A record 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year, an increase of 40% from 2020 due to the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN’s emergency relief chief said on Tuesday.

“The picture we are presenting is the bleakest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs in the period ahead that we have ever set out,” Mark Lowcock, the UN’s head of humanitarian affairs told journalists.

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked carnage across the world and is affecting fragile and vulnerable countries.

“The COVID-19 crisis has plunged millions of people into poverty and has sent humanitarian needs skyrocketing,” said Lowcock.

He even warned about the outbreak of multiple famines in the next year.

“Next year, we will need $35 billion to stave off famine, fight poverty, and keep children vaccinated and in school,” he added.

Lowcock said the world can make 2021 the year of the grand reversal and work together to make sure people defeat pandemic.

He said this year’s Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) aims to reach 160 million most vulnerable people in 56 countries at the cost of $35 billion.

Richer countries have invested around $10 trillion in staving off economic disaster from the COVID-induced slump.

Funds will also be used from the UN’s Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to tackle rising violence against women and girls linked to the pandemic, said Lowcock.

He said climate change and rising global temperatures have further contributed to the bleak outlook for humanitarian needs in 2021.

The UN official said their impact was most acute in the countries which have also got the most prominent humanitarian problems.

“Indeed, eight of the 10 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are ones where humanitarian agencies have got a huge amount of work to do already, “he said.

In a video message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted that the humanitarian system again proved its worth in 2020 by delivering food, medicines, shelter, education, and other essentials to tens of millions of people.

“But the crisis is far from over. Humanitarian aid budgets face dire shortfalls as the impact of the global pandemic continues to worsen. Together, we must mobilize resources and stand in solidarity with people in their darkest hour of need, “he said.

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