top of page

The year in humanitarian news

A timeline of significant events in 2022.

[New Humanitarian]

From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (and the global impacts) to Haiti’s spiralling gang violence and record heat waves in South Asia, here’s our month-to-month timeline of events that shaped humanitarian needs and response in 2022.

January 2022 Afghanistan: An economic implosion

Afghanistan was already mired in humanitarian catastrophe as the year opened, less than six months after the Taliban took back power. This was largely down to Western donors having cut off financial aid – 80% of the previous government’s budget – and withholding $9bn of foreign reserves. Record numbers faced hunger as almost the entire population was plunged below the poverty line. Soaring unemployment and prices due to the economic collapse drove a surge in childhood malnutrition. The shattered healthcare system faced multiple epidemics, including measles and TB, while Taliban rule became marked by repression – for women and girls in particular. The UN called for unprecedented amounts of donor funding, while the US released half its frozen funds. A decrease in conflict saw humanitarian access improve to some remote and vulnerable communities, true. Yet the road ahead appeared even more dismal by the end of 2022, with the government banning women from universities in December, and hen barring them from NGO work – leading several international aid organisations to suspend their work as a brutal winter set in.

A man distributes bread at a market in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 31 January 2022. Drought and a crumbling economy are driving rising hunger. [Ali Khara | Reuters]

February 2022 Ukraine: Russia invades

After months of sabre-rattling, Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th and spurred a cascade of humanitarian crises that grew as the year and the conflict continued. UN agencies and international organisations that had a limited presence in the country prior to the war scrambled to build an aid response from scratch, bumping into issues around neutralityalong the way. By year-end, nearly 8 million people had left the country and 6.5 million were internally displaced. Criticism of double standards in EU migration policy was prompted by Europe’s overwhelmingly open-arm policy toward those fleeing Ukraine. Amid near-record levels of aid funding – helped along by seemingly non-stop Western media coverage – humanitarian insiders worried about resources being diverted from other crises. The consequences of Russia’s actions were felt in all corners of the globe, from increasing food prices to fuel shortages and growing debt.

Worsening drought is pushing millions in Somalia towards starvation, including these women and children waiting for a malnutrition screening on 24 May 2022. The war in Ukraine has driven up the cost of providing aid and diverted attention and resources. [Reuters | Feisal Omar]

March 2022 Ethiopia: Tigray truce

After 17 months of conflict, the government and forces aligned to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) came to a shaky truce. The agreement was intended to open the way for aid access into Tigray, where a months-long blockade had left six million people with few options for healthcare and extreme shortages of food. But access remained spotty, a situation USAID officials called “perhaps the most egregious humanitarian obstruction in the world”. By November, after months of continued fighting, a ceasefire deal kindled hopes of a true end to a war that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Yet key stumbling blocks remained, most notably the withdrawal of Eritrean troops and the shape of Tigray’s future borders – issues the deal leaves unresolved.

Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussein (sat left) and Tigray delegate Getachew Reda (sat right) at the official signing of the new Tigray peace agreement in Pretoria, South Africa on 2 November 2022. [Reuters | Siphiwe Sibeko]

April 2022 Horn of Africa: Famine warning bells

The Horn of Africa faced an unprecedented fourth successive drought as hoped-for rains in March and April never came, heralding the driest start to the season for 40 years. Aid agencies predicted that more than 20 million peopleacross southern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and much of Somalia were at risk of tipping into extreme hunger, and warned that some could risk starvation. The lack of water and pasture killed millions of animals that herders rely on for their livelihoods. That left households destitute, with deaths among the most vulnerable, especially young children.A $4.4 billion UN funding appeal for the three countries was “woefully underfunded”, Oxfam stated. By the end of the year, a fifth below-average rainy season was expected, with up to 26 million people in the Horn gripped by “crisis” levels of hunger, with famine predicted in parts of Somalia by April-June 2023.

