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With crises set to worsen, what are aid groups priorities for 2018?
by Thomson Reuters Foundation
27 December 2017
Violence, displacement and hunger will drive record humanitarian needs in 2018, with 136 million people worldwide in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has appealed for $22.5 billion for humanitarian responses across the globe.
Protracted conflicts in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen, the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar and natural disasters exacerbated by climate change are among many crises.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked 10 aid agencies to name their top priorities for 2018
OCHA - Mark Lowcock, Head of OCHA and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
1) The 91 million extremely vulnerable people in 26 countries that we aim to reach in 2018 through U.N.-coordinated humanitarian response plans.
2) Internally displaced people - chiefly because of conflict, there are 40 million people displaced within their own countries.
3) Reform - to make the humanitarian system as effective and responsible as possible.
INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE - Bryce Perry, deputy director of emergencies
In 2018, the IRC will continue to focus on the Central African Republic (CAR) and other countries experiencing severe humanitarian crises including:
1) Yemen - with a civil war raging, Yemen continues to be at the top of the list as humanitarians struggle to deliver aid in response to extreme food insecurity, disease outbreak and a collapsed economy.
2) The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - we remain concerned about the DRC given the persistent political instability, a highly vulnerable population and continued unrest in multiple parts of the country.
3) Rohingya crisis - the last few months have seen hundreds of thousands of Rohingya flee extreme violence in Myanmar to seek safety in Bangladesh. Humanitarian needs have quickly outstripped available aid resources and this crisis will remain a priority for the year to come.
OXFAM - Nigel Timmins, humanitarian director
1) Yemen - without a political settlement in sight, the conflict looks set to continue. Meanwhile, the conflict has created the world''s worst humanitarian crisis, the world''s largest cholera outbreak and is on course to create the world''s worst famine.
2) Northern Nigeria - Over eight million people are dependent on life saving aid as the conflict in northern Nigeria reaches its eighth year, with no sign of abating. Unable to grow or buy food, millions are going hungry. Close to 1.7 million people have fled their homes, and with the security situation remaining fragile, many more will continue to do so.
3) Syria - the devastation and suffering delivered by six years of war in Syria is staggering and relentless. Three quarters of Syrians have been affected, 13.5 million people are in need of assistance and five million have fled the country.
ACTION AGAINST HUNGER, Jean-Michel Grand, executive director
1) The Rohingya crisis - Action Against Hunger has some of its largest relief operation in Bangladesh for the Rohingya refugees, but in 2018 we may see the first movement of population going back to Myanmar. As one of the few NGOs allowed to work in Rakhine state, Action Against Hunger will focus on helping people to return safely and restart their lives.
2) Yemen - this will remain a top priority.
3) Syria - With the recent territorial gains on ISIS and the partial withdrawal of Russia, there are uncertainties about the future of the Syrian refugees and internally displaced people.
CHRISTIAN AID - Nick Guttman, humanitarian director
1) Our Democratic Republic of Congo Kasai response is not yet adequately funded. But in 2018 we will be looking to raise funds in order to increase our response.
2) Ongoing emergency responses in conflict environments - northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and the Rohingya crisis both in Bangladesh and where possible in Myanmar.
3) Humanitarian advocacy - we will continue to prioritise "localisation" (in which local organisations are given a central role in a humanitarian response).
NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL - Jan Egeland, secretary general
1) Strengthen our efforts to protect and assist more needy people in hard-to-reach war zones where too few organisations can operate today.
2) Continue to work for a way out for people in protracted displacement. We will work for durable solutions, whether through return, resettlement or local integration.
3) Focus on using data and technology to better let displaced people help themselves. Education and livelihoods as well as cash grants enables people to make their own choices.
ACTIONAID - Mike Noyes, head of humanitarian response
1) East Africa food crisis - it would be foolish to think the food crisis across Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan has gone away... Another period of poor rains and failed harvests - mean the region''s vulnerability continues, and the risk of further deterioration in 2018 is very real.
2) Rohingya - repatriation of the 622,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox''s Bazar, Bangladesh, to Myanmar is meant to begin in early 2018. But the Rohingya are more likely to keep arriving into Bangladesh. Existing humanitarian support in the camps will not be enough.
3) Syria - a new phase to this crisis is likely in 2018, following the governments of Syria and Iraq declaring victory over ISIS. As the conflict in the region enters a fresh, potentially decisive phase, this could lead to yet more movement of people - or even create the conditions where return becomes a viable option for some displaced people.
U.N. FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO), Dominique Burgeon, director of emergencies
1) Reduce the number of people on the brink of famine or severe food insecurity in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
2) Support local food production even in conflict situations support countries to address the impact of climate change.
3) Make sure pastoralists and their children receive more attention and support.
