Highlighted results

More than € 387 million available for life-saving aid and restoring dignity

Resolution on conflict and hunger adopted

Strengthened capacity of local partners

Greater and better use of data for quick assessment

Additional sources

Policy document

Read the humanitarian aid policy document

Theory of Change - Humanitarian aid

View the humanitarian aid Theory of Change - Autumn 2018


In recent years, the number of people in need as a result of ongoing conflicts and natural disasters has increased. The increase in needs and complexity of humanitarian crises requires a flexible and powerful humanitarian system that can respond effectively.

The Netherlands worked with UN organisations, the ICRC, the Red Cross, the START fund and the Dutch Relief Alliance to offer life-saving help. Specific attention was paid to vulnerable groups, such as women, children, differently-abled people or people with mental health problems. The Netherlands used its political influence to represent the interests of people in need and to ensure that humanitarian organisations are able to do their work unhindered. Within humanitarian aid, additional attention was given to mental health and psychosocial care . In addition, the Netherlands tightened its agreements with partners on ethical codes, reporting inappropriate behaviour, particularly of a sexual nature, and preventing it in the future.

Finally, the Netherlands is committed to strengthening the humanitarian response and humanitarian system. In order to increase transparency in the sector, both humanitarian partners and donors were encouraged to share data on aid via open sources (IATI). Furthermore, the Netherlands only supports programmes that adhere to UN cluster coordination and international standards, in order to avoid duplication between programmes and gaps in service delivery. Lastly, humanitarian response is strengthened by ongoing innovation as a way to increase efficiency of spending and effectiveness of humanitarian aid.

Results 2018

In 2018, more than 134 million people were dependent on humanitarian aid, 101 million of whom were reached. The Netherlands made funding available to the best-suited organisations to provide humanitarian aid in protracted crisis situations in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Acute programmes were also supported (tsunami in Indonesia, extreme drought in Afghanistan and refugees from Venezuela).

To enable aid workers to do their work, the Netherlands requires adherence to humanitarian principles and compliance with International Humanitarian Law. The Netherlands initiated a resolution in the UN Security Council that ensures quicker responses from the international community in the event of life-threatening food insecurity in conflict situations. See also the section on Crisis response.

The Netherlands contributed to more efficient and effective systems so that humanitarian organisations can respond better to crises. It also advocated a more central role for local actors. In addition, efforts were made to increase transparency, co-ordination of aid and innovation. See also the sections on Preparedness and Strengthening the humanitarian system.

Result areas

Crisis response Preparedness Effective humanitarian system

Featured project humanitarian aid

Dutch Surge Support (DSS) Water

DSS is a partnership between the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Red Cross and the Netherlands Water Partnership. Its aim is to deploy Dutch experts on(drinking) water and sanitation at international humanitarian organisations, such as UNHCR, UNICEF, WHO, IOM, ICRC, IFRC, Oxfam GB and the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. In 2018, 33 missions took place.

Twenty experts worked on improving drinking water and sanitation facilities in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. At the request of UNHCR, DSS experts carried out a feasibility study on the construction of a dam and water reservoir. Construction of the dam is due to be financed by the Asian Development Bank. DSS Water experts were also deployed in crisis areas in Nigeria, Uganda, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Papua New Guinea and Afghanistan.

The experts are provided by the Dutch drinking water companies, engineering firms or are independent businesses.

Dutch Surge Support (DSS) Water
DSS in Bangladesh

Read the interview with DSS water expert Jeroen Helder about his mission to Bangladesh.

Crisis response

People fleeing violence from and against IS and the destruction of their cities and villages in Mosul, Iraq. Credit: Cordaid

Emergency aid in crises and conflicts

In 2018, $ 24.9 billion was needed to provide humanitarian aid to 101 million people worldwide. The Netherlands contributed to this by making financial resources available and by deploying experts via the UN. To enable humanitarian partners to respond quickly to crises and disasters, 57% of Dutch funding was unearmarked. This also facilitates responses to crises that receive less international attention. The Netherlands exerted political influence to protect the interests of people in need. Finally, attention was given to the importance of integrating mental health and psychosocial care in emergency aid.

