If the news from around the world seems bleak, it isn't just you. From Syria to Iraq and natural disasters to a deadly virus, 2014 has already been marked by a major surge in humanitarian crises — and there are still four months to go.

A UN report released last week says this year has seen a large increase in the number of people needing aid, up to 102 million from 81 million in December 2013.

"2014 has seen a major surge in humanitarian crises around the world," said the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, adding that aid agencies need an estimated $17.3 billion US to cover the world's needs, up from $12.9 billion in 2013.

Among the ongoing problems affecting people around the world:

Rachel Logel Carmichael, a team leader in World Vision’s humanitarian and emergency affairs branch, says the combination of new and old conflicts, plus natural disasters, has made it a challenging year.

"We're having a particularly, it seems, difficult period of time right now," Logel Carmichael said in an interview with CBC News.

"In the last number of months, we've had major crises that have emerged in countries that, while fragile, hadn't been experiencing recent bouts of conflict." 

'One crisis after another'

Some of those conflicts have spilled over a country's borders, destabilizing a region, Logel Carmichael added.

On top of the conflicts, World Vision is seeing more climate change-induced natural disasters, including drought and floods.

"So the combination of both really stretches the resources available in the world to respond to all of these needs of all of these people,"she said.

Fen Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, says natural disasters like hurricanes or typhoons are typically one-off events that are damaging, but prolonged conflicts have more lasting effects on people.

The greatest humanitarian crisis of the last century, Hampson said, was due to the First and Second World Wars, "where you had very large-scale civilian casualties going into the tens of millions, and obviously displaced populations as well."

From the end of the Cold War until a few years ago, however, the number of violent armed conflicts and their severity had been going down.

'Crisis after crisis'

"We now appear in the past four years to be seeing an upswing again in both the frequency and scale of violent conflict in different regions in the world," Hampson said.

Logel Carmichael says it's hard to present people with one crisis after another and continue asking for donations.

"It's challenging to present to people one crisis after another. Maybe people gave during the Philippines crisis and said, 'well, I've supported a cause for this year so I've done my part.' And to present, say, we still have a situation happening in South Sudan, and people in Iraq are facing these issues and challenges now, we recognize the challenge of crisis after crisis happening." 

Logel Carmichael says she hopes people can find a region with which they identify, and personalize the tremendous suffering of people on the other side of the world.