Medical/Health Care

Midyear update: Ten humanitarian crises and trends to watch in 2019

Remember those 10 crises and trends to watch in 2019 we presented back in January? The issues are rapidly evolving, but we've been keeping watch.

From new trends in aid policy and climate displacement to political transitions in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, our reporting has examined the shifting terrain of humanitarian needs and response.

Here's what has changed through the year, what we're paying special attention to, and how it may affect the lives and livelihoods of people on the ground.

Vulnerable communities around the world have long known what the aid sector is just beginning to articulate: climate change is a humanitarian issue, and its fingerprints are all over today's emergencies.

What's new:

Climate shocks and disasters continued to fuel displacement around the globe through the first half of the year, from tropical cyclones to slow-burning droughts. Pacific Island nations were on high alert early in the year as storm after storm swept through the region in quick succession. Conflict is as dangerous as ever in Afghanistan, yet the number of people displaced by droughtand floods in recent months is on par with the numbers fleeing war. Drought has left 45 million in need in eastern, southern, and the Horn of Africa. This, along with conflict, has spurred new displacement in countries like Somalia, where at least 49,000 people have fled their homes so far this year, according to UNHCR. The UN's refugee agency warns of growing climate-related displacement � a sign of the continuing shift in the aid sector as humanitarian-focused agencies increasingly underline the links between climate change and crises.

Why we're watching:

Disaster displacement is nothing new, of course, but what's rapidly evolving is the ability to trace the roots of these crises to a changing climate. One example: research released late last year found that climate change doubled the likelihood of extreme pre-monsoon rains that struck northeastern Bangladesh in 2017. In March, two years after the resulting floods, our reporting from the epicentre found half-empty villages and rice farmers abandoning their failing crops to move to Dhaka, the congested capital, for good. The World Bank estimates there could be 140 million internal climate migrants by 2050. There are complex economic reasons why people pack up and leave, and quantifying the sheer scale of climate displacement is an inexact science because of this. But Bangladesh's northeast ricebowl offers a real-time glimpse of how these staggering displacement warnings unfold: one depleted village at a time.

Keep in mind:

Migration experts say the vast majority of climate-fuelled displacement happens within a country's own borders. So the nuts and bolts of how to adapt fall on vulnerable local communities and governments themselves (albeit with more equitable adaptation funding, they hope, from the wealthy nations most responsible for climate change). Some of these communities are the ones leading the way in preparing for tomorrow's crises today. Pastoralist groups in northern Kenya, for example, have formed peace committees to negotiate access (and avoid bloodshed) as people migrate in search of water and land. And Pacific governments like Fiji and Vanuatu have recently passed laws governing planned relocations of entire villages � often complicated by ancestral land rights � and national policies on climate displacement.

A win by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now seems even more of a fait accompli, but with a government assault on the rebel-held northwest barrelling on, hundreds of thousands of civilians and maybe millions are likely to be stuck in the line of fire before the war's end.

What's new:

A Russia-Turkey brokered buffer zon that had been keeping a fragile calm in rebel-held Idlib province and its surroundings has now collapsed, forcing an estimated 330,000 people to flee their homes since the beginning of May. Civilians are dying in airstrikes and shelling, and hospitals and other healthcare facilities � even ones that shared their coordinates with the Syrian government in a UN-run deconfliction programme are being bombed. UN relief chief Mark Lowcock recently called the situation a humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes Meanwhile, Syrian NGOs are crying foul over a UN plan to shift most of the decision-making for aid operations in the country to Damascus, a move they say will give al-Assad more power over relief work and make it harder to do an already difficult job in places like Idlib.

Why we're watching:

While estimates of how many people live in and around Idlib have long hovered around 2.5 million, the truth is that displacement is happening fast, and counting people in a warzone is far from an exact science. We do know that many of the people who have fled the northwest in the past few months have been displaced many times over through more than eight years of war in Syria. They likely have no homes standing to return to and, as they edge towards the closed border with Turkey, many may soon have nowhere else left to go.

Keep in mind:

Idlib is grabbing headlines for good reason, but there are many other unknowns in Syria, including what will become of the tens of thousands of people at al-Hol camp in the northeast: many of them fled so-called Islamic State's last territory in the country, meaning they'll likely carry the group's stigma for years to come, whether they are from Syria or elsewhere. That includes some uneasiness on the part of donors, who worry their aid money could go to people or groups they consider to be terrorists. And while people are still leaving Rukban, the remote camp on the Jordan-Syria border, some 27,000 people remain, and they haven't seen an aid shipment in more than four months.

Source: The New Humanitatian