Open result area

People fleeing violence from and against IS and the destruction of their cities and villages in Mosul, Iraq. Credit: Cordaid

The Netherlands supports organisations that provide emergency aid and use humanitarian norms and standards as a foundation. Specific attention is paid to vulnerabilities of (pregnant) women, children, differently-abled people, elderly and people with mental health problems. Oftentimes, these vulnerabilities are exposed and enhanced in time of conflict and crisis.

The aim of humanitarian programmes is to save lives, restore dignity and make people more resilient to future disasters. To achieve this, the Netherlands works with organisations that can deliver or scale up aid within a matter of days. All humanitarian organisations funded by the Netherlands provide timely humanitarian aid. When a specific crisis response is required, the partner best positioned to provide aid is chosen on the basis of needs, expertise, presence, the nature of the crisis and response capacity.

Humanitarian crises often induce risks to mental health, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and reducing the resilience of those affected. The Netherlands therefore calls for more attention to mental health and psychosocial care in the humanitarian response.

Humanitarian diplomacy, focusing on the interests of crisis victims, is essential for the protection of civilians, for unimpeded humanitarian access to crisis areas and for ensuring the safety of relief workers and medical personnel. This means that we are constantly seeking opportunities to form coalitions and to advocate for the principles of international humanitarian law to be respected. In doing so we claim space for humanitarian actors to safely reach people who are directly dependent on emergency aid.



Number of people reached with humanitarian assistance


On track

In 2018, the Netherlands supported UN organisations, the ICRC, the Netherlands Red Cross and the Dutch Relief Alliance in reaching people in need.

In 2018, the Netherlands supported various international UN and aid organisations. These organisations help people in need with food parcels, clean drinking water, medical and obstetric help, but also with training in the field of child protection in crisis areas.

A total of more than € 387 million was made available to implement programmes in conflict areas or following natural disasters, such as tsunamis and severe drought.

An important indicator for monitoring humanitarian aid is the number of people reached. Exact numbers are difficult to determine, because different organisations sometimes reach the same people with different forms of aid. The Netherlands calculates reach by dividing the total number of people reached by the Dutch share in the total funding to its partners.

Contributions to humanitarian aid were largely unearmarked, which means that the decision on how to allocate the funds is delegated to the partners. This enables humanitarian organisations to respond quickly and flexibly.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reached a total of 62 million people, of which 422,000 can be attributed to Dutch funding. UNHCR, which is charged with the registration, shelter and care of refugees, reached more than 800,000 people through Dutch funding. The UN funds reached 3.2 million people in the Central African Republic, Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen. DRA reached more than 4.4 million people, in countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Nigeria. DRA also responded to acute needs in Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.


Integration of mental health and psychosocial care in the humanitarian response


On track

Mental health and psychosocial care is a priority in the Netherlands' policy on humanitarian aid.

Mental health and psychosocial care is a priority in the Netherlands' policy on humanitarian aid. Over the past year, the Netherlands has therefore continued to support relevant international organisations that provide this service in humanitarian crises worldwide. The Netherlands also continued to support specific projects in the field of mental health and psychosocial care in Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries.

The Netherlands attaches great importance to mental health and psychosocial care for those affected by conflict, violence and natural disasters. Its efforts in this respect are made at various levels.

During bilateral discussions and at international forums, the Netherlands advocated the importance of mental health and psychosocial care in humanitarian aid. For example, the Netherlands co-organised an important side event to the UN Security Council, which was attended by 500 diplomats and experts. The Netherlands also attended the Global Summit on Mental Health in London and started preparations for an international conference in Amsterdam.

The quality of relief work is raised through capacity building and scaling up the services provided by the Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Network (MHPSS). The Netherlands is therefore funding a Mental Health Minimum Service Package implemented by UNICEF, WHO and UNHCR.

