International humanitarian assistance totaled a record $28.9 billion in 2018, an increase of 30 percent since 2014, but up just 1 percent on a year-over-year basis, a study by Development Initiatives finds.
The report, Key Trends in Global Humanitarian Assistance 2019 (14 pages, PDF), estimated that total contributions from major donor governments and EU institutions increased in 2018 to $22.6 billion, up from $21.9 billion in 2017. But after four consecutive years of growth, funding from private sources declined to $6.3 billion, from $6.6 billion in 2017.
According to the report, the growth in government assistance can be attributed to significant increases in the amount contributed by the United Arab Emirates (up $1.7 billion, to $2 billion) and Saudi Arabia (up $806 million, to $1.3 billion), offsetting cuts by the three largest government donors — the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The jump in contributions from Middle Eastern and Northern African governments is a reflection, in part, of the concentration of humanitarian assistance flowing to the region, including responses to crises in Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan, which together accounted for 30 percent of country-allocable international humanitarian assistance. In 2017, the top ten recipient countries received 64 percent of all country-allocable humanitarian assistance, up from 59 percent the previous year.
Based on data from twenty-seven countries, the analysis also found that over the first years of a protracted crisis, development assistance declines at a rate faster than the rate at which humanitarian assistance increases. In the fifth year of a crisis, humanitarian assistance to such countries was some $2.9 billion higher than it was in the first year of the crisis, while non-humanitarian development assistance declined some $3.8 billion in the aggregate. The report also found that aid in the form of loans to countries experiencing protracted crises increased 394 percent between 2012 and 2017, while loans to other developing countries was up only 40 percent.
"It is great to see that $28.9 billion is now provided as international humanitarian assistance, but it is simply not good enough that we do not have a complete picture of where it goes and who it benefits," said Development Initiatives humanitarian lead Angus Urquhart. "We need the right data and information, published in an open, timely, and comprehensive form to be able to understand the impact that assistance is having, and how decision-making and programming can better respond to the people in need of such critical support. This is particularly vital when people in poverty are disproportionately affected by crisis — with at least a third of people in extreme poverty living in countries experiencing crises."