UNDP’s commitment to help reduce humanitarian crises and to end need

World Humanitarian Day: The Human Race - A global challenge for climate action in solidarity with the people who need it most

August 19, 2021

Rescue work following the deadly earthquake in Haiti has been hampered by heavy rains from Tropical Storm Grace.

UNDP/ Moïse Pierre

Today, conflicts are increasingly frequent and protracted; climate-related shocks are more intense and frequent; and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the urgency of addressing the complex, multidimensional drivers of accelerating humanitarian needs.

World Humanitarian Day is a day to take stock of these challenges, remind ourselves of the millions of people around the globe affected by conflict, disaster, poverty and disease, and for UNDP to stand shoulder-to shoulder with our humanitarian colleagues to acknowledge and remember those that work to save lives and relieve suffering.

Supporting Haiti and addressing the multi-dimensional character of crises

Just this weekend, a devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, a country where UNDP has been working for decades. It has affected more than 800,000 people and the death toll in Haiti’s third largest city, Les Cayes, has reached 1,941 people, with a further 9,900 injuries and 84,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Rescue work following the deadly quake has been hampered by heavy rains, as Tropical Storm Grace hit the island, and people left homeless have had to decide whether to brave the storm under flimsy tarpaulins, or risk returning into damaged buildings.

Yet, amongst this devastation, humanitarian work carries on – delivering vital emergency food to affected populations, helping to coordinate search and rescue operations and providing rapid assessments to determine people’s immediate and longer-term needs in the face of crisis – including UNDP’s support for the UN’s Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team.

This year’s theme for World Humanitarian Day is #TheHumanRace – with a strong focus on the interaction between humanitarian crises and the climate. The theme recognizes the devastation that climate impacts are having on vulnerable people, increasing their exposure to risks and hazards. Underlying and exacerbating these growing risks are increasingly levels of poverty and weak state institutions, which make it harder for communities to prepare for disasters and build resilience. And often, as in the case of Haiti, this is compounded by other complex and interlinked challenges, including conflict and political instability, which further complicate vital international responses.

Haiti’s current crisis illustrates the growing global challenges stemming from multiple, interlinked recurrent risks – including climate change. And Haiti is not alone in facing “multi-dimensional vulnerability.” The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that risks and vulnerability are systemic and interconnected.  Low- to lower-middle income countries make up  eight out of the ten countries most affected by extreme weather in 2019. The urgency in scaling up and strengthening capacities in these contexts and to build resilience to a wide range of risks, exacerbated by climate change, will be critical in helping them to advance on a sustainable development pathway.

As we scale up our support to the Haitian government to aid recovery from the most recent earthquake, we will draw on the learning from our support during the previous devastating earthquake in 2010. The 2010 quake claimed up to 230,000 lives, including 83 of our colleagues when the UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed, and caused massive devastation. Through a US$350 million three-year programme, we provided hundreds of thousands of jobs to recycle debris and rebuild infrastructure; boosted small enterprises; revitalized disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction systems; rebuilt the capacity of the justice and rule of law sector; and strengthened the electoral process.

Today, as Haiti faces further suffering, UNDP will draw on its experience and is committed to supporting the government and people through a range of integrated support that continues to address the underlying causes of recurrent crises. These efforts will complement vital assistance to not only save lives through humanitarian action and ensure longer term efforts to protect livelihoods and improve the lives of the most vulnerable beyond the immediate impacts of the current crisis.

UNDP’s commitment to stay and deliver before, during and after crisis

What UNDP offers are development solutions that complement humanitarian efforts, prevent future crises, and help protect development gains. UNDP’s commitment to ‘stay and deliver’ with development solutions in crisis contexts often involves restoring core government functions, building peace, stabilizing livelihoods, managing debris and rehabilitating infrastructure and helping the government to plan for recovery. These are not activities that happen after the humanitarians leave. Humanitarian action, development programmes, and peacebuilding are all needed at the same time. This “humanitarian-development-peace nexus” approach helps ensure that vulnerable and fragile communities are strengthened before during and after the humanitarian response, to reduce vulnerability to future shocks and contribute to more peaceful and sustainable societies.

Honouring the work of humanitarian colleagues and commemorating those killed in service

UNDP has a unique role in ensuring that longer-term development solutions remain a critical lifeline of support, alongside humanitarians’ vital work in crisis settings to help to reduce humanitarian needs over time. That is why we join our humanitarian colleagues in celebrating this day, and honour those offering life-saving support to the most vulnerable. We also join our colleagues in commemorating the lives of the many humanitarian workers who have lost their lives in service. And UNDP joins our humanitarian colleagues in demanding that aid workers be allowed to carry out their vital work unhindered and in safety and calls on violence against all aid workers to stop.

As UNDP joins with colleagues to mark World Humanitarian Day, we are proud that our unique approach and our commitment to offer development solutions in crisis contexts can contribute to assisting the world’s most vulnerable people and to ending humanitarian need over time. UNDP stands ready to support our humanitarian colleagues as we make the world a better place amid disasters, conflict and crises.

What UNDP offers are development solutions that complement humanitarian efforts, prevent future crises, and help protect development gains.