With faint hopes for some recovery and a few positive macroeconomic signals at the beginning of in 2013, Europe was dominated during 2012 by the economic recession in many spheres of life. National Societies in Europe depending on international assistance were effected directly by the financial problems of their traditional supporters and donors. Humanitarian assistance programmes and operations supported for many years through the International Federation in the countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as in Central Europe, were severely affected by the downsizing trends in the European economies and subsequent changes in the traditional donor national societies’ priorities which were forced to focus on their domestic humanitarian requirements.
There is a wide understanding by states and authorities in most of Europe of the importance of strengthening the National Societies in their respective countries as their auxiliary agents in the global humanitarian aid sector. Despite the general awareness, many European National Societies are faced with economic constraints demanding reprioritization of activities domestically and abroad. However, the crisis has also sparked a growth in solidarity and willingness also in some places to donate money or time, which also presents some opportunity to tap into those resources and engage new groups of volunteers in meaningful activities.
Migration and its humanitarian aspects continued to be within the scope of attention of many governments and humanitarian agencies. In Russia alone, there were 10-12 million labour migrants from the neighbouring countries, mainly Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine. In addition to the problems of an uncontrolled and often illegal labour migration from the Middle East and elsewhere, Europe had to deal with the consequences of a massive forced migration of Syrian nationals, the majority of them, an estimated 150 thousand, finding temporary refuge in Turkey.
The exceptionally harsh winter in many parts of Europe was but a recurring reminder of climate change and the importance of disaster management. There is an obvious need for coordinated and geographically consistent investment in disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness for response to address the trends. Those actions need to address the issues of urbanization and disaster response, climate change adaptation and technological disasters. The total number of DREF supported operations in 2012 in Europe and Central Asia reached 26 with a total allocation of CHF 4,137,000.
Public health and life expectancy in Europe was improving in general terms (75 years in 2010, 81 years expected in 2050). Ageing presents both challenges and opportunities. It will strain health and social-security systems. However, older people can also be a wonderful resource for their families, communities and in the formal or informal workforce like volunteering, and the changed demographic pattern in Europe necessitates a change of mentality. Meanwhile HIV and TB epidemics in Europe are escalating among the most-at-risk and highly stigmatized population such as drug users, prisoners and migrants, living outside of the system, most often without registration papers and therefore with restricted access to health services. The uptake of HIV testing in these marginalized groups is insufficient, and so is their access to antiretroviral therapy.