World’s vulnerable face triple threat of COVID-19, conflict, and climate change in 2021: IRC report

Although the United States and the United Kingdom have already started COVID-19 vaccination campaigns for the elderly and health care workers, the devastating effects of the pandemic will linger long into the future, especially for some developing countries, where the impacts of coronavirus are exacerbating hunger, disease, and conflict.


The effects of COVID-19, together with conflict and climate change, pose the gravest threat to vulnerable populations, warned the International Rescue Committee in its annual report, the 2021 Emergency Watchlist, a worldwide list of humanitarian crises that are most likely to worsen next year.


Here is the IRC’s list of the top 10 most worrying crises the world should be watching for next year:


Top 3 crises we’re most concerned about in 2021 from our annual emergency watchlist: ▪️Yemen ▪️Afghanistan ▪️Syria Here 👇 is why we’re most concerned about these 3 countries and how you can help. RT to help us raise awareness and critical action. More: https://t.co/YyagR43BzMpic.twitter.com/R8U36TpGEb


— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) December 16, 2020


1. Yemen

For the third straight year, Yemen ranks number one on the IRC’s Emergency Watchlist. More than 80 percent of the country’s population desperately requires assistance. “Yemenis tell the IRC they worry more about hunger than COVID-19: As the pandemic deepens the country’s economic crisis, and with no political resolution in sight, Yemen faces the risk of famine,” reads an article on the IRC website, rescue.org.


In an interview with Al Jazeera, the IRC’s director for Yemen Tamuna Sabadze warned that, “The majority of the country really needs the UN and humanitarian funding in order to meet their basic day-to-day needs.” What’s worse, the international community has been providing little support, with Yemen having received less than half of the emergency funding it needs, according to UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock.



Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid/Flickr

2. Afghanistan

The peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban remains stalled, leaving the country in an uncertain state. Although October 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the country is still mired in deadly conflict..

Extreme weather patterns partly due to climate change and the economic impacts of COVID-19 are further exacerbating food insecurity in the country, leaving 18.4 million people in need of aid, says the IRC.


3. Syria

A protracted civil war has devastated Syria since 2011. The country’s health care system is in shambles, leaving the population especially vulnerable to the global pandemic. Humanitarians and aid workers are having difficulty accessing people in need because of violence and instability. Many Syrians are internally displaced and have had to move countless times, leaving them without homes, jobs, education, and health care.


4. Democratic Republic of Congo

Nearly 20 million people need assistance in the DRC as the country faces a “severe hunger crisis”, warns the IRC, due to a combination of “conflict, economic collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic”. Meanwhile, outbreaks of COVID-19 and Ebola have been spreading among the population.


5. Ethiopia

Although the Ethiopian government declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) at the end of November, this conflict and its impacts are unsettled and the country remains unstable. Locusts have upended the agricultural industry, and more than 21 million people are in desperate need of aid, warns the IRC.


6. Burkina Faso

The IRC warns that Burkina Faso is “the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis”, with more than one million internally displaced people (IDP). Conflict involving a wide array of actors, including government forces, local militias, and militant groups is disrupting health and education services in the country.



Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid/Flickr

7. South Sudan

The 2018 peace deal with rebel factions and South Sudan’s president remains tenuous, while local conflicts continue to simmer. Experts warn the country risks famine as the economy remains in crisis and desert locusts and flooding decimate farmland. Of a total population of 11.2 million, 7.5 million require assistance, says the IRC. On top of that, South Sudan has one of the least developed health systems in the world, making the population especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.


8. Nigeria

Northeast Nigeria continues to see violence. Across the country, nearly nine million people need assistance, says the IRC. Like many other countries on the watchlist, Nigeria has been plagued by conflict, hunger, and even a lack of clean water and sanitation. Health care and education services are also limited in the country.



Photo by Global Panorama/Flickr

9. Venezuela

The IRC estimates that seven million people are in need of assistance as an extended economic crisis continues to grip the country. Food shortages, displacement, and lack of medical care are three major problems facing the country.


10. Mozambique

More than one million people are in need of aid in this south African nation, as the country fights off insurgencies and recovers from cyclones that devastated the population in 2019.

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