GENEVA - The United Nations is appealing for a record $35 billion to provide a humanitarian lifeline to 165 million of the world's most vulnerable, needy people in 56 countries.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock calls the crisis gripping the world one of the bleakest and darkest ever experienced by a huge slice of humanity.
"That is a reflection of the fact that the COVID pandemic has wreaked havoc across the whole of the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet," he said. " Those where humanitarian organizations are most involved in their day-to-day work."
Lowcock says this disaster comes on top of escalating and protracted conflicts and increasing extreme weather events including storms, floods and drought due to climate change.
"Those two things together, together now with disease outbreak are what has caused this huge increase over recent years in the number of people who may not survive in the absence of humanitarian assistance."
The United Nations reports 235 million people globally will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021. This is an increase of 40 percent in one year. This past year has been particularly difficult. The number of people displaced by conflict in 2020 both as refugees and internally displaced has reached a record high of 85 million.
U.N agencies report extreme hunger is surging globally, with several countries and areas on the brink of famine. Four that are most at risk include Yemen, Burkina Faso, South Sudan and northern Nigeria.
Lowcock says the COVID-19 crisis has plunged millions of people into poverty and sent humanitarian needs skyrocketing. While the rich world can see the light at the end of the tunnel, he says the same cannot be said for the poorest countries.
He is appealing to the humanity and generosity of international donors to safeguard the lives of those who cannot fend for themselves.