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EXPERT VIEWS-With crises set to worsen, what are aid groups' priorities for 2018?

by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 00:01 GMT

Roshid Jan, a Rohingya refugee who said she is not sure of her age, cries holding her son Muhammad Gyab at their shelter at the camp for widows and orphans inside the Balukhali camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

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The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked 10 aid agencies to name their top priorities for 2018

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Dec 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Violence, displacement and hunger will drive record humanitarian needs in 2018, with nearly 136 million people worldwide in need of aid, according to the United Nations.

The U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has appealed for a record $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 aid agencies to name their top priorities for 2018:

OCHA - Mark Lowcock, Head of OCHA and 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 a weapon of peace... 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) Unleashing wealth - technology is creating immense global private sector wealth. The resources and knowledge base created by the technology revolution could be used to transform humanitarian assistance into an effective force for stability and peace.

3) Be there quickly and efficiently - Millions of lives depend on the WFP to get help to them quickly. And it must be done efficiently to save money.

(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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