The top 10 crises the world can’t ignore in 2024

The top 10 crises the world can’t ignore in 2024

Each year, the International Rescue Committee analyzes 190 countries and territories to identify the countries at greatest risk of experiencing a new or worsening humanitarian crisis in the coming year. We identify and rank the 20 countries most at risk in our Emergency Watchlist.

To compile the list, we use a multistage process of quantitative and qualitative analysis, including consulting our staff on the front lines of crises. In recent years, this report has predicted 85-95% of the countries facing the worst deterioration and influenced the way the IRC responds to the world’s most pressing crises.

Watchlist countries are home to just 10% of the world’s population but account for approximately 86 percent of all people in humanitarian need globally, 75% of displaced persons, 70% of people suffering from crisis (IPC 3) or worse levels of food insecurity—and a growing share of global extreme poverty.

Below, we break down what you need to know about the 10 countries likely to face the worst humanitarian crises next year. Learn more about the 2024 Emergency Watchlist.

10. Democratic Republic of the Congo

Intense fighting broke out in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2023, following the collapse of a truce between the government and the armed group M23. This exacerbated a protracted crisis that had already exposed millions of Congolese to conflict, political tensions, economic pressures, climate shocks and persistent disease outbreaks. The country enters 2024 with 25.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance—more than any other country on earth. 

The magnitude of the crisis has strained services, creating high levels of food insecurity and fueling the spread of disease. Meanwhile, shortfalls in humanitarian funding and rampant insecurity have limited the ability of humanitarians to reach communities in need.

A woman sits outside, in front of a white makeshift shelter. A large pile of potatoes lie in front of her.

23-year-old Mapendo Zabonimpa runs a potato business from her makeshift shelter in Don Bosco Ngangi displacement camp outside of Goma, DRC.

Predictions for 2024

  • Escalating conflict will mean even more people will be forced to flee their homes, further driving internal displacement. 
  •  The climate pattern El Niño may increase the risk of flooding, spreading waterborne illnesses, reducing agricultural yields and contributing to further displacement.
  • Humanitarian services will be undermined by a lack of funds and access constraints. The DRC’s 2023 humanitarian response plan received just 38% of its necessary funding.

How the IRC helps in DRC

The IRC is providing emergency health care, shelter and supplies to thousands in eastern Congo. We also promote peace-building and economic recovery. Initiatives include health care training, rehabilitating medical facilities, aiding sexual assault survivors, reproductive health services and empowering girls’ education.

9. Ethiopia

Across Ethiopia, livelihoods have been decimated by three consecutive years of drought alongside multiple conflicts and, now, there is a risk of El Niño-induced flooding. 

The November 2022 ceasefire between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) continues to hold in northern Ethiopia, but other conflicts, particularly in the central Oromia region and in Amhara in the northwest, are fueling humanitarian needs and raising the risk of a return to large-scale fighting. Persistent inflation is further deepening the crisis.

A small child, wearing a yellow shirt, stands in front of an adult.

3-year-old Kindessa walks with his parents near their home in Keyra IDP site in Deder, Ethiopia.

Photo: Iuna Vieira for the IRC

Predictions for 2024

  • El Niño flooding will likely threaten the livelihoods of communities already weakened by years of drought.
  • Inflation is set to remain high throughout 2024, placing basic goods out of reach for many Ethiopians.
  • Escalating violence and tensions with neighboring countries could threaten a return to wider conflict.

How the IRC helps in Ethiopia

The IRC delivers a multifaceted response in Ethiopia, combining emergency relief with long-term resilience-building initiatives. Our programming encompasses emergency rapid response, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and nutrition, education, protection and economic recovery services.

8. Niger

Niger’s July 2023 coup has triggered political tensions with neighboring countries and led to the withdrawal of international security assistance. New sanctions and border closures have also severely limited the amount of nutritional aid and medical supplies entering the country. Public spending has decreased by 40%, weakening key services.

A woman in bright orange sits on the floor of a room. Besides her sits a bowl of assorted foods.

Fandaou Karam, 45, was forced to flee her village in Niger after an attack by Boko Haram. Thanks to cash assistance from the IRC, today Fandaou has a small business and is able to support her two children.

Photo: Mamadou Diop for the IRC

Predictions for 2024

  • Economic and financial sanctions will further disrupt already-strained public services. 
  • Armed groups are poised to exploit the power vacuum caused by the withdrawal of foreign military assistance.
  • 7.3 million people are at risk of falling into acute food insecurity due to the impacts of climate change, conflict and the economic effects of border closures. 

How the IRC helps in Niger

The IRC is one of the largest humanitarian organizations in Niger, supporting over 270,000 people in 2023. Our services include cash distribution, seed distributions to farmers, support to health centers to protect children from malnutrition, and to schools to improve children’s literacy. The IRC also builds and rehabilitates water supply infrastructure and provides protection programs for women and children.

7. Somalia

After facing five consecutive failed rainy seasons, Somalia is now experiencing widespread flooding. These repeated climate shocks have devastated agricultural lands, damaged critical infrastructure and driven humanitarian needs. 

