Emergency response

Emergencies and underdevelopment: A downward spiral

© UNICEF/HQ05-1738/Zaidi
Effective response to emergencies is needed to keep countries on the path – or jump-start progress – towards the Millennium Development Goals. Countries facing the most challenges meeting the Goals are often those most vulnerable to emergencies. Failure to meet emergency needs or prevent crises when possible can quickly erase years of progress and aggravate poverty. Advances towards the Goals can mitigate the effects of emergencies and prevent cyclical phenomena from having devastating effects.

UNICEF is part of the effort to make emergency response more timely, efficient and effective. A ‘cluster leadership’ approach, designed to improve aid delivery in the field, was adopted by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee in 2005 and first implemented in Pakistan after the October earthquake. Within this overall strategy, UNICEF has a coordinating role in nutrition, data communications, and water and environmental sanitation; is an important implementing partner in health; and will lead in education and, in some circumstances, child protection.

As part of an inter-agency effort, in 2005 UNICEF helped devise plans and secure initial funding in preparation for a potential pandemic of avian influenza (H5N1), which many fear may disproportionately infect and kill children.

All UNICEF country offices were required to prepare contingency plans for programmes and operations by late October 2005. The organization is poised to provide a strategic voice in the coordinated UN response to the threat, while fully utilizing its mandate for children, commitment to emergency response and the Millennium Development Goals, and proven strengths in communication, vaccination and assisting governments at multiple levels.

Landmark donations

Donations to UNICEF for emergency work exceeded $1 billion in 2005, or about 40 per cent of all income. While driven by the magnitude of the tsunami disaster, this also reflects overall growth in available financing and an enhanced emergency-response capacity. A landmark $806 million in emergency funding was requested for 2006, $331 million of it for Sudan, a country that embodies the connections between optimism and the need for urgent action – with one decades long-conflict, pitting north against south, finally reaching some resolution in 2005, and another, in Darfur, seemingly taking root.