Humanitarian action is core to UNICEF’s work, 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.
UNICEF’s seven regional offices and 10 headquarters divisions support country-level humanitarian action. Together these offices provide the core infrastructure that enables country offices to prepare for and respond to crises. This involves systematically reducing vulnerability to disasters and conflicts; facilitating inter-agency coordination and partnerships; contributing to the strategic response plans of humanitarian country teams; mobilizing resources; and communicating, monitoring and reporting on UNICEF humanitarian action. Dedicated technical and cross-sector advisers in the various offices provide programme and operational support. UNICEF global support is coordinated by a dedicated team in the Office of Emergency Programmes, including a global security team and the Operations Centre, which functions 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The cost of UNICEF global support in 2016 is US$47 million,1 approximately 1.7 per cent of the overall appeal.
Global support to the field in 2015
The year 2015 began with ongoing responses to five major emergencies that required the mobilization of the entire humanitarian system: the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and the continuing conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic. By mid-2015, UNICEF and partners also began an organization-wide response to the conflict in Yemen. Throughout the year, investments in UNICEF’s global support translated into the following achievements, which were based largely on the implementation of reforms linked to UNICEF’s Strengthening Humanitarian Action initiative. These included:
- UNICEF’s capacity to rapidly deploy staff with specialized skills in emergency coordination, programming and operations was significantly enhanced with the recruitment of eight Emergency Response Team (ERT) members in 2015. In total, 12 field offices benefitted from 499 days of ERT deployments by six ERT members between January and December 2015.
- UNICEF’s Immediate Response Team (IRT) members – experts in key programme and operational areas – were deployed 20 times for a total of 783 days. UNICEF’s intensive week-long emergency simulation training was rolled out in mid-2015. A total of 28 IRT and seven ERT members were trained and readied for deployment as surge staff within 24–48 hours.
- The UNICEF Emergency Programme Fund (EPF) benefited 16 field offices in 2015. The EPF is a revolving fund that UNICEF disburses to field offices within 48 hours of a sudden humanitarian crisis, before donor funds are made available. It is the quickest, most reliable and most adaptable source of funding for an emergency. In total, US$28.8 million had been disbursed by mid-December 2015.
- UNICEF’s effort to strengthen core skills and the fundamentals of humanitarian action throughout the organization was boosted with dedicated capacity for learning and a refined strategy to be implemented in early 2016 including development of core learning packages for all staff.
- Emergency supplies procured for UNICEF totaled US$147.8 million in 2015. This included the delivery of 1,275 metric tons to Nepal following the April 2015 earthquake, and the delivery of 2,889 metric tons of emergency supplies in international shipments (US$19.7 million procurement value) to Yemen between April and December 2015.
In delivering humanitarian results for children, UNICEF recognizes that meaningful and effective engagement with affected populations is central to their survival and recovery. The organization will therefore focus on initiatives that further strengthen its ability to link its development and humanitarian mandates by helping communities reduce the risks and impacts of natural disasters as well as conflicts. This includes developing and promoting practical measures for systematically engaging with communities, local partners and global coordination mechanisms that nurture greater quality and accountability to affected populations. The expansion of new partnerships at the global level will help UNICEF more effectively address many of the humanitarian challenges faced by the most vulnerable children. UNICEF will continue to build staff skills for humanitarian preparedness and response through the implementation of the organization’s humanitarian learning strategy. In terms of emergency preparedness, a major focus will be on the launch of UNICEF’s new Emergency Preparedness Platform, which will replace the existing Early Warning Early Action system as the organization’s primary tool for enhancing effective planning and monitoring of preparedness activities. Finally, the roll-out of UNICEF’s eTools project, which includes a field monitoring tool, a UNICEF-partner reporting platform and a similar platform for cluster partners, will increase the ease and efficiency of information management for humanitarian performance monitoring.
1 This does not include additional requirements laid out in the regional chapters of Humanitarian Action for Children 2016.