1) Early action - early warning technology alerts us to seasonal or anticipated weather-related events that have the potential to devastate communities. The IFRC''s focus is to ensure early warning is met with early action through making funding available before disaster hits, and putting in place operations that mitigate suffering and loss of livelihoods.
2) Health security - situations of conflict and disaster can quickly turn into health emergencies. The IFRC prioritises emergency health care, water and sanitation services for timely lifesaving and recovery assistance.
3) Localization - The IFRC is committed to ensuring principled humanitarian action is as local as possible through increased support and investment in our Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies to strengthen their capacities.
U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME (WFP) David Beasley, executive director
1) Making food and cash-based assistance central to economic development and regional stability. We will put more focus on school meals programmes, on connecting people we help with projects that benefit their communities, and on creating more resilient food systems to support people and their livelihoods.
2) The resources and knowledge base created by the technology revolution could be used to help transform humanitarian assistance into a more effective force for stability and peace.
3) Millions of lives depend on the WFP to get help to them quickly. And it must be done efficiently to save money.

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100 million pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses each year
by WHO, The Lancet, World Bank, agencies
Dec. 2017
Half the world lacks access to essential health services, with 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses, a new report from the World Bank and WHO reveals.
Each year large numbers of households are being pushed into poverty because they must pay for health care out of their own pockets.
Currently, 800 million people spend at least 10 percent of their household budgets on health expenses for themselves, a sick child or other family member. For almost 100 million people these expenses are high enough to push them into extreme poverty, forcing them to survive on just $1.90 or less a day.
The findings, released this week in Tracking Universal Health Coverage: 2017 Global Monitoring Report, have been simultaneously published in Lancet Global Health.
"It is completely unacceptable that half the world still lacks coverage for the most essential health services," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. "And it is unnecessary. A solution exists: universal health coverage (UHC) allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship."
"The report makes clear that if we are serious – not just about better health outcomes, but also about ending poverty – we must urgently scale up our efforts on universal health coverage". "Investments in health, and more generally investments in people, are critical to build human capital and enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth. But the system is broken: we need a fundamental shift in the way we mobilize resources for health and human capital, especially at the country level. We need to help countries spend more and more effectively on people, and increase their progress towards universal health coverage."
There is some good news: The report shows that the 21st century has seen an increase in the number of people able to obtain some key health services, such as immunization and family planning, as well as antiretroviral treatment for HIV and insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria. Progress, however, is very uneven.
There are wide gaps in the availability of services in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In other regions, basic health care services such as family planning and infant immunization are becoming more available, but lack of financial protection means increasing financial distress for families as they pay for these services out of their own pockets.
This is even a challenge in more affluent regions such as Eastern Asia, Latin America and Europe, where a growing number of people are spending at least 10 percent of their household budgets on out-of-pocket health expenses.
Inequalities in health services are seen not just between, but also within countries: national averages can mask low levels of health service coverage in disadvantaged population groups. For example, only 17 percent of mothers and children in the poorest fifth of households in low and lower-middle income countries received at least six of seven basic maternal and child health interventions, compared to 74 percent for the wealthiest fifth of households.
It is the poorest and most vulnerable people who are routinely forced to choose between healthcare and other necessities for their household, including food and education.
Researchers found that more than 122 million people around the world are forced to live on $3.10 a day, the benchmark for “moderate poverty”, due to healthcare expenditure. Since 2000, this number has increased by 1.5% a year.
Timothy Evans, senior director of health, nutrition and population at the World Bank said: “Universal healthcare coverage is not just about better health. The reality is that as long as millions of people are being impoverished by health expenses, we will not reach our collective sustainable development goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.”
Universal health coverage is a key target of the UN sustainable development goals and without a solid commitment from governments this target is out of reach.
“Every country has the resources available to them if they prioritise. This is why we want to see a much greater focus on primary healthcare because it is the poorest who are losing out,” said Oxfam’s health policy adviser, Anna Marriott.
“Too much funding is going for tertiary hospitals in urban areas that tend to benefit the better off more than the poor, and yet rural areas are neglected, with people left to fend for themselves.
“We absolutely need a commitment to address inequality in health. You are almost four times as likely to get the essential package of healthcare if you are rich.”
"Without health care, how can children reach their full potential? And without a healthy, productive population, how can societies realize their aspirations?" said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "Universal health coverage can help level the playing field for children today, in turn helping them break intergenerational cycles of poverty and poor health tomorrow."
According to the report, Asia has the highest rate globally of those pushed below the poverty line due to out-of-pocket health costs. An estimated 72% of those spending 25% of their household budgets on healthcare live in Asia.
Africa has seen the fastest increase in the numbers of people who spent at least 10% of their budgets on healthcare.


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