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Eastern and Southern Africa, 7 March 2011: UNICEF launches USD$1.4 billion global appeal in response to the most extreme crises including in Eastern and Southern Africa

© UNICEF ESARO/2011/Kun Li
From right: UNICEF Chief of Communication Michael Klaus, Representative a.i. of UNICEF Burundi, Souleymane Diabaté, Regional Director Elhadj As Sy, Communal Administrator, Deo Binwagara, and UNICEF Burundi Chief of Health, Traoré Celestin.

GENEVA/NAIROBI, 7 March 2011 - UNICEF released the Humanitarian Action for Children Report (HAR) 2011 today, its annual appeal to donors to assist children and women caught in the throes of crises. This year’s appeal amounts to $1.4 billion covering 32 countries, including eight in Eastern and Southern Africa. The report emphasizes the increasing need of strengthening the resilience of communities to respond to and bounce back from crises.

“Investing in children and building the resilience of countries and communities living on the edge not only shortens their road to recovery, but also helps them to manage anticipated risks before a crisis strikes and to mitigate loss when it does,” said UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Hilde Johnson.

The eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa featured in the report are Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. The appeal for these countries amounts to a total of almost 303 million, with the bulk going to Ethiopia, Somalia and Zimbabwe. Timely and full funding, however, is critical and will make or break UNICEF’s work particularly in small countries such as Burundi, where women and children have endured substantial hardship during and after a long civil war that ended in 2006. UNICEF is appealing for $5.2 million to sustain its work there.

During the report’s regional launch in Nairobi, Kenya, UNICEF Regional Director Elhadj As Sy highlighted the vulnerabilities faced by communities across the region. In 2010, despite overall improvements, an estimated 17.4 million people were affected by food insecurity. Around 103,000 people in Uganda, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda and Zambia were temporarily displaced by severe flooding and landslides. Outbreaks of cholera, acute watery diarrhoea and measles once again struck due to poor water and sanitation conditions among displaced people.

“Today it is common for communities already living on the edge to be buffeted by a host of simultaneous or repeated shocks,” said As Sy. “What we see all over the region, whether in a camp for displaced people in Somalia or in  villages of Burundi which are recovering from a long civil war, is that mothers always try to find ways to feed their children, to make sure that they are vaccinated against diseases, and that they can go to school. We at UNICEF have been accompanying these families in their efforts for many years. What is needed now is to further strengthen our humanitarian systems for individuals, communities and countries to build resilience and prevent a humanitarian crisis from turning into a disaster. ”

At the regional launch, UNICEF Burundi Representative a.i., Souleymane Diabaté spoke about the challenges facing the country’s women and children. Landlocked, largely rural, and just emerged from 15 years of civil war, Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world. It relies heavily on external aid, with nearly 60 per cent of the Government’s budget being donor funded. The country is facing major challenges in securing a successful transition from a full-blown humanitarian crisis to sustainable development. The combined effects of civil war, poverty and HIV/AIDS have left the country with more than 830,000 orphans and vulnerable children under 18 years, representing 11 per cent of the total population. What is at stake is the well-being of children and their families who have to cope with epidemics, chronic under-nutrition and limited access to safe water and sanitation.

© UNICEF ESARO/2011/Kun Li
Regional Director As Sy speaks to the media during the regional launch of the report.

“Progress achieved in health and nutrition will not be enough to achieve the MDGs in Burundi. We are still faced with extremely high child mortality and malnutrition,” said Diabaté. “The impact of HIV/AIDS, violence, and inequity are also taking a heavy toll on the country’s children. UNICEF is striving to support national efforts to save more lives by scaling-up life-saving interventions, focusing on the most vulnerable communities.”

Building resilience through Disaster Risk Reduction

In 2010, natural disasters of unprecedented magnitude caused untold suffering for millions of children, their families and their communities. Conflict and insecurity exacted a heavy toll on lives and spirits. These examples include the earthquake in Haiti; flooding in Pakistan; hunger across the Sahel; and displacement and violence in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

These large-scale humanitarian crises, as well as many lesser-reported emergencies, are evidence of the ongoing vulnerability of communities and entire countries to natural and man-made hazards. But such situations only become disasters when people’s or a society’s capacities to cope with existing resources are overwhelmed. Disaster risk, therefore, is the potential loss in lives, health status, livelihoods, assets and services, which could occur to a particular community or a society. And it’s the poor and marginalized who are most at risk.

In recent years, UNICEF has undergone a strategic shift in emphasis from emergency preparedness to a broader disaster risk reduction approach.  In 2010, for example, UNICEF revised its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action to uphold the rights of children and women in crises.  Key changes to the agency’s humanitarian policy now place a stronger emphasis on preparedness before the onset of a crisis, strengthening the link between humanitarian action and development, and highlighting the importance of disaster risk reduction.



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