Amina Mohammed walked for two days and nights with her sick child looking for help. A week later, she still hadn't received any food aid. [Abdirahman Ahmed Adan | TNH]

Yemen: A 6-month ceasefire

The Saudi Arabian-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government against the Houthi rebels announced a ceasefirein late March, following a UN call for a truce during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The truce, which wasn’t perfect but saw a massive reduction in conflict, expired at the beginning of October, prompting fears of a return to all-out war. Meanwhile, the knock-on effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Yemen imports 40% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine – exacerbated the humanitarian crisis as prices skyrocketed and fuel was in short supply. An estimated 23.4 million Yemenis are in need of emergency aid – more than three quarters of the population.


May 2022 DR Congo: M23 rebels return

The M23, an armed group that had been dormant for nearly a decade, re-emerged in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, displacing civilians and reigniting regional tensions between Great Lakes states. By July, more than 170,000 people had been driven from their homes – a number that grew to more than 450,000 by December as the M23 fought Congolese troops in North Kivu province. By the end of the year, the M23 was sending out mixed signals about peace as a newly deployed East African force threatened to deploy against it.

A displaced woman looks after a child at a primary school in Rutshuru town, in eastern DRC. An insurgency by the M23 rebel group has uprooted 170,000 people since March. [Moses Sawasawa | TNH]

South Asia: Record heat waves and floods

A lethal, record-breaking heat wave continued across South Asia. While high temperatures have always been prevalent in northwest Pakistan and India, research by the UK’s Met Office showed that heat waves are now 100 times more likely than previously. Researchers, scientists, and ordinary Pakistanis struggling to cope said little had been done to mitigate the impacts. From June to October, Pakistan was then hit by record-breaking floods that claimed more than 1,700 lives, submerged a third of the country, and affected 33 million people.

Heat waves have been growing in number and intensity for several years in South Asia. Here, a man cools off under a public tap, while others wait to fill their bottles, during intense hot weather in Karachi in June 2015. [Akhtar Soomro | Reuters]

June 2022 Colombia: A presidential left turn

Gustavo Petro became the first left-wing president in a country whose politics remain overshadowed by its 50-year civil war – for decades the world’s longest-running conflict. He was elected amid renewed violence, rampant poverty, and spiralling migration. By late in the year, Petro had launched a complex plan to bring what he calls “total peace” to Colombia, including talks with the largest guerrilla group operating in the region and a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart in Caracas, marking the first direct conversations in six years. Security along the Colombia-Venezuela border has decayed dramatically in recent years, leading to a rise in conflict and displacement as armed groups vie for the rampant illicit trade in people and goods.

Members of the Colombian military march during the inauguration of a new unit to address rebel and armed criminal group activities along the country's border with Venezuela, in Cúcuta, Colombia, on 6 October 2021. [Nathalia Angarita | Reuters]

July 2022 Syria: Aid access merry-go-round

After letting a resolution that allows the UN to bring aid into northwest Syria without the permission of President Bashar al-Assad expire on 10 July, the Security Council voted two days later to extend it for six months. The extension was a compromise – involving a Russian veto and last-minute negotiations – that prolonged the resolution for half the time the UN and NGOs originally requested. The cross-border operation provides food, vaccines, and other aid to 2.4 million people each month, according to the UN. Although media attention has drifted off to other emergencies and fighting has slowed, Syria’s humanitarian crisis is in many ways more severe than at any point since the start of the war in 2011. Food prices are up – in part due to the conflict in Ukraine – and money is worth less, while a cholera outbreak raised new concerns going into winter.

[New Humanitarian]


August 2022

Sri Lanka: Full-on crisis mode

Just months after the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, warned of a “full-blown humanitarian emergency”, those predictions seemed spot-on, as residents faced fuel and medicine shortages, rapid food price inflation, and school closures. Of the country’s 22-million-strong population, some 6.7 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance – an extremely high level for what the World Bank considers a lower middle-income country. Unlike many of the world’s humanitarian crises, which are created by conflict or driven by climate change, Sri Lanka’s was triggered by an economic collapse brought about by years of dwindling foreign currency, government mismanagement, and COVID-19 decimating tourism revenue.

