|A girl collects firewood in Kibati camp for the displaced in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Conflict, chronic poverty and high food prices threaten children’s well-being throughout the region.|
NEW YORK, USA, 26 January 2009 – The 2009 Humanitarian Action Report (HAR) was launched today in Geneva by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag. This year’s HAR highlights the plight of children and women in humanitarian emergencies in a total of 36 countries and territories, including Zimbabwe, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Myanmar.
The growing number of humanitarian emergencies around the world has prompted UNICEF to give the report a higher profile, making it a flagship publication for the very first time.
“This is the first year that the Humanitarian Action Report has become a flagship for UNICEF and that is a recognition that humanitarian crises around the world are increasing – and hence the importance for us to increase our advocacy,” said UNICEF Director of Emergency Operations Louis-Georges Arsenault.
Needs almost doubled
The report states that emergency needs in eastern and southern Africa have almost doubled, particularly in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Somalia. The report is seeking over US$ 1 billion – 17 percent more than in 2008 – to cope with the growing severity of emergencies; 38 per cent of the funding will support health and nutrition programmes, and 22 per cent will fund water and sanitation projects.
More than half the funds requested are for the continuation of UNICEF’s support to the five largest humanitarian operations worldwide: in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The HAR also notes the challenges presented by high food prices and climate change and their effects on already vulnerable children and families.
|Five of ten orphaned siblings stand inside their home in Darebagh Village, Afghanistan. Because of ongoing conflict, 40 per cent of the country is not accessible to aid workers.|
High food prices
Looming over more than half the countries named in UNICEF’s annual Humanitarian Action Report is the adverse impact of high food prices.
UNICEF estimates that more than 950 million people now suffer from a lack of food – 100 million more than the previous year. Higher food prices exacerbate other problems that children face, such as increasing their exposure to disease and forcing families to take extreme measures like sending children out to work or having them marry young.
“It is creating a new level of vulnerability for children,” Mr. Arsenault said.
Climate change is also taking a higher toll on children’s lives—exposing them to disease and displacement. UNICEF estimates that 175 million children will suffer from climate-related disasters in the next ten years.
UNICEF’s is working with its partners to help the countries most at risk from climate change, to develop systems and policies to mitigate its impact.