South Sudan 2012 UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0148/Sokol Two boys who have been displaced by inter-ethnic violence play with a football, outside a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space that is housed in a tent, in Pibor Town, Pibor County, Jonglei State, South Sudan.

The humanitarian situation

A range of natural disasters and conflicts continued to impact children’s vulnerability in many countries in 2012, from nutrition crises across Africa, to the complex emergency in the Syrian Arab Republic, to chronic humanitarian situations across the globe.

Storms, floods and persistent droughts exacerbated food insecurity in some areas, causing loss of life, livelihoods and property and threatening children’s right to education and protection. Targeted or indiscriminate violence – including sexual violence, abuse and exploitation – not only led to new or continued mass displacements within and across borders, but also left millions of others stranded in insecure and isolated locations, with little or no access to food, basic social services or humanitarian assistance. The outbreak or continued spread of infectious diseases affected all countries facing disasters, both natural and human-made.

Results for children

In partnership with national governments, civil society organizations and other United Nations agencies, UNICEF has long worked to deliver results for children and women in humanitarian situations. Each year, the challenges faced by children in these contexts, and the support required to help them survive and thrive, have been presented in UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children funding document.

This year, the Humanitarian Action for Children 2013 document goes a step further and also reflects recent increased efforts to make UNICEF’s humanitarian action more strategic and results-based. Individual country chapters present achievements1 from past contributions2 against set targets and, where relevant, within cluster- or sector-wide results. Funding requirements are also presented against clear targets to the extent possible, based on international standards and UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action.

The work to make UNICEF’s appeals and reporting more results-based is in line with similar efforts to strengthen monitoring throughout the broader humanitarian system to which UNICEF contributes. The organization has been a key contributor to this area through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Transformative Agenda – the ongoing effort of humanitarian partners to advance humanitarian reform.

UNICEF and its partners will continue to strengthen systems to be more results-based, to articulate humanitarian appeals based on needs, standards and targets, and to show what results have been achieved for children and women.

The internal armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic is in its second year and has affected 2.5 million people, displacing 1.2 million internally and nearly 400,000 more across borders into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. Countless homes, schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure such as water and sanitation (WASH) systems have been either destroyed or severely damaged.

Meanwhile, food and nutrition crises again impacted millions of children. In the Horn of Africa and across the Sahel belt of West and Central Africa, an estimated 1.1 million children under 5 were at risk of severe acute malnutrition, and in Southern Africa, more than 6 million people were affected in Angola, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Food insecurity is chronic in many parts of Africa, allowing shocks to tilt vulnerable populations into crisis, and reinforcing the importance of strengthening community resilience. The concerted response to food insecurity in the Horn of Africa reduced the number of people in need of food assistance from 3.75 million to 2.1 million in Kenya and by 50 per cent in Somalia, though persistent failures in rainfall patterns have slightly increased the number of people needing food aid in Ethiopia. Undernutrition also remained a part of daily life in other parts of the world, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

And again in 2012, food crises were magnified by conflict. Armed conflict coupled with food insecurity in northern Mali affected more than 2.8 million people, including internally displaced persons and host populations, and caused a regional refugee crisis, creating additional burdens for vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger already affected by a food and nutrition crisis resulting from recurrent drought and food insecurity in the Sahel.

Continued and intensified conflicts also affected and displaced millions in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, the State of Palestine, Sudan and Yemen, leading to internal displacement or the outflow of new refugees into neighbouring countries. Inter-communal violence erupted in Myanmar and South Sudan, leading to internal displacements. Peace talks and new peace deals forged in 2012 are yet to translate into real change for people in Colombia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

In many places, communities had to cope with multiple or repeated shocks, such as continued displacement and humanitarian needs in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia; a third straight year of significant flooding in Pakistan; and disease outbreaks atop nutrition crises and conflict in the Sahel. At the same time, multiple natural disasters such as floods, landslides and earthquakes, coupled with extremely cold temperatures, affected several communities in the region of Abkhazia in Georgia and in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, increasing the number of food-insecure households and their level of vulnerability in areas already disadvantaged by isolation, low governance capacity and poor basic social service systems.

And as 2012 closed, humanitarian situations intensified in many parts of the world. In the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, the number of people internally displaced by fighting continued to rise. Communities in the State of Palestine were again recovering following violence in the Gaza Strip in November. And the Mindanao region of the Philippines was now responding to additional needs following Typhoon Bopha in early December.

1 Results are through 31 October 2012.
2 Results in the Humanitarian Action for Children 2013 are achieved through contributions against this document, as well as resources from UNICEF’s regular programmes where necessary.