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Ten Humanitarian Crisis to Look Out for in 2019

2018 was a landmark year for many around the world. Giant steps were taken in addressing global issues and some conflict-ridden areas in the past year came to a peaceful resolution or at least a similitude of it. However, one thing remains clear to anyone who cares enough to watch: 2018 didn’t bring us any closer to global peace. In the words of the International Rescue Committee’s Vice President for Emergencies, Bob Kitchen, ‘2018 was a devastating year for millions around the world with more people displaced from their homes than ever before.’ Crisis in hot zones, such as Yemen, got much worse than most people anticipated, and the attack on aid workers didn’t exactly cease.

Unfortunately, the projection for 2019 looks even grimmer. Bob Kitchen further proposed that ‘in many of the world’s most challenging places, armed conflict and man-made crisis mean life will get worse and not better in 2019.’ This is not merely a prophecy of doom. It should be a wake-up call that was necessitated by the realities on the ground. Below is a list of ten humanitarian crisis to look out for in 2019.

Photo by AnnaKate Auten

Militancy in Africa

Like all the other crisis you’ll find on this list, militancy in Africa has been around for some time. The Islamic State of West Africa Province keeps racking up killings and seizing territories in Nigeria, and other religious extremist groups are gaining grounds in places like Burkina Faso and Mali. Sadly, the security apparatuses in these countries seem capable of dealing with the threats. Nigeria, in particular, has been battling with Boko Haram for more than a decade now and the splinter group seems to be even more deadly.

The affected regions are unable to enjoy any kind of freedom or other dividends of governance. Consequently, famine, internal displacement, and the other unfortunate events that come with militancy and getting worse. The militants refuse to back down as they keep portraying their rebellion as an act of righteousness. The governments of the affected countries remain desperate for military solutions.

Projection for the year

The violent uprisings are likely to get worse this year. The network of extremist groups keep expanding and there are reports that there may be collaborations among militant groups within the continent. Factor in the obvious external influence from external terrorist organizations like the Islamic State of Syria and the projection becomes even bleaker.

Photo by Benny Jackson

Somalia Crisis

Somalia is a perfect example of what happens when a war runs for too long. The crisis in Somalia has been around for decades with natural disasters and political instability making things worse. In a nation of about 14.7 million people, 2.6 million citizens are considered internally displaced and close to 1 million are officially registered as refugees. There is no end in sight to the famine and drought, just like the war itself. Overall, the images from Somalia do not make for good viewing.

Projection for the year

The conflict and instability are likely to continue, just like the decline in food security. Even more people will become internally displaced and the mass exodus of Somalians won’t stop as long as they can find another place to call home. The general forecast is that an Al-Shabab resurgence remains unlikely but the unresolved conflicts would lead to the loss of more lives and homes.

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Infectious diseases crisis

Over the years, we have seen the reemergence of forgotten infections in areas that are plagued by humanitarian crisis. The outbreak of diphtheria in Yemen and among Rohingya refugees is a recent example we should all be concerned about. Even with significant advancements in the medical world, curbing epidemics remains a huge challenge in hot zones. For one thing, the healthcare system in most of these areas has already been weakened by the crisis. Furthermore, the resources that can help curb the spread of diseases that are considered easily treatable are usually unavailable and the outbreak of any disease with a high mortality rate only spells doom.

Projection for the year

Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic may be hit with diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination. The heavy presence of military personnel as well as rebels makes it impossible to initiate any comprehensive vaccination program. The protracted nature of the conflict in these areas means diseases like Measles, Polio, Yellow Fever, etc may start to gain grounds. The Ebola outbreak in DR Congo is likely to continue, albeit intermittently and other neighboring countries may be affected. Countries like Syria and Yemen may also continue to experience outbreaks due to the dilapidated state of healthcare facilities coupled with widespread malnutrition. At this rate, the outbreaks may end up killing more people than wars.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba

The curious case of Yemen

Yemen’s brutal war has been on for more than 45 months now. The number of casualties is shocking, to say the least, with about 80% of the populace in need of humanitarian aid. During the last quarter of 2018, the free fall of the country’s economy continued and there seems no abating the slide towards famine. Thankfully, the warring parties seem ready to talk, and they have actually started talking. Reports show that there may be a resolution in sight.

Projection for the year

The war may finally come to an end this year, but the devastation it would leave in its wake would stick around for years to come. Fears about the emergence of local conflicts also abound. It is important to consider this possibility because of the complex nature of the Yemen War. Multiple independent fractions are involved in the war and the negotiating parties may have little control over the ground troops. The UN is currently appealing for $4 billion to help internally displaced citizens. This amount is the highest the organization has ever sourced for any country. Although not impossible, achieving this target is a Herculean task. And even if they do, no one is sure it would be enough to repair the extensive damage done by the war.

Photo by pixpoetry

The crisis of returning refugees

Internal displacement is a close companion of war. People would naturally free from conflict zones to safer places. Too often, however, safety is the only thing that is guaranteed for refugees. Their quality of lives leaves much to be desired and it’s hard to blame anyone. Currently, Afghans, South Sudanese, Myanmar’s Rohingya, and the Syrians account for more than half the total number of refugees in the world. Many neighboring countries have been kind enough to accommodate them but there is a limit to how much help these countries can offer. It gets worse when wars become protracted and more people end up in need of refuge.

