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UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

UNICEF launches Humanitarian Action Report 2006 with an appeal for more than $805 million for emergency relief in 29 countries

© UNICEF/HQ05-1725/Cranston
In Sudan, displaced children from the Dinka ethnic group shelter in an abandoned school at the UNICEF-supported transit facility in Lologo near Juba, capital of the southern Bahr el Jebel State.

By Rachel Bonham Carter

NEW YORK, USA, 23 January 2006 – Appealing to donors for more than $805 million for emergency relief in 29 countries, UNICEF has launched its annual Humanitarian Action Report. The Report outlines the organization’s work in emergency situations and the funding requirements for 2006.

This year UNICEF is emphasizing the importance of having funds available up front for a quick response to emergencies. The organization is also urging donors to seize the significant opportunities that now exist to establish long-term peace and stability in countries recently out of war.

Executive Director’s remarks

In her foreword to the Report, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman remarks on the unprecedented outpouring of generosity from the international community last year in response to natural disasters – particularly the Indian Ocean tsunami – and continuing humanitarian crises around the world.

In 2005, UNICEF’s emergency activities received more donations than ever before, topping $1 billion. This support allowed UNICEF to work more efficiently with partners on the ground and mobilize emergency response teams much quicker than in previous years.

© UNICEF/HQ05-1461/ Pirozzi
A boy injured during the earthquake in South Asia rests at a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan. UNICEF and partners are providing health, shelter, food, safe water and sanitation and education services for affected children and their families.

“Many of the disasters which occurred during this past year have highlighted once again the importance of emergency preparedness for rapid response,” says Ms Veneman. “The immediate availability of basic humanitarian supplies and the ability to dispatch them rapidly to populations in affected areas can save many lives in emergencies. In 2006, UNICEF will seek to further enhance its preparedness at the country and regional levels along with its UN and NGO partners.”

Millions for Sudan

Of the 29 countries mentioned in the report, Sudan  will receive the largest amount of support: more than $331 million, which is more than one-third of the appeal. UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes Dan Toole says Sudan is the best example of where humanitarian aid should be used to ensure long-term stability in a country coming out of conflict. Sudan suffered more than two decades of civil war before a peace agreement was signed last year.

“After war, people are impatient. They want to see change,” says Mr. Toole. “If they don’t see change, they get frustrated. That’s part of why funding for Sudan is so important right now. If we don’t show people visible change in their lives – the schools started, the health centres working – they will get frustrated and they will start to seek other options than peaceful options. We cannot have that in Sudan after 20 years of war.”

A reminder on ‘forgotten emergencies’

The Humanitarian Action Report also serves to remind donors of emergencies which have been largely ‘forgotten’. For example, in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, 3 million children under 18 years old are affected by the ongoing political instability. Violence, especially in the slums of the capital city Port-Au-Prince, has led to the closure of schools and health facilities. Children and women are particularly vulnerable.

UNICEF requires almost $6 million to continue and expand humanitarian activities in Haiti. These include efforts to provide basic school materials for 30,000 primary school children and to train 500 primary school teachers. It is estimated that at least 10,000 Haitian children are at risk of being recruited into armed gangs. The appeal seeks funds to help prevent this from occurring.

© UNICEF/HQ05-0807/ Estey
A boy works on his lessons in a temporary classroom, set up in a UNICEF-supplied tent in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The local primary school was heavily damaged during the tsunami and is being demolished. A new school will be built for its 150 students.

Threat from natural disasters

According to the Report, natural disasters today are posing a greater threat to children than wars. This is because the number and severity of armed conflicts has decreased. But both wars and natural disasters can have devastating impacts on food supply and nutrition, shelter, social support and health care, resulting in increased vulnerability of children.

In the Sahel region and southern Africa, drought has exacerbated problems for millions of children already left vulnerable by the scourge of HIV/AIDS, which continues to decimate families across the continent.

Mr. Toole says the virus has not only left a generation of children without parents but has also stripped countries of their productive, food-growing workforce. The consequence, he says, is that when drought hits “it is a catastrophe for the health of children and it is a catastrophe for the nutrition of children.”

In Niger last year 200,000 children were treated for undernutrition; at least 300,000 are still at risk. This year, Madagascar requires more than $7 million for programmes in health and nutrition, water and environmental sanitation, education and child protection.

Millennium Development Goals tied to emergency response

Commenting on the importance of UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action Report 2006 in the context of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Toole says the achievement of the MDGs will rely on effective humanitarian response to emergencies.

“Most of the countries that are doing the least well are the countries that have experienced emergencies because they’ve lost a decade of progress,” says Mr. Toole. “If we don’t jump-start progress for health, for water and sanitation, for education – key areas for the MDGs – in countries experiencing an emergency, we will never achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”




23 January 2006:
UNICEF New York correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on the release of the Humanitarian Action Report for 2006.

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