Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2021 – Key figures

The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report has been published for over 20 years by Development Initiatives.

It provides a detailed picture of international humanitarian assistance, based on extensive and accurate data. You will find here a summary of 4 of the 5 chapters of this report, the last one being the methodology.

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Find access to the PDF of the full Development Initiatives report here.

Summaries of 2018, 2019 and 2020 GHARs can be found on the Humanitarian Challenges website, in the “Studies” section.

Chapitre 1: People and crisis

This first chapter takes stock of the extent of global poverty in four points. The central message is that the pandemic has both exacerbated existing needs and fueled new crises in countries that did not need humanitarian assistance, increasing the total volume of aid needed.

People living in extreme poverty are increasingly concentrated in fragile countries at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19

Source: Development Initiatives based on World Bank  PovcalNet, national sources, INFORM Index for COVID Risk and OECD.

  • People living in extreme poverty are increasingly concentrated in countries that are fragile and at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19. In 2020, 66% of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.90/day) were also living in one of the 52 countries classified as fragile by the report, up from 40% in 2010. Poverty reduction is progressing overall but is very uneven and has increased by 8% in fragile states.


  • Acute food insecurity disproportionately affects the poorest and has been stimulated by the pandemic. The report estimates that more than 80% of people living in severely food insecure areas live below the international poverty line ($3.20/day).


  • The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates humanitarian crises, with more people in more countries affected. The pandemic has exacerbated existing crises but has also been the main driver of humanitarian needs in some countries like Iran. The report estimates that 243.8 million people in 75 countries have been assessed as needing humanitarian assistance (224.9 million in 65 countries in 2019). High numbers of people in need remained concentrated in a small number of countries: more than half of those in need in 2021 lived in just nine countries.


  • The number of displaced people increased for the ninth consecutive year to 82.1 million (+3.4%). In 2020, 10 countries hosted 54% of IDPs, a similar proportion to 2019. Many IDPs are in situations of protracted displacement with no possibility of safe return to their homes.
    • 58% were forcibly displaced within the country;
    • 32% were refugees (26.3 million);
    • 5.1% were asylum seekers (4.2 million);
    • 4.4% (3.6 million) were Venezuelans displaced abroad.


20 countries with the largest forcibly displaced populations and risk of impacts from
Covid-19, 2019 and 2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on data from UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Index for Risk Management (INFORM) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

The report also makes two findings:

  • Women and girls in conflict zones are twice as likely to experience gender-based violence. This gap is likely to increase with the pandemic. The UN estimates that there will be 13 million early child marriages between 2020 and 2030 due to the pandemic.
  • The availability and delivery of covid vaccine has not been equitable, and countries experiencing a protracted crisis have some of the lowest single-dose vaccine coverage rates in the world (2.4% compared to 12.5% in other developing countries covered by COVAX).



Chapitre 2 : Humanitarian and wider crisis financing

In this chapter, the report highlights that in 2020 global humanitarian needs have increased faster than ever, while the growth of humanitarian aid has stalled. International humanitarian aid volumes had been growing steadily over the years 2012 to 2018 (12% per year on average), peaking in 2018 at $31.3 billion.

International humanitarian assistance, 2016–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service, UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and our unique dataset for private contributions.

Funding needs through UN-coordinated appeals were also following a steady increase (+90% compared to 2015). However, actual funding declined for the first time in 5 years. Of the $38.8 billion requested, $18.8 billion (including $5.7 billion related to covid) was not funded, compared to $11.1 billion in 2019.

Of the 55 calls in 2020, only 7 received 75% or more of the required funding. The number of calls with less than a quarter of the funding requirement met worsened significantly in 2020, with 17 calls receiving less than 25% coverage. In 2019, no calls were funded at less than 25%.


Funding and unmet requirements, UN-coordinated appeals, 2011–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN OCHA FTS and UNHCR data

The UN-coordinated appeals do not represent all the needs, so significant funding is provided outside of the appeals. For example, in 2020, the needs of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) rose sharply to a record level of over 1 billion, while the funding gap continued to widen (58% coverage).

