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UNICEF Executive Board

After a devastating year for children, UNICEF Executive Board considers increasing the emergency fund

At a time of peril and promise for the world's children, the UNICEF Executive Board considers how to improve efforts to reach the most marginalized and vulnerable.

 

By Kristin Taylor

NEW YORK, United States of America, 4 February 2015 – The number and scale of humanitarian emergencies in 2014 made it an unprecedented year in UNICEF’s work to meet the needs of children and families affected by crisis.

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0176/Markisz
H.E. Mr. Masood Khan, President of the 2015 UNICEF Executive Board and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, speaks at the first regular session of the 2015 UNICEF Executive Board.

As UNICEF’s Executive Board gathered yesterday at the start of the first regular session of 2015, Member States considered the growing number and complexity of emergencies, the lessons UNICEF has learned from the preceding year and how those insights may be applied to provide even more timely and effective humanitarian aid. In a top-agenda item, the Board considered how UNICEF can continue to have sufficient funds available when a situation quickly deteriorates, facilitating stronger operational capacity to respond to crises.

An unprecedented humanitarian caseload

By the end of October 2014, UNICEF and partners were engaged in humanitarian response in about 40 countries, including 11 emergencies classified as Level 3 – the highest designation, requiring mobilization of the entire humanitarian system. These included the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in late 2013; violence in the Central African Republic; conflict and food insecurity in South Sudan; the upsurge of fighting in Iraq; the continued conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic and the resulting refugee crisis in several neighbouring countries; and the worst Ebola virus outbreak in history, which has ravaged communities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0185/Markisz
Participants attend the first regular session of the 2015 UNICEF Executive Board, at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“Children around the world are under greater threat than ever before from humanitarian emergencies, sectarian strife and crises such as the outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has cost so many lives and devastated families and communities in West Africa,” said Executive Board President, H.E. Mr. Masood Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. “And in the last few months, we have been devastated by increasingly brutal attacks against children and seen previously unimaginable horrors as children have been used as weapons by extremist groups.”

While major crises made headlines and front-page news, however, UNICEF also continued to work to meet the needs of children suffering in other less visible emergencies, such as those in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen.

By early December 2014, an estimated 230 million children worldwide were living in countries and areas affected by armed conflict – a number that does not include children affected by natural disasters, chronic food shortages or other crisis-level threats to their survival and well-being, which would push the total number of highly vulnerable children even higher.

Increasing funds available for a rapid response to emergencies

The UNICEF Emergency Programme Fund (EPF) is the organization’s quickest and most flexible source of immediate funding for humanitarian crises. The EPF loan, which fronts the cost of responding to acute emergencies by fast-tracking resources to eligible countries, enables UNICEF to disburse funds to affected countries within 48 hours of a crisis. Funds are reimbursed when donor contributions to emergency appeals are received by UNICEF.

In his opening remarks during the session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake emphasized the importance of increasing the EPF ceiling to address the needs of children affected by the growing number of emergency situations around the world.

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0178/Markisz
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks at the first regular session of the 2015 UNICEF Executive Board.

“Of course, resources are ― and will always be ― crucial to UNICEF’s partnerships, and indeed, everything we do. From the generosity of governments, to our network of National Committees, to our partners in the private sector ― we’ll continue to rely on our extraordinary donors to do all we must do, in every circumstance, in an ever-more-dangerous world for children,” Mr. Lake said.

Several delegations expressed support for the proposal to increase the ceiling. Should the increase be approved by the Board later this week, it will strengthen UNICEF’s commitment to the world’s children by allowing the organization to continue to respond rapidly to deteriorating conditions on the ground.

Also on the agenda for this week’s session is a proposal on continuing UNICEF's work in countries transitioning from middle- to high-income status – an important issue that speaks to the universality of UNICEF’s mandate, and its ability to work closely with governments, the private sector, civil society and others across all regions, to improve the lives of children everywhere.

In his remarks, Mr. Khan asked for a moment of silence in recognition of children’s lives lost, including families devastated by the Ebola virus and by brutal attacks against children last year, such as the one that killed 134 schoolchildren in his home country of Pakistan.

“These precious children came into the world full of potential that has now been taken away,” Mr. Khan said. “Throughout this coming year, we should keep these children in our hearts and minds as we work with the Executive Director and his team to make UNICEF stronger to meet the ever-increasing needs of all the world's children. Let us fight for the rights and well-being of each and every child as if they were our own.”


 

 

UNICEF Photography: UNICEF's Executive Board

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