Highlighted results

More than €387.5 million for humanitarian aid

Increased international attention for mental health and psychosocial support

25% of Country-Based Pooled Funds for local organisations

Support for 18 innovations in the humanitarian sector

Additional sources

Policy letter

Read the new policy framework ‘People First: The Netherlands’ Course towards Humanitarian Aid and Diplomacy’


War and instability combined with climate change and economic crises are causing more and more people to become dependent on humanitarian aid. The increased needs and the growing complexity of humanitarian crises require a flexible and powerful humanitarian system that can respond effectively.

The Netherlands works with UN organisations, the Red Cross, the Start Fund and the Dutch Relief Alliance to offer life-saving assistance. Specific attention is paid to vulnerable groups, such as women, children, people with disabilities or people with mental health problems. We also devote attention to the fact that emergency aid is all-embracing, covering more than food, medical care and shelter. Mental health and psychosocial support, education and sexual and reproductive health and rights are equally important. In addition, the Netherlands uses its political influence to champion the interests of people in need and to ensure that humanitarian organisations are able to do their work unhindered.

The current climate in which humanitarian organisations operate – characterised by increasing needs and growing complexity – requires improving the efficiency and effectiveness of aid. The Netherlands is therefore investing in:

strengthening the capacity of national and local organisations to offer emergency aid;

innovation in humanitarian response;

improving coordination, transparency and leadership within the system.

Results 2019

In humanitarian terms, 2019 was worse than expected. There were more people in need (166.5 million) than had been estimated at the beginning of the year. There were various reasons for this: persistent violent conflicts and (geo)political instability, extreme weather caused by climate change, sudden outbreaks of infectious diseases and economic uncertainty. The Netherlands provided funds to alleviate needs in countries including Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Netherlands leveraged its political influence to promote mental health and psychosocial support as components of emergency aid. It also focused on protecting the interests of people in need. See the section on crisis response for more details on financial and diplomatic efforts to alleviate needs and protect civilians.

To improve preparedness and the response to humanitarian needs, the Netherlands invested in strengthening the response capacity of local and national organisations. See the section on preparedness for more details.

Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag acted as Eminent Person for the Grand Bargain, an agreement between donors and humanitarian organisations aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the humanitarian system. We also invested in innovation projects to improve the efficiency and quality of emergency aid; see the section on effective humanitarian systems.

Result areas

Crisis response Preparedness Effective humanitarian system

Featured project humanitarian aid

Emergency aid with attention for mental health and psychosocial welfare (Mental Health & Psychosocial Support [MHPSS])

In October 2019, the Netherlands brought together ministers, people who have learned from personal experience, humanitarian organisations, civil society organisations, care providers and researchers to discuss the need for and benefits of integrating psychosocial support into humanitarian work. The Amsterdam Declaration adopts recommendations on opportunities for achieving this aim. The extra political attention to the issue generated by the conference has led to a decision by the UN to make mental health and psychosocial support a task for all organisations providing aid in crises. The conference also contributed to preparations for a resolution adopted in December by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The resolution calls upon the movement’s members to include psychosocial support in their work and to train staff and volunteers to provide it. Capacity building in the area of MHPSS is an important focus area for international organisations and for the Netherlands.

Photo: Mickael Franci / Cordaid

Emergency aid with attention for mental health and psychosocial welfare (Mental Health & Psychosocial Support [MHPSS])
Information on Mind the Mind Now 2019

Read more about Mind the Mind Now 2019

Crisis response

A mobile team in Somaliland’s Marodijex examines patients and hands out nutrition supplies. Credit: IOM/Mary-Sanyu Osire

Emergency aid in crises and conflicts

Within this results area the Netherlands’ aim is to provide humanitarian aid to victims of crises, disasters and wars. The Netherlands pursues this aim through funding, diplomacy and the provision of expertise. In 2019, these activities helped people in humanitarian crises in countries like Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and Nigeria.

Open result area

A mobile team in Somaliland’s Marodijex examines patients and hands out nutrition supplies. Credit: IOM/Mary-Sanyu Osire

In 2019, $21.9 billion was needed to provide humanitarian aid to 166.5 million people worldwide. The Netherlands contributed to this through funding, humanitarian diplomacy in several crises, and deploying experts through the UN. To enable humanitarian partners to respond quickly to crises and disasters, 57% of Dutch funding was unearmarked. This enables partners like UNHCR, UNICEF and ICRC to offer aid quickly and effectively in crises, including those that receive less international attention.

The Netherlands contributed to efforts to help people in need in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Myanmar, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Syria region, Sudan, Ukraine and Venezuela.