Finally, the Netherlands has set up an informal donor group with the United Kingdom. This will enable us to collectively argue in favour of scaling up funding and making better use of existing funding for MHPSS. At present, 10 donors have signed up.


Advocacy of humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law


On track

The Netherlands draws attention to violations of international humanitarian law.

The Netherlands is committed to protecting civilians during a crisis, unimpeded humanitarian access, the safety of aid workers and respect for international humanitarian law(IHL). As a member of the UN Security Council in 2018, the Netherlands contributed to a resolution to combat the use of hunger as a weapon of war. The Netherland has called relevant actors to conflict in Myanmar, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo to respect international humanitarian law.

Humanitarian principles are under increasing pressure and violations of international humanitarian law(IHL) are becoming increasingly common. On more than one occasion, aid workers have been the victim of targeted attacks, which jeopardise unlimited access to the affected population.

In 2018, the Netherlands pushed for the denunciation of violations of IHL. For example, the Netherlands focused on exposing the link between conflict and hunger and worked to ensure that this theme became a responsibility of the UN Security Council. This led to the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2417, which is intended to enable the international community, including the Security Council, to react more quickly in the event of life-threatening hunger in conflict situations.

To guarantee the safety of aid workers and unhindered humanitarian access, the Netherlands, in partnership with Clingendael, established the humanitarian negotiation facility. This facility offers negotiation training to aid workers. In addition, the Netherlands supported the International NGO Safety Organisation in providing safety related information to relief workers in the field.

Dutch Relief Alliance humanitarian programme in Iraq

Over the past four years, the Netherlands has supported a DRA humanitarian programme in Iraq.

More than 3.4 million people were displaced by the conflict with IS, mainly in Mosul and Hawija.

As a result, in 2017, more than 10 million people were in need of health care, particularly first aid and obstetric care. Children and women needed protection, registration healthcare and psychological support care after experiencing physical and sexual violence. The lack of sanitary facilities and clean drinking water further aggravated the needs.

More than 1.2 million people were reached through this programme. Approximately 70,000 people, including many women and children, received psychosocial care and child protection in so-called Safe Spaces. More than 1 million people were provided with clean drinking water, connections to repaired pipeline networks and sanitary and hygienic facilities. Around 46,000 people gained access to first aid and obstetric care. Two health clinics were also rehabilitated to increase access to healthcare.

This programme was effective –appropriate types of assistance in the long-term are currently being assessed.



The humanitarian community is mainly focused on the biggest crises, such as those in Syria and Yemen. Small and medium-sized crises are therefore at risk of receiving insufficient attention. The START Fund was established to provide aid to underfunded crises and to respond quickly to peaks in protracted humanitarian crises.

The START Fund has an added value because it is able to act quickly due to decentralised decision making. In 2017-2018, funding for humanitarian response was transferred within an average of 65 hours a crisis being signalled. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), START responded to the Ebola outbreak within 68 hours to prevent further spreading of the disease. In the Philippines, START was the first to respond to the needs of people who had fled from the escalating violence. The START Fund's efforts provided leverage to generate more funding from other sources.

The Netherlands makes an annual contribution to the START Fund.

Image: DRC Ebola Response (source: START Fund)

START Fund home page

Read more on the START Fund

Global Humanitairian Overview 2018

Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) 2018, UNOCHA overview of global humanitarian needs

State of the Humanitarian System 2018

Overview of the performance of the entire humanitarian system in 2018, by ALNAP

Humanitarian Funding

Global Humanitarian Assistance report on humanitarian funding streams


Ebola Emergency Response Vehicle unloaded from an airplane in Freetown, Sierre Leone, to be deployed for the Ebola crisis response. Credits: UN photo, Ari Gaitanis

Contribution to increasing crisis preparedness

Improving the capacity of humanitarian organisations to respond to crises reduces the risks for the affected population and reduces the cost of emergency aid. An important part of enhancing preparedness is to promote the role of national and local actors in delivering aid. In the event of a disaster, they are the first on the ground, enabling an adequate and timely response to a crisis. In 2017-2018, the Netherlands called for greater attention to preparedness in humanitarian response plans and for a more prominent role of national and local actors in the humanitarian response.

