Disease. Drought. Conflict. It is not your imagination; there are more emergencies today than in years past. Storms are growing more frequent and extreme in some regions, while other areas are becoming more arid, with growing seasons disappearing before farmers’ eyes. More competition for scarce resources means more displacement and more conflict.
2021 saw a 40% increase in people in need of humanitarian response — the largest in decades. In 2022, that number jumped again, by nearly 17%. As I write this, FHI 360 is fielding humanitarian responses in some of the world’s most challenging hot spots, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ukraine and Yemen.
In our experience, delivering aid and support in fragile settings is anything but straightforward — it requires continual adaptivity, out-of-the-box thinking and close collaboration with local community members, partners and other humanitarian organizations. Drawing upon our longstanding expertise in the development space, FHI 360 teams act quickly, connecting people in need to lifesaving and life-sustaining support.
“Many organizations implement water and sanitation only, health only or nutrition only,” observes Folarin Akilo, an FHI 360 senior technical health officer working in northeast Nigeria. “The fact that we can implement across four sectors makes service delivery more efficient. It means we provide wider and more comprehensive support to people whose needs vary widely.”
In the area where Akilo works, most health care facilities have been destroyed by rising insurgent groups. People displaced by conflict arrive at FHI 360 displacement centers needing basics like food and shelter. Beyond that, their needs vary greatly. Some have survived gender-based violence or have gone weeks with scant meals. It is at these critical moments that our trained team members can rapidly assess an individual’s condition and address their needs, either by providing care directly or by referring the individual to a trusted peer organization that offers more specialized support.
“Coordination amplifies our efforts,” says Solomon Atuman, an FHI 360 nutrition coordinator working in Nigeria’s Borno state. “When partners coordinate well, we tend to get a much better result and a more effective service delivery. Since we have a large continuum of care around us, we can work faster.”
Collaboration among humanitarians — and with our development colleagues — has never been more urgent. More and more often, the communities FHI 360 works alongside are finding themselves coming up against unexpected crises. The challenges we face are bigger than any single organization. Those that are living through emergencies provide the first, and greatest, insights into what is most urgently needed.
Since 2012, FHI 360 has worked in Ukraine, supporting people living with HIV. Much of our work centered around diagnostics and treatment, as well as engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. Our team members in Ukraine foster economic growth and conduct international visitors’ exchanges. When war broke out, we reached out to our local partners, who immediately stepped in and worked with us to stand up our humanitarian response.
Similarly, when conflict broke out in Ethiopia, FHI 360 teams undertaking longstanding development activities were able to tap into existing relationships with the country’s Ministry of Health and swiftly gain access to hard-to-reach areas. In the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions we created new mobile health and nutrition clinics and began restoring water systems and other civilian infrastructure.
“Working closely with community volunteers, we identified children and women needing emergency health and nutrition support,” says Kenneth Otieno Awuor, FHI 360’s deputy crisis response coordinator in Ethiopia. “At the same time, we began to provide protection services for survivors of gender-based violence. Bringing a wide range of resources together ensures greater efficiency and ease of access for people who need assistance. Survivors can find the support they need all at the same place.”
At FHI 360, we work to improve lives in lasting ways — and this includes protecting people’s health and well-being when circumstances around them take a sudden turn. As more and more countries fall into crisis, whether brought on by conflict, natural disaster or both, we are committed to being steadfast partners. When crisis occurs or disaster strikes, it is our mandate to lean into our expansive expertise and craft a humanitarian response that will meet urgent needs while building a foundation for sustainable recovery.