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Global crises cause humanitarian spending to spike

Syrian refugees in Lebanon say they must pay bribes to middlemen ranging from $3 to $100 to receive aid, adding another layer of suffering for those fleeing the war. --AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

The amount of money spent on humanitarian aid reached a record high last year. Disasters like the typhoon in the Philippines, the crisis in the Central African Republic and the ongoing civil war in Syria all contributed.

Government humanitarian aid increased by 24% from 2012 to 2013, totaling  $22 billion billion. Roughly one out of every three dollars went to responding to the crisis caused by fighting in Syria. The data comes from a report published by the  Global Humanitarian Assistance program of the UK-based think tank Development Initiatives.

The money that the UN tried to raise targeted to support some 78 million people. However, only 65% of the UN’s $13.2 billion in appeals were funded. The total sum and the need for more money illustrates the true scale of the problems facing the world and the challenge in mounting an adequate response.

“There is no place for complacency, with over a third of needs still not being met and demands set to rise in 2014 and beyond,” said Dan Coppard, director of research and analysis at Development Initiatives, to the Guardian Data Blog. “As more actors provide assistance, we will need to improve the transparency of both humanitarian and other potential financial resources to target populations more effectively.”

International humanitarian response, 2008–2013
International humanitarian response, 2008–2013
Development Initiatives

The United States led the way in giving $4.7 billion for humanitarian emergencies in 2013. It is joined by the usual suspects, the EU and the UK. However, some new players are taking a larger role. Turkey gave $1.6 billion, largely in response to the Syria crisis, and Japan contributed $1.1 billion.

Then there is the money coming from non-traditional donors. The analysis reveals that 14% of contributions were from governments outside the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) group.

Even the private sector got back in action. After lower levels in 2011 and 2012, the private sector increased spending by more than 30%, returning to spending levels seen in 2010.

Most disconcerting is the increase in need that caused the higher spending. The last time as much humanitarian aid was needed was in 2010, when Haiti suffered an earthquake and East Africa was beset by a famine.



The analysis includes other interesting facts. For example, the funding following the typhoon in the Philippines came in a far lower rates than other recent disasters. More than one-third of the money needed was raised in the first month, but it only rose to 56% funded after 6 months. That is behind the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2005, the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan floods of 2010.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]