UNICEF in emergencies
Humanitarian action is central to UNICEF’s mandate and realizing the rights of every child.
In conflict and disaster, children suffer first and suffer most. During emergencies and humanitarian contexts, children are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and violence. Children living in conflict areas are worst off – they are more likely to be living in extreme poverty, for instance, or not enrolled in primary school.
The chaos and insecurity of war threatens or destroys access to food, shelter, social support and health care, and results in increased vulnerability in communities, especially for children. UNICEF focuses on these children and their families to provide them with the essential interventions required for protection, to save lives and to ensure the rights of all children, everywhere.
UNICEF also works to strengthen the links between humanitarian action and development work. Our presence in many countries before, during and after emergencies, delivers a continuum of support. For example, the rehabilitation and upgrade of water and sanitation systems serve vulnerable households in both the immediate crisis and the longer term.
Sustainable interventions are important because crises are not one-time shocks; their impact can last for years.
UNICEF also builds the long-term capacity of health ministries and civil society partners to identify, treat and prevent chronic conditions such as malnutrition. Sustainable interventions are important because crises are not one-time shocks; their impact can last for years.
UNICEF’s humanitarian action is guided by its Strategic Plan and its Core Commitments for Children (CCCs), which outline what UNICEF commits to do across all sectors – health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, and education – as part of any humanitarian response. The CCCs are aligned to international standards and are guided by humanitarian principles. Read them here.
Flexible funding makes it possible for UNICEF to deliver assistance to the most vulnerable families when and where it is needed and in a timely and effective manner. For sudden onset emergencies, for example, flexible Global Humanitarian Thematic Funding allows UNICEF to rapidly release funds within 24 hours and react faster and equitably.
To ensure adequate humanitarian response coordination and clear division of responsibilities at both global and country levels, the cluster approach was introduced in 2005 within the wider context of humanitarian reform. UNICEF has since been designated to serve as Global Cluster Lead Agency (CLA) for three Clusters: WASH, Nutrition, and co-CLA for Education (with Save the Children). In addition, within the Global Protection Cluster led by UNHCR, UNICEF leads the Child Protection Area of Responsibility. UNICEF’s cluster coordination accountabilities are enshrined in the CCCs and as per the Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidance.
Humanitarian Action for Children
Strengthening disability-inclusive humanitarian action
Emergencies news and features
Humanitarian crises in focus
Increased insecurity in Afghanistan has left children paying a heavy price. UNICEF is continuing to work with partners to support children and their families across the country.
The Central African Republic is one of the toughest places in the world to be a child. Yet despite the urgent needs of families, international attention has been scant and the humanitarian response chronically underfunded.
Rohingya families fled violence. But uncertainty about the future grips those living in the world’s largest refugee settlement. UNICEF is on the ground, working with the government and partners, helping to deliver life-saving supplies and services for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
After more than a decade of conflict, the Syrian crisis continues to have a huge impact on children inside Syria, across the region and beyond. Every Syrian child has been impacted by the violence, displacement, severed family ties and lack of access to vital services caused by massive physical devastation.
The war in Ukraine is having a devastating effect on children. UNICEF is on the ground, working with partners to provide life-saving support for children and their families.
Exceptional drought across large swathes of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea and Djibouti has unleashed hunger, thirst, displacement and death on already vulnerable communities as crops fail and livestock die.
Yemen is one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. A dangerous combination of factors, driven by conflict and economic decline and now exacerbated by COVID-19, have compounded the dire situation for Yemen’s youngest children.