In addition, the role of the broader development community is increasingly important and countries in crisis now receive far more development funds than humanitarian funds.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) received by countries in crisis has thus increased from 47% of total ODA in 2010 ($51 billion) to 65% in 2019 ($94 billion). The proportion of ODA reported as humanitarian aid has doubled from 15% in 2010 ($7.6 billion) to 29% in 2019 ($27.2 billion).


ODA from multilateral development banks to the 20 largest recipients of humanitarian
assistance, 2010–2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC CRS

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) have become increasingly active in crisis contexts, providing increasing volumes of ODA to countries in crisis.

MDB disbursements to the 20 largest recipients of humanitarian assistance have doubled since 2014, from $5.4 billion to more than $10.7 billion in 2019. However, the share of disbursements in the form of grants has decreased significantly in favor of loans.

For the epidemic response, total MDB financing reached $120 billion in April 2021, 95% of which was in the form of loans. The IMF has been the largest contributor, committing $50.4 billion to date.

Finally, the total volume of ODA with disaster risk reduction as its primary objective has increased from $1.4 billion in 2018 to $1.9 billion in 2019.


Chapitre 3 : donors and recipients of humanitarian and wider crisis financing

This third chapter makes the key finding that most government donors increased their contributions in 2020, but significant reductions by a few key donors caused overall aid to stagnate.

The volume of international humanitarian aid from the top 20 government donors in 2020 stabilized at $23.1 billion. As in previous years, the top 20 public donors in 2020 contributed 96 percent of total international humanitarian aid allocations. The top three donors (US, Germany, and the UK) accounted for 61% of total donor contributions.


20 largest public donors of humanitarian assistance in 2020 and percentage change
from 2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on OCED Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN OCHA Financial Tracking Service and UN Central Emergency Response Fund data

The largest donors to Covid-19 were the United States, Germany, and Japan.

It should also be noted that many donor countries also hosted exiles and that most government spending within their own borders is not accounted for. In the previous year, three countries accounted for nearly two-thirds of all in-country refugee spending: Germany (29 percent), the United States (21 percent), and France (13 percent).

Another important indicator highlighted in this chapter is the proportion of gross national income (GNI) devoted to international humanitarian assistance because it reflects the importance of humanitarian spending relative to the size of a country’s economy. Within this framework, five donors provided more than 0.1 percent of GNI as international humanitarian assistance in 2020, as shown in the following infographic.


20 donors providing the most humanitarian assistance as a percentage of GNI, 2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC, UN OCHA FTS, UN CERF, World Bank World Development Indicators and International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook data

The proportion of total private funding from individuals continues to grow. For example, in 2019, international humanitarian aid from private donors increased by 9%, from US$6.2 billion in 2018 to a record $6.8 billion in 2019.

Sources of private international humanitarian assistance, 2015–2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on GHA’s unique dataset of private contributions.

While total international humanitarian aid stagnated, 112 countries received more than $5 million in humanitarian aid compared to 69 countries in 2019. One explanation is that the top 10 recipients received 57% of all funding or $13.3 billion (-11%) in 2020 compared to 66% ($15 billion) in 2019.

In addition, with $1.3 billion provided in response to the pandemic, these countries actually received $12.0 billion for other pre-existing or emerging humanitarian needs in 2020, $3.0 billion less than in 2019.

Overall, countries outside of the top 10 recipients received more funding in 2020 than in 2019, but less if those for Covid-19 are removed.

10 largest recipients of international humanitarian assistance, 2019–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Financial Tracking Service (FTS) data.


CHAPITRE 4 : funding for effectiveness and efficiency

According to this chapter, international humanitarian assistance would have been provided broadly in the same way in 2019 as in previous years: multilateral organizations received most of their funding from public donors, and NGOs from private donors.

Channels of delivery of international humanitarian assistance, 2019

Source: Development Initiatives based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) data and Development Initiatives’ unique dataset for private contributions.

