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Yemen Tops List Of Countries Facing Worst Humanitarian Disasters


Yemen has topped an annual watchlist of countries most likely to face humanitarian catastrophe in 2020, for the second year running.

Continued fighting, economic collapse and weak governance mean that more than 24 million Yemenis – about 80% of the population – will be in need of humanitarian assistance this year, according to analysis by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which found that another five years of conflict could cost $29bn (£22bn).

Along with Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela are among the top five nations most vulnerable to humanitarian risk in 2020, with war, droughts and flooding, disease and restrictions to humanitarian access all having major impacts on civilian populations, the IRC found.

All five countries ranked within the top 10 of last year’s IRC watchlist as well, proving that the international community had collectively failed to resolve the root causes of these disasters, the IRC said.

1. Yemen

2. DRC

3. Syria

4. Nigeria

5. Venezuela

6. Afghanistan

7. South Sudan

8. Burkina Faso

9. Somalia

10. Central African Republic

“2019 was a devastating year for civilians caught in crisis worldwide,” said IRC president and CEO David Miliband.

“Across the globe, the scale of need in 2020 is … likely to stretch resources beyond their limit. It’s vital that we do not abandon these countries when they need us most, and that governments around the world step up funding to these anticipated crises before more lives are lost – and the bill for humanitarian catastrophe rises.”

Funding for humanitarian assistance is of grave concern, the IRC said. Although the top 10 nations on the watchlist produced nearly three-quarters of the world’s refugees and more than half of those in need, their appeals for humanitarian assistance in 2019 were, on average, underfunded by nearly 40%.

Six of the top 10 countries most at risk are in Africa, with nearly all nations in the Sahel – from Mali in the west to Sudan in the east – somewhere on the 20-strong watchlist, the report says. The list is also dominated by nations experiencing internal conflict, with only Venezuela – which ranks in the top 10 – to not be experiencing major conflict, the IRC found.

Restrictions on humanitarian access are a major impediment to meeting growing needs in 2020, outside agencies have warned. According to independent humanitarian needs specialists ACAPS, there are “very high” or “extreme” obstacles to humanitarian access in all of the top five countries and in 14 of the 20 watchlist countries.

Miliband called on the international community to act “before more lives are lost”.

“As humanitarians, we can prevent the dying, but it takes politics to stop the killing,” he said.

“But to truly address these challenges, it is vital that the international community, led by the UN security council members, take long-term approaches, re-engage their diplomatic muscle to prevent and resolve conflict and reinvigorate their support of international humanitarian law and accountability for those who violate it.

“Otherwise, the consequences of these humanitarian crises – massive displacement, women and girls at risk of violence, widespread hunger, demolished health systems, a lost generation of children with no chance of education – offer no hope of abating.”


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