UNICEF defines emergencies as situations that threaten the lives and well-being of large numbers of children, their caregivers and communities. Emergencies are often caused by natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and typhoons, or by conflict situations. UNICEF works closely with governments to provide assistance during emergencies and to better prepare for and recover from emergencies.
Emergency situations are a fact of life for many children in this region. During emergencies, children’s health, security and well-being are compromised as families and communities are broken up and basic social infrastructure is destroyed. Temporary shelters often become permanent homes in which children have no access to education, health and other services.
One of UNICEF’s main missions is to fulfil the basic needs and fundamental rights of the most vulnerable children, including survivors of natural disasters, refugees and internally displaced children, and children affected by armed conflict. UNICEF’s Core Commitment for Children identifies life-saving interventions and critical minimum basic services vital during the first several weeks of an emergency, as well as longer-term activities that support sustainable reconstruction and development.
In humanitarian situations, UNICEF coordinates with national governments to provide life-saving support such as drinking water, medical supplies, sanitation and therapeutic food, as well as awareness-raising campaigns and training. UNICEF also ensures that children are protected and their education is not interrupted, by creating child-friendly spaces and temporary learning spaces.
Many countries and governments in the region have significantly invested in building national disaster response capacity. UNICEF continues to work closely with governments and partner organisations to further contribute to strengthen the emergency preparedness capacity of vulnerable communities. We give priority to high-risk areas, including enhanced early warning systems, contingency planning and simulations, and prepositioning of goods in order to be able to respond swiftly to the needs of children and their caregivers when disasters strike.
To help minimize the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities, UNICEF and our partners support various disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and peace building programmes. These are aimed at increasing community resilience to future shocks in order to save lives and avoid suffering, as well as to protect livelihoods, assets and infrastructure.
Through our holistic approach of ‘resilience building’, UNICEF aims to integrate development and humanitarian action and promote risk-informed programming and planning. We do this through child-centred risk assessments that incorporate natural hazards, climate change and conflict sensitivity. This helps improve the prediction and prevention of emergencies, particularly recurrent disasters, and prepare communities to cope with them should they occur.
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Humanitarian Action for Children 2013 highlights the situation of children and women in the region and draws attention to the support needed and the results UNICEF and partners are working toward.