The global picture has darkened considerably on many fronts over 2016.
This year is predicted to be the hottest on record, setting a new high for the third year running. The WMO said in November that human-induced global warming had contributed to at least half the extreme weather events studied. These high temperatures help to fuel climate change and the ensuing deadly consequences many regions are experiencing.
A swarm of lethal earthquakes struck Italy this year (p14); Japan and New Zealand were similarly afflicted, thankfully with fewer fatalities.
Also released in November, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) noted a ten per cent decrease in terrorist acts in 2015, but it was still the second deadliest year on record – what will the figures be for 2016? The GTI said there were 5,556 fewer deaths in Iraq and Nigeria, attributed to Boko Haram and ISIL becoming weaker in these countries. But constriction of one part often leads to expansion into another: terrorism is leaching into other areas. On p46 we explore the growing use of children as suicide bombers. Although this may indicate a certain weakening of these terrorist groups, it is nevertheless a distressing and perturbing trend.
And of course major conflicts claim far more lives than terrorism. The feature starting on p50 explores the consequences for humanitarian actors attempting to operate in such hostile arenas. This segues into our feature looking at attacks on healthcare (p63).
We had hoped that by the time the journal was published a more positive picture would be emerging. But CRJ went to press in the week that east Aleppo lost its last functioning hospital after a relentless wave of airstrikes.
More positively, this issue also covers IT innovations developed to assist IDPs and refugees (p80); new medical equipment and research that can help in crisis areas (p74 and p78); and how robotics and drones are building capacity and fostering resilience (p84).
In a world where international humanitarian law is blatantly disregarded, where efforts to curb climate change often appear to be a Sisyphean task, and where civilians and those trying to assist them come under deliberate attack, maybe there are a few glimmers of hope amid the darkening shadows.