The good news of 2021: milestones for optimism in the humanitarian field

Humanitarian organizations choose the lights of a year that has continued to be marked by the shadows of the pandemic, conflicts and disasters

MADRID, Dec 19 (.) –

The year 2021 will be remembered in the humanitarian field for the collateral effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entrenched conflicts, the virulence of natural disasters or the record figures of displacement, but also for other news that invite optimism and that demonstrate the importance of goodwill, especially in the political arena.

Thus, despite the fact that more and more boys and girls are forced to work – 160 million – and increasingly younger – half are between five and eleven years old – for the United Nations Children’s Fund, 2021 will be remembered as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, which resulted in September in the first binding agreement on the textile sector.

It is “another key step to eradicate exploitation in this sector”, in the words of Rocío Vicente Senra, specialist in Child Rights and Cooperation at UNICEF Spain, who warns of the special vulnerability of girls and advocates education as a “solid strategy prevention against child labor “.

Save the Children agrees with UNICEF that educational centers are key to the fight against this and other scourges, although for this they have to be open first – the pandemic has caused indiscriminate closures – and then be safe, an aspect the latter, which is advocated by the Declaration on Safe Schools, endorsed by 112 countries.

Michela Ranieri, an expert in foreign policy at Save the Children, points out that in 2021 this declaration “has had a great role”, both because of the training offered by Spain to some twenty countries and because of the holding of the international conference on this subject in Nigeria. It has never before taken place in a country “heavily affected by attacks on education.”

At the end of October, moreover, “the Security Council unanimously adopted the first resolution focused on the protection of education in armed conflict, condemning attacks against schools and urging countries to protect the right to the education of all boys and girls, “says Ranieri.


Migration has largely continued to drive humanitarian needs in 2021, with a record number of displaced persons and refugees – 82.4 million, according to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published in June. and around 4,500 people died on migration routes, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which assumes that the provisional figure is only the tip of the iceberg.

However, IOM Spain’s press officer, Oussama El Baradoui, highlights the other side of the coin, that of migrants who continued to send money to their countries of origin. The pandemic raised concerns that remittances would “decline sharply”, but in 2021 the World Bank has estimated a growth of 7.3 percent, to $ 589 billion.

“It is very good news,” underlines El Baradoui, who recalls that these shipments are a “lifeline” for families to meet their basic needs and, furthermore, stimulate local markets, “which is positively reflected in the GDP of those countries “.

The UNHCR spokesperson in Spain, María Jesús Vega, highlights for her part the “pride” of having seen a team of refugees parade at the Tokyo Olympics, as well as the “solidarity of ordinary people” with the attention of a particularly needy group, despite the fact that there is still “a large funding gap” in most projects, even in emergencies.

Statelessness has also dropped, with milestones such as the registration of baby births to Syrian women in Lebanon, while the number of young refugees enrolled in higher education has jumped from 1 to 5 percent. Although “we are still far from the goal of having 15 percent enrolled,” Vega calls for continuing along this path, taking into account that education is key so that these young people come out of marginalization and exploitation and can, if they decide to return, work for the future of their respective countries.


World Vision, for its part, highlights a milestone in the scientific field that could have consequences for millions of people in developing countries: The World Health Organization (WHO) approved in November the first vaccine against malaria in Africa, ” a historic advance “in the opinion of the NGO.

The head of World Vision for southern Africa, Mark Kelly, warns that “every day” children under the age of five continue to die from “a preventable disease”, so that the vaccine could save “thousands” of lives. In Malawi alone, six million cases of malaria are reported each year and its government has committed to including the new drug in vaccination plans.

Ethiopia has also lived through a year of lights and shadows, since while a war is being waged in the north in which, according to the UN, all parties have violated Human Rights and there is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, at a general level there is has highlighted the importance of recovering degraded lands.

The annual period of famine has been reduced from 3.6 to 1.4 months. The arid lands development program, started in 2013, has helped 60,000 farmers and reclaim some 50,000 hectares, with “spectacular” results in the opinion of World Vision.

With 2022 still to be written, humanitarian organizations agree that it will be necessary to redouble efforts and not lower our guard at any time. Not surprisingly, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) predicts that 274 million people in 63 countries need help, a figure without historical precedent.

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