The top 10 crises the world should be watching for 2019

The International Rescue Committee’s emergency response experts have ranked the countries most at risk of humanitarian catastrophe next year. While there are 21 countries on the list, we’ll break down the top 10, which account for approximately half of the internally displaced people and two-thirds of refugees across the globe.

“2018 was a devastating year for millions around the world, with more people displaced from their homes than ever before,” said Bob Kitchen, the IRC’s Vice President for Emergencies. “In many of the world’s most challenging places, armed conflict and man-made crisis mean life will get worse and not better in 2019.”

These are the top 10 countries experiencing—or on the brink of—the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

10. Somalia

A young boy lies on a cot in the Mogadishu hospital where he is being treated for malnutrition
Photo: Will Swanson/IRC

Somalia has been plagued by ongoing conflict for decades. Precipitated by instability and insecurity, and combined with persistent natural disasters, the crisis has left over 2.6 million Somalis internally displaced and 870,000 registered as refugees. 

Outlook for 2019: Somalia will likely remain unstable, conflict-affected and food-insecure throughout 2019. While a major Al-Shabab resurgence is unlikely, people will continue to be uprooted from their homes due to ongoing conflict.

9. Ethiopia

Aman Yassin, 12, waits at a water point to fill his jerrycans
Photo: Mulugeta Ayene/IRC

Ethiopia is experiencing increased internal conflict, which saw 1.4 million people displaced internally in the first half of 2018 — more than in any other country. This has been intensified by tensions between regional political and ethnic groups since new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office and started to introduce reform.

Outlook for 2019: Politics will remain volatile with a high likelihood of further conflict along ethnic lines, sparking major displacements and food insecurity, which will be compounded if poor rain and harvests continue.

8. Nigeria

Girls inside  a classroom in Maiduguri, Nigeria
Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

During 2018, Nigeria has experienced persistent attacks from armed groups as well as communal violence exacerbated by competition for water and land resources. As a result, Over 2 million Nigerians have been displaced internally and 230,000 have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

Outlook for 2019: Violence could intensify, triggering more displacements and exacerbating food insecurity for millions of Nigerians. The presidential election in February 2019 may also have a destabilizing impact and could spark greater conflict, leading to further displacement.

7. Syria

A family huddles in the dark in their basement shelter in East Ghouta, Syria
Photo: Abdullah Hammam/IRC

Syria has been plagued by armed conflict since protests against the government erupted in 2011. Since then, much of Syria has been shattered by the war, with health and education services collapsing. 6.2 million Syrians remain internally displaced and 5.6 million are registered as refugees in the region. 

Outlook for 2019: Northwest Syria remains at risk of major displacements and further destruction of infrastructure in 2019, as conflict persists. Civilians may be vulnerable to airstrikes and have few options of places to flee to.

6. Central African Republic

An IRC health worker examines a young child suffering from malnutrition as people return to their village after fleeing fighting. 
Photo: David Belluz/IRC

The Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced persistent instability since armed groups overthrew the government in 2013, exacerbating the situation in a country that was already under-developed. Despite efforts to bring armed groups into dialogue, many civilians remain at their mercy. Over 550,000 people also face emergency levels of food insecurity.

Outlook for 2019: Conflicts resulting in further displacement and food insecurity are likely to persist in CAR. With an already vulnerable population, even relatively minor conflicts or natural events will have major humanitarian implications threatening lives.

5. Venezuela

A young family who fled Venezuela
Photo: Iris Ebert/IRC

Economic collapse in Venezuela has driven at least 3 million people from the country, largely because they can no longer afford to feed their families. It has also led to a rapid rise in criminality and violence and a collapse of the health system, contributing to the spread of diseases like measles and diphtheria. 

Outlook for 2019: Venezuela’s economic crisis is only likely to worsen in 2019. Unless the government shifts direction radically and introduces economic reforms, diseases will continue to spread and people will be without food and forced to flee the country.

4. Afghanistan

Zainab, 23, in a tent with her two children
Photo: Haseeb Khalid/IRC

Afghanistan has seen persistent conflict since 2001. Once on the brink of defeat, the Taliban has been steadily advancing since 2014. This conflict, paired with chronic drought, has led to widespread displacement and food insecurity. Complicating matters, 2018 saw over half a million Afghan refugees return from Iran, many of them forcibly.

