Humanitarian Action for Children 2012


© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1310/Ramoneda

Quake-affected girls attend a UNICEF-assisted temporary school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. UNICEF’s timely response to more than 250 annual emergencies depends on coordination, surge capacity, enhanced tools and guidance at the global level.

Humanitarian funding at work

UNICEF responds to more than 250 humanitarian situations on average each year. To provide effective, predictable and timely support to humanitarian action according to the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs),1 UNICEF provides global support to country and regional offices facing emergencies by bolstering policy guidance, technical assistance and logistical reinforcement so that colleagues and partners in the field may strengthen and improve humanitarian assistance for millions of children in crisis.

Strengthened systems for effective emergency response

In March 2011, UNICEF adopted the Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure (CEAP),2 which strengthens its humanitarian response, establishing a specific procedure for dealing with large-scale, or Level 3, emergencies. Within the first 24 hours of a large-scale emergency, UNICEF’s Executive Director may now activate the CEAP, which streamlines the chain of command for global support and response and enacts simplified standard operating procedures. The CEAP also activates the deployment of UNICEF’s Immediate Response Team (IRT), which comprises experts in key programme and operational sectors as well as experienced team leaders who have trained together and are ready to deploy within 48 hours; prioritizes surge assignments to the emergency; and ensures that humanitarian performance-monitoring systems are implemented. On 21 July 2011, the CEAP for Level 3 was invoked for the first time, in the context of the Horn of Africa drought and nutritional crisis. With a clarified chain of responsibility, UNICEF headquarters, regional offices and country offices were able to quickly mobilize staff and resources to meet humanitarian needs across Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Rapid deployment to support humanitarian action

In 2011, UNICEF deployed more than 400 personnel to global emergencies, including crises in Côte d’Ivoire, the Horn of Africa and Libya. The members of UNICEF’s Emergency Response Team, a dedicated team of professionals managed by the Office of Emergency Programmes (EMOPS) who spend their time in support of emergencies at the field level, conducted 14 missions for humanitarian action. UNICEF increased capacity-building initiatives to strengthen its own technical response, providing technical assistance to child protection and gender-based violence in Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Republic of South Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia and Uganda; education in Afghanistan, Liberia and the Occupied Palestinian Territory; health in the Horn of Africa; HIV and AIDS in Haiti; nutrition in the Horn of Africa and Pakistan; and WASH in the Horn of Africa and the Philippines. Headquarters provided support on disaster risk reduction, peace-building and conflict sensitivity in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, the Horn of Africa, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mozambique, Nepal and the Republic of South Sudan. 

Acting on lessons learned in 2010, UNICEF improved its response and significantly reduced deployment times by re-establishing its Human Resources in Emergencies Unit. Simplified standard operating procedures for human resources in emergencies adopted in late 2010 are expediting recruitments and fast-track deployments. Already, in the Horn of Africa, these improvements have contributed to a more effective response by ensuring that the whole organization is working from one set of agreed procedures along a tight timeline. UNICEF is also developing a retiree roster for emergency response, and regional rosters are being put in place. It is notable that in the Horn of Africa the majority of surge deployments came from within the region and were managed at the regional level, resulting in considerable efficiency gains.

In 2011, UNICEF also continued working with its standby partners. A total of 130 standby personnel were deployed to support humanitarian action, with missions ranging from several weeks to six months. In the Horn of Africa alone, a total of 35 standby partners were deployed to four offices (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia). Other countries that benefited from standby partner support include Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Pakistan, the Sudan and Yemen. Building on a successful experience in the WASH sector, UNICEF partnered with the Danish Refugee Council, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children Sweden to establish a Rapid Response Team (RRT) to support child protection coordination at the onset of an emergency.

Cluster leadership

UNICEF is committed to being a strong and reliable leader and partner in humanitarian action. Global cluster coordinator positions for child protection, education, nutrition and WASH will now be funded from UNICEF’s regular resources to mainstream the costs of coordination at the global level. In an effort to strengthen UNICEF’s management of its global cluster coordination accountabilities,3 these functions will be brought together and located in Geneva. With this shift, the organization will further strengthen its relationship with Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) partners and promote greater efficiency and inclusiveness the global coordination of clusters. Staff will be supervised by EMOPS’ Deputy Director, ensuring a clear chain of responsibility and access to senior-level management whenever required.  The new global cluster coordination team will enhance performance and efficiency in leading clusters. This, coupled with increased efforts to raise awareness among country office management and staff, will ensure consistent application of the cluster approach in emergencies. Support for cross-cluster initiatives through the IASC will also be strengthened.

Enhanced tools and guidance to strengthen humanitarian action and build resilience

This year, progress has been made on filling gaps in tools and guidance needed by country offices to support humanitarian programmes and partnerships. Advisers deployed to the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Yemen assisted in building the technical capacity of staff and cluster partners on gender-equality services. The organization also developed a rapid assessment toolkit for child protection, an alternative care in emergencies toolkit, and minimum standards on child protection in emergencies.

UNICEF continues to train and orient partners on its programmes and services, ensuring that an expanded pool of ‘field-ready’ surge capacity is available when needed. During 2011, UNICEF supported training at its headquarters for child protection, education, gender-based violence and WASH initiatives. Updated training in emergency preparedness and response, which will be rolled out next year, promotes the effective integration of humanitarian action with regular programmes in all sectors.

