Throughout 2015, the IRIN team has published exclusive coverage from the frontline of humanitarian crises, reporting the facts on the ground and adding expert analysis on what they might mean for vulnerable people.

From Syria to Ebola, from Boko Haram to the Nepal earthquake, from eastern Ukraine to South Sudan, our special features, films and live blogs from more than 70 countries have focused on the voices of those directly affected by crisis. IRIN has also held the emergency aid industry to account: unpicking its opaque finances, monitoring its appointments, and constantly checking its support and care of aid workers.

According to our statistics, these were your favourite stories of the year:

1. The humanitarian economy

"If the humanitarian 'community' were a country,  it would be by far the most unequal one on the planet."

The relief aid economy, worth US$18 billion this year alone, is criticised for being structurally resistant to change, diversity, competition and the inclusion of locally-based charities. NGOs and donors like to promote transparency and good governance in the countries they work in, but how much do we really know about where and how aid money is spent? Read more.

2. Mapped: 15 years of aid under fire

In 2000 there were 41 significant attacks on aid workers recorded across the globe. By 2014, it had risen to 190. In those 15 years, over 3,000 aid workers have been killed, injured or kidnapped.

This is the story of each of those attacks. See the map.

A refugee in Lebanon describes her feelings towards aid agencies (WHS)

A refugee in Lebanon describes her feelings towards aid agencies (WHS)

Aid agencies are partial, unaccountable and potentially corrupt, and they fail to meet people's most pressing needs, according to a new report based on focus group interviews with refugees and other aid recipients in the Middle East.

Other concerns included a lack of consultation about people’s needs, a failure to protect the most vulnerable, confusion over which agency was responsible for what, duplicated aid, as well as instances where help was perceived to be withheld or prioritised due to political or religious affiliation. Read more.

4. NRC kidnap ruling is ‘wake-up’ call for aid industry

Steve Dennis (back left in white shirt) and colleagues in Nairobi shortly after the end of his hostage ordeal

Steve Dennis (back left in white shirt) and colleagues in Nairobi shortly after the end of his hostage ordeal

In a case with far-reaching implications for security in the aid industry, a court in Oslo has found the Norwegian Refugee Council guilty of gross negligence in its handling of the kidnapping of Steve Dennis and three other staff members in Dadaab, Kenya in 2012.

In its ruling on the case brought by Dennis, who sued NRC for gross negligence and failing in its duty of care, the court said NRC was liable for the physical and psychological injuries he received as a result of the incident and awarded compensation of 4.4 million krone ($500,000) plus costs. Read more.

5. Why are humanitarians so WEIRD?

WEIRD whichever way you look at it (Ahmed El Mezeny)

WEIRD whichever way you look at it (Ahmed El Mezeny)

"I'm WEIRD. I'm not sure whether I became an aid worker because I'm weird, but I was definitely a WEIRD aid worker."

In this column, recovering aid worker Paul Currion argues that humanitarian organisations are fundamentally WEIRD - Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. Unless that changes, he says, they will always struggle to understand the communities in which they work. Read more.

6. Forty years a slave: Women start new lives in Mauritania

Female slaves in Mauritania have long suffered unimaginable pain and torment. Some are now free and have found the courage to speak out about their ordeals and their new lives. See the photo feature.

7. Playing the EU asylum lottery

Fleeing war or persecution for the safety of Europe? Choose your country wisely.

Asylum seekers have not truly made it until their applications are approved, giving them the right to remain as refugees or under some other form of protection. A refusal can mean removal back to the country they fled, or a life living in the shadows as an “illegal” migrant. As our graphics show, percentage rates of asylum approval across the European Union in 2014 varied dramatically. Read more.

8. Psychologists stay home: Nepal doesn't need you

Families dig through the rubble after the Nepal earthquake (Juliette Rousselot/IRIN)

Families dig through the rubble after the Nepal earthquake (Juliette Rousselot/IRIN)

Following the earthquake in Nepal, psychologist Alessandra Pigni recalls her experiences in humanitarian aid: she reminds Western do-gooders that affected populations are resilient and that pathologising suffering after a traumatic event may get in the way of healing and recovery.

"I am reluctant to medicalise suffering in the aftermath of a natural disaster: symptoms of distress are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation and labelling does not help at an early stage. Of course, after a disaster strikes, everyone is in distress. But that doesn’t mean everybody needs to see a mental health practitioner." Read more.

9. 10,000 flat-pack IKEA shelters for Iraqi displaced

IKEA has trialled the housing units in Iraq and Kenya (IKEA)

IKEA has trialled the housing units in Iraq and Kenya (IKEA)

The UN refugee agency has placed an order for 10,000 flat-pack refugee shelters designed by a social enterprise arm of furniture giant IKEA, with first delivery planned within months to camps across Iraq, where some 2.5 million people have been displaced by conflict.

Work on the Better Shelter units began more than five years ago and a prototype was unveiled in 2013. After an 18-month pilot, UNHCR says the design is ready to be rolled out to scale. (Columnist Paul Currion punctures the hype a little here). Read more.


10. How bad is the drought in EthiopiA?

Alarm bells are ringing for a food emergency in Ethiopia. The UN said 15 million people may need help over the coming months.

The government, wary of stigma and therefore hesitant to ask for help, has nevertheless said more than eight million Ethiopians need food assistance.

Extra imports to stem the crisis are already pegged at more than a million tonnes of grain, beyond the government’s means. Inevitably, comment and media coverage compare the current situation with 1984 – the year Ethiopia’s notorious famine hit the headlines. Reports suggest this is the worst drought in 30 or more years. One declares it a “code red” drought. So how bad actually is it? Read more.


Edited by Andrew Gully

Banner is award-winning photo by Eleonora Vio of a migrant family coming ashore at Sklala Sykaminias, Greece