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UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

UNICEF's Approach in Humanitarian Action

During emergencies and humanitarian contexts, children are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and violence.  Children living in conflict areas are worst off- as demonstrated by the millennium development goals indicators. Countries in armed conflict situations are more likely to be living in extreme poverty, for instance, or not enrolled in primary school; they are also more likely to die before their fifth birthday. Of populations without sanitation and safe drinking water globally, approximately half live in countries affected by conflict. UNICEF focuses on these children and their families – on the essential interventions required for protection, to save lives and to ensure the rights of all children, everywhere. 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/NYHQ2011-2174/Esteve
A malnourished boy consumes ready-to-eat therapeutic food at a UNICEF-supported nutrition centre in Mao, Chad. The food is a high-protein and high-energy peanut-based paste that provides essential nutrients to severely malnourished children.

In recognition of the growth of UNICEF’s humanitarian action, its centrality to realizing the rights of children and of the need to further enhance dedicated capacities for early action and effective response and to more explicitly define strategies to support resilience, UNICEF is committed the specific and measurable performance targets both for humanitarian preparedness and response and for building resilience.

At the same time, the commitment to integrate humanitarian action within UNICEF’s programmes at global and country level will be maintained because it provides unique opportunities to better link humanitarian response with development programmes. This is key to achieving a more effective response to humanitarian crises as well as to promote rapid recovery and build resilience to shocks.

UNICEF’s humanitarian action encompasses both interventions focused on preparedness for response to save lives and protect rights as defined in the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs) in line with international standards and guided by humanitarian principles, as well as UNICEF contributions to address underlying causes of vulnerability to disasters, fragility and conflict through both its support in response to humanitarian crises, as well as through its regular programmes.

In health, nutrition, wash, child protection, education, and HIV/AIDS, the CCCs defines results targets for humanitarian preparedness and response – which correspond to international standards - as well as specific targets that will ensure a focus on addressing underlying causes of vulnerability, fragility and conflict.

The first priority of UNICEF’s humanitarian action will be to support effective preparedness and response to humanitarian crises. In the coming four years, UNICEF will continue to build on recent improvements in systems that support humanitarian action, with the overall aim to achieve faster scaling-up of the response in major emergencies including early identification of priorities and strategies, rapid deployment of qualified staff and clear accountabilities for the response.  It will integrate preparedness into development planning and implementation.  UNICEF will continue its contributions to the humanitarian partnership system including its responsibilities for cluster and sector coordination.  In situations of civil unrest or armed conflict, it will support emergency responses that are consistent with humanitarian principles.

UNICEF Country Offices will build resilience and reduce vulnerability by supporting the capacities of local systems and structures to address these systematically.  The linkages between humanitarian and development interventions will happen in many ways, articulated through risk informed country programmes and adapted to the country context. This may involve leveraging the influx of funding for humanitarian response to trigger more structural and systemic changes to address existing gaps in the situation of children and/or using investments through regular country programmes to strengthen national capacities for response to future emergencies. In all cases, UNICEF will ensure that development programmes are not halted or supplanted by humanitarian response, but rather that integration occurs in response to national priorities and needs.

Overall, UNICEF will strengthen its capacities to act as a centre of excellence for humanitarian knowledge analysis and innovation to enable effective anticipation of threats and empower UNICEF and its partners with cutting-edge standards, technology and tools to facilitate its work and enable improved humanitarian action.




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