Local and national actors are often the first to respond to crises, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on access. Commitments made at the Grand Bargain, an agreement among the largest donors and humanitarian agencies in 2016, included a global target of 25% of total international humanitarian aid transferred to local and national actors by 2020. Since then, while the absolute volumes of international humanitarian aid passed directly to local and national actors have increased, the scale of this aid falls far short of expectations.


Direct funding to local and national actors reporting to UN OCHA FTS, 2016–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN OCHA FTS data

Pooled funds are an increasingly important part of humanitarian funding because of their responsiveness and flexibility. They consist of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Country-based pooled fund (CBPF). Contributions to the UN pooled funds fell sharply in 2020 to $1.5 billion from a record $1.8 billion in 2019.

It should be noted, however, that the proportion of PBC funding to country organizations continues to grow despite the absolute decrease in CBPFs.




Total funding to UN-managed humanitarian pooled funds, 2011−2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on UN OCHA’s CBPF Grant Management System and UN CERF data.

Quality funds (multi-year, unearmarked funding as a proportion of total funding) are another option favored by the Grand Bargain. They should represent 30% of international humanitarian aid by 2020. While they have increased significantly in volume by 2020, as a proportion of total funding, they remain below 2016 levels.

Proportion of resources received by UN agencies reported as earmarked and unearmarked, 2016–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on data provided bilaterally by UN agencies.

Multi-year funding is, according to the Grand Bargain, funding that lasts 24 months or more from the start date of the initial funding agreement. This method of funding provides implementing agencies with predictable resource levels that can allow for efficiencies and effectiveness by allowing them to plan ahead.

15 donors, which provided 84% of total government humanitarian assistance in 2020, allocated 42% (US$6.5 billion) of their multi-year humanitarian funding in 2020 compared to 50% (US$7.3 billion) in 2019.

Finally, the volume of humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVA) continued to grow in 2020 across all types of organizations. This method that can be rapidly deployed in suitable areas was often the modality chosen to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Total funding for humanitarian cash and voucher assistance, 2015–2020

Source: Development Initiatives based on data collected with the help of the Cash Learning Partnership from implementing partners and on UN OCHA FTS data

To summarize, here are the key 2020 trends to remember:

– Humanitarian needs are growing: 243.8 million people living in 75 countries have been assessed as needing humanitarian assistance. The Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating and creating humanitarian crises.

– While global humanitarian needs have grown faster than ever, the growth of humanitarian assistance has stalled. Appeal coverage rates are declining.

– Most government donors increased their contributions in 2020, but significant reductions from a small number of key donors have caused overall aid to stagnate. Overall, countries received less funding in 2020 than in 2019, particularly if those for Covid-19 are removed.

– The structure of international humanitarian assistance remains the same: Multilateral organizations received most of their funding from public donors, and NGOs from private donors. The funding commitments made at the Grand Bargain are far from being met.


Rodolphe Rouyer


Interview with Alain Le Roy on the summit on financing African economies

Emmanuel Macron at the summit on the financing of African economies on 18 May 2021 at the Elysée Palace surrounded by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Gueorguieva and Senegalese President Macky Sall (right) and Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi. ©LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP

Alain Boinet for Défis Humanitaires. On Tuesday 18 May, at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron, France hosted a summit dedicated to financing African economies to address the serious economic and social consequences of the pandemic and the sharp increase in debt. What was the objective of this summit and what were the main outcomes? There has been a lot of talk about special drawing rights (SDRs). For our readers, in order to measure the interest, could you detail this mechanism and the expected impact?

Alain Le Roy. The main objective of this summit was indeed to respond to the very strong impact of the pandemic on African economies. While Africa had experienced strong and sustained growth over the past 25 years, it experienced a 1.9% recession in 2020 and its growth prospects for 2021 are, according to the IMF, of the order of half the world growth rate. There was therefore an urgent need for action, particularly to reduce the number of people at risk of falling into extreme poverty.