Outlook for 2019: Presidential elections due in April 2019 will coincide with the start of the spring fighting season, and are likely to prompt increased Taliban violence. Conflict-driven displacements will increase. The number of people facing food insecurity is also expected to rise due to continued violence and fallout from a 2017-2018 drought.

3. South Sudan

A child has their measurements taken in IRC's malnutrition stabilization center in Panthou, South Sudan.
Photo: Charles Lomodong/IRC

South Sudan has been in the grip of civil war since it gained independence in 2012, which has seen an estimated 380,000 casualties. While conflict has reduced due to a fragile peace agreement, violence persists throughout the country, leading to 1.96 million people displaced internally, 2.47 million refugees, and 6.1 million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse.

Outlook for 2019: Even without an escalation in fighting, a significant proportion of South Sudanese will struggle to get enough food. If the peace deal holds, localized conflict will likely continue to displace tens of thousands of civilians, given the threats to their safety from the activities of armed groups. A collapse of the peace deal could lead to a re-escalation in the conflict and a drastic rise in humanitarian need.

2. Democratic Republic of Congo

A health worker is dressed in full personal protective equipment to disinfect Case Du Salut health facility in Mabalako, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

At least two decades of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo have led to extreme instability across large parts of the country. 13.1 million people are experiencing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity. Recent displacement figures are contested, but the United Nations counted 4.5 million internally displaced in 2017. Congo is also witnessing the second largest Ebola outbreak in history.

Outlook for 2019: Tensions around the presidential election due in December 2018 mean that 2019 is likely to begin with intense political disagreements, protests and possibly growing militia violence. This will drive rising displacements and food insecurity, given the resulting disruption to harvests, while Ebola will continue to spread.

1. Yemen

A young girl sits on the ground in a village in Yemen
Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

Yemen has been embroiled in a bitter civil war since 2015 as the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition supports the government of President Hadi against the Houthi movement that controls the capital, Sanaa. 24 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance and the United Nations warned in late 2018 that the country risked facing a “massive famine.” According to the most recent assessments, 63,500 Yemenis are experiencing catastrophe levels of food insecurity. Yemen is also home to the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, with over one million affected.

Outlook for 2019: The civil war and associated humanitarian catastrophe are highly likely to persist in 2019, with food insecurity already rising. As airstrikes continue to hit civilian areas and medical facilities, it will be increasingly difficult for humanitarian organizations to deliver aid, help people uprooted from their homes, and address the widespread malnutrition. If dialogue efforts fail and the coalition launches an offensive to seize control of the port city of Hodeidah, which brings in 70 percent of all imports, another 250,000 people could “lose everything—even their lives,” the U.N. warns.

Learn more

The IRC, which helps to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster is responding to the humanitarian consequences of the crises in all 10 countries. The full 2019 Emergency Watchlist will help us make informed decisions about where to focus our efforts in the coming year. As these crises evolve, we will continue to track them and provide lifesaving assistance and humanitarian aid to those in need across the globe.

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Belgrade Court Acquits Suspects In 2008 Attack On U.S. Embassy

Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 1/19/2019

A Serbian court has acquitted the suspects in the 2008 arson attack on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.

U.S. Embassy Belgrade Attack February 2008

The Appeals Court of Belgrade said on January 16 that it had overturned suspended prison sentences for four suspects and confirmed an earlier acquittal of three other people by a lower court.

Prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence to back the indictment, a statement said.

Demonstrators tried to storm the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and set part of it ablaze in February 2008 as tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the Serbian capital to protest Kosovo’s declaration of independence a few days earlier.

A 20-year-old man died in the incident, which has burdened relations between Washington and Belgrade for years.

Dozens of people were injured in the violence, which also included attacks on several European embassies but caused less damage.

The United States has been a strong advocate of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia and was among the first countries to recognize the new state.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence.

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Greek Police Arrest 8 in US Embassy Paint Attack

Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 01/08/2019

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police say they have detained eight people after the U.S. Embassy in Athens was vandalized with paint.
Police said Monday the eight were detained after about 10 people on motorbikes threw red paint at the embassy’s parking entrance at around 3:30 a.m. local time. An anarchist group known as Rouvikonas claimed responsibility for the attack in an internet post.

It cited “American imperialism” as well as Greece’s deal with neighbouring Macedonia for the latter to change its name to North Macedonia in return for NATO membership, and the recent US decision to pull out of Syria, a move it said delivers Kurdish forces there “to the semi-fascist state of Turkey.”


