The United Nations appealed on Monday for a record $22.2 billion to provide aid in 2017 to surging numbers of people hit by conflicts and disasters around the world.
It’s “the highest amount we have ever requested,” U.N. humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien told a press conference. “This is the reflection of a state of human needs in the world not witnessed since the Second World War,” he said.
He added that more than 80 percent of the needs stem from manmade conflicts “many of which are now protracted and push up demand for relief year after year.”
The global appeal by U.N. agencies and other humanitarian organizations aims to gather funds to help the 92.8 million most vulnerable of the nearly 129 million people expected to require assistance across 33 countries next year. The numbers are staggering, especially when considering that three war-ravaged countries—Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan—alone account for about a third of all of those in need.
The amount appealed for tops the $20.1 billion requested last December for 2016—a year when “humanitarian actors have saved, protected and supported more people than in any previous year since the founding of the United Nations,” O’Brien said in the report.
In the end, the U.N. broadened its 2016 appeal to $22.1 billion, but donors coughed up just $11.4 billion for aid projects this year.
“With persistently escalating humanitarian needs, the gap between what has to be done to save and protect more people today and what humanitarians are financed to do and can access is growing ever wider,” O’Brien said in the report. Making matters worse, he said, “with climate change, natural disasters are likely to become more frequent, more severe.”
Aid needs have been rising steadily for decades. When the U.N. launched its first global appeal 25 years ago, it estimated that just $2.7 billion would cover aid needs around the globe in 1992. But the situation has worsened dramatically in the last few years.
Globally, “humanitarian needs continue to rise and humanitarian efforts are hampered by reduced access, growing disrespect for human rights and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law,” O’Brien said.
The report highlighted “severely constrained” humanitarian access in places like Syria, Yemen, Iraq and South Sudan, which is “leaving affected people without basic services and protection.”
“Mines, explosives, remnants of war and improvised explosive devices impede humanitarian access and threaten the lives of vulnerable populations in conflict-affected regions,” it said.
The Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people since March 2011 and forced more than half the population to flee, is set to absorb the biggest portion of the funds. The U.N. wants a full $3.4 billion to go to helping those inside Syria, with another $4.7 billion destined for refugees and their host communities in the region.
Second in line is South Sudan, which has been wracked by civil war since 2013 and where the U.N. has warned “ethnic cleansing” is taking place. The U.N. plan is to spend a total of $2.5 billion to help South Sudanese in need, including $1.2 billion for refugees from the country.
And $1.9 billion should go to help the victims of Yemen’s brutal civil war, which has escalated dramatically since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015.