The Netherlands exerts political influence to protect people in need. In doing so, we promote international recognition of the importance of not only the physical survival but also the psychosocial resilience of people and communities.

In specific crises, whether chronic or acute, the Netherlands combines assistance ranging from funding to diplomacy aimed at removing obstacles to aid provision and initiatives that contribute to sustainable solutions. In addition, 42 Dutch experts are deployed through the Dutch Surge Support (DSS) water programme as part of crisis response in 18 countries. After hurricane Dorian, the Netherlands sent the naval vessels HNLMS Snellius and HNLMS Johan de Witt, together with 550 troops, to provide emergency aid in the Bahamas.

Mariam Saeed (20) is one of many people who received Dutch aid in Yemen. Mariam was pregnant when she had to flee the violence in Al-Hudaydah with her husband, two children and other family members. Describing her visit to the Dutch-financed maternity clinic in Al Bureiqah, she says: ’The staff at the clinic were very helpful. They gave me medication, clothing and other necessities for me and my newborn son.” A total of 193 women received extensive medical and maternity care at the clinic.



Number of people reached (per channel)


On track


In the reporting period the Netherlands supported various international UN and aid agencies. These organisations help people in need with food packages, clean drinking water, obstetric and other medical help, and with training in the field of psychological first aid, child protection in crisis areas and effective humanitarian negotiation.

More than €387.5 million was made available to support coordination by UN agencies, provide humanitarian aid through partner organisations and provide people with aid goods, mental health and psychosocial support and protection.

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 types of aid. The Netherlands calculates these figures by dividing the Dutch share in the total financing of its partners by the number of people reached.

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

In its most recent reporting period, the UN’s Common Emergency Response Fund (CERF) reached 24.6 million people worldwide, 4.1 million of which 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. Through the Country Based Pooled Funds, 6.8 million people were reached in the Central African Republic, DRC, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen. DRA reached more than 4.4 million people, in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria. DRA also responded to acute needs in Colombia and Mozambique.


Number of humanitarian response plans in which mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) is integrated


On track

Humanitarian response plans that take account of mental health and psychosocial welfare and ensure support and funding for this theme in emergency aid programmes.

Psychosocial needs are an important focus. This offers people in crisis situations the opportunity to recover and resume their lives. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) helps make individuals and their families, and whole communities, more resilient. Humanitarian responses are also more effective if psychosocial care is provided.

Psychosocial aspects must be taken into account in humanitarian response plans immediately from the first assessment of needs in crisis situations. If that does not occur, there will be no space for MHPSS later in funding and activities.

By including MHPSS in the planning and implementation of humanitarian response from the beginning, the Netherlands contributes to better access to psychosocial care for people in crises. The Netherlands has set up a surge mechanism to help better integrate MHPSS into humanitarian response: at the request of the Dutch aid agencies coalition, the mechanism can rapidly provide MHPSS experts who contribute to coordination, the identification of needs and response planning.


Number of humanitarian diplomacy plans developed and in use


On track

In 2019: 5 action plans (for the humanitarian emergencies in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, the Rohingya refugee crisis, and the theme of Conflict and Hunger)

In 2019 the Netherlands further honed the agenda on humanitarian diplomacy. Action plans for the humanitarian emergencies in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, the Rohingya refugee crisis, and the theme of Conflict and Hunger were completed and provide direction for humanitarian diplomacy efforts. The Netherlands’ main focus lies on improving humanitarian access, better protection of civilians and guaranteeing the safety of emergency workers.

Together with other state parties, the Netherlands contributed to the drafting of an amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As a result, starvation is now recognised as a crime in non-international armed conflict. Together with other influential donors the Netherlands exerted pressure on the de jure and de facto authorities in Yemen to comply with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and respect humanitarian principles. The Netherlands took the initiative for joint EU statements to call on the Nigerian government to protect humanitarian space. In South Sudan the Netherlands made efforts to combat the intimidation and persecution of UN staff.

Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA) Idai - Mozambique

In March 2019 tropical cyclone Idai caused severe flood damage in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. At least 90% of houses, schools, roads and farmland around Beira, Mozambique were damaged. DRA has an efficient mechanism to respond to such acute crises, ensuring that aid is provided in a short time frame (72 hours). The emergency aid programme in Mozambique and Malawi reached 129,900 people, bringing them food, clean drinking water and sanitation, temporary shelter and protection for children.

