This water point in Cadaada village in Somaliland Province has dropped to dangerous levels. Livestock owners fear it will dry up altogether if the rains fail. Credit: Erich Ogoso/UNOCHA

Somalis are no strangers to hardship, having endured years of drought, conflict and instability. Last year saw a devastating infestation of desert locusts, extensive flooding and COVID-19, which brought new health and socioeconomic woes. Now the country is again facing critical water shortages, which are causing livestock deaths, mounting hunger and an inability to cultivate crops, triggering the flight of over 80,000 people in recent months.

Droughts in Somalia are becoming more frequent and more prolonged, linked to the global climate crisis, say experts.

Salima Ali, a mother of three, is one of those who fled, trekking from Afmadow district…


Juana Valdez’s house was destroyed by the floods that followed the hurricanes.

Text by Laura Solórzano and Véronique Durroux, OCHA ROLAC

All photos by OCHA/Laura Solórzano

Hurricanes Eta and Iota left a trail of destruction after they hit parts of Central America in November 2020.

Three months on, many communities in Izabal — one of the most affected departments in north-east Guatemala — are still reeling from the impact of floods, as more rains have worsened the situation. Humanitarian teams and local and national authorities have been working together to assist the most vulnerable people.

For the residents of Sioux village, in the Morales municipality, the shock of the floods was unlike…


2020 showed us the consequences of not cooperating, said participants of the UN humanitarian agency OCHA’s annual policy gathering. So where does that lead humanitarian action in 2021?

WFP registers people in need in Yemen, while respecting physical distancing. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Awadh

2020 was a “dumpster fire” and “hellish year” for countries in crisis that were then hit with the economic- and health-related meltdowns of COVID-19, said speakers at OCHA’s 2020 Global Humanitarian Policy Forum. John Norris, Deputy Director for Policy and Strategic Insight at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, described 2020 as “a year of consequences where we saw the painful cost of not cooperating.”

At this year’s virtual event, OCHA gathered…


Manal is a 13-year-old displaced Syrian girl. When schools closed because of COVID-19, Manal was able to continue her studies in the Dana District Camp when local NGO Saed Charity Association stepped in to provide online classes, using funding from OCHA’s Syria Cross-Border Humanitarian Fund. Credit: Saed Charity Association, Idleb.

When Pakistan declared a state of emergency and lockdown in March due to COVID-19, local authorities in South Waziristan District closed all their outpatient departments, leaving hundreds of people without access to essential medical care.

Education Health Social Awareness Rehabilitation Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO), was quick to fill the gap in services by supporting the outpatient departments in three health facilities.

It could do this thanks to arrangements by the UN’s Pakistan Humanitarian Pooled Fund (PHPF) to support a flexible response. …


A CARE food aid package for members of indigenous communities. Credit: CARE Honduras

By Veronique Durroux, and María Elena Calix, UN Honduras

Daysi Castro is a single mother from Comayagua, Honduras. Her family depend on the income she earns washing and ironing people’s clothes. But this income has been drastically reduced as a result of mobility restrictions imposed by the Government to contain the spread of COVID-19, making it harder for Daysi’s family to keep hunger at bay.

“Right now, what we do with my children is have a little coffee in the morning and then we don’t eat until the afternoon, we only eat once a day,” said Daysi.

Honduras is one…


Thirteen-year-old Syrian refugee Abdallah says goodbye to his visually impaired mother, Um Abdallah before leaving their apartment in east Amman, Jordan. Um Abdallah lost her sight as a result of the psychological effect of the Syrian conflict. Abdallah and his mom depend on a UNHCR monthly cash assistance to pay for their needs. Abdallah hopes his mother will be able to see again one day. Credit: UNHCR

“My ears are my eyes,” said Oriana Salazar. She suffers from a condition that progressively diminishes her vision. “When I have to go to the market, I feel I am in a maze.”

Honking cars and roaring engines warn Salazar when she is too close to traffic. Footsteps or loud voices let her know if there are people nearby.

Salazar, 32, lives in Carúpano, a city in eastern Venezuela. Her elderly mother has always shopped for the household. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, Salazar prefers that her mother stays home.

A staff member from the non-governmental organization (NGO) Caritas Venezuela…


By Jennifer Bose Ratka, Public Information Officer for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Tripoli, Libya

Jennifer Bose Ratka at an aid distribution by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in its Serraj centre, Tripoli. Credit: OCHA

Little things often matter the most during isolation. For me, it’s my weekly ritual of buying strawberries at the only supermarket in the UN compound in Tripoli and making crepes on the weekends.

I speak to my family and friends more often. I have even started working out — something I have despised for years (and, let me be honest, deep down still do). …


Humanitarian needs are already at their highest level in decades, but COVID-19 is causing them to soar further. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end. In response, humanitarian agencies are stepping up and finding innovative ways to overcome unprecedented access barriers. Here are five ways we are adopting technological solutions to identify and track needs, reach at-risk populations from afar, fill health supply gaps, teach children and provide information to communities on how to stay safe.

WFP school-feeding map.

Remote technologies to deliver aid

Drones, blockchain and 3D printing…


By Gema Cortes, Public Information Officer, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Caracas

When I arrived in Venezuela ten months ago, access to basic services and products such as food and medicines was already challenging. Patience and good humour were the formula for overcoming the long queues to pay at the supermarket. In a country where local cash is not operational, credit cards, mobile payments and cryptocurrencies are the only ways to pay.

This is not because of COVID-19, but because of a humanitarian situation caused by a prolonged economic and political crisis. Due to…


By Sophie Solomon, Access Adviser at UNOCHA

Accessing vulnerable people who need life-saving assistance following an earthquake, a deadly outbreak, or in the middle of a war zone, is hugely challenging. It is also at the heart of the humanitarian endeavour. Humanitarian organizations negotiate and advocate with all parties to conflict for safe, timely and unhindered access across the world, but the scope and intensity of the access challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Food Programme (WFP) had an average of 5,600 trucks, 20 ships and 92 planes on the move…

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