International humanitarian spending by public donors fell by $ 284 million between 2019 and 2020, those needing it increased by $ 19 million due to Covid-19.
The UK government cut funding the most, $ 900 million, offsetting other increases, such as $ 800 million in additional aid from Germany.
The Covid-19 has put a strain on the humanitarian aid system and at large. Now more than ever, governments must prioritize aid to the countries and people most affected by the crisis.
Despite a record need due to the pandemic, Development Initiatives’ Global Humanitarian Aid report found that money spent by governments and EU institutions on global humanitarian aid fell by 284 million dollars (1.2%) between 2019 and 2020. The number of people in need of assistance increased by 19 million over the same period.
While the majority of donors increased their humanitarian spending in 2020, this was offset by funding cuts from a few key donors, including the UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Germany and the United States increased their funding by 27% and 6% respectively, but the UK government cut total humanitarian funding by almost a third (31%), leading to a drop in international humanitarian funding from governments for the second year in a row.
“This data confirms what we feared – when the global crisis hit, major donors such as the UK turned in on themselves and left those who needed it most without lifesaving support. is absolutely necessary. Those who can help must step up their efforts, while the system that provides funds to those most affected by the crisis needs urgent reform as we rebuild ourselves from the pandemic, ” said Angus Urquhart, head of crisis and humanitarian action at Development Initiatives.
The report reveals that Covid-specific humanitarian needs are woefully underfunded, with UN Covid appeals only being 40% funded in 2020. At the same time, the pandemic is diverting funding from other humanitarian needs urgent matters, with the top 20 donors cutting $ 4.5 billion in non-humanitarian funding linked to Covid between 2019 and 2020. Deficits affect some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, which are also the most exposed to the impacts of Covid-19 .
Crises are becoming increasingly complex and protracted, placing more emphasis on an already strained humanitarian sector. The data underscore the importance of development institutions like the World Bank in financing crisis responses. While funding from multilateral development banks doubled between 2014 and 2019 (from $ 5.4 billion to over $ 10.7 billion), the analysis clearly shows that the way these funds are distributed is vitally important. The majority (86%) of this funding is now provided in the form of loans rather than grants. While access to loans can be a vital source of finance for countries recovering from a crisis, the authors point out that increased proportions of loans could also push countries into over-indebtedness.
Development Initiatives argues that governments cannot ‘build back better’ from Covid-19 without aligning pandemic-related spending with consistent and effective humanitarian funding for countries in need.
Development Initiatives Senior Policy and Engagement Advisor and report co-author Fran Girling said: “As the rest of the world recovers from Covid-19, people in crisis are being left behind. account. We cannot “build back better” without addressing extreme poverty, reducing inequalities and supporting those who need it most. Now more than ever, providing support to the countries and people most affected by the crisis must be a priority for governments around the world. Failure to act on this data means choosing to leave people behind and restore global stability and prosperity. “
For more information, to request an advance copy of the report and to arrange interviews, please contact Charlie Zajicek on +44 7592 034 721 / [email protected] OR Kristiana Papi on [email protected] / +44 7572 382 252
Notes to editors
Development Initiatives (DI) is an international development organization that applies the power of data and evidence to create lasting solutions that create a just and resilient world. We work closely with partners to ensure that evidence and data-driven analysis are used effectively in policies and practices to end poverty, reduce inequalities and increase resilience.
The Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) report provides a comprehensive and evidence-based assessment of the global landscape of humanitarian response funding. Published annually, the GHA report is a leading independent resource that highlights key issues and emerging trends that those working to improve financial response to the crisis should be aware of. It uses the most recent figures from the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD DAC) and the Financial Tracking Service (FTS) of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
International humanitarian aid refers to financial resources for humanitarian action spent outside the donor country. International humanitarian aid ID calculations are based on what donors and organizations report as such and do not include other types of funding to address the causes and impacts of crises.
There is no obligation or universal system for declaring international humanitarian aid expenditure. OECD DAC members must declare their humanitarian aid to DAC systems as part of their official development assistance. Some other governments and most large multilateral organizations also report to the DAC on a voluntary basis. The FTS is open to all humanitarian donors and implementing agencies to voluntarily report humanitarian aid contributions, according to an agreed set of inclusion criteria.
There is no internationally accepted definition of “persons in need of humanitarian assistance”. Development Initiatives defines this term as “when a crisis prevents a person from meeting their basic needs and requires outside help to do so”. This definition uses the following sources: ACAPS, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), INFORM Index for Risk Management, Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research and data from the Financial Tracking Service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
According to Development Initiatives’ GHA report, the countries with the highest number of people in need in 2020 were as follows (from Figure 1.3 of the full report):
Number of people in need (millions)
Congo (Democratic Republic of)
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Syrian Arab Republic
Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of)