UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is targeting fewer people and seeking less money in its 2024 global humanitarian appeal launched on Monday as it grapples with a severe funding crisis.
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told the launch that the U.N. has cut its appeal to $46 billion, to help 180 million people with food and other essential aid despite escalated needs.
The reduction was made after the U.N. received just over one-third of the $57 billion it sought to held 245 million people this year, “making this the worst funding shortfall … in years,” Griffiths said.
Through “a heroic effort,” 128 million people worldwide received some form of assistance this year, but that means 117 million people did not, he added.
Almost 300 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in 2024 — a figure that would amount to the population of an entire country that would rank as the fourth most populous nation, after India, China and the United States.
Griffiths pointed to new and resurgent conflicts as adding to the need for aid, including the latest Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, as well as Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the fighting between rival military leaders in Sudan, and the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, where the World Food Program will end its main assistance program in January. He also cited the global climate emergency, disease outbreaks and “persistent, unequal economic pressures.”
Griffiths said there are more displaced people since the beginning of the century, and that nearly one in five children live in or fleeing from conflict. He said 258 million people face “acute food insecurity or worse,” and that there have been deadly cholera outbreaks in 29 countries.
U.N. and government efforts — including in Somalia where rains also played a key role in averting famine this year — helped provide aid but Griffiths said the “severe and ominous funding crisis” meant the U.N. appeal, for the first time since 2010s received less money in 2023 than the previous year. Around 38% of those targeted did not get the aid “we aim to provide.”
In Afghanistan, 10 million people lost access to food assistance between May and November and in Myanmar, more than half a million people were left in inadequate living conditions. In Yemen, more than 80% of people targeted for assistance do not have proper water and sanitation while in Nigeria, only 2% of the women expecting sexual and reproductive health services received it.
Griffiths said donor contributions to the U.N. appeal have always gone up, but this year “it’s flattened … because the needs have also grown.”
Griffiths told the launch of the appeal in Doha, Qatar, that the world body fears the worst for next year and has looked at “life-saving needs as the overwhelming priority.”
He appealed, on behalf of more than 1,900 humanitarian partners around the world, for $46 billion for 2024 and asked donors “to dig deeper to fully fund” the appeal.