© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0737/Noorani

During an electricity blackout, Amna, 7, lights candles at her home in Damascus, Syria. She and her family are refugees from the conflict in Iraq. Many children and women in the region lack access to essential services and protection systems.

Children and women in crisis

The Middle East and North Africa region is marked by long-term political instability in Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Sudan and Yemen. The number of internally displaced people in the region is estimated in the millions, and many women and children lack access to essential services and protection systems. Natural disasters are also a growing concern as climate change, combined with increases in rapid urbanization, resource depletion and the degradation of the environment is resulting in more frequent disasters. During the past 19 years, approximately 100 million people in the region have felt the impact of these hazards, resulting in damage of around US$39 billion,1 further challenging the economic stability of millions of vulnerable people.

Meeting urgent needs and building resilience in 2011

A primary goal for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa region in 2011 is strengthening disaster preparedness by helping country offices through technical assistance and resource mobilization. The regional office will continue to provide technical assistance to countries using the inter-agency cluster coordination mechanism to meet UNICEF’s commitments as cluster lead in the areas of WASH; nutrition; education; and child protection.

Humanitarian funding at work: Highlights from 2010

In 2010, UNICEF estimated that US$5 million was required for humanitarian activities in the Middle East and North Africa, including US$4 million for drought relief in Djibouti. As of October 2010, a total of US$3,321,603, or 66 per cent of the goal, had been received. In Djibouti, UNICEF was able to assist a large number of children in need of nutritional support, repair drinking-water sources and increase availability of hygiene supplies (see Djibouti chapter). During conflict-related crises in Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Sudan and Yemen, the regional office dispatched emergency and technical support staff. In addition, UNICEF strengthened partnerships at the regional and global levels by working closely with the inter-agency regional emergency network on preparedness and response. Efforts to improve overall disaster preparedness moved forward when the regional team drafted a disaster risk reduction strategy focusing on education and WASH.

Funding requirements for 2011

UNICEF is requesting US$2,240,000 to continue its work on pre-empting risks to the women and children of the Middle East and North Africa region. The organization will also work to strengthen both regional and in-country capacity to prevent, prepare for and respond to crises affecting children, with a focus on Djibouti, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Sudan and Yemen. Funding for Djibouti drought relief, which last year was included in the request for this region, is now covered in a separate Humanitarian Action for Children request.

Further details on achievements of 2010 and UNICEF’s humanitarian action planned for the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 can be found at www.unicef.org/hac2011.

1 The WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) emergency events database (EM-DAT).

UNICEF Emergency Needs for 2011 (in US dollars) Total $2,240,000