Idai Mozambique response

Read more about the emergency aid programme in Mozambique here

Clingendael Negotiation Facility

Humanitarian emergency workers regularly find themselves in situations where they have to negotiate with authorities and armed groups on access to crisis and conflict zones and the people affected by these crises. Since 2016 Clingendael has been training the humanitarian staff of NGOs and UN agencies in various forms of negotiation and in tactics and techniques to ensure that negotiations proceed effectively. To date, more than 600 people from over 50 countries have taken part in the basic course. In addition, 33 mediators were trained in 2019 to conduct negotiations on behalf of humanitarian organisations. A total of 140 organisations have taken part in the training courses. This has helped provide access to refugee camps in Syria, in organising consultations between conflicting communities in South Sudan, and in providing a water source for host communities and displaced persons in Afghanistan.

Humanitarian Negotiation Clingendael

Read more about this Clingendael project here

Global Humanitarian Overview

Trends in Humanitarian Needs and Assistance


Testing emergency needs assessment tool. Credits: Netherlands Red Cross.

Increasing the disaster response capacity of local actors

To anticipate and respond effectively to crises it is important to increase the capacity of local authorities, civil society organisations and the private sector. The Netherlands is working to strengthen the institutional capacity of local actors to achieve better disaster preparedness.

In 2019 the Netherlands increased its financial contribution to local actors, but less progress was made than expected in preparedness programmes aimed at strengthening local response capacity.

Open result area

Testing emergency needs assessment tool. Credits: Netherlands Red Cross.

The Netherlands invests in strengthening the capacity (in people, resources and systems) of national and local governments, civil society, the private sector and communities to anticipate and respond quickly to disasters. This calls adequate response capacity for national and local institutions and organisations. They are after all primarily responsible for the protections of their civilians and are the first on the ground.

Preparedness is the extent to which local actors are ready to respond quickly to an impending or actual disaster. Besides strengthening the capacity of local actors to respond quickly, preparedness also entails strengthening the role of local actors in disaster management. Better preparedness and more localisation do not prevent disasters, but they do ensure a better and quicker response.

Preparedness also entails building, maintaining and embedding expertise and making material and non-material aid (transport, communications, IT and supplies as well as MHPSS) available to enable a rapid and adequate response to disasters, according to disaster plans that were previously drawn up on the basis of thorough analyses.

Capacity building and the role of local organisations in planning and providing emergency aid are key components of the agreements made at the World Humanitarian Summit (the Grand Bargain). They contribute to a change in the humanitarian system, in which local actors take on a central role and international organisations provide added value in a different way to planning and implementing emergency aid.

The Netherlands contributes to preparedness by supporting humanitarian organisations and funds that work with local actors. This takes place though a number of specific capacity strengthening programmes and by arguing for the need for capacity building, for example through the Netherlands Red Cross and the Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA).

In 2019 the Netherlands also supported MapAction, an NGO that uses data to quickly show the nature of an emergency and the needs of the people affected.



Percentage of funding to national and 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 2018-2019. The Netherlands contributed to this development by encouraging its partners to work 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 Dutch Relief Alliance allocated 21% of its funding to national and local actors.

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


Number of response plans and simulations funded


Progress, not on track

In the 2018/2019 period six simulations were carried out and three national response plans drafted through the NRK’s preparedness programme.

Drafting and testing national response plans shows the extent to which local actors are capable of responding independently to crises.

Response plans are based on risk analyses and must align closely with national legislation and divisions of tasks. This sometimes takes more time than expected. Simulations can lead to changes to plans, new legislation and the deployment of knowledge and materials.

Progress in result area Preparedness

Specific preparedness programmes show good results on strengthening local disaster response capacity, though institutional strengthening sometimes takes more time than planned. Strengthening local actors through contributions to humanitarian organisations and funds is shifting slowly from transferring implementation tasks and resources to transferring management and design tasks for emergency response. In 2020 the DRA is starting a pilot in which local partners, which are closer to the scene of a crisis, take the lead themselves in designing, implementing and evaluating new emergency aid programmes.

NRK Preparedness / Response Preparedness II

A second phase of the preparedness programme started in 2016, with the Netherlands Red Cross (NRK). The aim of this phase is to strengthen the response capacity of the five national societies of the Red Cross in Mali, Zambia, the Central African Republic, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. The results of the midterm evaluation are positive.


For the staff and volunteers of the national societies the programme is useful in mobilising communities to act with greater awareness of risks and in preparing them to act as emergency aid providers themselves.


One practical example of cost-saving is the use of tablets by national societies in Zambia and the Central African Republic, making better communication possible and enabling information on urgent needs to be gathered and disseminated quickly.

In Mali a low-cost change in the way meteorological data is shared and verified led to improvements in the accuracy of the data.


