This is no joke: 5 staggering humanitarian facts

March 30, 2018
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by Kieran McConville

It’s April Fool’s Day, and you’ll undoubtedly be inundated with all sorts of “fake news” for a laugh. We are using the occasion to share some facts and figures that may seem beyond belief, but they are all too real — and no laughing matter.

1. More than 800 million people go to bed hungry each night

You read that right. According to the Global Hunger Index, 815 million people, or roughly 1 in 9 people are hungry. While global hunger levels have declined by 27% since 2000, there is still a lot of work to be done: 45% of deaths of children under five are linked to malnutrition. In the Central African Republic, the world’s “hungriest country”, some 2.5 million people — more than half its population — do not have enough food to eat.

Ending hunger isn’t easy, but it is possible. There are many different causes, from gender inequality to climate change. Concern works to reduce hunger through multi-pronged programming that addresses poverty, reduce risk to disaster, as well as distributing food and treating malnutrition.

In Liberia, farmers receive training

Forkpa Blamah, District Program Supervisor for Concern, with members of a Farmer Field School in Lofa County, Liberia. Photo: Concern Worldwide

2. 65.6 million people are displaced

That staggering, unprecedented figure has only increased from 65.3 million in 2015. Most alarmingly, there are about twice as many internally displaced persons (40.3 million) than refugees (22.5 million). IDPs are some of the world’s most vulnerable people, as they don’t have the means or ability to leave their country, even if they wanted to. But what’s forcing so many people to flee their homes? Worsening natural disasters and longer, protracted, and violent conflicts are to blame.

Concern works with displaced people all around the world, from South Sudan to Turkey. Part of our work involves distributing shelter items, food, and other essentials and necessities that a family might have left behind.

3. 204 million people were affected by natural disasters in 2016

It’s a massive number, but consider this: it’s literally TWICE the 2015 total. The cost of the damage has also increased: from $90 billion to just under $150 billion. But the impact of floods, wildfires, and prolonged drought last far beyond the disaster itself. In Ethiopia, for example, constant drought routinely causes harvests to fail. With each passing year, vulnerable communities find it harder and harder to cope as they sell off their dwindling assets to buy food.

Concern can’t change weather patterns, but we can help communities cope with the worsening effects of climate change. We train communities in farming techniques that will yield better harvests, distribute seeds better suited to resist drought, and more.

Flooding in Bangladesh

People in Lalmonirhat district, in Bangladesh, move to the nearest flood shelter. Heavy rain triggered deadly flooding in 14 districts of Bangladesh last month — damaging bridges and power lines, and washing away thousands of homes. Photo credit: Kazi Altab, Concern partner ASOD

4. Over 2 billion people don’t have access to clean water at home

Imagine that you’re thirsty, but the only water you can drink comes from a muddy river — or is over a thirty-minute walk away. Well for 2.1 billion people, this isn’t just a hypothetical, it’s reality. Using dirty water is a huge health risk, and each year, 525,000 children under 5 die from diarrheal diseases. According to the UN, these trends are only going to worsen: by 2030, just under half of the world’s population will live in areas without enough water to meet demand.

Without water, communities can’t farm, cook, clean, or live. Concern routinely builds wells, or distributes aquatabs so communities can purify dirty water. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where half the country doesn’t have access to clean water, we are providing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming to more than 600,000 people.

5. 130 million girls aren’t in school

We’ve come a long way towards gender equality, but there is still a lot more work to be done. Girls are still much more likely than boys to be excluded from school, and according to the World Bank, 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 aren’t in the school. Even more remarkable? 15 million girls will never even step foot into a classroom. Educated women tend to be healthier, have fewer children, marry when they are older, and have higher incomes and formal jobs. Just a few years in school can make a lifetime of a difference to a woman’s family and her community.

That’s why Concern works to ensure that girls receive quality education, particularly in rural areas where cultural tradition dictates that they must leave school once they reach puberty. In Afghanistan, we work with rural communities to ensure young girls receive a proper education, even despite a lack of qualified female teachers.

A sign outside a girls school in Marsabit County, Kenya

A sign outside the Maikona Girls Secondary School in Marsabit County, Kenya. Photo: Kieran McConville

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