Global Humanitarian Overview 2021

A family picking bananas in Sitio Linyama, Philippines A family picking bananas in Sitio Linyama, Philippines © Photo by Zeyn Afuang, on Unsplash

This article is a brief presentation of the UNOCHA report about the current state and future trends in humanitarian action

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published, on Tuesday 1 December 2020, the Global Humanitarian Overview 2021 report. It is considered the world’s most comprehensive and evidence-based analysis of trends in humanitarian action and it highlights how 2020 has shown the fragility of human progress, since ten years of development have been deleted by a virus. Thus, it stresses that only a conscious and collective action can boost the recovery. 

In particular, the report first underlines that the Covid-19 pandemic has generated the deepest global recession since the 1930s. Indeed, the subsequent lockdowns and the economic crisis provoked increases in food prices and falls in incomes, together with higher unemployment rates, geneder discrimination and school closures affecting the 91% of students worldwide. As a result, the virus and its effects hit the poorest peoples in the poorest countries leading extreme poverty to rise for the first time since the 1990s.  

In addition, political conflicts are still mushrooming and civilians, children and women in particular, are the most affected ones. For instance, civilians became victims of explosive weapons, which provoked 90% of total casualties. As a direct consequence of conflicts, also the number of refugees and internally displaced people rose, reaching 20 million. In countries affected by conflicts, hunger is on the rise and food systems around the world are hit by the pandemic and by the effects of climate change. As such, by the end of 2020 the number of food insecure people was estimated to be 270 million. These chronic vulnerabilities were exacerbated by natural disasters and by the outbreak of diseases, such as the Covid-19 pandemic,  which damaged the already precarious health systems. For example, more than five million children face the threats of cholera, HIV and malaria, together with the virus. Accordingly, already vulnerable groups, including, women, disabled people, older people, children and adolescents have been affected the most. Furthermore, the measures to contain the pandemic, revealed mental and psychological consequences. Indeed, many young people are at risk of not returning to school in 2020 and this will provoke incalculable damages. In addition, gender inequalities and women’s exposure to gender-based violence increased because of the quarantine measures.

Nevertheless, also some positive aspects need to be underlined. First of all, during 2020 the 70% of targeted people, namely more than 98 million people, were reached. Indeed, innovative technologies improved humanitarian action and collaboration between peacebuilding actions and development efforts increased during the pandemic. Local and international organizations are improving the quality of the delivered aid by looking more comprehensively to the ways in which people experience disasters. Therefore, the 160 million people in need for humanitarian aid that the UN aims at assisting in 2021 will be easier to reach through this cooperation effort. More in particular, $39 billions are the totally necessary aid required to achieve the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) for Covid-19 to ensure protection to 235 million people. Indeed, since there has been a significant increase in the number of people needing assistance: from one in 45 people one year ago to one in 33 people today, humanitarian programming needs a greater coordination also because the Covid-19 pandemic is showing new scenarios for humanitarian action. 


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Autore: Eleonora Gonnelli; Editor: Benedetta Spizzichino


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