Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it
provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition,
education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
- Bangladesh faces three overlapping humanitarian emergencies. Over 860,000 Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar District are highly dependent on international aid. A densely populated country, Bangladesh is experiencing a significant coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak across its eight divisions. Millions of families are also vulnerable to floods and cyclones.
- In Rohingya camps, UNICEF and implementing partners will provide health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, child protection and gender-based violence services at scale. Across the country, UNICEF will support the Government to prepare for and respond to humanitarian needs, including the impacts of COVID-19.
- UNICEF is appealing for US$198.8 million in 2021 to support COVID-19 prevention and treatment and continue vital health, nutrition and WASH services in Bangladesh and Rohingya refugee camps. The response will focus on ensuring that every Rohingya child has an education, including through the introduction of the Myanmar curriculum.
Key planned results for 2021
10.5 million people accessing a sufficient quantity of safe water
547,692 women and children accessing gender-based violence risk mitigation / prevention / response
47.7 million people participating in engagement actions
Funding requirements for 2021
Country needs and strategy
Three years after extreme violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, sparked a massive refugee influx into Bangladesh, there are 860,000 Rohingya refugees living in 34 congested camps in Cox’s Bazar District. To date, conditions for their safe and voluntary return to Myanmar have not been achieved. While widespread cases of COVID-19 have not been identified in the camps, to stem a potential outbreak, it is essential that treatment facilities, masks and accurate information are widely available.
The primary and secondary impacts of COVID-19 have compromised access to health and nutrition services for Rohingya refugees, reversing some of the gains made in the past few years. Before learning centres were closed in March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, 76 per cent of Rohingya boys and 70 per cent of Rohingya girls aged 6 to 14 years were accessing education. Child protection sub-sector partners are reporting increased levels of violence against children, gender-based violence and psychosocial distress. Since March 2020, however, access to the camps has been restricted to critical services, and adolescent girls and people with disabilities are among those least likely to access the services they need.
As of September 2020, Bangladesh – one of the world's most densely populated countries – had the 14th highest caseload of COVID-19 globally. The pandemic has had a major impact on the economy and is overwhelming health and nutrition services. There were already too few health workers before the pandemic (8.3 health workers per 10,000 people, compared with 45 per 10,000 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)). Constrained access to health and nutrition services could worsen the nutrition crisis, raising acute malnutrition rates by 14 per cent.
In addition, projections indicate that 2020 gross domestic product growth could decline from 7 to 2 per cent. Increased poverty will create an additional barrier to children's rights. Children from vulnerable households, including those with no wage earners, report lower levels of access to alternative learning modalities. In a country where 45 million children are subjected to violent discipline, violence against women and children, including gender-based violence, has increased by an estimated 31 per cent during the pandemic.
In addition to these vulnerabilities, the population is at risk due to recurrent monsoon and cyclone-related disasters exacerbated by climate change. In 2020, one quarter of the country was flooded, affecting 5.4 million people.
UNICEF’s humanitarian response in Bangladesh is aligned with the 2021 Joint Response Plan, the Bangladesh Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19 and the 2020 Response Plan for the monsoon floods.
For Rohingya refugees and their host communities, UNICEF will prioritize: (1) making COVID-19 treatment facilities available; (2) supporting the continuity and utilization of health and nutrition services; (3) providing safe water and sanitation and supporting the adoption of handwashing behaviours; (4) facilitating life-saving behaviours including mask usage and social distancing; (5) providing education, child protection and gender-based violence services at scale using adapted modalities informed by the latest evidence on COVID-19 prevention; and (6) engaging adolescents to participate within their communities and in the response. Given that the introduction of the Myanmar curriculum in the camps was delayed due to the closure of learning centres, UNICEF will prioritize scaling up the curriculum in 2021. Wherever possible, UNICEF will strengthen the linkages between its humanitarian response and development programmes to achieve more sustainable results.
UNICEF is providing technical, logistical, financial and in-kind assistance to the Government of Bangladesh to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 across the country. UNICEF will support the Directorate General of Health Services to ensure uninterrupted access to health and nutrition services, while also coordinating the Case Management and Infection Prevention Control Pillar and procuring personal protective and other equipment. In coordination with the Department of Public Health Engineering, UNICEF will provide and monitor access to safe water. Education authorities will be supported to safely operate schools and offer quality complementary distance learning, while ensuring the provision of integrated early child education and development opportunities. UNICEF will focus on strengthening the social worker workforce to prevent and respond to increasing child protection and gender-based violence incidents, including by addressing child marriage through in-person and outreach services.
Across its humanitarian response, UNICEF will systematically support national non-governmental organizations to lead the response, in line with the localization agenda. Mechanisms have been established to gather feedback from affected communities and use this information to adapt and improve the response, and prevent, report and respond to cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. All sectors will mainstream disaster preparedness and response principles in light of the annual monsoon and cyclone seasons.
UNICEF leads the nutrition and WASH sectors/clusters and the child protection sub-sector/cluster and co-leads the education sector/cluster.
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in Bangladesh; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.