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Press Release

Yemen, DRC, South Sudan at greatest risk of humanitarian crisis in 2019, warn IRC experts

  • New analysis from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) shows Yemen is the country most at risk of humanitarian catastrophe in 2019, followed by DRC and South Sudan;
  • Conflict and economic collapse are driving food insecurity, displacement and dire need around the globe;
  • Top 10 crises account for more than half internally displaced globally, and two thirds of refugees. Those numbers are highly likely to rise in 2019.

The International Rescue Committee’s emergency response experts have ranked the countries most at risk of humanitarian catastrophe next year. This ranked list is dominated by countries experiencing armed conflict, and finds Yemen at the top, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Venezuela and the Central African Republic. As war, famine and disaster loom on the horizon for countries around the world, 2019 will be an arduous year for civilians caught in conflict and disaster.

These countries are at high risk of deterioration due to a high prevalence of human risk (armed conflict or economic collapse), natural risk (drought, flooding and other climate-related events) which is coupled with pre-existing vulnerability and limited capacity to cope.

Internal and external displacement are defining trends of this year’s Watchlist. Around 40 million people are displaced internally around the globe, and the top ten ranked countries accounted for nearly 22 million - over half of the total. The top ten also accounted for at least 13 million refugees, 65% of the global total plus an additional three million people who have fled Venezuela.

The International Rescue Committee is responding to all top 10 crises, as well as around 25 other countries around the globe, providing services to help people to survive, recover and gain control of their lives.

Bob Kitchen, International Rescue Committee’s Vice President for Emergencies said: “2018 was a devastating year for millions around the world, with more people displaced from their homes than ever before. In many of the world’s most challenging places, armed conflict and man-made crisis mean life will get worse and not better in 2019.

“Yemen’s ongoing war has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, which worsened in 2018 and was dominated by attacks on civilians and a breakdown of basic services that left nearly 80% of the population in need. 2019 could prove to be much worse still. As the war deepens, the IRC’s analysis rated Yemen a maximum of ten for human risk, one of just three countries on the Watchlist to do so. An immediate nationwide ceasefire is needed in Yemen and all parties to the conflict must engage meaningfully in UN-led peace talks.

“Internal conflict is a common theme across the top ranked countries, with nine out of 10 countries experiencing fighting on a national or local scale. The key exception is Venezuela, where the country’s economic collapse has driven a deterioration in living conditions that has been as rapid as that seen previously in conflict zones. 2019 is set to be worse than this year, as the economy continues to freefall.

“In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the population is facing crisis on multiple fronts. Large parts of the Congolese people have endured decades of conflict. As the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu continues to spread, violence in and around Beni continues to hamper the Ebola response and seriously undermine public safety - constraining efforts to contain this outbreak.

“Across the eastern part of the country vicious cyclical outbreaks of violence where armed groups burn down villages and use rape as a weapon of war plague communities. The result is a conflict whose humanitarian impact is on a similar level to the horrors seen in Syria and Yemen, with nearly 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

“While elections are scheduled for the end of the year, there is nagging uncertainty over whether they will take place at all. If elections are pushed back again or Congolese citizens do not believe them to be free and fair, our teams are fearful that spikes in violence will lead to more instability for an already overburdened population.”

Hunger and food insecurity are a major factor in the majority of the most vulnerable countries, illustrating the strong links between conflict and food insecurity. During 2018, crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity were reported in parts of Yemen, DRC, South Sudan, Afghanistan, CAR, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Bob Kitchen adds: “There are some grounds for cautious optimism in South Sudan, as the peace deal progresses. Despite this, we are seeing dangerous levels of hunger in South Sudan with approximately half the population predicted to be in food crisis in early 2019. Conflict also persists in areas across the country leaving people living in fear and likely mean thousands people flee their homes in 2019. Any backsliding on the peace deal could have immediate and devastating humanitarian consequences.

“Across the globe, the scale of need in 2019 is likely to stretch resources beyond their limit. It’s vital that we do not abandon these countries when they need us most, and that government’s around the world step up funding to these anticipated crises before more lives are lost.”

Notes to editors:

In order of risk, top 10 countries most at greatest risk of experiencing the worst humanitarian crises over the coming year:

Yemen

Democratic Republic of Congo

South Sudan

Afghanistan

Venezuela

Central African Republic

Syria

Nigeria

Ethiopia

Somalia

Countries appear on the Watchlist because the IRC’s analysis suggests they are at high risk of experiencing events that, given the existing vulnerability of the population and/or the country’s limited response capability, could trigger a humanitarian crisis. They were selected, scored and ranked by means of a multi-stage process of quantitative and qualitative analysis. A five step process was followed, details of which can be found on page 5 of the Watchlist. Further detail of the quantitative analysis conducted can be found here.

The full Watchlist including analysis and methodology can be downloaded here.

Photographs from the top ten crises are available for use 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.