It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Like many of you perhaps, I am approaching the end of 2021 with mixed feelings. The dire news headlines are unrelenting; the hoped-for return to normality still hasn’t arrived, and the uncertainty ahead shows no signs of abating.
Even as I pause, gratefully, for a break, the UN’s recently published Global Humanitarian Overview for 2022 shows that humanitarian needs are at the greatest levels ever recorded. A staggering 274 million people are expected to need aid next year – up from 235 million this year, which was already a huge rise from previous years.
A grim confluence of factors is stoking this unprecedented level of need. There is the ongoing COVID pandemic, with the emergence of new variants and many in low-income countries still unable to access vaccines. The growing impact of climate change means that extreme weather events are occurring more frequently. Brutal conflicts are taking a particular toll on women and children, including a disturbing upsurge in sexual violence. A record 82.4 million people – more than double the number of a decade ago and now making up over 1% of the global population – are forcibly displaced from their homes. Nearly half of them are children.
The list continues. Hunger is skyrocketing, and famine-like conditions are developing in several countries. In a knock-on effect of the pandemic, health care systems in many low-income countries are on the verge of collapse. Hard-won progress has been reversed in areas like HIV, TB, malaria, antenatal care and childhood vaccinations. Disruptions to the global economy and supply chain shortages are not only feeding into these crises, but also impeding the funding and delivery of humanitarian responses to them. Access to those in need is increasingly being restricted, and humanitarian work continues to be a dangerous profession with aid workers regularly coming under attack.
You could say it all amounts to a perfect storm.
How, in the midst of all this, can we possibly find hope?
I find hope in knowing that we are exactly where we need to be: Medair is currently responding to the needs of people in the eight worst humanitarian crises of the world. According to the UN, these are also the most-underfunded emergencies. These include Afghanistan, Madagascar, DR Congo, South Sudan and Yemen; countries that are facing potential famine-like conditions.
I find hope that we, as emergency response organization, have staff committed and ready to deploy to new crises within 24-48 hours. Our teams of highly skilled professional aid workers have helped people in 11 of the UN’s 12 largest emergencies.
I find hope in our amazing COVID taskforce who are always on top of the latest research and leading the way in finding solutions for COVID-safe provision of aid; in signing the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations, which I am excited to share more about in the new year; and in my colleagues’ dedication to ensure that the voice and contribution of local communities are always at the center of our work.
I find hope in the strong partnerships we have built across the humanitarian community, with the private sector and with our donors. We are working together more effectively than ever to complement each other’s strengths. Our private sector partners are joining with us to innovate a variety of new tools, from early warning systems for natural disasters to flood-resilient shelters and biodegradable tarpaulins. And when we appeal for funding to meet new needs, our donors consistently step up to enable us to respond.
I find hope in the remarkable people I get to work with, like Yasmin in Bangladesh, who told me that helping Rohingya refugees is the greatest thing she can imagine doing. Many of our local staff have chosen to turn down other opportunities to undertake such work, even in the face of uncertain times and criticism from their communities, as a matter of quiet conscience.
Above all I find hope in the people we serve, such as a family I met in Lebanon who had a harrowing escape from the conflict in Syria with their disabled little boy. Living in a tent with next to nothing, their resourcefulness, joy and positivity for the future floored me. Over and over again I meet not victims but survivors, who take our support and multiply it with their own resilience.
This is why I have hope for the year ahead. The challenges may be huge, but with more than 30 years’ experience of doing hard things in hard places, this is what we do and why we exist. If we keep working together, there are many, many people whose futures can be changed for the better. So I’m not ready to give up believing that tomorrow will be a better day.
Wishing you all peace, unquenchable hope and yes, even joy for 2022.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.