2013 was a tough year for Syria and other populations displaced by conflict and natural disaster. The UN thinks 2014 will be even worse.

Yesterday morning the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Relief asked for a record setting $12.9 billion for disaster relief around the globe. The appeal is intended to help over 50 million people in 17 countries. But the  increase in requirements is  largely driven by Syria. OCHA’s appeal foresees the number of people in need in Syria in 2014 to grow by 9 million, and is asking for $6.5 billion to cover the costs.

This infographic shows you the extent to which Syria dominates the global humanitarian landscape.

Global_Human_Response_2014_info

The UN separates the relief plan for people affected inside Syria (known as SHARP) from the region-wide relief plan for refugees (known as RRP). Taken together, these two crises simply dwarf the others.

The global disaster relief system operates basically as a charity. Agencies like the World Food Program, UNICEF, and NGOs like Save the Children or MSF require donations, mostly from wealthier countries, to mount their relief operations. When funding falls short, medicines go un-purchased, children unvaccinated, and stomachs remain hungry.

Humanitarian appeals are a very decent measure of the extent to which the international community really cares about the plight of people suffering in far off lands. It a quantifiable measure of the donors’ generosity and, sometimes the gap between rhetoric and action to care for people’s suffering.

Last year the UN was only able to secure $8 billion toward its appeals, amounting to just 60% of what was required to full fund humanitarian operations worldwide.

We can do better in 2014. And we must.

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