Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0697/Markisz

Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.

In 2010, Haiti was hit by the worst earthquake in its history – a humanitarian tragedy that was compounded by a cascading series of subsequent crises.  During my visits there, I met children who had lost virtually everything – loved ones, homes, every material possession – and who still faced significant threats.  But what struck me most about these children, and so many Haitians, was their resilience in the face of tragedy, and their capacity to hope for – and build – a better future.

During the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, I saw the same courage and resilience, and the same indomitable capacity to pick up the pieces and carry on.  And wherever such humanitarian emergencies occur – whether because of natural disasters, human conflict or chronic crisis – resilience is a critical key to recovery.  

2011 Humanitarian Action for Children highlights the ways UNICEF is working to foster such resilience at the individual, community and institutional levels. As the report shows, we are increasingly supporting innovative efforts to help communities prepare for and limit the effects of future emergencies – and to bounce back and ‘build back’ better when tragedy does strike. 

 In case after case, we see how such innovation has helped people to overcome profound challenges.  In the Niger, for instance, women forced from their home villages in search of food for their families have banded together to form small business ventures that have enabled them to send food, seeds and money back to their communities.   Just as important, the success of their joint efforts has given them confidence and increased their capacity to cope in a crisis.

The past year was one of unprecedented challenges. All told, over the course of 2010 UNICEF responded to at least 290 humanitarian situations in 98 countries, affecting millions of people.   The disasters in Haiti and Pakistan triggered an extraordinary outpouring of humanitarian aid – but the needs are enormous, in those nations and in every nation facing emergencies and chronic crises.  

While we hope that 2011 will not bring a similar onslaught, we must be ready to respond quickly when disaster does strike.  So this year’s edition of Humanitarian Action for Children also highlights projected humanitarian needs for 2011 in 32 countries and territories and 6 regions.   Funds to meet these needs are critical to allowing us to respond in emergency situations, and also to breaking repeated cycles of crisis. 

With your support, we can minimize the impact of humanitarian crises, wherever and whenever they occur – and we can help to build greater resilience in the world’s most vulnerable communities.   For the sake of the children.

Anthony Lake
Executive Director, UNICEF