Humanitarian Action for Children 2012


© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1019/Holt

A dust storm invades a camp for Somali refugees near the town of Dadaab in Kenya. More than 13 million people are affected by drought in the Horn of Africa. Poverty and conflict continue to exact a harsh toll on children throughout the region.

Children and Women in Crisis

Extreme poverty, frequent natural disasters, political instability and uncertain economic conditions leave children and women in Eastern and Southern Africa particularly vulnerable to life-altering emergencies, including undernourishment, abuse and disease.  This year’s severe drought in the Horn of Africa, combined with soaring food prices and the conflict in Somalia, has caused famine in some regions of Somalia and taken a harsh toll on children. More than 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the Horn, with 36 per cent of children under 5 in southern Somalia suffering from acute malnutrition.1  The legacy of decades of war poses significant humanitarian challenges in the new Republic of South Sudan, stretching the capacity of deteriorated infrastructure and very limited basic services.

Early 2012 forecasts highlight the likelihood of significant flood risk and possible cyclone activity, posing a particular danger for countries along the Zambezi River. Burundi faces increasing food insecurity as well as outbreaks of cholera and measles, while Uganda remains vulnerable to drought, floods and refugee influxes. Of the total number of people living with HIV worldwide in 2009, 34 per cent resided in 10 countries of Southern Africa, where adolescent women are eight times more likely to be infected than male counterparts,2 making women and children significantly more vulnerable. 

Meeting Urgent Needs in 2012

The Regional Office will continue to advocate for the rights of children in emergencies across borders. In coordination with UN agencies, NGOs and regional institutions, the emergency support unit and technical teams at the regional level will ensure technical support and quality assurance for humanitarian work, including partnership with UNHCR in refugee camp settings. Early Warning, Early Action systems will be used to increase preparedness and improve response to displacement and health crises. Efforts will also include:

In the face of the risk of increased insecurity and political violence, UNICEF will strengthen health, nutrition and WASH service delivery in response to the high levels of chronic food insecurity and repeated outbreaks of cholera and measles.  

UNICEF will strengthen decentralized emergency preparedness and response capacity in order to reduce the vulnerability of communities to drought and floods and prepare for possible refugee influxes due to insecurity in neighbouring countries, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia  
In preparation for significant flood risk and possible cyclone activity, UNICEF country offices will support training of partners and strengthening of sector/cluster coordination mechanisms, as well as contribute to national capacities for disaster management. With a significant risk of disease outbreaks associated with floods, the country offices are focusing on readiness for WASH and health response, as well as child protection and emergency education.

UNICEF will strengthen support to essential health services for orphans and vulnerable children in response to a major financial crisis that is triggering increased political uncertainty and threatening to undermine education and health services, including safety net programmes. The country also continues to experience a variety of hazards associated with extreme weather conditions and increased disease burden due to communicable diseases such as cholera, HIV and AIDS, and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Humanitarian Funding at Work: Highlights from 2011

Response to the nutrition crisis in the Horn of Africa dominated the second half of 2011, with UNICEF’s first-ever declared multi-country corporate emergency. Led by the Regional Director, who was appointed Global Emergency Coordinator for the crisis, the regional team provided technical support and ensured a coherent strategy across Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In response to the revised Humanitarian Action for Children request of US$7,450,000 issued in July, a total of US$963,863 (13 per cent) had been received by October 2011 with the support of donors.

An operations centre, established in Nairobi, provided and shared real-time information and more than 176 personnel were part of a surge response. UNICEF country offices procured more than US$73 million worth of emergency supplies.

The regional team also focused on disaster risk reduction across programme sectors. The capacity of national education institutions was strengthened in disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness and response in Burundi and Lesotho.

The WASH team focused on cholera risk, developing response guidelines for use across the region, and also promoted low-cost, high-impact interventions to reduce the risk of diarrhoeal outbreaks.

The nutrition team initiated the development of a regional framework for the integrated management of acute malnutrition.

Funding requirements for 2012

UNICEF is requesting US$3,002,000 to continue coordinating humanitarian work in the region. This includes scaled-up support for the Horn of Africa nutrition crisis through mid-2012 and continued support to reduce risk and respond to disasters in the rest of the region. Prompt and full funding is also important to ensure a smooth transition from emergency to longer-term support. An additional US$8,913,000 is requested to prepare for and respond to humanitarian needs in Angola, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Uganda, Swaziland and Zambia. The total requirements amount to US$11,915,000.

More information on humanitarian action planned for 2012 can be found at and the regional office website at

1 United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Response to the Horn Of Africa Emergency: A crisis affecting life, livelihoods and ways of life’, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, Nairobi,  October 2011, pp. 4, 7.
2 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, ‘Global Reports: UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2010’, UNAIDS, Geneva, 2010, pp. 10, 28.