Mbyuo Antionette (43) was in her field farming the day of the attack in her village in Tanganyika province, DR Congo. She hid in the field and later walked for three days to another village. There she found 10 of her 11 children. But her stepdaughter was taken by the militia. Photo: NRC/Christian Jepsen

Three crises we cannot ignore in 2019

Jan Egeland, NRC Secretary General|Published 10. Jan 2019
The international community must brace itself for deepening and largely neglected emergencies in 2019.

This opinion piece was previously published by Al Jazeera.

The year 2018 is about to end with seemingly little having been achieved to resolve major crises around the world. Syrians continued to try to flee their country as conflict raged on. Over the summer, millions faced a potential offensive on Idlib province, which could have resulted in a major humanitarian catastrophe.

In Africa, South Sudan's peace deal sparked a moment of joy for civilians, but its provisions are yet to be implemented. Further east in Bangladesh, close to a million Rohingya refugees were trapped in limbo, too scared of persecution to return to Myanmar.

The year also witnessed large waves of people forced to flee their homes in Ethiopia, Venezuela, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

And as we look ahead into 2019, there are at least three major crises that are likely to get a lot worse.

Continuing displacement in Cameroon

For a long time, Cameroon has been providing a safe haven for people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) and Nigeria, but the country has its own simmering crisis.

Several armed groups have sprung up to fight for independence in English-speaking parts of Cameroon since October 2017, which has resulted in severe security clampdowns in these areas. The situation deteriorated rapidly during the last six months, partly because of the 2018 presidential elections and movement restrictions on civilians. The displacement of more than 400,000 people attracted little international media attention and there was little diplomatic effort to ease the tensions.

A disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration committee has been set up by the Cameroonian government, and a presidential decree has been issued authorising the release of some people detained during the clashes. But the upcoming local elections in 2019 could see the crisis escalate further. It could also spill over to neighbouring Nigeria - a dreadful scenario.

At the same time, given that Cameroon is not identified as a hotspot by the international community, little funding will be committed to addressing the crisis, which would affect not only Cameroonians but also displaced people from CAR and northeast Nigeria.

Yemen's looming famine

This year saw the war in Yemen hammer civilians harder than ever, after three years of armed conflict had already decimated infrastructure, public services and uprooted two million people from their homes.

We, the agencies on the ground in Yemen, warn collectively of an impending famine. This mass starvation will not be caused by failed harvests or natural disasters. In Yemen, civilians are being slowly starved to death by a man-made catastrophe. The warfare, access restrictions and sanctions imposed on the civilian population by the warring parties and the nations propping them are solely to blame.

Peace talks in Stockholm earlier this month led to a long overdue ceasefire agreement for the crucial port city of Hodeidah. However, millions of women, men and children in dire need are yet to see the effects of the agreements on the ground in Yemen, where clashes are still ongoing.

The UK, United States, France, Iran and other powers that support parties to the conflict in Yemen's must use their influence to bring about a permanent end to the violence.

Parties to this conflict already have blood on their hands. Next year, they risk bearing responsibility for a famine that could affect millions, if the agreements made in Stockholm are not put into effect immediately.

The DRC's forgotten crisis

The Democratic Republic of the Congo saw pockets of insecurity spread like wildfire to entire regions in 2018. Inter-communal violence escalated in the previously peaceful province of Ituri. Countless armed groups continue to fight each other and attack civilians in the east and central parts of this vast country. In the few cases when families were able to return to their homes, they face such destruction that they need aid to survive.

In addition to spiralling violence, hunger levels soared this year. In 2018, DRC saw a 100 percent increase in food insecurity compared with 2017.

Global attention will momentarily shift to the troubled nation on December 30 as the Congolese people head to the polls to elect a new president, but the country will not stay under the media spotlight for long.

The DRC's mega-crisis is likely to go largely underreported in 2019, as the situation continues to deteriorate. Countless more people will edge towards starvation. Unless violence and displacement end and the humanitarian response is strengthened, many parents will watch their children die from malnutrition and preventable diseases.

Humanitarian aid can somewhat alleviate the suffering of Congolese, Yemeni and Cameroonian people, but only if donor countries step up their funding and warring factions give us access to communities caught up in conflict. That said, only political solutions to these conflicts can really prevent the impending human catastrophes.

It is unthinkable that so many people can starve to death in a world that has the means and the technology to feed everyone. These are all preventable deaths in a world of plenty and it will weigh on our conscience if we don't prevent them.