UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

UNICEF issues annual appeal to meet needs of children and women in global emergencies

© UNICEF/HQ07-0159/Pirozzi
UNICEF’s annual Humanitarian Action Report appeals for funds to meet the needs of children and women affected by emergencies around the world – including those plagued by poverty and recurrent conflict, like this child in Chad.

By Elizabeth Kiem

NEW YORK, USA, 12 February 2008 – Calling on donors to help address 39 specific crises around the world, UNICEF today launches its annual Humanitarian Action Report outlining the organization’s funding requirements for emergency work in 2008.

The report details financial needs beyond regular country programme budgets. The appeal for more than $850 million worldwide targets the largest allocations for Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“From Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Iraq, Zimbabwe and Sudan, children and women continue to bear the brunt of conflict, displacement and deteriorating conditions,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman writes in a foreword to the report.

Sudan still in greatest need

As in years past, Sudan garners the highest share of the organization’s emergency funding needs in 2008, with more than a fifth of the total, or $150 million. The ongoing crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan has pushed the number of displaced persons there to 2.1 million. In Southern Sudan, the situation is also precarious – with maternal and child morbidity rates among the world’s highest.

© UNICEF/HQ07-0370/Thomas
In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, devastation caused by recent flooding has increased children’s vulnerability, despite progress made over the last decade.

Equally costly is the need to provide protection and support to children caught in conflicts in DR Congo, the Central African Republic and Chad. In these perennial trouble spots, UNICEF strives for ample pre-positioning of supplies and personnel to maximize efficiency.

‘In countries with chronic emergencies … predictably occurring on a year-by-year basis, the humanitarian need is there,” said Steve Adkisson, who represented UNICEF in Chad from 2004 to 2007. “But if the funding does not come in a consistent and timely manner, goods need to be delivered by air rather than by road.” And each time that happens, Mr. Adkisson added, “more funding goes to the delivery of the goods.”

Outside Africa, the countries facing the greatest need are those recovering from natural disasters. Two years after a devastating earthquake, for example, Pakistan is still dependent on relief to rebuild schools and hospitals. And in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, increased funding is necessary to address the needs of children made more vulnerable by massive flooding that occurred last year.

Lessons from the tsunami

Donor funding for UNICEF’s emergency-relief programmes has been in decline since 2005, when the global response to the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 pushed total emergency contributions above the $1 billion mark for the first time.

Since that tragedy, UNICEF has successfully implemented programmes reaching 6 million children and women in eight tsunami-affected countries.

© UNICEF/HQ06-0152/Kamber
In Somalia, resurgent conflict has put over 1.5 million people in urgent need of humanitarian aid. Less than 30 per cent of the population has access to health services or safe water.

Lessons learned from the tsunami response are highlighted in this year’s Humanitarian Action Report as part of a broader humanitarian reform agenda. These ‘good practices’ include the following:

  • Effective coordination, partnership and UNICEF stewardship are necessary in order to reach all children affected by an emergency
  • Children and communities should be provided with the knowledge and skills they need to identify warning signs, prepare for and better cope with disasters
  • Effective emergency response requires the right person at the right place at the right time
  • Providing the right supplies – in the right place, at the right time – can go far in addressing emergency needs
  • Reliable information is essential in order to plan, monitor, coordinate and target the most vulnerable, and be accountable to stakeholders
  • Adequate funding and adaptable financial and administrative procedures are necessary for rapid response to sudden-onset emergencies.

Helping the system to deliver aid

As the UN agency with a global mandate to protect children, UNICEF is one of the biggest operators in humanitarian relief. More than just a purveyor of aid, the organization takes the lead in providing water and sanitation services in emergencies, and co-leads educational programmes in crisis and post-crisis environments.

“If we don’t get the assistance we need, we’ll also be less able to take that coordination job on and help the whole system to deliver,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson. “It’s not only about UNICEF. It’s also about our ability to help everyone to do better.”




January 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reviews UNICEF’s 2008 Humanitarian Action Report.
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