In 2012, UNICEF will make identifying the key causes of deprivation, vulnerability and risk to children a priority. In line with the 2011 UNICEF Humanitarian Action for Children: Building Resilience, UNICEF continues to strengthen support to its humanitarian programmes so that they enhance the resilience of communities affected by crisis. UNICEF’s guidelines were revised to ensure that risks to children are taken into account at every stage of planning, resulting in programmes that include specific disaster risk reduction and conflict-sensitive interventions in high-risk countries as well as early recovery. Country offices in more than 70 countries now have disaster risk reduction integrated into their programmes.  Training and support in these areas will also continue in 2012.

UNICEF has renewed its goal of developing capacities at the national, district and community levels in order to achieve results for children in line with the CCCs. Technical training to build capacity for humanitarian response will continue with UNICEF and national partners on the ground, as well as standby partners. In recognition of the vital role that the community-based health workforce plays in all phases of emergency risk management, UNICEF will continue to support governments and other partners working in 2012 to strengthen existing health systems and provide resources that reduce health risks and manage emergencies. Headquarters has also provided direct mission support on capacity development planning. Since 2010, five countries were supported in the areas of supply and logistics (Uganda), emergency resilient education (Burundi and the Republic of South Sudan), child protection (Lebanon) and water (Kenya). UNICEF will also continue to lead an interagency initiative to promote coherent and coordinated capacity development of national and local actors on capacity development. 

UNICEF worked to revise security policies in order to improve its delivery of humanitarian assistance to women and children in volatile environments. In 2012, a new UN-system wide methodology will be used in 12 country offices to assess the necessity of aid against acceptable security risks to staff, allowing higher levels of risk when the lives of children and women are at stake on a large scale. This will create significant positive changes in UNICEF’s outreach for women and children in high-risk areas. In 2011, UNICEF headquarters provided technical support on programmes in Afghanistan, Kenya and Pakistan. Global support for country offices operating in high-threat environments is expected to increase in 2012. UNICEF will offer training exercises to country offices in how best to balance security risk with programme criticality and create an e-tool to ensure that these exercises can continue in the future with little or no external support.

To further strengthen the capacity of UNICEF country offices to deliver programmes in complex environments, headquarters will continue to provide on-demand support in the areas of international humanitarian law and engagement with non-state entities. Innovations and experiences in remote programmes will be documented and made available for country reference and others in the field. The use of cash-based modalities to deliver assistance is spreading in UNICEF and driving innovations in the manner in which humanitarian outcomes for children and women are delivered. For example, in Somalia in 2011, about 13,000 households received a cash grant or food voucher, and plans for 2012 include distributing cash transfers or vouchers to 50,000 vulnerable households for necessities such as food, water and health care.

Performance monitoring

The roll-out of the revised CCCs is continuing. As part of this effort, UNICEF is strengthening results-based performance monitoring aligned with the CCC framework. A Humanitarian Performance Monitoring System has been developed to help country offices effectively monitor performance against response targets defined in alignment with the CCCs. The system is designed to strengthen performance data for stronger country office management of UNICEF response and to contribute to cluster and Humanitarian Country Team performance management. It provides concrete performance information for broader organizational accountability and meeting external information needs. Information collected through performance monitoring will be fed into evaluation and knowledge management processes to generate lessons learned and improved results at ground level. The system also includes monitoring country-office levels of emergency preparedness through the Early Warning, Early Action system. In October 2011, the system review indicated that 58 per cent of UNICEF country offices reported a high level of preparedness, 17 per cent a medium level, and the remaining 25 per cent a low level.

Performance monitoring that measures UNICEF results against the CCC benchmarks will expand to target all new emergencies as well as the largest protracted humanitarian situations. Preparedness performance monitoring will continue to cover all UNICEF country offices, with increased emphasis on quality in collaboration with regional offices. To support this work, simple technology options are under development to improve data accessibility and transfer in the field and to build better links with internal performance management dashboards, including electronically generated elements of situation reports.

Funding requirements

UNICEF requires a total of US$41.1 million in 2012 to support an effective and integrated response to today’s global humanitarian crises. Out of this total, UNICEF is seeking US$21.9 million to complement the existing US$19.2 million4 that has already been earmarked for this purpose from UNICEF’s core budget and other generous contributions from donors.

UNICEF will continue to strengthen its ability to respond rapidly and efficiently to large-scale humanitarian emergencies, ensure implementation of strategic approaches, work with national governments, provide technical support, and strengthen predictable and effective humanitarian action through clusters.

To carry out its responsibilities to children and families in crisis situations and provide sustainable global support to regional and country offices, UNICEF is pursuing secure and predictable funding for the global-level work outlined here.

1 United Nations Children’s Fund, Core Commitment for Children in Humanitarian Action, UNICEF, New York, May 2010.
2 UNICEF’s Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure, CF/EXD/2011-001, 21 March 2011. The Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure (CEAP)  categorizes UNICEF’s humanitarian response into three levels:
- Level 1: a country office can respond using its own staff, funding, supplies and resources;
Level 2: a country office receives some outside support from headquarters, regional office, other country office; and
Level 3: an institution-wide mobilization is called for. Level 3 is defined on the basis of five criteria: scale, urgency, complexity, capacity and reputational risk.
3 UNICEF is currently assigned the global leadership of the WASH and nutrition cluster, as well as the child protection area of responsibility (under the global protection cluster), co-leadership of the education cluster with International Save the Children Alliance, as well as co-leadership of the gender-based violence area of responsibility (under the global protection cluster) with the United Nations Population Fund. UNICEF also contributes to the funding of the co-chair position within the IASC Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Reference Group. 
4 The funded amount of US$19.2 million does not include a pledge against 2012 requirements from the Government of the United Kingdom (4M pounds sterling), nor the contribution from Norway (NOK 15 million) received in December 2011.