Open result area

Ebola Emergency Response Vehicle unloaded from an airplane in Freetown, Sierre Leone, to be deployed for the Ebola crisis response. Credits: UN photo, Ari Gaitanis

A good response saves lives and reduces the costs of emergency aid. Increasing the preparedness of humanitarian actors to anticipate disasters is of vital importance. The Netherlands is committed to enhancing the preparedness of local actors (governments, civil organisations and local businesses) so that they can react quickly to a disaster or an impending crisis. A swift response to the outbreak of Ebola, for example, prevents further spreading of the disease and reduces the number of victims. Measures in the event of prolonged drought help to prevent famine.

Strengthening the capacities of local organisations is an important part of the Grand Bargain: a series of agreements between aid organisations and donors to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency aid. It is crucial for national and local institutions and organisations to have adequate response capacity. They are the first on the ground at the outbreak of a crisis and are primarily responsible for the protection of their citizens. One of the Grand Bargain's objectives is to allocate at least 25% of humanitarian funding to local actors. This will contribute to the transformation of the humanitarian system, in which the role of local actors in disaster response and management is increasingly central.

Preparedness gained increased attention within humanitarian response plans globally. The Grand Bargain has generated a lot of attention and institutional support for the 'localisation' of humanitarian aid. This has resulted in an increase in the number of international humanitarian organisations reporting on the level of funding allocated to national and local actors. The Netherlands will continue its efforts to improve preparedness, for example by advocating for national actors to play a central role in the humanitarian response.



Increased crisis preparedness of local response structures and institutions


On track

Crisis preparedness increaded

In recent years, organisations have further developed or strengthened their policy and methods with regard to response preparedness. One example is to stockpile food reserves in order to respond quickly to an impending crisis (e.g. by storing extra food for people and animals in case of drought). In 2017-2018, the Netherlands called for greater attention to preparedness and capacity building in humanitarian response plans and contributed to preparedness programmes of its partners.

Preparedness and capacity building are increasingly recognised as important components of emergency aid. In 2017-2018, the Netherlands invested in preparedness, for example by supporting the Dutch Red Cross in building the capacity of national Red Cross societies. This resulted in efficient deployment of personnel, for example during a sudden influx of refugees into Zambia. In addition, the Netherlands contributed to MapAction's efforts to collect crucial data following the outbreak of a disaster. Based on this information, aid workers are able to plan an effective response and act quickly and appropriately.


Percentage of funds channelled directly to local actors


On track

The increased focus on localisation of humanitarian aid resulted in an expanded role for national and local organisations in crisis response and management in 2017-2018. The Netherlands contributed to this development by encouraging its partners to work together with local partners and by allocating a larger share of its funding as directly as possible to local organisations. Humanitarian organisations reported an upward trend in the funding of local partners.

The percentage of funding allocated as directly as possible to national and local organisations is an important indicator for measuring the extent to which national and local organisations are taking on a more prominent role in emergency response and management. The assumption is that localization will lead to a more timely response and thus more lives saved.

The Netherlands is committed to expanding the role of national and local actors in humanitarian responses. In 2018, more than 20% of available humanitarian funding was channelled through Country Based Pooled Funds (CBPFs). One of the arguments for allocating humanitarian funds via the CBPFs is that national and local actors have direct access to the funds. The percentage of funding to local partners through these funds is increasing. In 2016, 18.5% went to national actors and this figure rose to 25.2% in 2018.


Where do you start as a humanitarian organisation when a disaster strikes? Where are the most vulnerable people? What damage has been caused to roads and other important infrastructure? Fast and accessible information on the situation in an affected area is essential for an adequate response. MapAction collects crucial information of a disaster area and distributes this information to aid organisations and governments in the form of maps. For example, MapAction was immediately on the ground in Mozambique to assess the extent of the damage caused by tropical storm Idai. By visualizing the disaster area and the needs in this manner, humanitarian organisations can plan their efforts quickly and based on complete information.

