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Press Release

IRC experts warn Afghanistan, Myanmar and Yemen in the top crises to watch this year as US refugee admissions slashed

  • IRC’s team of emergency responders issues 2018 index of top ten countries most at risk, predicting arduous year for millions around the world, surpassing 2017 records
  • Conflict continues to rage in Syria, Afghanistan, DRC; South Sudan risks renewed famine; Cholera reaches 1 million in Yemen; Cox’s Bazar camp becomes one of world’s largest for Rohingya as cyclone season approaches
  • In face of massive needs in 2018, IRC projects the Trump administration will be far below its own refugee admissions cap for FY18, undermining permanent and proven solution of resettlement
  • Governments must commit substantial support for the 135 million people in need of humanitarian aid in 2018

Last year was a record-breaking year, for all the wrong reasons. As war, famine and disaster loom on the horizon for countries around the world, it is likely 2018 will surpass those records, an emergency watchlist issued by the International Rescue Committee showed today, as 135 million people worldwide require humanitarian assistance.

In the face of growing global need however, the  IRC projects that the Trump administration will be far below its own refugee resettlement cap of 45,000 for FY18, resettling just less than 22,000 refugees - far below the historical average of 95,000 - further endangering the prospects of safety for the world’s most vulnerable people.

As we head into 2018, the IRC’s team of emergency responders has ranked the following ten countries at highest risk of humanitarian crisis this year based on their conflict and natural disaster vulnerability and consequent humanitarian risk factors*:

  • After almost four consecutive decades of violence, the conflict in Afghanistan is active once again with 1,200 civilians displaced every day of last year. With both the Taliban and ISIS on the rise, insecurity and continued violations of international humanitarian law are expected to force thousands more to flee their homes in 2018 - as Afghan refugees in Iran, Pakistan and Europe are pressured to return to a conflict zone.
  • In the Central African Republic (CAR) - as attacks on aid workers worldwide continue unabated - targeted attacks resulted in the deaths of 13 aid workers and 14 UN peacekeepers in 2017. In CAR around 2.4 million people rely on food aid to survive, the largest population in need per capita in the world, and these attacks make it increasingly difficult for aid organisations to reach those already so vulnerable. Only 1 refugee was resettled from CAR to the US in the first quarter of FY18.
  • With conflict and fighting renewed in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an already long overlooked humanitarian crisis is set to deteriorate. Three of DRC's provinces have now been declared 'Level 3’' emergencies by the United Nations – the highest possible emergency rating - as delayed and complex elections scheduled for the year are likely to spark renewed conflict and displacement.
  • In Iraq, the fight to end ISIS’ territorial control is over - but nearly 9 million across the country remain in humanitarian need having endured years of brutal rule and violence. 3 million remain displaced by the campaign to defeat ISIS, and reconstruction - including on cities like Mosul - will require years of support. As of last week, only 81 Iraqi refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since October 2017, compared to 4,700 in the same period in FY17.
  • Crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state continues, as over 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in the country to seek safe haven in neighboring Bangladesh and Kutupalong camp becomes one of the world’s largest. Access in Myanmar’s Rakhine state remains limited for aid agencies, leaving tens of thousands cut off from much-needed healthcare and other life-saving services - as pressure on Rohingya to return to Myanmar mounts.
  • Extreme hunger is also plaguing South Sudan and Nigeria. In South Sudan half of the population – 6 million people – now don’t have enough to eat. With all states in the country at crisis or emergency levels of hunger, it is highly possible that famine conditions are already there, and for a second year in a row a famine declaration will be announced. In Nigeria, while the war on Boko Haram is declared over, millions remain displaced and famine levels of food insecurity may strike the region once more.
  • Nearly seven years in, the war in Syria is far from over. Last year saw 1.8 million flee their homes and already this year around 250,000 people have fled fighting and airstrikes in the north-west of the country. In the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, nearly 400,000 more are trapped under siege - cut off from food and healthcare. Only 34 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the US since October 2017, compared to 4,675 from the same period – Oct. 1 to Jan. 23 – in FY17.
  • Yemen is facing three emergencies at the same time, with war, food insecurity and disease threatening millions. Eighty percent of the country lacks adequate food, fuel, clean water and health care, and over one million people have been exposed to the latest cholera outbreak. There is no end in sight to the conflict this year. No Yemeni refugees were resettled in the U.S. in the first quarter of FY18.
  • Venezuela is experiencing its deepest crisis in recent history, as economic downturn have made basic necessities and food chronically scarce - with 75% of hospitals reportedly lacking essential medicine. Political instability, violence and poverty drove over 100,000 to flee in October of last year alone. The situation is set to deteriorate with elections scheduled later this year.

"Around the world, countries from Afghanistan to Yemen are in the midst of man-made disasters. Conflict, disease and hunger continue to plague the lives of people who have already had to endure so much," noted Bryce Perry, International Rescue Committee's Emergency Deputy Director. “With more people in need of aid than ever before, and budgets around the world under pressure, the aid system is being stretched to a breaking point. It is vital that in 2018 governments around the globe commit to supporting the world's most vulnerable. The humanitarian response plans must be fully funded, enabling aid organizations to support the over 135 million people in need around the globe."

“Last year was a tough year for millions, torn from their home by conflict and hunger. But if the world does not focus on long term solutions to crises including better aid and better access, 2018 runs the risk of being much, much worse,” added Perry.

Find the IRC’s full 2018 Emergency Watchlist here.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.