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January 16, 2015

Every key stat you could possibly want about humanitarianism, emergencies etc – please steal

January 16, 2015
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Clearly you can’t use the term ‘killer facts’ when they concern actual deaths, so Oxfam has tweaked the name to Humanitarian Key Facts in a new HKF DRC piccompilation (to be updated on a regular basis). It’s a powerful collection that should provide lots of link-tastic, well referenced ammunition (sorry  – language problem again) for advocacy. The most striking one for me was that of the total $3trn in aid over the last 20 years, just $70bn has gone on responding to ‘natural disasters’, and only $13.4bn (0.4%) on preparing for them in advance (Disaster Risk Reduction). I thought it was a much higher proportion. Here’s a sample, co-authored with Laura Searle of the Humanitarian policy team.


• In the 12 months to June 2015, the world will spend £7bn on peacekeeping (Source: UN). This is less than half of 1 percent of world military expenditure (estimated at $1.75 trillion). (Source: SIPRI)

• The five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the UK, US, France, China and Russia) account for 75 percent of the world’s arms transfers, 59 percent of global military expenditure and less than 4 percent of UN peacekeepers.

• Every year since 2008, the world has become less peaceful. In 2014, the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and South Sudan all contributed to this continuing trend. (Source: Institute for Economics and Peace)

• By the end of 2013, 51 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. This is the highest number since the Second World War. (Source: UNHCR)

• More than 1.5 billion people already live in countries that are blighted by conflict and face repeated cycles of violence. (Source: World Bank)

• One-third of the world’s poor live in fragile and conflict-ridden countries. By 2018, this share is likely to grow to one-half, and by 2030 it could be as much as two-thirds. (Source: OECD DAC and Brookings Institution)

• There are 21 countries where the lives of women are blighted by rape and other forms of sexual violence which may be used as a weapon of war. In the space of one year (2006–2007) four women were raped every five minutes in the Democratic Republic of Congo; or more than 400,000 women in 12 months. (Source: UN and The Telegraph)

• It is notoriously difficult to count the number of people killed in conflicts, but millions of people have lost their lives in recent years. Since 1998, violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to 5.4 million deaths. (Source: International Rescue Committee)


• In the last 20 years, disasters from natural hazards have killed 1.3 million, affected 4.4 billion people, and caused almost $2tn in economic losses. (Source: Oxfam)

HKF Philippines pic• The number of weather-related disasters reported has tripled in 30 years. (Source: Oxfam)

• An estimated 258,000 people died in Somalia from famine and food insecurity between October 2010 and April 2012. (Source: FAO)

• By the 2030s, large parts of Southern Africa and South and East Asia will be more exposed to droughts, floods and other hazards; 325 million people in extreme poverty will live in the most exposed areas. (Source: ODI)

• Small, local disasters often go unnoticed by donors and media alike. But they account for a large proportion of disasters’ global impact: 54 percent of houses damaged, and 83 percent of people injured. (Source: Oxfam)

• Disasters from natural hazards hit poor countries far harder than richer ones: 81 percent of disaster deaths are in low-income and lower-middle income countries, even though they account for only 33 percent of disasters; in 2010, the earthquake that struck Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas , killed 200 times as many people as an earthquake in Chile weeks later; Chile’s earthquake was 500 times stronger;

• Vulnerability to disasters is enormously unequal: Less than 10 percent of workers in least developed countries are covered by social security; in most industrial nations, it is almost 100 percent; 97 percent of people living on less than $4 per day have no insurance cover, and so are highly vulnerable to major risks or financial shocks.

• Disasters kill more women than men, particularly in major calamities. Women accounted for 70–80 percent of those killed by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and according to UNDP, women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die during a disaster. (Source: LSE and UNDP)


• In the last decade, the number of people who need humanitarian aid and the cost of helping them has significantly increased. Funding requirements have more than doubled, to over $10bn per year. (Source: UNOCHA) For 2015, the UN has appealed for more than $16bn. (Source: UNOCHA)

• In the last decade, international funding has consistently failed to meet one third of the humanitarian need outlined in UN appeals. (Source: Development Initiatives) At $4.7bn, 2013 saw the largest shortfall since 2000 between the amount requested and the amount given. (Source: UN OCHA and Oxfam)

• Hardly any crisis gets the funds to fully meet its needs. But the amount given is extraordinarily unequal: for every $1 spent on a person affected by Haiti’s earthquake in 2010, 13 cents was spent on a person in need in South Sudan in 2013, 9 cents in Sudan, 4 cents in the Central African Republic. (Source: Oxfam – see footnotes 1 to 4)

• The world spends nearly three times as much on ice cream as it does on humanitarian aid: $59bn on ice cream against, in 2013, $22bn on humanitarian aid. (Source: Market Research and The Guardian)

• For all the talk of building local partnerships, less than 5 percent of humanitarian aid is spent directly through local groups. After Haiti’s earthquake in 2010, less than 1 percent of the total international aid went through Haitian NGOs or companies, and less than 1 percent of the international humanitarian aid was channelled through the Haitian government. (Source: Lessons from Haiti)

