With crises set to worsen, what are aid groups’ priorities for 2017?

January 5, 2017 OPINION/NEWS

Antonio Parrinello

Antonio Parrinello/Reuters



Umberto Bacchi

After a year of record humanitarian needs, 2017 looks set to be even more challenging for aid agencies as they brace for the fallout from protracted conflicts and other escalating crises.

The United Nations estimates almost 93 million people in 33 countries will need humanitarian aid and has appealed for a record $22.2 billion to help them.

Conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and South Sudan account for half the budget.

In Africa’s Sahel belt, poverty, conflict and climate change have left one in six hungry, fuelling migration to Europe, the United Nations says.


The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked aid agencies to name their three priorities for 2017:



UNHCR – Filippo Grandi, head of the U.N. refugee agency

1) Access to safety for those fleeing conflict – upholding asylum for refugees, and tackling xenophobia, scapegoating and populist fear-mongering.

2) Stabilising frontline refugee hosting countries by supporting an early life-saving humanitarian response, and decisive engagement by development actors to mitigate the dramatic consequences of large-scale refugee influxes.

3) Robust international action to prevent and resolve conflict, and renewed focus on the growing number of people who are internally displaced.




1) Emerging infectious diseases are becoming more frequent, complex and difficult to manage as they spread in urban settings with poor sanitation, crop up in new places due to migration and move across borders. After Ebola, 2016 saw the wildfire spread of Zika and yellow fever and Rift Valley Fever in new places.

2) Aid for migrants. With no solution in sight to simmering conflicts and other triggers for migration, and little progress in establishing safe and legal routes for asylum seekers, we expect the staggering numbers of people taking flight to continue in 2017.

3) Local preparedness and localised funding. We will help vulnerable communities become more shock resistant (by) investing in strengthening local systems; teaching and delivering first aid, because 90 percent of lives saved at the outset of a disaster are by locals; and boosting community-based disease surveillance.



INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE – Ciaran Donnelly, senior vice president, international programmes

1) Cash for refugees, not just tents or food. Cash assistance empowers people and gives them choice, it helps scarce resources go further, and it supports the local host economy.

2) Refugees need long-term support, not just emergency relief. This means getting refugee children into school, getting their parents into jobs, and working with international financial institutions, host country governments and the private sector.

3) Don’t let Europe and the United States off the hook. Fight to protect the hard-won rights of refugees despite the political and popular backlash, and urge governments to do more. Wealthy countries host just 14 percent of the world’s refugees and must not leave poorer countries to manage the crisis alone.



OXFAM – Nigel Timmins, director of global humanitarian team

1) The eight-year conflict between Boko Haram and the military in northeast Nigeria has intensified, spreading into Niger, Chad and Cameroon. We are concerned at least 400,000 people could be experiencing famine-like conditions. Unless humanitarian aid is delivered, this could rise to 800,000. Over 2.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

2) After three years of fighting in South Sudan nearly 5 million people are desperately hungry. Half the population is already in need of humanitarian aid. Over 1.8 million people have been forced from their homes and more than one million have fled into neighbouring countries. The Ugandan village of Bidi Bidi has become the second largest refugee resettlement area in the world.

3) The Horn of Africa is experiencing a devastating drought where more than 12 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are facing food and water shortages. Forecasts suggest rainfall will not significantly increase, meaning both harvests and livestock productivity will decline sharply in early 2017.



WORLD VISION – Mark Smith, senior director for humanitarian emergencies

1) As the Syria crisis enters its sixth year, civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict marked by unparalleled suffering, destruction and disregard for human life. Some 13.5 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 4.9 million trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

2) In the Lake Chad Basin, more than 2 million people have been displaced by Boko Haram-related insecurity and, according to USAID, 4.6 million in Nigeria’s Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states are experiencing acute food insecurity.

3) South Sudan continues to experience challenges including almost 600,000 refugees having fled to neighbouring Uganda.



CHRISTIAN AID – Jane Backhurst, senior humanitarian advocacy officer

1) Raise awareness and funding for the crises in northeast Nigeria and South Sudan.

2) The Middle East crises in Iraq, Syria and Israel and occupied Palestinian territory will remain a high priority.

3) Scale up our work in Afghanistan as Afghan refugees are returned from Pakistan.



NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL – Jan Egeland, secretary general

1) Do more to be there for those who need us the most, in areas that are hard to reach, from Syria and Yemen, to northern Nigeria and South Sudan. Parties to the conflicts are blocking humanitarian workers from delivering life-saving assistance, and relief in neglected crises in Yemen and Nigeria is woefully underfunded.

2) Protect the displaced, by advocating for their rights. We will push for countries to take their share of responsibility for protecting refugees and we will speak out against barbaric breaches of international humanitarian laws.

3) Education for children affected by conflict. Many countries risk losing a generation to war and conflict. If we are not able to provide these children with an education, who will be there to rebuild these countries and create peace and stability?



ACTIONAID – Mike Noyes, head of humanitarian response

1) Scale up our disaster response capability. This is in part because of the wider impacts of the Syria crisis following the battle for Aleppo and likely knock-on effects of the battle for Mosul (in Iraq). In particular we will be looking at strengthening our capacity to deliver cash-based responses, especially those targeted at women.

2) Look at how we can do more in our work on disaster anticipation, preventing emerging crises from escalating by engaging with the work of the Start Network (https://startnetwork.org/) on forecasting mechanisms and piloting early responses.

3) Ensure we meet the commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit to make a locally-directed response to a humanitarian disaster a reality.



SAVE THE CHILDREN – Daniele Timarco, humanitarian director

1) Drought and hunger crises in Horn of Africa.

2) Coherent global response to migration and displacement.

3) Rapidly changing conflicts including Syria, Iraq, South Sudan.










Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change.


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