The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has released its 2021 Emergency Watchlist, a global list of humanitarian crises that are expected to deteriorate the most over the course of the coming year.

The triple threat of conflict, climate change and COVID-19 is driving the crises in nearly all Emergency Watchlist countries, threatening famine in several in 2021. Displaced families, and in particular women and girls, are disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises—and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.

“2020 will go down as one of the most turbulent years in history, but the next year will be remembered for how we either helped or turned away from those suffering the most,” says IRC president and CEO David Miliband. “Watchlist 2021 should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, government leaders, and concerned citizens around the world about the cost of neglecting humanitarian crises—and how they urgently need international attention.”

Learn more about the world's worst crises:


World crisis 2021

The world is facing unprecedented humanitarian emergencies in the coming year. The worst humanitarian crises of 2021 will be in countries failed by world leaders. The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has left countries affected by conflict and crisis to struggle on their own—and the world’s most vulnerable people are paying the price. The international community must take action now, before decades of hard-won progress on reducing poverty, hunger and disease is lost or even reversed. 

The Emergency Watchlist draws on 85 quantitative and qualitative measures, including insights from the IRC’s 30,000 staff and volunteers in over 40 countries globally. For IRC analysis of all 20 countries in our world crisis 2021 list, along with our recommendations for global leaders, download the 2021 Emergency Watchlist report

About the IRC’s global crisis response

In 2021, the IRC will have been working for an average of around 15 years in the 18 Emergency Watchlist countries where we have a presence. 

Syrian mother and refugee with her daughter in Lebanon
Dalal, 18, has been living in Lebanon for six years with her toddler, Tasnim, in a tent settlement in Akkar. She regularly visits a safe space run by the IRC where Syrian refugee women and adolescent girls learn to read and write Arabic and other essential skills.
Photo: Kulsoom Rizvi/IRC

The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. In more than 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities, our dedicated teams provide clean water, shelter, health care, education and empowerment support to refugees and displaced people.