Effective humanitarian system

Humanitarian aid arrives in Sosmaqala, Afghanistan. Credits: UN photo Eric Kanalstein

Contribution to strengthening the humanitarian response system

A powerful and flexible humanitarian system is a necessary precondition for aiding people in need. The Netherlands supports this system by improving the coordination of humanitarian aid, strengthening humanitarian leadership, promoting transparency among partners and investing in innovation. In 2017/2018, the Netherlands contributed to strengthening the role of humanitarian coordinators to improve the coordination of emergency aid. Partly thanks to Dutch efforts in the field of transparency, more humanitarian organisations joined the Internal Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). This made data more widely accessible via open data systems.

Open result area

Humanitarian aid arrives in Sosmaqala, Afghanistan. Credits: UN photo Eric Kanalstein

The Netherlands is committed to greater transparency in the humanitarian system, better coordination between humanitarian organisations and further innovation to provide better assistance to people in need. The Netherlands is leveraging its position within the international humanitarian community to exert influence on the humanitarian system to achieve these goals.

The way in which donors and organisations work together has a major impact on organisations' ability to save lives, restore the dignity of people in need and increase their resilience. Good coordination avoids duplication and ensures that the most vulnerable people are reached with aid that addresses their most urgent needs. The Netherlands therefore supports the strengthening of the position of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and of humanitarian coordinators working in a crisis.

Greater transparency leads to informed decision making, provides greater control, facilitates learning processes and results in better coordination and collaboration. The Netherlands encourages the use of open data systems (such as IATI) by humanitarian actors, so that funding streams and results are openly available and transparent. Humanitarian actors will be enabled to do this in a responsible and effective manner.

Technical developments and new partnerships - among others with the private sector - offer unlimited opportunities to improve humanitarian aid. The Netherlands invests in innovation of the humanitarian response. Humanitarian organisations and non-traditional partners are encouraged to work together, learn from each other and invest in innovative initiatives that improve the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of emergency aid.



Number of Grand Bargain signatories publishing humanitarian data in IATI


On track

In 2017-2018, the Netherlands worked with the World Bank and the Development Initiative – within the framework of the Grand Bargain - to encourage humanitarian organisations to join the Internal Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). These efforts have led to an increase in the number of humanitarian organisations and donors publishing their data via IATI.

The signatories of the Grand Bargain - agreements between donors and humanitarian organisations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency aid - have committed to publish their data on activities through IATI. This indicator measures the extent to which agreements are being fulfilled. It provides an indication of progress towards reaching the goal of gaining better insight into data on humanitarian activities. This will in turn increase control, enable policy makers and implementing organisations to make more informed decisions and facilitate learning processes.

The Netherlands worked with the World Bank and the Development Initiative to encourage humanitarian organisations and donors to follow through on these agreements. This resulted in an increase in the number of humanitarian organisations and donors registered with IATI. The next step is to guarantee the quality of the data published by IATI.


Better coordination of aid


On track

Better coordination between humanitarian organisations, donors and parties involved in a crisis

Within the humanitarian system, the Netherlands is committed to better coordination between humanitarian organisations, donors and parties involved in a crisis. With financial and political support, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is able to coordinate humanitarian aid worldwide in crisis-affected countries. In addition, the Netherlands is urging other humanitarian partners to ensure good coordination of aid in line with OCHA structures.

Good coordination means that humanitarian organisations can perform their work effectively and reach as many people as possible with the necessary aid. OCHA is globally responsible for coordinating aid through thematic clusters, including protection, education, water, sanitation and hygiene. UN agencies, international NGOs and national organisations plan their efforts based on these clusters and on research into the needs of the affected populations.

The Netherlands pushed for good coordination of humanitarian aid via UN organisations, high-level consultations, field visits and through the efforts of the network of Dutch embassies. In addition, the Netherlands contributed to better coordination in crisis countries through its contributions to the Country Based Pooled Funds (CBPFs). These funds are managed by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who maintains an overview of needs. The contributions to the CBPFs enable the humanitarian coordinator to better coordinate aid in a certain country. In addition, the Netherlands' contribution to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) reinforces the role of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.