National societies of the Red Cross have increased their visibility and credibility as initial aid providers in emergencies. Relations with stakeholders in government have improved.

Effective humanitarian system

A medical check is conducted while a doctor elsewhere in the world watches using ‘smart glasses’.

Contribution to strengthening the humanitarian response system

Increasing needs and the growing complexity of crises require enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of emergency aid and the humanitarian system. The Netherlands contributes to this by improving the coordination of humanitarian aid, strengthening humanitarian leadership, promoting transparency and accountability and investing in innovation. In 2018/2019 the Netherlands made efforts to ensure that agreements between humanitarian organisations and donors (the Grand Bargain) on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the system are followed up in practice. We called for flexible funding, in return for greater transparency on expenditure. In addition, we invested in the development, testing and upscaling of innovations and in the responsible use of data to analyse and predict humanitarian needs more accurately.

Open result area

A medical check is conducted while a doctor elsewhere in the world watches using ‘smart glasses’.

In 2019, the Grand Bargain continued to be an important framework for humanitarian organisations and donors to work jointly to achieve a more effective and efficient humanitarian system. Signatories to the Grand Bargain, including the Netherlands, have committed to a greater role for local organisations, more transparency on expenditure and activities, and more flexible funding, so that organisations can respond quickly to urgent needs. The Grand Bargain is led by an Eminent Person. In 2019, this position was filled by Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag, giving the Netherlands an important role in promoting implementation of the agreements and catalysing change in the system.

In addition, the Netherlands worked to achieve better coordination and leadership, which has a great impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of aid. This effort prevents duplication, facilitates alignment and helps ensure that the most vulnerable people are reached. To make sure that aid fulfills the quality requirements and responds to the desires of people in need, we invested in organisations that assess the effectiveness and appropriateness of emergency aid and promote learning from practice.

Lastly, we invested in innovation. Innovation has the potential to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of emergency aid. 3D technology can for example be used to produce emergency aid goods quickly, cheaply and locally. Large volumes of data can be processed quickly and easily using digital analysis tools to provide a better insight into needs during crises. We invested in the development, testing and application of innovations through various channels, including the Dutch Relief Alliance’s Innovation Fund (DIF), the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) and the Humanitarian Grand Challenge (HGC). We worked with the OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague on the responsible use of humanitarian data and the use of data to predict where needs will arise. This equips humanitarian actors to make informed decisions and respond more quickly to breaking crises.



Progress on the Grand Bargain agreements


On track

More effective and efficient

The Grand Bargain remains the main reform process aimed at making humanitarian aid more effective and efficient. The progress of the reforms is assessed annually by an independent reporting mechanism. The 2019 report shows that progress has been made towards greater effectiveness and efficiency, but not yet on the scale envisaged or on all Grand Bargain agreements.

In 2018, 68% of the signatories reported on their results for each agreement, compared to 52% in 2017. The best results were reported on 1) the localisation of aid, which means giving local organisations a greater role in providing emergency aid, 2) offering cash transfers rather than goods, enabling people in need to provide for their own needs and 3) the harmonisation of donors’ reporting requirements, easing the pressure on humanitarian organisations and giving them more time to help people in need. Although there has been no system-wide shift in terms of localising aid, the Grand Bargain has helped put this issue on the agenda of donors and humanitarian organisations.

The Netherlands has taken on a leading role with Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag as the Eminent Person of the Grand Bargain. Implementation is focusing on several obligations, with the emphasis on increasing flexible and multiyear funding for humanitarian aid, improving risk-sharing in the humanitarian sector and increasing transparency in the sector.

The Netherlands is on schedule in meeting its Grand Bargain obligations and taking an active part in the discussions.


Better coordination of aid


On track

44% of the humanitarian budget is spent through funds and coalitions that improve cooperation and coordination

The Netherlands provides financial and political support to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This enables OCHA to coordinate humanitarian aid worldwide in crisis-affected countries. In addition, the Netherlands is urging other humanitarian partners to ensure efficient coordination of aid in line with OCHA structures. Lastly we invest in funds that pool the contributions of multiple donors to enable a coordinated deployment of resources in specific crises.

In 2019, the Netherlands spent 44% of its humanitarian budget through funds and coalitions that improve cooperation and coordination. The Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA), a coalition of 15 Dutch humanitarian NGOs, is an important partner in providing humanitarian aid. The DRA was created to promote cooperation and complementarity. The Netherlands also supported the Country Based Pooled Funds that pool donors’ contributions to specific crises so as to achieve a greater impact. The Yemen Humanitarian Fund, for example, spent $188 million on life-saving aid to people in need, reaching 10.7 million people. These funds also enable the Humanitarian Coordinator, who manages the funds, to better coordinate aid in a specific crisis. For a coordinated response to unforeseen, urgent needs, the Netherlands contributes to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Start Fund. The Netherlands also presses for the effective coordination of humanitarian aid by taking part in high-level consultations with UN agencies, during field visits and by deploying embassy staff members.