Rouvikonas has carried out similar paint attacks in the past against embassies, Greek state organisations and political party offices.

us embassy paint attack

————–Back Story From AFP

Two Greek anarchists were arrested Monday after hurling red paint at the US embassy in Athens, police said.

A further eight members of the Rubicon Anarchist Collective were also detained but later released over the incident, which caused minor material damage but no injuries, police added.

The Greek foreign ministry condemned an action it said undermined “longstanding friendly relations between the two peoples and the strategic relationship between Greece and the United States (which is) crucial for our country and the region.”

The Rubicon group, which regards Washington’s interventions in numerous regions including the nearby Balkans as “imperialism”, arrived outside the embassy in the early hours and sprayed the entrance before police intervened.

Another gripe is the planned US withdrawal of troops from Syria, which the group said would “abandon the Kurds into Syria’s hands”.

Rubicon has carried out a number of similar acts on embassies, banks and public buildings in recent years, causing some material damage but no injury.

Last October, the group daubed paint over the facade of the Canadian embassy to protest the presence of a Canadian gold mining firm in northern Greece.

A month earlier, Rubicon targeted the Iranian embassy in “solidarity” with Iranian Kurds. Media reports say it plans to join a January 17 meeting of other anarchist organisations in Rome.

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Colombia Investigates a Possible Plot to Assassinate President

By The Associated Press

Diplomatic Security Sit-Rep 01/02/2019

Diplomatic Security Situation Report

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombia is investigating a possible plot to assassinate President Ivan Duque that may involve Venezuelan nationals arrested while carrying “weapons of war,” according to a top official.

Without providing evidence or any further details, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes posted a 90-second video on Twitter Saturday night that said Colombia’s intelligence services had been hearing chatter about alleged plans to kill Mr. Duque, a conservative.

He said the recent arrests of three Venezuelans who had assault weapons in their possession had heightened the authorities’ concern.

Mini Uzi

“With immense concern and the utmost condemnation, I want to inform the international community that, in effect, for the past several months intelligence investigations have been taking place about possible attacks on the president’s life,” Mr. Holmes said in the video.

Embedded video

Carlos Holmes Trujillo@CarlosHolmesTru

ATENCIÓN: Rechazo enérgicamente posibles atentados contra la vida del Presidente @IvanDuque3,1936:21 PM – Dec 29, 20183,575 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

The video did not say whether the authorities had verified the existence of a conspiracy.

Blu Radio reported that the Venezuelans, who were arrested in the cities of Valledupar and Barranquilla this month, had in their possession an assault rifle with a telescopic scope, as well as an Uzi, ammunition and stun grenade.


Blu, citing unidentified sources, said any plot would have likely had the support of armed Colombian leftist rebels or drug-trafficking organizations, and would have been timed to coincide next month with the start of the second term of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.

There was no immediate reaction from Venezuela’s government.

In his video, Mr. Holmes appealed to Colombians to share any information that could affect the president’s safety. He expressed appreciation for the cooperation of unidentified foreign intelligence agencies for helping to protect the Colombian president.

Mr. Duque, 42, who took office in August, has been leading a diplomatic effort in Latin America to isolate Venezuela’s socialist government as Mr. Maduro looks set to cement his hold on power amid a devastating economic crisis that has spurred millions of Venezuelans to flee to neighboring countries to escape widespread food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.

The Colombian leader has been a strong critic of the socialist government of Mr. Maduro, whom he has called a “dictator.”

The two neighboring countries have had tense relations for years, with soldiers and helicopters from the Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela regularly crossing the porous border into Colombia.

Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and other nations have struggled with the strain of thousands of desperate Venezuelans pouring into border towns.

Colombia, the United States and other governments have said that Mr. Maduro’s election victory in May, amid an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging, was illegitimate.

They have urged the embattled leader to call new elections in which all of his opponents, several of whom have been exiled or banned from holding office, be allowed to run.

Mr. Maduro has been ratcheting up his rhetoric against Colombia in recent weeks, accusing his neighbor of plotting with the United States to violently oust him from power. He accused Colombia of helping “terrorists” after an attempted armed drone attack in August. Colombia has denied the accusations.

In a notable rebuke in September, five Latin American countries and Canada urged the International Criminal Court to consider prosecuting senior officials in Venezuela for extensive human rights abuses, the first time that member nations had referred another member to the tribunal.

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