The country enters 2024 with 4.3 million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity and a limited ability to restore food production. An ongoing government offensive against the armed group al-Shabaab risks driving civilian harm and displacement, further worsening conditions for 6.9 million in need of humanitarian aid. 

A man stands tall, in front of a number of makeshift shelters in Somalia.

Community leader, Kulow, in the Arlaadi camp in Dhusamareb, Somalia. Many families migrated to Dhusamareb because of the drought that decimated their crops and livestock, while others sought to protect their children from the al-Shabaab militant group, which is known for recruiting child soldiers.

Photo: Mustafa Saeed for the IRC

Predictions for 2024

  • Communities will continue to struggle to recover from the longest and most severe drought in four decades. Meanwhile, flooding could lead to further displacement and a higher risk of crop failures and water-borne disease.
  • The ongoing government offensive against al-Shabaab is likely to cause further harm, while ongoing political tensions could spiral into violence. 
  • A lack of humanitarian funding and security risks will create barriers that prevent humanitarians from reaching Somalians in need. 

How the IRC helps in Somalia

The IRC in Somalia is scaling up our programs to address drought and rising food insecurity, including expanding to new areas to meet severe needs. We provide health, nutrition, water and sanitation services, women’s protection and empowerment, and cash assistance to drought-affected populations across the country.

6. Mali

In Mali, security and economic crises have left 6.2 million people in need of humanitarian support. The recent withdrawal of the U.N. peacekeeping force has raised safety concerns, especially of renewed fighting between the government and Tuareg armed groups in northern Mali. Already, armed groups are besieging towns and cutting off humanitarian access while half of the country is living in poverty.

A woman walks through a dry landscape, barren except for a makeshift shelter in the background.

A woman near her tent in an informal displacement camp in Mali.

Photo: UNOCHA/Michele Cattani

Predictions for 2024

  • Food insecurity is set to increase as more cities are besieged or blockaded, with 200,000 children already at risk of death if humanitarian support does not reach them.
  • The departure of international peacekeepers and intensified violence will likely impede aid delivery and vital services, particularly in northern and central Mali.
  • Escalation in the conflict between the government, armed groups and Tuareg opposition groups in 2024 could severely increase harm to civilians.

How the IRC helps in Mali

Since 2012, the IRC has provided critical assistance to more than 2 million Malians displaced by conflict and facing severe food shortages in the areas of health, nutrition, economic recovery and development, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, and protection and governance. To help the country recover, the IRC is focusing our efforts on the Ménaka, Gao, Douentza, Mopti and Nara regions by providing emergency relief, supporting village savings and loan associations, and providing water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as health services.

5. Myanmar (Burma)

The conflict in Myanmar (Burma) has spread significantly since the military retook political power in 2021. In October 2023, three major armed groups resumed clashes with the government, putting state military forces under significant pressure and causing increased civilian harm. 18.6 million people in Myanmar are now in need of humanitarian assistance—nearly 19 times more than before the military takeover.

Over 335,000 people have had to flee their homes since the latest escalation began, leaving more than 2 million people displaced across the country. Security has rapidly deteriorated, with severe impacts on civilians and their access to basic services and humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, climate change means that communities in Myanmar are exposed to more frequent natural hazards, particularly cyclones.

A woman sits in a small house on stilts, smiling softly towards the camera.

Razia, who is eight months pregnant, sits in her home in Thae Chaung camp in Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha. [Pseudonym used for privacy]

Photo: Shin Thandar for the IRC

Predictions for 2024 

  • Civilians will pay the price as conflict intensifies and the military comes under increasing pressure.
  • Economic challenges, climate shocks and impaired public services will increase humanitarian needs.
  • Severe constraints on aid access will continue to prevent assistance from reaching vulnerable communities.

How the IRC helps in Myanmar

The IRC has been working in Myanmar since 2008 to deliver health, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as shelter programs for displaced, crisis-affected and vulnerable communities. Our current programming in Myanmar has a strong humanitarian focus and aims to reach people affected by the national crisis and escalating conflict that has spread across the country.

4. Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is facing rapidly growing and spreading violence as the Burkinabe military struggles to contain armed groups. Roughly half of the country is now outside government control, with armed groups including Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) blockading cities and towns and preventing residents from accessing basic goods and services.

A man sits on the floor of a home and stares in the distance while posing for a portrait.

Saouta Ousseni, 40, lives in Kaya displacement camp with 26 members of his family. Originally a farmer, Saouta fled home in 2021 when two of his family members were killed.

Photo: UNOCHA/Michele Cattani

Predictions for 2024

  • The increasing besiegement of towns by armed groups will drive humanitarian needs higher.
  • People will be increasingly at risk amid growing violence between the government and armed groups.
  • Harvests in 2024 are likely to be weak following poor rains in 2023, compounding the impacts of conflict and further deepening food insecurity.

How the IRC helps in Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, the IRC implements lifesaving interventions and emergency assistance in health, nutrition, safety, education and economic recovery. Our work in the country has a particular focus on working with local partners, mainly women-led organizations.

