11 emergencies that need more attention and support in 2023
Across the globe, UNICEF will continue to support children and families facing humanitarian crises.
1 January 2023
Today, there are more children in need of humanitarian assistance than at any other time since the Second World War. Across the globe, children and their families are facing a deadly mix of crises, from conflict and displacement to disease outbreaks and soaring rates of malnutrition. Meanwhile, climate change is making these crises worse and unleashing new ones.
But while the situation is dire, it’s far from hopeless. We know how to reach the children at greatest risk and in greatest need. Whether it’s distributing winter clothing, providing safe spaces for displaced families or delivering treatments like Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), UNICEF is on the ground – from Bangladesh to Yemen, from Haiti to South Sudan.
Flexible funding from partners and donors is critical in enabling us to respond quickly – where and when families need help – while also preparing for future threats.
These are 11 emergencies where resources have fallen short:
Unprecedented flooding in South Sudan has taken a devastating toll on families. Crops have been destroyed, grazing spaces for cattle and other livestock have been submerged and families have been forced to flee their homes. With hunger and malnutrition on the rise across the flooded regions, some communities are likely to face starvation without sustained humanitarian assistance.
UNICEF is working to screen and treat children with severe acute malnutrition, also known as severe wasting – the most lethal form of undernutrition, and one of the top threats to child survival. To help prepare families for future climate shocks, UNICEF is also introducing measures like elevated infrastructure to help reduce the impact of repeated flooding.
After eight years of conflict, the systems that Yemen’s families depend on remain on the edge of total collapse. More than 11,000 children have been killed or maimed since 2015, while conflict, massive displacement and recurring climate shocks have left more than 2 million children acutely malnourished and struggling to survive.
UNICEF is on the ground in Yemen, providing life-saving health and nutrition support through community-based activities like the early detection and treatment of child malnutrition. RUTF has been one of the most effective tools for tackling malnutrition across the globe. This energy dense, micronutrient paste has helped treat millions of children around the world threatened by severe wasting.
Political turmoil, civil unrest and gang violence, crippling poverty and natural disasters: A deadly combination of threats already posed a massive challenge for families in Haiti. But a surge in cholera in 2022 is posing yet another risk for children’s health – and their lives.
Despite the extremely volatile environment, UNICEF has been working with partners to step up efforts to protect families against cholera by delivering cholera kits and water purifying tablets and trucking in clean water. To contain malnutrition, UNICEF is also screening children for wasting to ensure that those who need help can be treated in mobile clinics and other facilities.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
An escalation in armed conflict and recurrent outbreaks of deadly diseases are taking a heavy toll on millions of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country hosts the second-highest number of internally displaced people in the world. The cramped conditions in the camps that families are living in are fraught with danger for children, who face an increased risk of violence and disease.
Despite the unpredictable environment in parts of the country, programmes are continuing for the most vulnerable families, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, health and nutrition services.
The rains that brought historic flooding to much of Pakistan in 2022 may have ended, but the crisis for children has not. Months after floods ravaged the country, vast swathes of cropland and villages remain under water, while millions of girls and boys are still in need of immediate lifesaving support. Around 8 million people are still exposed to floodwaters or living close to flooded areas. Many of these families are still living in makeshift tents alongside the road or near the rubble of their home – often in the open, right next to contaminated and stagnant water.
UNICEF continues to respond to urgent humanitarian needs, while also restoring and rehabilitating existing health, water, sanitation and education facilities for families returning home.
Political fragility, the impacts of climate change and economic and health crises have contributed to the internal displacement of around 1.7 million people in Burkina Faso – 60 per cent of them children. The anxiety, depression and other stress-related problems associated with displacement can take a lifelong toll on children’s emotional and physical health.
Working with partners, UNICEF is focusing on establishing safe spaces that provide regular, structured activities to help children and adolescents develop skills to deal with crises, solve problems, regulate their emotions and form and maintain relationships.
Deepening civil conflict in Myanmar continues to impact children and their families, with some 5.6 million children in need of humanitarian assistance. Attacks on schools and hospitals have continued at alarming levels, while grave violations of child rights in armed conflict have been reported. The conflict has undermined the delivery of child health services, including routine immunization, threatening to take a long-lasting toll on children’s health and well-being.
With a high number of children remaining unvaccinated, UNICEF is working to resume full immunization for all children in need. UNICEF is also working to increase children’s access to safe learning environments and collaborating with partners to educate children across Myanmar on the risks of explosive ordnance.
State of Palestine
Children in the State of Palestine continue to face a protracted protection crisis and an ongoing occupation. Around 2.1 million people – more than half of them children – now require humanitarian assistance.
Since 2009, UNICEF has been supporting family centres across the Gaza Strip to provide psychosocial care for children. Children in need of more specialized services – such as those facing violence at home, school or work – are provided with a case manager who works directly with them and their families. These family centres also provide a safe space to play and join in group activities, which not only supports children’s development but also helps to educate them about some of the safety threats they may face, including how to identify explosive remnants of war.
As the Rohingya refugee crisis enters its fifth year, Bangladesh still hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who settled in the Cox’s Bazar District after fleeing extreme violence in Myanmar. While basic services have been provided in the camps, children still face disease outbreaks, malnutrition, inadequate educational opportunities and other risks like exploitation and violence.
UNICEF continues to support a wide range of services for Rohingya families, including primary healthcare centres and learning centres, while also improving access to services for children with disabilities.
More than a decade of humanitarian crises and hostilities has left children in Syria facing one of the most complex emergencies in the world. Two thirds of the population require assistance due to the worsening economic crisis, continued localized hostilities, mass displacement and devastated public infrastructure. The conflict has seen one of the largest education crises in recent history, with a whole generation of Syrian children paying a devastating price.
UNICEF is reaching children with education, psychosocial support and adolescent development opportunities. As part of its winter response, UNICEF and partners are providing cash assistance for registered families, fuel for heating in schools and learning spaces, as well as insulating windows so that children can continue to learn even amid the harsh weather conditions.
Four failed rainy seasons in a row have left Kenya experiencing its worst drought in 40 years. Without water, crops cannot grow, and animals and livestock die. The resulting loss of nutritious food, combined with poor sanitation, has left hundreds of thousands of children requiring treatment for wasting. Children with wasting are too thin and their immune systems are weak, leaving them vulnerable to developmental delays, disease and death.
In partnership with other United Nations agencies and national and international organizations, UNICEF continues to support the Government of Kenya to deliver life-saving support for people affected by drought, floods and disease outbreaks, including providing nutrition screenings, distributing RUTF and rehabilitating boreholes to improve access to desperately needed water.
Donate to support UNICEF’s work in emergencies
Despite needs growing exponentially, funding is struggling to keep pace. As of the middle of 2023, UNICEF had identified 12 emergencies that require additional attention based on current fundraising needs as well as criteria such as scale and scope of the crisis, urgency, complexity and the capacity of UNICEF’s regional and country offices to respond. Find out more about these critically underfunded emergencies.