The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to mark humanitarian aid in 2021, as it did last year. A large part of the resources have been used to face the health crisis in a context in which the international humanitarian aid figures have, however, stagnated at around 30.9 billion dollars in 2020, a figure practically identical to that of 2019. This is warned by the report ‘Humanitarian action in 2020-2021: the pandemic delays the necessary reforms’ prepared by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Institute for Conflict Studies and Humanitarian Action (IECAH), published this Thursday.
Racism hidden in the structure of humanitarian aid
The study points to a record gap between requests for funds and the funding available to meet the humanitarian needs of a long list of countries in crisis. In 2020, UN funding appeals reached a record 55, 27% more than in 2019. Of the total amounts required by the UN, only 52% have been funded. Among appeals exclusively related to the response to COVID-19, the percentage of funding was even lower, with only 40% of funds secured.
“The worsening of the crisis in Afghanistan, the worsening of the situation in Haiti or the continuous growth in the number of refugees or people in situations of forced displacement on a world scale testify that the international context goes beyond the pandemic. In this scenario growing needs, international humanitarian funding, stagnant since 2018, and the gap between needs and resources leave more and more populations without adequate assistance and protection, “says Jesús A. Núñez, co-director of the IECAH.
The needs grow
The number of people in an emergency situation in 2020 due to disasters, conflicts or violence was 243.8 million, 19 million more than in 2019. The list of countries identified by the UN as in need of basic aid went from 65 to 75, and more than half of these people live in just nine countries. 81% of Yemen’s population requires humanitarian aid, followed by Eritrea (73%), Syria (67%) and South Sudan (64%).
Although the global figure remains stable, there are cases such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan that have experienced a considerable increase in the population at risk, with 7.5 and 2.7 million more, respectively, than the previous year .
At the end of 2020, there were 82.4 million refugees and displaced people globally, 3.4% more than the previous year.
Spain, far from its commitment
The Official Development Assistance (ODA) of Spain during 2020 has reached 2,603 million euros, which represents an increase of 0.07% compared to 2019. The weight of ODA with respect to Gross National Income has been of 0.23%, still below what is necessary to reach the government coalition’s commitment of 0.5% by 2023.
Spanish humanitarian action, aimed at protecting and saving lives, as well as preventing and alleviating human suffering, grew by 55% in 2020, reaching 96 million euros.
This increase, as ODA has remained practically stagnant, means that the weight of humanitarian aid has increased to 3.69% of total ODA. Despite this, the percentage is still very far from the commitment of the Spanish Cooperation to allocate 10 out of every 100 euros of ODA to humanitarian aid.
Regarding the distribution channels and the recipient countries of Spanish aid, the patterns of previous years have been maintained. In the distribution by geographical areas, Latin America, the main destination, which has received 19%, the Middle East (18%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (12%) stand out.
“However, in the must, it should be noted that the reform of the whole of cooperation for development and humanitarian action has not advanced. In these two years, the process has been slowed down by the effects of the pandemic, changes in those responsible, the lack of continuity and clarity on the part of the public administration and political parties regarding the scope and priorities of this reform “, points out Francisco Rey, co-director of the IECAH.
Inequality in vaccination
The report also highlights the “failure” of the international system to face the pandemic in terms of vaccination and access to treatments against the coronavirus. COVID-19 has exposed the inequality between high-income countries and the rest of the world in access to vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, respirators, and other medical supplies. For the study authors, it is “inconceivable” that some countries are implementing third booster doses when, in others, first-line health personnel or the most vulnerable groups are unvaccinated.
“Conditions must be placed on public funding and non-exclusive licensing; promote technology transfer to ensure a true sharing of the fruits of medical innovation; and make all contracts public with transparency regarding costs and costs. prices, “says Raquel González, head of Institutional Relations at Doctors Without Borders.
“The fundamental and systemic flaw of letting private sectors and market forces determine access to health care must be addressed with a new mechanism that hands over responsibilities to governments, to ensure that vital medical technology is accessible throughout the world. world, “he adds.
In the absence of progress, the World Health Organization (WHO) has readjusted its expectations and set a vaccination target of 70% of the global population by mid-2022. As of September 2021, more than 6.4 billion have been administered doses worldwide, but only 2.3% in low-income countries, while in many high-income countries such as Spain, about 80% of the population has been immunized.
The most serious risks of this double rod of global vaccination, according to the report, are the loss of human life, the prolongation of the pandemic and the possible appearance of new variants of the virus in places with less protection.
According to MSF, there are forecasts that more than 85 poor countries will not have widespread access to vaccines before 2023. This inequality could also have important economic consequences: countries that have not vaccinated 60% of their population by mid-2022 will post GDP losses totaling € 2 trillion in 2025, especially in emerging economies.
The study also highlights other collateral impacts of COVID-19 on health, such as the increase in depression and anxiety, which have grown by 28% and 26% worldwide, or the increase in malnutrition, which added 118 million people in 2020 and already affects between 720 and 811 million.