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Global support

Humanitarian action is central to UNICEF’s mandate and realizing the rights of every child. UNICEF responds to more than 300 humanitarian situations every year. As such, we are working to deliver principled humanitarian response more systematically, in line with the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018–2021.

Country-level humanitarian action is supported by a global architecture made up of UNICEF’s 7 regional offices and 10 headquarters divisions. These offices provide the core infrastructure to support field preparedness and response to save lives, protect rights, reduce vulnerabilities to disasters and conflicts, support global and country coordination mechanisms and promote humanitarian partnerships. 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 2019, the cost of this support will reach US$66 million,1 1.7 per cent of UNICEF’s overall 2019 humanitarian appeal.

Global architecture of UNICEF's humanitarian action
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Global support to the field in 2018

Six major emergencies required organization-wide mobilization in 2018: the refugee crisis in Bangladesh and the protracted crises in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and neighbouring countries and Yemen.

Investments in UNICEF’s global support translated into the following achievements in 2018:

  • A total of US$347 million in supplies were procured for countries responding to emergencies, including US$318.4 million for the seven Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies.2
  • UNICEF’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) expanded from 14 to 22 staff with specialized skills in emergency coordination, programming, operations, gender, accountability to affected populations and humanitarian cash transfers. In 2018, the ERT undertook 77 missions to 39 countries and 2 regional offices, totalling 2,557 days. Forty-five per cent of these missions (1,475 days) supported preparedness and response to Level 2 and Level 3 crises.
  • UNICEF deployed 83 standby partner personnel to country offices through agreements with 30 standby partner organizations. Forty-nine per cent of these deployments supported responses to Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies.3
  • UNICEF’s global cluster rapid response teams supported 28 countries, including four Level 3 emergencies, through 80 missions totalling more than 3,518 days.4
  • The Emergency Programme Fund – a revolving fund disbursed to field offices within 48 hours of a sudden humanitarian crisis, before donor resources are available and to underfunded emergencies – disbursed US$66.7 million to 28 country offices and two regional offices in 2018.5
  • UNICEF rolled out the Security Framework of Accountability to enable UNICEF to deliver on its humanitarian mandate.
  • UNICEF’s Emergency Preparedness Platform – a system for enhancing the organization’s early warning and preparedness – was rolled out globally in early 2018. By mid-year, all country offices had approved their preparedness plans in the system.
  • An organization-wide strategy for scaling up accountability to affected populations (AAP) was endorsed in 2018. The strategy aims to systematically integrate AAP into all UNICEF programmes. UNICEF also continued to support the Communication and Community Engagement Initiative with partners to promote a collective approach to AAP in countries.

Looking ahead

As conflicts and disasters continue to have devastating consequences for children, UNICEF will focus on initiatives that improve the quality of its humanitarian response generally, and particularly in high-threat contexts. This includes investing in country office preparedness through better risk analysis and the identification of high-return actions; strengthening the normative frameworks around humanitarian access and simplified operating procedures for Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies; updating the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action to reflect new realities; better coordinating field support for countries preparing for, planning and responding to crises; scaling up humanitarian cash transfer programmes by establishing systems, building capacities and generating evidence; expanding engagement with affected populations; ensuring that our preparedness and response are relevant through improved benchmarking, better evidence and inter-agency collaboration; and strengthening humanitarian leadership at the country level through learning and capacity building initiatives. In addition to expanding and developing new partnerships at the global level to more effectively address humanitarian challenges, UNICEF will also continue to invest in its cluster leadership role through advocacy, field support, normative guidance, evidence generation and capacity building at the country level.


1 This is an estimate. It does not include additional requirements laid out in the regional chapters of Humanitarian Action for Children 2019.
2 This is an estimate based on preliminary figures as of November 2018.
3 As of 29 December 2018; excludes deployments to headquarters locations.
4 Includes missions undertaken by UNICEF’s Global Cluster Coordination Unit.
5 As of 31 December 2018.