A vendor gives change to a customer buying eggs amid rampant food price inflation in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, on 29 July 2022. [Kim Kyung-Hoon | Reuters]

September 2022 South Sudan: Aid worker sex abuse claims

UN chief António Guterres called for an “urgent report” on what actions UN officials in South Sudan will take to “ensure accountability” after an investigation by The New Humanitarian and Al Jazeera revealed years of widespread sexual abuse allegations against aid workers at the UN-run displacement camp at Malakal. Aid officials were aware of the allegations as early as 2015 but they continued despite the efforts of a UN task force, reporters found. The revelations came as up to 5,000 more people were thought to be headed toward the camp, fleeing violence that had killed hundreds. Although it has been more than four years since South Sudan’s main warring parties signed a peace agreement meant to end a civil war that killed at least 400,000 people and plunged parts of the country into famine, some humanitarian indicators are now worse than they were during that conflict. The peace deal has driven new violence, which, combined with extreme flooding and economic dislocation, has created a renewed famine risk: Almost 8 million of the 12 million population are severely hungry.


October 2022

Global: Cholera surge

From Haiti to Lebanon to Syria, the World Health Organization warned of a global spike in cholera cases, driven by war, violence, poverty, and climate change. The WHO noted that 27 countries reported outbreaks since the start of the year. Cholera spreads through contaminated water or food and can kill within hours if untreated. It can be prevented with vaccines and treated with rehydration methods, but many patients don’t have access to these means.

[New Humanitarian]

Bangladesh: Rohingya camp dangers

The murders of a Rohingya teenager, an 11-year-old-girl, and two Rohingya community leaders underlined the worsening security situation in the sprawling camps in Bangladesh that are home to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees – most of whom arrived from Myanmar following a wave of military-led ethnic cleansing in 2017. The camps have become notorious for gangs, crime, and intimidation. A study by the Burma Human Rights Network carried out early in the year found all 29 interviewees from 10 different camps had experienced violence, while 90% were concerned about kidnappings.

Rohingya refugees sit on a makeshift boat as they're interrogated by Bangladeshi border guards after crossing the Myanmar border, at Shah Porir Dwip near Cox's Bazar, November 2017. [Navesh Chitrakar | Reuters]

November 2022

Global: Climate cash aid

Negotiators emerged from the COP27 climate summit with an agreement to establish a new stream of funding for so-called “loss and damage” – the tally of climate destruction when all else has failed. Communities on the front lines of the climate emergency saw it as a measured victory after years of pushback from wealthy nations afraid of spiralling costs. This breakthrough came at the end of a year that saw wave after wave of emergencies worsened by climate change, including: severe hunger and famine-like conditions in parts of Somalia and the Horn of Africa; historic floods in Pakistan; and extreme heat in hotspots across the globe.


December 2022

Haiti: Growing toll of gang violence

Haiti’s battle with spiralling gang violence intensified in the last months of the year, leaving aid workers to juggle compounding and overlapping problems, or “crises inside crises”, as the International Committee of the Red Cross described it. Simultaneous challenges include accessing the most vulnerable trapped inside gang-controlled communities; reaching thousands displaced by the violence; responding to increased levels of cholera and extreme hunger; and preventing and responding to soaring gender-based violence. Calls are increasing for some kind of international force to help restore security, but some Haitians are wary of such a deployment given botched interventions and foreign meddling in the past. Gang violence has also recently spread outside the capital, which aid workers point to as part of a worrying outlook for 2023. [Ricardo Arduengo | Reuters]

(c) 2022, New Humanitarian


Featured Review
Tag Cloud
bottom of page