Executive Director's Foreword
Humanitarian Action for Children 2013
At first glance, Fatima looked to be about 4 or 5 months old. In fact, she had just passed her first birthday. She was among the 126,000 children with severe acute malnutrition treated at one of 425 nutrition rehabilitation centres set up by Chad’s Ministry of Health in 2012 as part of a Sahel-wide scale-up. Hundreds of thousands have been reached with life-saving assistance. Sadly, many others have not.
With each passing day, 14-month-old Rabab Mohammed Saleh’s smile was becoming a little wider; her body growing a little stronger. She was at the therapeutic feeding centre of Al-Sabaeen Hospital in Sana’a, Yemen being treated for malnutrition. Rabab lives with her single mother and 10 surviving siblings. Four have died. In Yemen, almost 1 million children are acutely malnourished; over a quarter of a million suffer from severe acute malnutrition and live, daily, in the shadow of death.
At the sprawling Za’atari refugee camp near the border between Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic, 12-year-old Tabark had resumed classes at the new emergency school. Her dream is to become an Arabic teacher. Over 47,000 refugee children in neighbouring countries and 23,000 children inside the Syrian Arab Republic have benefited from emergency education programmes, while initiatives to protect their psychological wellbeing have reached 32,000 children inside the Syrian Arab Republic and 42,000 in neighbouring countries. For too many children, though, education and protection become casualties of crisis.
These are just some of the hundreds of courageous children I have met during field trips in the last 12 months.
Humanitarian Action for Children 2013 highlights the challenges children such as Fatima, Rabab and Tabark face in humanitarian situations around the world. It identifies the support required to help these children survive and thrive. Most importantly, it shows the results our partners and we have achieved, and must strive to achieve, for children in need.
For example, in 2012 in partnership with national governments, civil society organizations and other United Nations agencies, UNICEF was projected to treat 850,000 of the estimated 1.1 million children under 5 with severe acute malnutrition across the Sahel, even as the conflict in Mali deteriorated and prompted a refugee crisis in surrounding countries. Increasingly, we try to do so with a ‘resilience reflex’, in ways that build the capacity of health centres and strengthen communities and families for the future.Meanwhile, in Pakistan, 109,000 children and women affected by flooding and insecurity were able to access protection, rehabilitative and recreation services, as well as life-skills education, through Protective Learning and Community Emergency Services (PLaCES).
Humanitarian response is no less important in those parts of the world that do not command media attention. In the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states of Sudan, conflict has driven over 210,000 people, over half of whom are children, across the borders into neighbouring South Sudan and Ethiopia, while an estimated 695,000 people have been internally displaced or severely affected. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 2.4 million people are displaced, the number of severely malnourished children tops 1 million.
Globally, we continue to improve our ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies. We have established new standard operating procedures to guide UNICEF’s efforts in the event of large-scale emergencies, as well as processes to better meet our cluster and sector coordination responsibilities in the broader humanitarian system. And we have supported development of the Transformative Agenda within the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.
As we strive to deliver better results for those in desperate need, we are also mindful of the importance of measuring those results and identifying bottlenecks to greater progress.
These results are made possible through generous contributions from donors who continue to support UNICEF’s humanitarian action even in times of fiscal austerity. Predictable and flexible funding supports programmes like the ones described above and enables us to act quickly wherever and whenever crises occur.
We can deliver results for children in challenging environments and complicated emergencies. Fatima can recover from severe acute malnutrition; Rabab’s health will improve; Tabark can continue her schooling. Together, we can give all children in humanitarian situations the tools not only to recover but to realize their potential, nurture their talents and contribute to the growth of their nations.
UNICEF Executive Director