Humanitarian aid brings relief in times of need

Every year, hundreds of millions of people suffer as the result of natural disasters, armed conflicts and other crises. Humanitarian aid saves human lives, relieves human suffering, and maintains human dignity in times of crisis. It is financed from Finland’s development cooperation appropriations.

Focusing aid where the need is greatest

The global need for humanitarian aid has never been as great as it is today. According to the UN, a total of 300 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2022. Approximately USD 46.3 billion will be required to help the nearly 204 million people in the most critical need of humanitarian assistance.

Finland's humanitarian aid in 2020 (PDF, 76 KB)
Finland's humanitarian aid in 2019 (PDF, 73 KB)
Finland's humanitarian aid in 2018 (PDF, 587 KB)(Link to another website.)

Finnish aid is allocated to countries that have made a formal request to the UN for assistance, if their humanitarian situation has been subject to a reliable needs assessment and if an UN-coordinated consolidated appeal has been made by aid organisations.

Finland is committed to channelling annually about 10 per cent of its development aid appropriations for humanitarian aid directed to official development assistance (ODA) recipient countries.

Geographic division of Finnish humanitarian aid – the situation in February 2021 (PDF, 720 KB)
Geographic division of Finnish humanitarian aid – the situation in March 2020 (PDF, 558 KB)
Geographic division of Finnish humanitarian aid – the situation in March 2019 (PDF, 551 KB)

Read more about international humanitarian aid: 

Organisations bring emergency relief where it is needed

It is important for Finland that the organisations it supports operate openly, responsibly, effectively and impartially. The organisations delivering aid must have sufficient authority to operate in crisis-affected areas and the ability to bring aid where it is needed in an emergency.

The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs channels its funds for humanitarian aid through UN bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Finnish aid organisations.

In the first round of distribution of funding in 2022, Finland granted a total of EUR 66.9 million to UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Finnish civil society organisations. Of the UN agencies, Finland supports the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Aid to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement is channelled through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

In Finland, organisations that have signed a framework partnership agreement with the European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) are eligible for humanitarian aid financing. These organisations include Fida International, Finn Church Aid (FCA), Finnish Refugee Council, Save the Children Finland, Plan International Finland, Finnish Red Cross and World Vision Finland.

Refugees from South Sudan at the border of Kenya and South Sudan. Photo by Claus Lindroos.

These organisations are engaged in concrete aid work in crisis locations: distributing food aid, urgent healthcare, clean water and emergency shelters, preventing gender-based violence, and improving the healthcare, water supply and sanitation in refugee camps. Creating proper conditions for livelihoods speeds up recovery from a crisis and prepares the ground for reconstruction and the return of refugees and those who have fled their homes.

Protecting the civilian population is an essential part of aid in conflict and unrest. Finland emphasises the importance of considering the needs and rights of vulnerable people, such as persons with disabilities. Another group in need of special support is women and girls, who may be subjected to sexual violence as a weapon of war. Children, too, need special protection when disasters strike, since they are at risk of being separated from their families and they may be subjected to violence and abuse or be recruited as child soldiers.

Putting the Needs of Persons with Disabilities at the Centre of Humanitarian Action – Finland’s Achievements (PDF, 318 KB)

Assistance must be impartial

Finnish humanitarian action is grounded on international humanitarian law, international human rights treaties, refugee law, and the principles endorsed by the UN. Finland is committed to adhering to the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship and the Grand Bargain initiative.

Internationally agreed practices highlight humanitarian principles, which are humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence. Aid is to be provided solely based on identified needs, and not for political, military or economic reasons.

Recipients of humanitarian aid in Myitkyina, in northeastern Myanmar. Photo by Claus Lindroos.

The principles guiding Finnish action are defined in Finland’s Humanitarian Policy, the Guideline Concerning Humanitarian Assistance and the Use of Funding, and the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid.

It is important for Finland that humanitarian action focus on vulnerable groups – especially girls, women and persons with disabilities – as well as environmental effects, the promotion of gender equality and the reduction of inequality.

Finland supports greater inclusion of persons with disabilities

It is estimated that persons with disabilities have a four times higher death rate in natural disasters and conflicts than persons without disability. Girls and women with disabilities are at especially high risk of being subjected to sexual violence and abuse, as well as multiple discrimination.

Little attention to date has been paid to the inclusiveness of humanitarian action to persons with disabilities. In crises, they have often been left without information, assistance and the services they require.

Partly as a result of Finland’s advocacy, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), representing the biggest aid organisation, adopted in 2019 Guidelines on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.


Brochure: Vulnerable people in humanitarian crises (PDF, 147 KB, in Finnish)(Link to another website.)

Finland as an active player in humanitarian assistance

Finland actively participates in humanitarian aid cooperation at EU level and within the international donor community as well as in the executive boards of the agencies and organisations it finances. Finland and Belgium co-chaired the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) initiative in 2021–2023. The GHD upholds the principles of humanitarian assistance and strives to find best practices for effective donor policies. In the EU, the key channel of influence is the Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA). 

Finland emphasises the leading role of the UN in aid coordination and supports the UN’s ongoing humanitarian aid reform whose goal is to create an efficient and well-coordinated international humanitarian aid system.

Active involvement in donor coordination and executive boards alongside monitoring visits to crisis-affected countries and dialogues with the secretariats are important parts of the monitoring and supervision of Finland’s humanitarian aid.

From humanitarian aid to development cooperation

When a crisis-torn country or region is returning to normalcy, it faces many challenges. For Finland, it is important that crisis prevention, humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding, reconstruction, and development cooperation be flexibly combined. These different phases are part of a continuum; they support each other and help people overcome the crisis.

Measures to prevent disaster risk, limit damage and improve the capacities of governments and organisations to act in emergencies are also considered important.