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February 27, 2024

Key Takeaways from UNHCR 2023 Emergency Preparedness and Response Report

When a crisis hits, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is there to help, even in the most remote – and sometimes dangerous – places. In 2023, UNHCR issued 43 emergency declarations in 29 countries – the highest number in decades – and deployed 339 emergency staff. Despite raising billions for emergencies and protracted crises, a $400 million shortfall at the end of the year hindered aid delivery. 

UNHCR responded to multiple crises globally, aiding millions affected by new conflicts including in Sudan, a worsening crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and climate and natural disaster emergencies such as floods, droughts, earthquakes and more.

Here are four key takeaways you need to know from UNHCR’s 2023 Emergency Preparedness and Response Report.

How did UNHCR respond to emergencies in 2023?

Thanks to the generosity of public and private donors, UNHCR raised over $5 billion in 2023, including $4.6 billion that went towards emergencies and protracted crises. 

UNHCR also doubled emergency trainings — training 393 emergency experts, deploying 339 staff to respond to emergencies, and procuring $302 million worth of goods and services. This mobilization allowed for quick delivery of emergency supplies to help nearly 16.7 million people worldwide.

What does UNHCR’s Division of Emergency, Security and Supply do to prepare and respond to emergencies around the world?

Created in the early 1990s, UNHCR’s Division of Emergency, Security and Supply works to ensure a safe and rapid response to emergencies, wherever they happen in the world. 

The Division is responsible for ensuring solid emergency preparedness, timely supply of core relief items such as blankets and tents, effective management of emergency deployments, and staff safety, especially in remote and high-risk areas. 

What are some of UNHCR’s concrete emergency preparedness and response mechanisms?

One mechanism is the Emergency Response Team – a roster of UNHCR staff ready to mobilize within 72 hours of an emergency. For instance, to respond to the Sudan emergency, UNHCR deployed experts in specific areas like child protection, shelter and gender. 

At any moment, 100 to 150 staff are on this roster, each thoroughly trained on UNHCR’s “Workshop on Emergency Management” to effectively respond to emergencies. During the workshops, participants face simulations, such as conducting rapid needs assessments of refugees and developing a response plan. 

These workshops are typically held three times a year – but in 2023, UNHCR doubled the number to six to address the increasing number of emergencies and the growing need for emergency deployments.

In 2023, where did compassionate donors help UNHCR make an impact in new and ongoing emergencies? 

In Myanmar and Bangladesh: 

On May 14, 2023, Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Rakhine State, devastatingly impacting homes and infrastructure.

In Myanmar, an estimated 7.9 million people were impacted, with 3.4 million considered to be the most vulnerable and in need of humanitarian assistance. In Bangladesh, some 2.3 million people were residing in areas affected by the cyclone, including some 930,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. 

In response, UNHCR provided shelter supplies and distributed aid to people affected by Cyclone Mocha, assisting over 4,500 Rohingya refugee families whose shelters were damaged.

In Somalia:

In February 2023, fighting in Laascaanood, Somalia, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee within Somalia. The conflict caused nearly 100,000 refugees to cross the border into Ethiopia, many of whom were women, unaccompanied children or older people. Many arrived with nothing to an extraordinarily remote and drought-affected area.

Since the onset of the emergency, UNHCR and its partners deployed 17 emergency staff and provided lifesaving assistance in support of the Ethiopian government. Medicine, water and other essential items were delivered to local clinics around the area to ensure they could assist host communities and refugees.  

In the Darien and Venezuela:

In 2023, the Darien region of Panama continued to be at the epicenter of a large and complex movement of people across the Americas. As of December 2023, the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Darien jungle reached an unprecedented 500,000 – more than double in 2022. Individuals crossing the Darien and other borders are exposed to extreme dangers, such as natural hazards, sexual and gender-based violence, robbery, human trafficking, extortion and kidnapping. 

As of December 2023, over 7.7 million Venezuelans were reported to be outside their country, with more than 6.5 million residing in Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite ongoing support in the past years, 4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela continue to experience pressing humanitarian, protection and integration needs.

In response, UNHCR further increased its presence in border areas across the region to support reception facilities for refugees and migrants, while ensuring access to territories and upholding non-refoulement and refugee laws and practices. UNHCR also provided legal aid and counseling on access to asylum and other forms of legal stay and supported internal relocation for family reunification and job opportunities.

Learn more about how UNHCR responds in an emergency…

When a crisis arises and people are forced to leave their homes, often embarking on a dangerous journey to safety, UNHCR is there. 

Their priority? To save lives and minimize serious harm by addressing the most pressing humanitarian needs. Discover more about how UNHCR provides lifesaving assistance to those displaced from their homes during emergencies.