Humanitarian assistance: Germany is a generous donor

Two people with vests in a destroyed area, one man filming them with a camera.

Earthquake in Haiti, August 2021, © UN OCHA

30.11.2021 - Article

At the moment, about 274 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance as a result of armed conflict, extreme weather phenomena and COVID-19. Germany has for many years contributed considerable funds but also new ideas as to how the money can be used more effectively in this area.

Each December, with the Global Humanitarian Overview, an international work of reference, the United Nations provides NGOs and donors, including Germany, with an overview of what will be required in the coming year. This year is no exception. Right now, about 274 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance – contributing factors include crises such as in Afghanistan as well as climate change, which causes droughts and flooding. Since 2012, Germany has continuously increased its engagement in the area of humanitarian assistance. At the beginning of 2012, the Federal Government had earmarked 105 million euro for assistance. In 2021, as in previous years, Germany is the second-largest donor of humanitarian assistance worldwide, providing more than 2.5 billion euro. That is a twentyfold increase.

Where is the money used?

Three women are working with plant based materials.
The Philippine Red Cross helps with the harvest prior to the arrival of a typhoon.© Philippine Red Cross

Germany provides humanitarian assistance all over the world, particularly in the Middle East, including Yemen, but also in connection with the Syria crisis, for which 4.4 billion euro have been made available since 2012. Most recently, Germany mobilised an additional 600 million euro for Afghanistan and the surrounding region, to be used among other things for humanitarian assistance. Moreover, there are numerous crises unfolding away from the public eye, including the consequences of the civil war and persistent drought in Burundi, the earthquake in Haiti and the unrest in the Central African Republic. Here, too, Germany is providing humanitarian assistance.

How can the money be used even more effectively in future?

To support the work of the aid organisations and use the resources as efficiently and sensibly as possible, the Federal Government is making adjustments in various areas.

Looking ahead

Map of the world with some countries marked with a green color.
Humanitarian assistance of the Federal Foreign Office in 2021© AA

One example is anticipatory humanitarian assistance. This means that aid organisations anticipate disasters by evacuating people and livestock in good time, strengthening dams and protecting houses if specific warnings are given. This approach saves lives and in many cases also money: studies show that one euro – used in an anticipatory capacity – can save up to seven that would be necessary for humanitarian assistance in the wake of the disaster.

Since 2014, Germany has played an instrumental role in establishing the anticipatory assistance approach and intends to expand this approach further in cooperation with other countries within the context of its upcoming G7 Presidency.

Staying flexible

A second example of how humanitarian assistance could be improved is the so-called flexibilisation of funds. If money is tied to specific countries and purposes, humanitarian organisations can respond only very slowly to sudden crises. Germany wants to change this and has increased the proportion of flexible funds it provides from 11.2 percent to 37 percent (2020) since 2016. From 2022, Germany will also be represented in the Facilitation Group of the Grand Bargain, the largest international humanitarian assistance forum, and will work in this capacity to promote the reform of the humanitarian system.


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