Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director
In Somalia, three-year-old Moktar watched drought claim his family’s livestock and crops, forcing them to leave their rural home for an uncertain future. By the time he reached Mogadishu, he was so severely malnourished he required immediate assistance. Fortunately he received it. But far too many have not.
Florence, a young teenager fleeing war and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crossed the Ubangui River into the Central African Republic only to be lost in the jungle for weeks before being rescued and placed in an emergency encampment.
When monsoon floods returned to Pakistan’s Sindh Province in August, 11-year-old Saima’s home was destroyed by the rising waters. For weeks, she lived in a makeshift shelter on an embankment. Today, she and her family live in a crowded camp, but they consider themselves lucky: unlike many other such camps, theirs has clean water.
In 2011, we saw with stark clarity the devastating toll such large-scale humanitarian crises take on the lives and futures of children like Moktar, Florence and Saima. For while catastrophes do not discriminate, they most severely affect those least able to withstand them: the most vulnerable children, living in the poorest and most isolated places, subject to the greatest deprivations.
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2012 reports on the situation of millions of such children around the world. It describes UNICEF’s efforts to assist them by working with our partners to distribute life-sustaining supplies and assistance, provide technical expertise, help restore a sense of normalcy and build resilience for the future.
For example, in Somalia, between July and September 2011, UNICEF helped treat more than 108,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. During the same period we helped secure safe water for more than 2.2 million people. And we helped vaccinate 1.2 million children against measles.
To improve our ability to respond to large-scale and sudden-onset emergencies, this year UNICEF has adopted and implemented streamlined activation procedures to mobilize our human and financial resources more quickly and effectively. Such a response was activated in July in the Horn of Africa.
Beyond UNICEF’s efforts in responding to crises that require immediate and extraordinary measures, this report also highlights our work in countries where complex and long-standing emergency conditions endanger children’s lives and futures. These ‘silent emergencies’ do not make headlines, but they should. Because the well-being of millions of children is at stake – from Colombia to the Niger, from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to Yemen – as is the stability and future strength of their societies.
Every year brings new challenges, and UNICEF is determined to meet them. Doing so requires predictable, flexible funding. So this report includes projected resources needed to respond to emergencies in more than 25 countries and territories, supported by seven UNICEF regional offices as well as UNICEF Global Headquarters. Predictable and flexible funds enable us to act quickly wherever and whenever crises occur.
This report presents some of the most extreme difficulties faced by children, but it also highlights the promise of a timely and effective response to their needs – malnourished children restored to health, children in conflict still able to learn, and all children, whatever their circumstances, better able to realize their rights to survive and thrive.
In 2012, this is a promise we must keep. With your support, we will.
UNICEF Executive Director