3. South Sudan

South Sudan has faced insecurity since its independence from Khartoum in 2011. Going into 2024, the war across the border in Sudan threatens to undermine South Sudan’s fragile economy and worsen political tensions. Meanwhile, an economic crisis and increased flooding have impacted families’ ability to put food on the table.

Currently, 9 million people in South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance. This amounts to 72% of the population.

A man and woman poses for a photo outside their home in South Sudan. Behind the man, a boy sits on a chair.

Riak Thon, 39, and his wife stand in front of their home in Jamjang, South Sudan. Riak participated in an IRC program that engages men on how they interact with the women in their lives.

Photo: Adrienne Suprenant for the IRC

Predictions for 2024

  • Tensions concerning South Sudan’s first presidential election, scheduled for December 2024, could threaten social and political cohesion. Already, violent clashes between armed groups have surged in the country’s north.
  • A fifth consecutive year of flooding could impact food production and drive hundreds of thousands from their homes.
  • The conflict in neighboring Sudan, combined with an intense economic crisis, is set to exacerbate rates of extreme poverty and food insecurity across South Sudan.

How the IRC helps in South Sudan

With more than 900 full-time staff members, the IRC in South Sudan provides critical primary and reproductive health, nutrition, environmental health, protection, and economic recovery and resilience services. We partner with national and state authorities, as well as local organizations, to strengthen health systems and support displaced populations.

2. Occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)

Gaza enters 2024 as the deadliest place for civilians in the world. Residents are enduring the brutal consequences of the latest round of conflict between Israel and Hamas, which is being fought without sufficient regard for the international laws and norms built to protect civilians even in the most dire circumstances.

Israeli forces began airstrikes and ground operations after Hamas launched a deadly ground incursion and rocket barrage on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, killing 1,200 people and taking over 200 hostages. Israeli operations have since caused severe destruction and widespread death and displacement throughout Gaza, particularly in the north, killing over 18,000 people at the time of publication (December 14, 2023). 

Diplomatic engagement brought about a temporary truce in late November 2023 and the release of some hostages, but fighting is likely to continue at least into early 2024. The oPt rises to its highest-ever position on the Emergency Watchlist because the humanitarian emergency will persist long after the fighting eventually stops.

A family embraces each other with looks of distress on their faces. In the foreground, a man holds a small child who looks on.

A Palestinian family mourns the death of eight relatives who were killed in an airstrike on Gaza City.

Photo: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Predictions for 2024

  • Airstrikes and fighting within Gaza have had a direct and devastating impact on civilians that will continue to grow as hostilities persist into 2024, at least.
  • The destruction of health, water, and sanitation infrastructure leaves Gaza’s health care system on the verge of collapse.
  • People living in Gaza will struggle to recover and rebuild their lives long after the fighting ends.
  • Escalating violence in the occupied West Bank will drive humanitarian needs. The conflict in Gaza has also sparked tensions on Israel’s border with Lebanon. 

How the IRC helps in the occupied Palestinian territory

The IRC and our partners in Gaza are working in hospitals to provide life-saving medical care and deliver critical medical supplies. This has included deploying an Emergency Medical Team (EMT), in partnership with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), to provide emergency medical care. Composed of trauma doctors, surgeons, pediatricians and water and sanitation experts, the team are offering surge and relief support to hospitals and providing life-saving medical care to injured Palestinians. 

The IRC is also supporting partners to deliver food and provide critical services in emergency shelters including cash assistance and psychosocial support for people to meet their basic needs.

Learn more about our response in Gaza

1. Sudan

The ongoing war between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces has propelled Sudan to the top of the 2024 Emergency Watchlist—and pushed the country to the brink of collapse. Less than a year of fighting has already more than doubled the number of people in need of humanitarian support. 

In Darfur, human rights groups have reported mass killings and forced displacement along ethnic lines. The crisis is expected to dramatically deteriorate through 2024, leaving millions with insufficient food and unable to access critical health and other services.

A mother and two daughters stare solemnly into the camera while posing for a portrait.

Aziza Ibrahim and her daughters are staying at a school that is operating as a shelter for people who have been displaced from Khartoum.

Photo: UNOCHA/Ala Kheir

Predictions for 2024

  • While fighting has been most intensely concentrated in Khartoum and Darfur, it is increasingly spreading to other parts of the country and drawing in a growing number of armed groups. There are limited prospects for an end to the conflict. 
  • Outbreaks of measles and cholera may continue to plague Sudan as its crippled health care system remains unable to respond to the country’s growing health crisis.
  • Sudan’s economic crisis has no end in sight. Nearly half of Sudan’s population is unemployed, all while battling hyperinflation and shortages of essential goods. 
  • Extreme levels of internal and external displacement will persist, driving impacts across the region. Already, 6.6 million people have been displaced within and outside Sudan due to the conflict.  

How the IRC helps in Sudan

The IRC has adapted its programs and scaled up its response to address increased humanitarian needs in Sudan, refocusing on the emergency needs of internally displaced people. We also provide integrated protection services to women and children, including gender-based violence survivors. We have launched new responses including multipurpose cash assistance and water, sanitation and hygiene services, and are aiming to expand our presence in new locations, such as Red Sea State and Darfur, to fill gaps in the humanitarian response.  

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