Innovation to improve humanitarian aid


On track

Stimulating and facilitating innovation in the humanitarian sector

The Netherlands stimulates and facilitates innovation in the humanitarian sector in order to continue providing assistance to the growing number of people in need in the future. In 2017/2018, the Netherlands supported various innovation initiatives and projects. The Netherlands also pushed for the responsible use of data to effectively map needs, for example. The importance of innovation was also promoted at international forums.

As a result of ongoing conflicts and natural disasters, humanitarian needs are increasing worldwide. The funding available from donors for this purpose is not increasing proportionally, however. Technical developments and new partnerships, for example with the private sector, offer ample opportunity to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of emergency aid. Successful examples show that innovation can make a difference: digitisation of the monitoring systems for food security yielded a 50% reduction in monitoring costs for the World Food Programme (WFP).

The Netherlands invested in innovation projects and funds, setting up and supporting data centres and funding platforms. For example, the Netherlands contributed to the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), thereby supporting, among others, the roll-out of technologies for the local production of medical devices in humanitarian situations. Through its support and contribution to the Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation (DCHI), the Netherlands stimulated collaboration between humanitarian actors, the business community and academics. Finally, the Netherlands supported initiatives to stimulate the use of data for more efficient and better decision making.



A good analysis of the requirements of people in need is the basis for a strategic deployment of humanitarian aid. Such an analysis is based on interaction with the affected population. This is costly and, in some cases, impossible because access to the affected population is constraint. WFP's Mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) project uses mobile technology, such as Chatbot and SMS, to monitor food security at a distance and inform affected communities about food distributions. This provides WFP and other partners with detailed information, based on which they can plan and implement an appropriate humanitarian response. In addition, this method of working has led to a 50% reduction in costs. The Netherlands supported the development and roll-out of mVAM in more than 35 countries.

Use of Chatbot technology in Kakuma, Kenya, to provide information on food distribution. (Source: WFP Catherine Clark)

Field Ready

In the event of a humanitarian crisis, aid workers are often dependent on the import of goods from abroad. This method of supply is expensive and can be damaging to the environment. Field Ready aims to transform humanitarian aid through technology, such as 3D printing, to encourage local production of aid materials. Examples include equipment to locate and rescue people from rubble and medical devices and parts to repair water pipes. Local production makes aid faster and cheaper, and stimulates the local economy at the same time. Field Ready promotes a more central role for local actors and affected communities in the humanitarian response. This is in line with the Grand Bargain commitment to make humanitarian aid as 'local as possible'.

Through the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), the Netherlands supported the further development of Field Ready services and their roll-out in Jordan, Kenya, South Sudan, the American Virgin Islands and the Pacific.

Photo: Stan Klinkenberg, SavetheChildren

Background information theme humanitarian aid

Glimpse into the future

In 2019, the Netherlands will make € 380 million available for humanitarian aid through unearmarked contributions (54%), specific humanitarian crisis contributions (40%) and thematic contributions (6%).

The Netherlands is committed to the protection of civilians and the unhindered humanitarian access and safety of emergency workers and medical personnel. Specific goals are to prevent starvation from being used as a weapon in conflict situations and to achieve the Grand Bargain goals. This concerns agreements between donors and aid organisations to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency aid.

In October 2019, the Netherlands will organise a ministerial conference on mental health and psychosocial care for crisis victims in order to mobilise countries, policy makers, donors and international organisations. The Netherlands will fund the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF to develop and implement a package of minimum services.

The Netherlands is committed to a more effective humanitarian system in the areas of transparency and innovation, (less) administrative pressure, cooperation on long-term planning and improving the link between humanitarian aid and development cooperation.

Additional sources

Emergency aid for disasters and war info page

Page with more information on Dutch emergency aid efforts.

Facebook page

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Results overview

Download a PDF document with all results

Expenditure by channel