Humanitarian action is central to UNICEF’s mandate, encompassing effective preparedness, response and early recovery to save lives and protect child rights, as defined in the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action.
Country-level humanitarian action is supported by UNICEF’s seven regional offices and 10 headquarters divisions. This involves facilitating global and regional inter-agency coordination and partnerships; contributing to the strategic response plans of humanitarian country teams; leading/co-leading global clusters for five sectors; facilitating policy guidance and strategic dialogue; mobilizing human and financial resources; and communicating, monitoring and reporting on UNICEF’s humanitarian results. UNICEF’s global support is coordinated by the Office of Emergency Programmes, including a security team and the 24-hour, 7-day Operations Centre. In 2017, the cost of this support is estimated at US$49.1 million,1 approximately 1.5 per cent of UNICEF’s overall humanitarian appeal.
Global support to the field in 2016
Five major emergencies required organization-wide mobilization in 2016: the continuing conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen; the escalating violence in Iraq; the protracted crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic and neighbouring refugee-hosting countries; and the unfolding humanitarian situation in north-east Nigeria. Regional offices were also responsible for overseeing expanded efforts in the Central African Republic, Haiti and Lake Chad basin. In all cases, UNICEF’s core infrastructure played a vital role in supporting country office responses.
Investments in UNICEF’s global support translated into the following achievements in 2016:
- Emergency supplies procured for UNICEF for the CentralAfrican Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republicand Yemen totalled US$266.2 million.2
- UNICEF’s capacity to rapidly deploy staff with specialized skillsin emergency coordination, programming and operations wassignificantly enhanced with the recruitment of an additional sixEmergency Response Team (ERT) members in 2016 for a totalcomplement of 14. Twelve ERT members undertook37 missions to 17 countries and three regional offices, totalling2,356 days between January and December 2016.
- Standby partners represented a significant source of capacity,deploying 213 personnel to country offices in 2016 throughagreements with 30 organizations. Forty-one per cent of thesedeployments supported Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies.
- UNICEF has prioritized strengthening its preparednesssystems through the development of the Preparedness Procedure and associated guidance for country offices, including mandatory minimum standards. In addition, the new online Emergency Preparedness Platform has been designed to support planning and monitoring.
- Learning from the Ebola crisis, UNICEF launched theHealth Emergencies Preparedness Initiative to strengthenorganizational capacity to respond predictably to publichealth emergencies, in close collaboration with the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention and the World HealthOrganization.
- For the first time, in partnership with the InternationalFederation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)and respective National Societies in 13 countries, UNICEFdeveloped joint programmes aimed at strengtheningcommunity resilience, with more planned for 2017. Innovativetools such as U-Report are being used to engage communitiesand scale-up programmes.
- In an effort to strengthen capacity, UNICEF and the WorldFood Programme developed their first-ever joint Level 3emergency response simulation for 22 personnel from eachagency. The exercise improved agencies’ understandingsof mechanisms, policy and guidance to better prepare fordeployment into a system-wide response.
- The Emergency Programme Fund – a revolving fund thatUNICEF disburses to field offices within 48 hours of a suddenhumanitarian crisis, before donor resources are available andto underfunded emergencies – distributed US$26 million to14 country offices and three regional offices in 2016.
Going forward, UNICEF’s work will reflect the priorities established at the World Humanitarian Summit and the principles of the Grand Bargain. Focus areas include the implementation of the Education Cannot Wait Fund; accountability to affected populations; expanded partnerships; and increased collaboration with local responders. UNICEF will continue to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations. Commitments that require collaboration with donors, such as transparency, earmarking, simplified and harmonized reporting and multi-year funding and planning, will be emphasized. UNICEF will expand its use of cash-based transfers for both preparedness and response. Cluster and sectoral coordination capacities will be leveraged to improve harmonized humanitarian needs assessment. Finally, UNICEF will increase the ease and efficiency of information management for humanitarian performance monitoring through the roll-out of an online platform.
1 This does not include additional requirements laid out in the regional chapters of Humanitarian Action for Children 2017.
2 This is an estimate based on preliminary figures as of November 2016.