People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance at Record Levels, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council, Urging More Aid Funding, Efforts to Resolve Conflict

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message at the Opening of the Economic and Social Council Humanitarian Affairs Segment, in Geneva today: 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to send my greetings to this year’s Economic and Social Council Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

Global humanitarian needs this year are at record levels — once again.  360 million people worldwide need humanitarian assistance — up 30 per cent since the start of last year.  More than 110 million people have been forced from their homes.  And more than 260 million people face acute food insecurity, with some at risk of famine.

The reasons have not changed:  unresolved conflicts grind on while new wars are launched – with a devastating impact on civilians; global economic woes, started by COVID-19 and aggravated by the worldwide impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are hitting the most vulnerable hardest; sustainable development — the ultimate prevention tool — has stagnated or gone into reverse; and the climate crisis has contributed to the deaths of thousands of people and displaced millions over the past year.

Ordinary people are paying an unacceptable price, as parties to conflict violate international law, attack hospitals, schools and critical infrastructure, and commit rampant human rights violations, including gender-based violence against women and girls.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Humanitarian aid agencies and our partners on the ground are finding new ways to provide emergency aid around the world.  In response to growing humanitarian needs, they are reaching more people and delivering more aid, and making every dollar go as far as possible.  Over recent years, humanitarian aid has helped to avert famine in Somalia, Afghanistan and across the Sahel.

In 2022, aid workers ramped up deliveries to support some 15.4 million people in Ukraine.  Since the start of this year, humanitarians have reached 17 million people in Afghanistan, 2.8 million in Nigeria and 2.5 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  These are huge aid operations.

The humanitarian community has come together to mobilize financial resources, advocate for civilians caught up in conflict, anticipate crises and meet needs in underfunded emergencies.  Humanitarian workers have achieved this despite growing insecurity and attacks on themselves and their supplies.  I salute their efforts.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We know what needs to be done.  But, we lack the funds to do it.  Chronic underfunding and record levels of humanitarian need are stretching the system to the breaking point.  Halfway through 2023, we have received just 20 per cent of funds needed under the Global Humanitarian Appeal.

This is causing a crisis within a crisis.  United Nations agencies have already been forced to reduce food aid in Syria, Bangladesh, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Afghanistan and Yemen.  Without a solution to the funding crisis, further cuts are inevitable.

This week is an important opportunity to discuss a range of issues, including how to increase humanitarian resources; how we can deliver more efficient and effective humanitarian aid; how we can better protect individuals in crises, particularly women and girls; how we can reduce food insecurity by supporting sustainable development and addressing the root causes of conflict; and how we can increase resilience by investing in climate adaptation.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The global humanitarian crisis is damning evidence of our collective failure to address the gravest problems of our time.  As we work to strengthen the humanitarian system, we must also double down on efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, recommit to international law, address the climate crisis and ease human suffering. Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.