Number of innovation projects supported


On track

Innovations supported

The Netherlands promotes and facilitates innovation in the humanitarian sector so that the growing number of people in need can continue to be provided with aid in the future. In 2018/2019 the Netherlands supported 18 innovation projects, particularly through humanitarian innovation funds aimed at raising the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency aid. We invest in various phases of innovation projects, from the development of a new product or service to facilitating its application on a large scale.

In 2019, the Netherlands contributed to various innovation funds in order to develop, test and apply innovations that improve emergency aid. Projects focus on, for example, sustainable energy, life-saving information, protection and health. Through the DRA Innovation Fund, the Netherlands contributed to a project that makes money available for vulnerable people before a natural disaster takes place. Money is paid out on the basis of predictions made using data on weather patterns. Through the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, we are contributing to testing smart glasses that enable specialised doctors from around the world to observe and give instructions during life-saving operations.

Innovation in the humanitarian sector does not happen automatically. It requires financial investments and investments in the knowledge and capacity of humanitarian organisations to apply innovations. Cooperation between humanitarian actors, the private sector and researchers also needs to be facilitated. To this end, our partnership with the Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation continued in 2019.

Support for the UN OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data: ‘Connecting people and data to improve lives’

Humanitarian actors are gathering more and more data: for example, about the number of people in need, and their needs, gender and age. These data help organisations make the right decisions. Digital systems are being used increasingly frequent. This offers opportunities to use data better and share it more easily, but also poses risks for people in need, if dat is not used with care.

In 2019 the Netherlands continued to support the UN OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague, to promote the sharing and use of humanitarian data. In 2019, the Centre worked on improving the responsible use of data within the humanitarian community. It also promoted the use of data for predictive analyses to help improve response plans. The Centre is an authority in this area and works closely with the municipality of The Hague, the ministry and other donors to foster the responsible use of data in the wider humanitarian system.

Predictive analyses and the future of humanitarian response

Read more about the Centre for Humanitarian Data and its impact

Sentry Syria – a Humanitarian Grand Challenge project

Air attacks are the most common cause of civilian deaths in Syria. Since the conflict started, they have killed more than 80,000 people and wounded over 375,000. Several humanitarian workers have been among the victims of such attacks.

Hala Systems develops advanced solutions to protect civilians. Sentry Syria is a warning system which sends a warning to civilians via an app 7 to10 minutes before an air attack hits. This reduces civilian deaths by 20 to 30%.

Hala Systems is funded by the Humanitarian Grand Challenge (HGC), a fund that identifies and finances innovations aimed at enhancing aid to people affected by conflict. The HGC is a partnership between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, USAID, UKAID and Grand Challenges Canada.

Humanitarian Grand Challenge

More information on the Humanitarian Grand Challenge

Grand Bargain Annual Meeting Summary

Results document giving examples of success areas and challenges

A UNICEF project sponsored by CERF has brought hope for some of the youth touched by violence while tackling protection and economic empowerment in an innovative way.

Background information theme humanitarian aid

Glimpse into the future

Humanitarian diplomacy

In 2020 the Netherlands will continue to promote improved humanitarian access, protection of civilians and the safety of emergency workers. It will use its membership of the Human Rights Council to denounce grave breaches of the humanitarian law of war and human rights in crisis situations like Yemen and Syria.


In 2020 the Netherlands is continuing to work on the structural integration of mental health and psychosocial support into crisis response. A special focus area is a greater emphasis on psychosocial factors in peacebuilding.


In 2020 the Netherlands is contributing to the development and strengthening of risk financing systems. These systems enable a proactive response to disasters on the basis of predictive models, which allow organisations to act more quickly. The Netherlands works together with the START Network in this area.


In 2020 we are continuing to work on innovation. Within existing partnerships we place the emphasis on scaling up innovations that have proved effective. Attention will also be paid to the risks of technological and digital innovations.

Additional sources

You can find exactly how the budget was allocated in 2019 and which projects were funded on our budget website.

  1. Visit the website
    Programme budget Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation
  2. Select financial year 2019
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


The budget in this figure is for the year 2019 and does not completely correspond with the results on this page, which have been collected between Oct 2018 and Oct 2019. More information on this can be found on the 'About the results report' page.