A year that was plagued by conflicts, environmental crises and food insecurity, looking back to 2023 is difficult for a number of reasons. But reflecting on the issues we've faced is imperative if the humanitarian sector is to continue to battle these crises and help reduce human suffering.
Leading humanitarian aid and global health expert, Shameet Thakkar, discusses the challenges that continue to threaten the humanitarian sector in 2024, and the strategies we should employ to remain prepared.
He says: “We need to learn from what we have experienced in the past year as a means to be prepared to face both new and existing challenges in 2024.
“2023 was an extremely difficult time from a humanitarian and a global and financial health perspective, and a tough year for people all around the globe.
"As a priority, we should address how climate change is having an impact on the humanitarian sector, raising awareness of the threat it poses – particularly to the poorest countries. It's a threat that has to be taken seriously.
"The damage posed by climate-related disasters – which are only going to worsen due to climate change – also means more and more medical products will be required to combat these emergencies.
“In turn, this means governments around the world need to be prepared. It's all about being in a ready state at all times, and have emergency response teams at hand to be able to trigger emergency relief when required.
“Emergencies often require the deployment of trauma kits and relief supplies, which should ideally be provided within a 12 to 24 hour period – this is essential if we are to save lives and alleviate suffering.
“Being prepared is the most important thing – but how do you stay prepared? It's by being proactive. It's by making sure that you have the resources you need to provide aid which is ready to go should something occur.
“However, if we think about where the main humanitarian crises and emergencies took place last year, it was in countries which likely didn't have the right healthcare infrastructure to respond.
“For instance, if we cast our minds back to the floods in Libya, the country didn't have access to the right commodities to deal with the emergency. When governments can't even fund their own healthcare systems effectively, they simply can’t deal with the added burden of humanitarian emergencies.
“So, it came down to the international donor community to assist. Receiving help from other countries made an incredible difference – international cooperation is a huge part of making the humanitarian sector stronger, but this is just one of many factors that come into play.
“Ultimately, being able to rely on internal resources is the ideal solution. It is vital that healthcare systems in these countries are strengthened in order for the right infrastructure to be built, both to provide routine care, and to cope with emergencies.
“And though this may seem like a faraway dream for some countries, it is the right way forward, and building strategies towards this goal is nothing short of a necessity.”