2014 Humanitarian Challenges

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is currently engaged in mobilizing large-scale emergency humanitarian efforts for four major crises around the world, including Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Philippines.

The Secretary-General spoke at an informal meeting of the Plenary of the General Assembly  on the 17th of January to hear a briefing on UN challenges for 2014. His remarks highlighted the continuing crises in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and issues including climate change, arms trade, human rights, migration and development. Click here to read the Secretary-General’s remarks.

Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator held a press conference on the 2nd of January to discuss the recent humanitarian challenges we face in several different parts of the world, including Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Philippines. Click here to read the Under-Secretary-General’s remarks.


As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, 9.3 million people, nearly half the population, are now in need of humanitarian assistance, and an estimated 6.5 million people are internally displaced. Deterioration in food security is evident in several parts of the country which, when combined with worsening water, sanitation and healthcare services, contributes to a growing risk of malnutrition particularly among women and children. There are critical gaps in essential health care delivery particularly in trauma, primary, and reproductive services. Insufficient access to safe water requires urgent attention, in conjunction with poor sanitation and hygiene practices, all of which increase the risk of communicable disease outbreaks.

Psychosocial distress and mental health concerns, the erosion of livelihoods, asset losses, and weakened coping mechanisms need to be urgently addressed. The shortage of adequate and dignified shelter and basic household items, remains a major concern, as is hindered access to education, falling enrolment rates and the availability of safe learning spaces. On 16 December, OCHA launched the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) 2014. As the coordinated response within Syria, the plan aims to meet the humanitarian needs of 9.3 million people, at a cost of US$ 2.3 billion.

South Sudan

Violence broke out in the capital, Juba, on 15 December 2013 and quickly spread to several other states. Fighting is ongoing, and has been particularly intense in Central Equatoria, Jonglei and Unity states. As of 25 December, 92,500 people have been reportedly displaced. The real number is likely to be much higher, with aid agencies estimating that hundreds of thousands of people may have been affected by the crisis in five states. Some 58,000 people have sought shelter from the violence in UN peacekeeping bases around the country.

Humanitarian organizations are focusing on delivering assistance to people in need wherever security allows, focusing on immediate needs for food, healthcare, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene services. A multi-sector response to the needs of an estimated 20,000 displaced people in Juba is underway and partners have also been able to deliver food to displaced people in Bentiu, Unity State and Awerial County, Lakes State.

Central African Republic

Following weeks of tension and violence in various parts of the country, armed groups attacked several areas of the capital, Bangui, on 5 December 2013. Heavy gunfire continued for hours, and door-to-door searches, looting and arbitrary killings prompted people to flee their homes. Sectarian violence and human rights violations continued and have also been reported in Bossangoa (Ouham Province), Bozoum, Bohong and Paoua (Ouham Pendé Province). Armed groups have engaged in a wave of violence and retaliations against communities.

In Bangui, violence mostly targeted men although reports have also emerged of women and children killed and some neighbourhoods are entirely empty due to displacement. The security and humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is increasing due to the persistence of the violence.

The Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan made its first landfall in the early hours of 8 November 2013 on the far-eastern island of Samar. It brought with it maximum sustained winds of 235km per hour, making it one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall. It continued across the country, making a number of subsequent landfalls, devastating areas in nine regions of the Philippines and affecting over 14 million people, including some 5 million children.

While many affected communities have started returning home and are either rebuilding their houses or setting up temporary makeshift shelters, over 4 million people remain displaced. In addition to food, water and emergency shelter, the highest priority needs include tools and materials to rebuild housing, and livelihoods.