UNICEF's role in humanitarian situations

© UNICEF/ HQ99-0215/LeMoyne
Refugees from Kosovo at the Blace transit camp on the Macedonia-Kosovo border in 1999.

UNICEF has been involved in both major and  minor emergencies since the organisation’s inception. UNICEF’s  continuing presence in over 125 country offices worldwide – many established for more than 20 years – means that it is often on the ground long before, and after, the crisis or unstable situation occurs.

Over the years, UNICEF’s direct involvement in emergencies has grown steadily. Today, emergencies are more complex than before and their numbers are rising. Therefore UNICEF development programmes are forever adapting, often finding themselves responding to emerging and abating crises in many previously stable countries. As of early 2003, UNICEF has a direct presence in some 55 to 60 countries (the number is constantly shifting) designated as acutely unstable or with pockets of instability and emergencies.

UNICEF works closely with a wide range of partners, providing protection and assistance to children in conflicts and emergencies. The central role of UNICEF in unstable situations is advocacy, assessment and coordination to ensure the care and protection of vulnerable children. To that end, UNICEF coordinates services to meet the physical, emotional, cognitive, social and nutritional needs of children and women. An ongoing challenge – both of emergencies and development – is fully utilizing the extensive and varied expertise of staff as many services come together under one umbrella.

As in all its work, UNICEF’s mission during emergencies is to protect children and women and to ensure the rigorous application of international standards covering the rights of children.

In practical terms, UNICEF's action – both in development and humanitarian settings – is built around 5 organizational priorities:  girls' education, early childhood, immunization "plus", the fight against HIV/AIDS , and protection from violence, abuse, exploitation and discrimination.

In fine-tuning its approach to preparedness and response to emergencies, UNICEF is strengthening its capacity to anticipate instability. In that way it can attempt to reduce the likelihood of a crisis, respond immediately in the event one occurs and simultaneously contribute to a population’s long-term social welfare.



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