Our basic finding was this. While the economic impact of the pandemic was very strong everywhere, some continents had instruments at their disposal that enabled them to carry out rapid and massive recovery plans; this was true for Europe, thanks in particular to the role of the European Central Bank and its very strong asset purchase policy, which enabled recovery plans in Europe totalling several hundred billion euros. This was also true for the United States, where the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve System (FED) enabled the US government to implement stimulus packages totalling more than 2000 billion.
Africa, however, does not have equivalent instruments and in particular no continental central bank.
Hence the idea of using the IMF and Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) as another way of injecting liquidity into the economy, this time for the benefit of all countries. SDRs are foreign exchange instruments that feed into the balance of payments and thus allow the countries concerned to finance their imports.

This is admittedly a bit technical, but the main point is that, faced with the impact of the pandemic, the international community has agreed on a new allocation of SDRs of up to 650 billion dollars for IMF member countries. This allocation, which will be legally decided by the IMF Board in June, will allow African countries to receive $33 billion directly from September 2021.

And the countries present at the summit agreed that, on a voluntary basis, a significant share of the SDRs accruing to advanced countries would also benefit African countries, through various mechanisms currently being developed, including zero-interest loans.

President Macron has indicated that we are working to ensure that the sum of SDRs that will benefit Africa reaches at least $100 billion.
This is in addition to the impact of the debt relief that is being implemented in the G20 and the Paris Club, as well as the upcoming replenishment of IDA (the World Bank’s window for low-income countries).

DH. Were all the strategic players present at the summit?

Alain Le Roy. Yes, without a doubt. Because of Covid, we were not able to invite all 54 African heads of state, but almost all the African heads of state we had invited were present in Paris on 18 May for the summit; in particular, there were the Presidents of South Africa, Senegal, Rwanda, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Egypt and many others, twenty-two in total, as well as the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and several European heads of government. In addition, the Prime Ministers of Japan and Canada participated by video, the United States, through the Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, the Chinese First Vice Prime Minister Han Zheng, and many other leaders. Also present in Paris were of course the Managing Director of the IMF, the Managing Director of the World Bank, the Secretary General of the OECD, the Director General of the WTO and many other leaders of financial institutions.

All the countries that participated in the summit approved the final declaration of the summit, which can be found on the Elysée website (, under agenda 18 May); this declaration is admittedly very technical, but it does list the various advances made during the summit.

Summit on the financing of African economies, 18 May 2021, Elysée Palace. Judith Litvine, MEAE

DHThe Franco-Ivorian financier Tidjane Thiam declared that the development of Africa was first and foremost the business of Africans, that Africa was not asking for any favours and the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, added that it was necessary to move from a logic of assistance to a dynamic of co-construction. On the African side, what are the essential ingredients of a winning “New Deal”?

Alain Le Roy. The summit did indeed conclude that there was a need for a massive stimulus, to be financed in particular by SDRs, as I have just mentioned, to deal with the exceptional crisis caused by the pandemic, and for strong support for Africa’s main endogenous growth factor, i.e. its very dynamic private sector. During the summit, an Alliance for African Entrepreneurship was launched, an initiative designed to bring together all public and private efforts to strengthen the financing of the African private sector. It is the private sector that will ensure sustainable growth in Africa now and in the medium and long term by attracting a larger share of the abundant international private flows. To this end, the summit made it possible to make progress in the risk-sharing instruments that the international financial institutions are putting in place so that the interest rates of the financing to which African countries have recourse can be significantly reduced.

DH. Another objective of the Summit was the vaccination of African populations, which is still low, even if the number of infected people is fortunately very low. What is the status of the so-called ACT accelerator mechanism and its Covax facility that is to address this? There was also the issue of vaccine production in Africa and the removal of intellectual property constraints. What has been achieved in this area?

Alain Le Roy. This is obviously an emergency that everyone recalled during the summit. The Covax facility, which France initiated with the European Commission, should make it possible to vaccinate 20% of the African population by the end of 2021. With the AVATT facility created by the African Union, the vaccination rate should reach 30% by the end of the year. And we are currently examining various solutions to achieve an immunisation rate of 40% by the end of 2021 and 60% by mid-2022.