Projection for the year

Plans are in place to move many refugees back to their home countries but most of these plans are politically motivated. Many of the peace treaties in the warring countries are fragile and ideally, people should be given more time to observe the situation before moving back home. However, many refugees manage to survive in poor living conditions in their host country and they can hardly complain. Syrians, Afghans, and South Sudanese are facing increasing pressure to return to their home. But these people know they’ll be returning to instability and economic devastation. The Rohingya do not face such immediate pressure but the Bangladesh government has made it clear they will have to return to their homes someday.

The UN would always reiterate its commitment to the principle of non-refoulement. Refugees should not be rushed to return to their homes and the return must be sustainable and voluntary. More than ever, 2019 is likely to be the year we’d get to know the true meaning of voluntary.

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The dearth of responders

International aid organizations often find it difficult to reach the remote parts of areas affected by conflict. The current mode of operation is to outsource the provision of aid to local groups, a method known as ‘remote management’. However, this method is becoming increasingly difficult to propagate. Local responders often lack the necessary training or resources to keep themselves safe. Considering the fact that the lives of aid providers are no longer considered sacred in many conflict zones, the outcome is often disastrous. A recent report showed that about 9 out of every 10 aid workers that were attacked in conflict zones work for local organizations. Asides the obvious threat to the life of their staff, local NGOs also complain they only get crumbs as resources. This stems from a lack of access to direct donor funding.

Projection for the year

There have been numerous promises of reforms in the aid sector, but the promises seem like lip service at the moment. Local aid organizations want to have direct access to the big leagues so they can get more money to secure their staff and do what they are set up to do. They want to be equal partners in the business of providing aid and not just subcontractors to the international NGOs. the short-term projection doesn’t look great, to be honest. Local organizations may shy away from providing the necessary aid amidst these protests. And the already perilous situations of internally displaced person could get worse.

Photo by Ahmed Abu Hameeda

The remnants of the war in Syria

After about 8 years of conflict, President Bashar al-Assad seems to have regained some sort of control over Syria, or most parts of it at least. Presently, the UN has it on record that no part of Syria is besieged. Reports also have it that the Arab League is looking to welcome Syria back in its fold. This political victory (if it happens) only reflects the victories recorded by the Syrian military troops on the battleground. However, observers know that the war is far from over. The region around Idlib province is still largely controlled by the rebels and the 3 million inhabitants of the region are no small number. The existence of such pockets of chaos poses obvious problems for aid providers as well as the Syrian government moving forward.

Projection for the year

The US government recently announced that it may soon pull its troops out of Syria raises concern for the North-Eastern part of the country. Kurdish fighters, government troops, Turkish forces, and what is left of the Islamic State may engage in a bloody power struggle if it happens prematurely. This and the existence of other pockets of chaos could make the already Herculean task of neutral aid delivery even more complex.

Photo by Andrés Gerlotti

Venezuela’s economic crisis

2018 was a bad year for Venezuelans. About 3 million citizens had to move out of their country because they could not afford needs as basic as feeding, no thanks to the disastrous economic collapse the country is experiencing. Predictably, there was a surge in violence and criminal activities. People no longer feel safe in their own country and the situation is worsened by the ailing health sector. The country found it difficult to cope with diphtheria and measles outbreak in the past year. Living in Venezuela presently seems like a tough ask for many.

Projection for the year

The economic crisis that befuddled the nation is expected to continue this year. The present state of things makes it hard to imagine things getting worse but from all indications, south is the only destination for Venezuela’s economy. If there is to be any hope at all, the government needs to be methodical and decisive about introducing economic reforms.

Photo by Matthew Spiteri

Ethiopia- sitting on a keg of gunpowder

Ethiopia isn’t experiencing a full-blown crisis just yet. But with the current state of affairs, the story may change in the coming months. The internal conflict that led to the displacement of more than 1 million people during the first quarter of 2018 hasn’t been fully resolved. It appears that the reforms being introduced by the new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed is only leading to more regional and political unrest.

Projection for the year

Abiy Ahmed’s reforms have been bold, scary even. It remains to be seen whether the nation is prepared for such bold moves. The fear, though, is that there is little margin for error. About 12 million Ethiopians benefit from one form of basic support or the other, no thanks to the crumbling agricultural sector. The country also plays host to close to 1 million refugees from countries such as Eritrea, Somalia, and South Sudan. With the current agricultural crisis, the government may be unable to support the welfare programs and this would leave even more people in need of aid.

Photo by Agustín Lautaro

The horrors of climate change

Many of us have heard a lot about climate change but only a few truly understand the potential devastation that could occur if it remains unchecked. Rising sea levels, unpredictable weather conditions, and drought threatened to run down many countries in the past year. Central Asia, Central America, and some parts of Africa seem to be the worst hit. Research conducted by the World Bank predicts that by 2050, about 143 million people could be forced out of their settlements due to climate change.

Projection for the year

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, about 1.3 million people living in East Africa may lose their home to drought this year. This prediction is way more than other available estimates. However, this only highlights the fact that we are yet to fully understand how to attribute climate change to specific disasters. With the uncertainties in estimating casualties, the aid industry may find it difficult to properly plan for the impending disasters.


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