From the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen to the hunger crisis in Madagascar and South Sudan, and the cyclone and earthquake in Haiti, 2021 was a year of intensifying humanitarian need.   

Throughout the year, as in every year since OCHA was created, we continued to serve people in need by leveraging our role as resource mobilizers, convenors, first responders, coordinators, advocates and access negotiators — the whole gamut of capacities that support OCHA’s unique mandate.  

Prolonged conflicts, the mounting impacts of the climate emergency and the lingering socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that more people were dependent on aid for their basic needs. According to the Global Humanitarian Overview — a UN-coordinated annual assessment of global need — 274 million people needed humanitarian assistance by December 2021, up from 235 million in January.  

Our donors responded generously, and OCHA was able to mobilize US$20.1 billion through UN-coordinated humanitarian appeals — a 6.4 per cent increase from the $18.9 billion raised in 2020.  

Thanks to this support, the UN and partners reached 107 million people with some form of assistance. This included food aid for tens of millions of people across dozens of countries, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Yemen; safe water for 34 million people; and support for 18 million people to keep their livelihoods going.  

Here are just 10 highlights of the year:  

  1. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), innovating again, made the first-ever allocation to address the needs of people with disabilities, and it expanded its support for early, preventative humanitarian action. When Typhoon Rai (locally known as Odette) pummelled the Philippines in December, we immediately released CERF funding to boost the Government’s response. 
  2. The Country-Based Pooled Funds
    (CBPFs) increased funding to local organizations, which received over a third of the grants. We also launched the first Regional Pooled Fund for West and Central Africa to foster a coordinated, coherent response in Burkina Faso and Niger initially, as the region faced weather shocks and mounting violence. 
  3. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) — the coordinating body of the formal humanitarian system, which the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) chairs  — declared a system-wide scale-up in Afghanistan and Ethiopia, effectively bringing all IASC members together to rapidly expand operations. 
  4. Fundraising was boosted through pledging conferences for Afghanistan, raising $4.4 billion; for Syria, raising $5.3 billion as the crisis entered its tenth year; and for Yemen, raising $2.2 billion by the year’s end. In January, we launched a Flash Appeal to raise funds for the hunger crisis in Madagascar’s Grand Sud region, in response to extreme drought. 
  5. We launched anticipatory action pilot projects in Malawi and the Philippines, and we continued pilots in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Somalia. This approach protected 100,000 people from emergency hunger conditions, prevented the spread of disease and reduced displacement.  We also collaborated with the African Union to develop anticipatory insurance policies for vulnerable people in select countries. 
  6. We deployed experts in protection, gender and accountability to affected people to dozens of crises, including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Myanmar and Niger. Gender specialists helped ensure humanitarian assessments and operations responded to the specific needs of women and girls, while experts in protection ensured it was woven into every humanitarian response sector, from food aid to camp management. 
  7. As ERC, my first mission was to Ethiopia, including the Tigray region to advocate for humanitarian access and civilian protection, and to help scale up the humanitarian response. OCHA also led the advocacy effort that succeeded in exempting humanitarian assistance from UN sanctions on Afghanistan, and we advocated with the de facto authorities to uphold the rights of women and girls throughout the year. 
  8. I led a high-level task force, convened by the UN Secretary-General, on preventing famine, which coordinated prevention efforts, resource mobilization — including co-hosting our first pledging event for famine prevention — and information sharing. 
  9. When a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, affecting 800,000 people, followed just days later by Tropical Cyclone Grace, OCHA stepped in to support the Government’s response with coordination, funding and information management.  
  10. In the run-up to November’s UN Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, we launched our climate crisis campaign, #TheHumanRace, to mark World Humanitarian Day, which mobilized 570,000 participants in over 183 countries.  

These and many other efforts throughout the year succeeded because of our donors’ generosity. Thank you for your continued commitment to humanitarian action, and to OCHA

Martin Griffiths

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator


Headquarters, two locations
Regional Offices
Country Offices
Adviser Teams


Through contributions to OCHA and/or pooled funds
(the Country-Based Pooled Funds & the Central Emergency Response Fund)


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Making life better

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ocha annual report 2021


OCHA Annual report 2o21