And France also strongly supports the initiatives underway to develop vaccine production in Africa. President Macron has just discussed the implementation of this initiative with his counterparts during his trip to South Africa and Rwanda. As for the discussion on the suspension, on an exceptional basis, of intellectual property rights, it is underway at the WTO, but a consensus has not yet been reached.

Mali began its Covid-19 vaccination programme with Health Minister Fanta Siby ©UNICEF/Seyba Keïta

DH. Another part of the Summit was devoted to supporting the private sector, especially SMEs and VSEs, in order to stimulate internal growth and create millions of jobs in the face of the demographic explosion. Was there any real progress in this crucial area?

Alain Le Roy. Yes, clearly. Firstly, by putting this subject at the heart of the summit, as it is essential for the creation of jobs for the very large number of young people in Africa. Then by launching this Alliance for Entrepreneurship in Africa, which can already mobilise a billion dollars, thanks to the support of the IFC (the World Bank’s private sector subsidiary), to invest in the African private sector both in terms of equity and loans. And the European Commission is now also developing important new instruments, with associated funding, to improve the financing of this sector which until now has had great difficulty in finding local funding. This includes increasing the number of venture capitalists, helping to strengthen local banks and African funds, so that finance reaches even the smallest companies. The movement is now well underway.

DH. In addition to macro-economic decisions involving billions of dollars, what is the added value of humanitarian and/or development NGOs given their proximity to the most vulnerable populations, their experience and their long-term commitment?

Alain Le Roy. This summit, which brought together heads of state and leaders of international organisations, was naturally interested in global, macro-economic solutions, given Africa’s very significant current financing needs; the IMF estimates them at nearly 300 billion dollars by 2025. And of course only the heads of state can decide on the allocation of SDRs in the appropriate amounts

But it is clear that there is a need for actors on the ground to ensure that this indispensable global funding ultimately benefits the local populations that need it most. And for this, the role of humanitarian and/or development NGOs is essential, in the long term, to complement the role of public development agencies such as AFD. There is an obvious complementarity between the efforts of States interested in the development of Africa and the efforts of NGOs which ensure the effective relay on the ground and can reach the most vulnerable populations.

DH. Some commentators suggest that there was no firm commitment from all the participants at this Summit and that the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, was now hoping for a political “agreement” at the next G7 or G20. What do you think of the situation, since you prepared and participated in the Paris Summit from start to finish?

Alain Le Roy. There were a lot of firm commitments during the summit, you only have to read the final declaration of the summit, adopted by all the participating countries. But it is true that we would have liked to see a precise figure in the declaration on the amount of SDRs that the advanced countries will reallocate to African countries. President Macron said during the press conference following the summit that we wanted at least $100 billion to reach Africa from the allocation of SDRs, in addition to the tens of billions that the IDA replenishment will bring.

This figure could not be included in the statement because several countries, such as the US, cannot make a legal commitment until the SDR 650 billion allocation has been formally voted on by the IMF Board. This vote will take place in June, which is why the reallocation figures will only be made public in October, at the G20 meeting, with the associated mechanisms that we are working on.

DHBy way of conclusion, what would you like to add?

Alain Le Roy. That this summit, despite all the progress that has been made, is obviously only one stage in the process of giving Africa the means to ensure its long-term growth and to achieve the sustainable development objectives. This year’s forthcoming G7, G20 and COP26 meetings must also contribute to this.

In any case, it was very important to get all the main global players, Africans, Europeans, Americans, Canadians, Chinese, Japanese, etc., around the same table and to commit to greater solidarity with the African continent on the one hand, and to work within a multilateral framework to concretely reduce the divergences between African economies and those of the most advanced countries on the other.

In Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, people flee under the fire of the Nyiragongo volcano, 27 May 2021. ©GUERCHOM NDEBO / AFP

More information : 

Who is Alain Le Roy ?


Alain Le Roy is Ambassador of France and Honorary Senior Advisor to the Court of Auditors. He has been Ambassador of France to Madagascar and Italy, as well as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, in charge of peacekeeping operations, and Secretary General of the European External Action Service.