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Facts for Life

Emergencies: preparedness and reponse

Supporting Information


In emergencies, children have the same rights as in non-emergency situations. This is true whether the emergency is a conflict, disaster or epidemic.

All children and their families and communities have the right to receive humanitarian assistance in emergencies.

Children and their families who are forced from their homes by conflicts or disasters have the same rights as those living in their homes and communities in non-emergency situations.

Communities can designate protected areas to shelter civilians and the sick. These areas must never be used for any military purposes.

Humanitarian relief workers and supplies must always be respected and protected. Combatants should always allow all civilians access to humanitarian assistance.

The particular needs of women and adolescent girls in emergency situations must be respected. Their specific needs of privacy, hygiene and protection must be taken into account. Unaccompanied children, pregnant women, mothers with young children, female heads-of-households, persons with disabilities and the elderly may require specific attention to address their particular needs.

When children and families are displaced within a country, the national authorities have the primary responsibility to protect children's rights and assist children and families. The United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), among others, also have a critical role to play in providing assistance and protection to children and families.

Displaced persons have the right to safely return to their homes as soon as the reasons for their displacement are no longer an issue. The property rights of displaced persons must be respected so children and families can rebuild their lives.

As communities begin to re-establish and reconstruct after an emergency, attention should be given to providing social services, including health and education, to children, women and families.

Humanitarian workers who provide aid to civilians should minimize opportunities for violence, exploitation and abuse. Any activity by humanitarian workers that exploits the population should be reported immediately to the agency concerned and the authorities.