2014 was a particularly harsh year for children, says UNICEF, which noted in a recent report that nearly 230 million children live in countries affected by war. Here are the top crises of 2014 that we will continue to watch in 2015.
Ongoing conflict and recurring natural disasters affected tens of millions of people worldwide in 2014. It was a particularly harsh year for children, says UNICEF, which noted in a recent report that nearly 230 million children live in countries affected by war.
The United Nations appealed December 8 for $16.4 billion to reach 57 million people affected by war and disaster in 2014, reflecting record numbers of people in need worldwide.
Here’s a look at seven crises from 2014 that we will continue to keep an eye on in 2015.
The nearly 4-year-old war in Syria has caused more than 3.3 million people — including about 1.7 million children — to flee the country as refugees. Within the country, the violence has displaced 7.6 million people, and two-thirds of the population of nearly 18 million need humanitarian assistance. Education, family, and community life are disrupted.
Children are particularly vulnerable, while living in insecure conditions such as a refugee camp or host neighborhood with little infrastructure, or within the country, where fighting continues.
There appears to be no end in sight.
Humanitarian agencies provide refugees with winterization help, including clothing, blankets, stoves, and oil for heating and cooking. But funding is drying up for a continued response through 2015. The U.N. and governments in the region are asking for $5 billion — the largest humanitarian appeal for a single response in history — to meet the immediate needs of displaced families and their hosts.
Fighting has spilled over from Syria and flared up internally, displacing more than 2 million people since January 2014. Northern Iraq already hosted more than 228,000 Syrian refugees. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates about 5.2 million people now need humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, clean water, sanitation services, and education support.
As many as 600,000 people seeking shelter in mountainous areas of northern Iraq need help to weather the cold, snowy winter months.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa is the worst since the disease was discovered in 1975. The World Health Organization’s official death toll topped 6,388 on December 10 as governments and international aid agencies worked to control the spread of the virus. It’s especially bad in Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have seen 87 percent of the cases and 77 percent of the deaths.
Aid agencies and governments have ramped up their coordination to contain the outbreak through efforts such as providing community awareness training and equipping medical teams to conduct safe and dignified burials.
Since conflict broke out a year ago in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, 1.91 million people have fled their homes because of fighting. Many set up camp under the U.N.’s protection, dependent on aid from relief agencies. Their lives and prospects are limited.
Thousands of farming families missed the planting season or lost their livestock and now have no crops or income to hold them over until the next harvest. Hunger, malnutrition, and disease threaten their children’s lives. Schools are occupied by armed forces and displaced families, not students.
Humanitarian agencies responding to the crisis believe as many as 2.5 million people will face severe food shortages in early 2015.
Despite a slight increase in cereal crop production in 2014 in East Africa, more than 1 million people in Somalia’s central and southern areas still need emergency food assistance, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says.
Aid agencies there expect the food security situation to improve by March for some. But they are wary of the impact late seasonal floods could have on struggling families near the Shabelle and Juba Rivers.
Ongoing armed conflict and political insecurity have hindered efforts to help hungry families become more resilient to food shortages. However, some communities ravaged by the 2012 drought continue to make progress toward having enough to eat during lean times.
Hundreds of thousands of families across Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are feeling the effects of a prolonged drought. In some areas, 80 percent of farming families reported losing their entire crop. The U.N. humanitarian agency (OCHA) estimates 2.5 million people are food insecure in those countries heading into 2015.
Honduras and Guatemala lost up to three-quarters of their bean and maize crops. For El Salvador, it’s the worst drought since 1977, OCHA reports. In eastern Guatemala’s “dry corridor,” one in four households suffers from malnutrition. This means children can’t concentrate in school and lack the caloric fuel they need to grow and thrive.
The situation in CAR remains volatile as clashing groups continue violent attacks throughout the country of 4.6 million people. Conflict has displaced 430,000 people from their homes in the past year. Schools have closed, making children vulnerable to abuse and violence, including recruitment into the warring factions.
Now, 2.5 million people need immediate help such as protection, food, and access to health services.
For more about the humanitarian crises of 2014, check out our slideshow at World Vision magazine, “Helping in the hard places: Crises of 2014.”
Top humanitarian crises to watch in 2015: