Humanitarian action: The other ravages of the covid: more needs and less funds | Future Planet


It is not new that the covid turned everything upside down. What is surprising is the growing gap between needs and resources, especially when you put numbers on it. The emergency is the condition in which 243.8 million people live, 19 million more than last year. They depend exclusively on humanitarian aid. From one exercise to the next, 10 countries entered the UN list of nations on the front line of scarcity. And there were already 65 before the pandemic. “The coronavirus put in check the weak structures of social protection around the world”, summarizes the report of the Institute of Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH) and Doctors without Borders (MSF) Humanitarian action in 2020-2021: pandemic delays necessary reforms, published this Thursday.

Forced migration. The crisis in Afghanistan. The aggravation of Haiti. The increase in refugees. The victims of climate change. The rising wave of violence. Natural disasters. There are fights that go far beyond the coronavirus, although it seems that it overshadowed everything. Deficiencies grow and resources stagnate. In 2020, United Nations appeals reached an unprecedented 55, 27% more than in 2019. And of the total amounts required, only 52% have been funded. To date, there has never been a similar difference between requests for funds and disbursements, especially in the percentage destined to alleviate the ravages of the covid. Only 40% of what was required arrived. This milestone has been described as “a very worrying record” by those responsible for the study.

At least 48 million women and girls were in need of urgent assistance in 2020, including four million pregnant women

Francisco Rey, co-director of the IECAH, emphasizes this inconsistency: “How is it possible that, in a year like 2020, international humanitarian aid has been the same as in 2019?” For the expert, the pandemic has also slowed down the commitments to reform the humanitarian system that began at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, despite the urgency of this. “Spain was one of the countries that then committed itself to preventing and responding to conflicts and disasters in a more effective way. Initiatives such as strengthening local capacity or better articulation among peacebuilding development actors were proposed. But nothing has been fulfilled and promises are very slow, “he criticized by phone.

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The main recipients of international humanitarian aid in 2020.
The main recipients of international humanitarian aid in 2020.MSF

81% of Yemen’s population requires humanitarian aid, followed by Eritrea (73%), Syria (67%) and South Sudan (64%). Although the global figure remains the same, there are cases such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan that have experienced a considerable increase in the population at risk, with 7.5 and 2.7 million more, respectively, than the previous year. Distribution patterns by geographic areas remain similar to previous years: Latin America is the main destination (19%), followed by the Middle East (18%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (12%).

The most vulnerable – again – are the women and girls of these territories. The so-called “invisible pandemic” has put them in a situation of special risk in the face of various threats, even greater than they already were. Estimates from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) are not encouraging: at least 48 million women and girls were in need of urgent assistance in 2020, including four million pregnant women.

On the planet, according to a study published Tuesday by Doctors of the world and Medicusmundi, 440 million people would require international intervention. For them, the “only tool” to alleviate inequity in the health field is cooperation, as warned Fernando Simón, director of the Center for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies of the Ministry of Health. Rey insists: “The coronavirus arrived as a supervening crisis and the only thing it did was to worsen the conditions of humanitarian aid on the ground. Mainly in the access ”.

Another factor that hinders humanitarian action is the proliferation of legal anti-terrorist measures that, in practice, are hampering the work of international organizations, sometimes leading to the criminalization of aid and “serious violations of international humanitarian law.” , as they emphasize in the document. “Terrorism kills innocent people. A lot. And their barbarism is not disputed, but counterterrorism also kills, ”says Raquel González, head of MSF’s international relations. “In conflict zones and under the banner of security, regulations are allowed that put those who are classified as terrorists in the same bag as the civilian population that has nothing to do with it. And humanitarian aid is accused of collaborating or being an accomplice, ”he explains by phone,“ many times they only let us operate on one side of the conflict and our mandate, precisely because of the neutrality that we represent, is to work on both sides. Not conditioned by political or military agendas ”.

Spain, halfway to what was promised

Spanish Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2020 was 2,603 ​​million euros, which represents an imperceptible increase (0.07%) compared to 2019. The weight of ODA with respect to Gross National Income has It was 0.23%, an effort “far below what is necessary”, according to the study by MSF and IECAH, to reach the Government coalition’s commitment of 0.5% by the year 2023.

How is it possible that, in a year like 2020, international humanitarian aid has been the same as in 2019?

Francisco Rey, co-director of the IECAH

In the last two decades, official development aid (ODA) has gone from 0.46% in 2009 to plummeting to 0.12% in 2015, relegating Spanish cooperation to the tail of donors. Since then, growth has been “insufficient.”

Difficulty in accessing the vaccine, a symptom of a “failure”

One of the clearest aspects for the experts of the “failure of the international system” has been that of vaccination and access to treatments against the coronavirus. While 241 million people in the northern hemisphere have already received the third dose, 93% of the African continent has not even been cited for the first. For González, the situation causes a world at two speeds: “There is the planet of those who will recover quickly because they are already immunizing even children and there is already talk of a third puncture, and then there is the other world to which not even the crumbs, which are no longer just injections, but also the payment of health personnel, training, taking care of the cold chain … The covid worsened the fragility of the health systems of the most vulnerable “.

In southern countries, the pandemic resulted in disrupted services. 40% of the countries stopped one or more services against malaria, 60 vaccination campaigns were postponed in 50 countries and half of the nations. Additionally, depression and anxiety increased worldwide by 28% and 26%.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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