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Missed Opportunities and Unfulfilled Promises: A Grim Look at Global Humanitarian Efforts

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, holds his last press conference as Emergency Relief Coordinator at UN Headquarters.| UN Photo/Mark Garten
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, holds his last press conference as Emergency Relief Coordinator at UN Headquarters.| UN Photo/Mark Garten

By: Ahmed Fathi

United Nations: In his final Press Conference, Martin Griffith, the outgoing head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), provided a sobering overview of the current global humanitarian landscape, particularly focusing on the crises in Gaza and Sudan. Responding to questions, Griffith highlighted the immense challenges and the lost opportunities in international humanitarian efforts, while also providing insights into the complex dynamics that hinder effective aid delivery.

Griffith began by expressing the privilege he felt in serving as the head of OCHA, a role he will vacate at the end of June. Reflecting on the state of global humanitarian needs, he revealed a stark statistic: approximately 300 million people worldwide currently require humanitarian assistance, a figure that reflects both the increasing frequency and severity of crises. Despite the best efforts of humanitarian workers, only 17% of the necessary funding has been received this year, leaving critical gaps in aid delivery.

Griffith's commentary painted a dire picture, particularly for regions like Gaza and Sudan. In Gaza, he detailed the dire conditions, especially in the southern area of Rafah and the central region, where tens of thousands of Palestinians are struggling to survive. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is exacerbated by limited access to essential supplies like fuel and food. Griffith underscored the near-impossible task of planning effective humanitarian operations under such conditions, citing the looting of aid trucks and the critical shortage of functional hospitals. The situation, he lamented, is "unplannable" and fraught with insecurity, making it exceedingly difficult to provide the needed aid to the millions affected.

In Sudan, Griffith described a rapidly deteriorating situation, with around 5 million people at risk of famine due to ongoing conflict. He emphasized the severe implications of failing to deliver seeds to farmers in time for planting, which would result in harvest failures and exacerbate food insecurity. The conflict in Sudan, largely driven by two rival factions, has plunged the country into a humanitarian disaster, with widespread displacement and famine looming on the horizon.

Griffith also touched on the broader implications of these crises, highlighting the limited attention and resources available to address multiple, simultaneous global emergencies. He expressed a profound sense of unfulfilled work, noting that the world is a worse place now than when he took up his position in 2021. He stressed the critical role of humanitarian diplomacy, citing successes like the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but lamented the overall failure to resolve conflicts through dialogue and negotiation.

Addressing a question from Ahmed Fathi of ATN News about missed opportunities, Griffith pointed to Afghanistan as a significant example. He noted that despite initial efforts to maintain basic services and prevent a mass exodus following the Taliban's takeover, there were missed opportunities for further engagement and investment in the country's economy. Griffith suggested that more could have been done to foster stability and development in Afghanistan, emphasizing the importance of economic attention as a key entry point for sustained engagement.

In concluding his remarks, Griffith offered advice for his successor, stressing the importance of balancing crisis response with proactive efforts to change the way humanitarian operations are conducted. He highlighted the need for more aggressive approaches to address impunity and ensure the safety of aid workers, as well as the importance of open and secure routes for aid delivery in conflict zones like Gaza and Sudan.

Griffith's briefing was a stark reminder of the immense challenges facing the global humanitarian community. His reflections underscored the urgent need for concerted international efforts to address the root causes of these crises, ensure the protection of civilians, and enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian aid delivery in some of the world's most troubled regions.


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