56 vulnerable countries. It is presented today in Geneva at an event with opening remarks from UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, and the participation of donor representatives and national and international NGOs. Subsequent presentations will take place on the same day in Berlin, Brussels, London and Washington, D.C.

“The humanitarian system again proved its worth in 2020, delivering food, medicines, shelter, education and other essentials to tens of millions of people,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “But the crisis is far from over. Humanitarian aid budgets face dire shortfalls as the impact of the global pandemic continues to worsen. Together, we must mobilize resources and stand in solidarity with people in their darkest hour of need.”

The lives of people in every nation and corner of the world have been upended by the impact of the pandemic. Those already living on a knife’s edge are being hit disproportionately hard by rising food prices, falling incomes, interrupted vaccination programmes and school closures. Extreme poverty has risen for the first time in 22 years. Multiple famines loom on the horizon.
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said: “The rich world can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. The same is not true in the poorest countries. The COVID-19 crisis has plunged millions of people into poverty and sent humanitarian needs skyrocketing.

Next year we will need $35 billion to stave off famine, fight poverty, and keep children vaccinated and in school. “A clear choice confronts us. We can let 2021 be the year of the grand reversal – the unravelling of 40 years of progress – or we can work together to make sure we all find a way out of this pandemic.” International donors gave a record $17 billion in 2020 for collective humanitarian response. Data shows that 70 per cent of the people targeted for aid were reached, an increase compared to 2019. But as needs are rising, funding remains less than half of what the UN and partner organizations asked for. Next year, the estimated cost of response is $35 billion.

He also highlighted how climate change and rising global temperatures had further; contributed to the bleak outlook for humanitarian needs in 2021, their impact being “most acute in the countries which have also got the biggest humanitarian problems. Indeed, eight of the 10 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are ones where humanitarian agencies have got a huge amount of work to do already.”
Conflicts new and old had also contributed to increased needs, the UN relief chief continued, pointing to “new spikes of conflict in places that were previously more peaceful. We’ve seen that obviously recently in Nagorno-Karabakh, we’ve seen it in northern Mozambique, we’ve seen it in the Western Sahara and at the moment obviously, tragically, we’re seeing in northern Ethiopia.”
Sadly, these flare-ups “haven’t replaced conflicts which have been resolved and calmed down in other places”, Mr. Lowcock continued. “In fact, things are just as bad now in the biggest humanitarian settings driven by conflict as they were when we spoke to you a year ago.”
He added: “We’re overwhelmed with problems, as you know, but just the scale of the need and the scale of crisis is such that these efforts to anticipate things make things a little bit better than they would otherwise have been, but they still leave us with a terrible, desperate situation.”
Spending wisely counts
In addition to providing the means to help communities in crisis, Mr. Lowcock underscored the UN appeal’s focus on preventive action.
This included a cash injection for the World Health Organization (WHO) in February at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, to ensure that poorer countries received protective equipment to tackle COVID-19.
Similarly, tens of thousands of potential flood victims in Bangladesh also received “support and cash” help in good time so that they could protect their belongings and livelihoods.
“What we ended up with there was a much cheaper, more effective response as well as one that dramatically reduced the human suffering we would have had than if we’d done the traditional thing – waiting until floods arrive,” Mr. Lowcock insisted.
Alarm bells ringing
The concept of “nipping problems in the bud” and acting on them before they become critical was “increasingly well-established now”, he maintained.
Nonetheless, the UN emergency relief chief underscored that the scale of the challenges facing humanitarians next year are massive – and growing. “If we get through 2021 without major famines that will be a significant achievement,” he said. “You know, the red lights are flashing, and the alarm bells are ringing.”

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