• In 2012, OECD countries spent just 6 percent ($630m) of their humanitarian assistance to fund Disaster Risk Reduction. (Source: Development Initiatives) Since 1991 the international community has spent $69.9bn in response to disasters, and only $13.5bn on risk reduction. (Source: ODI)

• Yet prevention is value for money: every $1 spent on disaster resilience in Kenya has saved $2.90 in reduced humanitarian spend, reduced losses and development gains. (Source: DFID)


  1. It’s always good to have key facts. And I am smiling a wry smile as I think of all the times we have debated the use of such figures. Here’s another one. The idea that sexual violence in conflict is only a problem in 21 countries – which is what your blog and the underlying Oxfam document implies – made me start in surprise as it’s so obviously not just a problem in 21 countries. I duly read the original press report of the UN research and it’s an issue of ambiguous wording (which is why we editors feel we are needed, of course, and what a pity one of us didn’t get her eyes and hands on this news report). The accurate story here, which doesn’t take much unearthing quite honestly, is that he UN did research in ’21 countries of concern’ and concluded there were grounds for that concern in those 21 countries. It wasn’t exhaustive global research, so it’s not an issue in JUST or ONLY 21 countries.

  2. I agree with Caroline that the more surprising statistics should be treated with some scepticism and researched a little before being repeated.

    “women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die during a disaster”. Does anyone actually believe this? First of all it needs some unpacking:

    In some countries roughly half the population are children (e.g. in Malawi half the population are under 16.3 years and 9% of the population are under the age of 5 ). So it is not surprising that a large proportion of deaths are children, toddlers or babies – combining this with female adults does not make any sense.

    It does seem that women are less likely to be able to swim and so far more likely to drown in floods and tsunamis.

    In famines, among adults, men are more likely to die than women. Far more people have died in droughts and famines than floods

    So where did the “14 times more likely” quote come from? The UNDP have it in a form that is pretty useless for checking

    but Google helps a bit more and the earliest version of it comes from 1997 and is attributable to Reverend Kristina Peterson, Disaster Recovery Specialist, Church World Service in “From the Field: Gender Issues in Disaster Response and Recovery”. There is no source given in this paper, it just appears.

    I’m sure readers of Duncan’s blog are sensible enough not to trust or repeat unlikely claims from such a long time ago – especially where there isn’t an original dataset.

    Just as an aside: how about a Key Fact on the gender balance of those killed in conflicts and violence? About 80% of homicide victims are male – surely this is a key fact?

    Finally, I must say that I don’t want one or two dodgy ‘facts’ and an argument over which gender comes off worst to take away the impact of the rest of the Key Facts – together they really are shocking and I hope they help in the effort of promoting the work of the development community.

  3. 2013 wasn’t necessarily the year with the highest number of forcibly displaced since the Second World War. According to the UNHCR report, the “2013 level of displacement was the highest on record since comprehensive statistics on global forced displacement have been collected” (page 2). And since when have comprehensive statistics been collected? 1989.

  4. There is more to discuss than it seems.

    The “needs”should probably be read: what the Humanitarian community could reasonably deliver while attending needs as described in the Sphere handbook, in balance with what they could expect to get from donors, because too wide gaps would be ridiculous.

    I mean: they don’t ask money for every need, only for the needs they can be expected to be in a position to address. The 3/4 funding is too stable to be accidental.

    Most donor countries have also budget cycles. Meaning, if a disaster strikes near the end of the year and the budget is gone, though luck except for when public support is so big a government is prepared to increase its deficit for it.

  5. I have high esteem for all the organisations involved, but, to make my point about needs more clear : the humanitarian appeal is a kartel exercise. They have an interest in being credible, otherwise the cartel can be in danger. However, it is a cartel, that announces the money they are supposed to receive themselves.

  6. My motive in researching and publishing statistics on humanitarian crises was to draw attention to the suffering of millions of people whose lives are blighted by conflict and natural disasters, and spark interest, discussion and debate as to what further efforts we can make to reach out and help those affected. Whilst I respect people’s right to question some of these statistics, I would really appreciate it people kept this motive in mind when deciding what issues to focus on and what tone to adopt in their response to the report. It would be great if we could move this debate forward. For example, it would be really interesting to hear from people involved in researching, designing and delivering programmes that seek to address sexual violence in conflict zones so we can explore how to increase awareness about this issue and support the women affected. Or, it might be interesting to explore the reasons why certain groups are more vulnerable than others in the event of a natural hazard and what practical steps might be taken to address their vulnerability.

  7. Statistics provide impressive but depressing
    figures for public consumption. But as the late Sir John Wilson stated in relation to avoidable blindness globally, ” People do not go blind by statistics; they go blind individually, each in their own pathetic predicament”. So also the victims of epidemics, natural disasters, unhealthy environments and hunger and disease.

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