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Global support

Humanitarian action is fundamental to realizing the rights of every child and therefore central to UNICEF’s mandate. UNICEF is working to deliver a faster, more effective and principled humanitarian response, in line with its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action and the UNICEF Strategic Plan 2018–2021.

Country-level humanitarian action is supported by UNICEF’s seven regional offices and 10 headquarters divisions. This involves facilitating inter-agency coordination and partnerships; contributing to strategic response plans; leading/co-leading global clusters for five sectors; facilitating policy guidance and strategic dialogue; mobilizing human and financial resources; and monitoring and reporting on 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 2018, the cost of this support is estimated at US$54.8 million,1 1.5 per cent of UNICEF’s overall appeal.

Global architecture of UNICEF's humanitarian action
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Global support to the field in 2017

Seven major emergencies required organization-wide mobilization in 2017: the protracted conflicts in Iraq, north-east Nigeria, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and neighbouring countries and Yemen; and the emerging crises in Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Investments in UNICEF’s global support translated into the following achievements in 2017:

  • Supplies procured for countries with Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies totalled US$909.3 million in 2017.2
  • UNICEF’s Emergency Response Team – comprising 14 staff with specialized skills in emergency coordination, programming and operations – undertook 58 missions to 17 countries, four regional offices and four headquarters locations, totalling 2,001 days in 2017. Of these missions, 14 (totalling 86 days) were for the provision and/or receipt of capacity building/training.
  • Standby partners continue to represent a significant source of capacity. UNICEF deployed 166 personnel to country offices in 2017 through agreements with 30 standby partner organizations. Fifty-five per cent of these deployments supported Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies.3
  • In 2017, UNICEF’s global cluster rapid response teams supported 24 countries, including seven Level 3 emergencies, through 79 missions totalling more than 3,122 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 – distributed US$73.7 million to 20 country offices and three regional offices in 2017.
  • As part of the Health Emergencies Preparedness Initiative, UNICEF has developed cross-sectoral guidance and resources for 31 priority diseases, which were selected for their potential for becoming epidemics/pandemics and impacting children. These resources supported UNICEF’s responses to the 2017 outbreaks of Ebola, Marburg and the plague in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Madagascar, respectively.
  • UNICEF’s Emergency Preparedness Platform – a system for enhancing the organization’s early warning and preparedness – was rolled out to 40 country offices in 2017. The platform will aid country offices in analysing risks, undertaking self-assessments, and identifying high-return actions that will enhance preparedness at the country level.
  • Under the auspices of the Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities Network, UNICEF and partners5 established the Communication and Community Engagement Initiative. The Initiative aims to organize a collective service for a more systematic and coordinated approach to community engagement with affected people.

Looking ahead

UNICEF will focus on improving access for principled humanitarian response to the most vulnerable children in complex environments. UNICEF’s standard procedures for Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies will be revised, with emphasis on enhancing operational partnerships with first-line responders for more effective response, community engagement and accountability to affected populations. The mainstreaming of risk analysis and emergency preparedness will continue throughout the organization, in line with inter-agency efforts and the launch of the new Emergency Preparedness Platform in 2018. In addition to strengthening humanitarian advocacy, a coordinated approach to emergency cash transfers will be further elaborated through tools, guidelines and strategic partnerships. Humanitarian learning packages will be rolled out to enhance staff capacity for principled humanitarian action in complex, high-threat environments, for preparedness and for emergency cash transfers.



1 This does not include additional requirements laid out in the regional chapters of Humanitarian Action for Children 2018.
2 This is an estimate based on preliminary figures as of November 2017.
3 As of 31 December 2017; excludes deployments to headquarters locations.
4 Includes missions undertaken by UNICEF’s Global Cluster Coordination Unit.
5 The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).