Humanitarian Action for Children 2012


© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-2757/Versiani

An indigenous girl attends class in Guatemala, which recently experienced widespread flooding. Environmental disasters throughout the region are hardest on the poor, who also face the highest income disparities in the world.

Children and Women in Crisis

From hurricanes, flash flooding and landslides to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, environmental disasters regularly hit the Latin American and Caribbean region. In the past 10 years, about 64 million people have been affected and tens of thousands of people struggle to survive the aftermath of these crises: the indigenous populations living in remote areas; the urban poor settled on slopes prone to landslides; and the growing poverty-stricken population along river basins. In a region facing the highest economic disparities in the world, these crises lead to disease outbreaks, chronic undernutrition, population displacement, child abuse and trafficking.

In 2011, people were affected by heavy rainfall and large-scale flooding in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Severe droughts reduced access to water and increasing food prices pushed countries such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay closer to nutritional crises. Flooding affected about 150,000 people across seven countries in South America. The region experienced cholera outbreaks in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and dengue in Bolivia and Paraguay. In Andean countries, such as Bolivia and Peru, cold temperatures, combined with poor living conditions and lack of health services, continue to cause fatal respiratory diseases in children annually.

Socio-political conflicts add to the challenge of recovery from disaster. In Colombia, abuse and the displacement of thousands of people occur annually, especially among indigenous populations. Increasing violence in Central America and the sub-Caribbean region is leaving children, adolescents and women especially vulnerable to sexual abuse, trafficking and gang recruitment.

Meeting Urgent Needs in 2012

In 2012, UNICEF’s regional office for the Americas and the Caribbean, together with government agencies and other international NGOs, will strengthen its ability to enhance disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response in a region marked by natural disasters, with a focus on improving the lives of children most vulnerable to disease, undernutrition and exploitation during these crises.

Guatemala is annually affected by large-scale floods or extreme droughts. In 2012, UNICEF will continue to provide emergency assistance to populations affected by the 2011 floods and the Santa Rosa earthquake, as well as recovery assistance to communities affected by the 2010 Pacaya volcanic eruption and Tropical Storm Agatha. UNICEF will improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for 35,000 children, and provide access to education for 26,500 children, a protective environment for 19,000 children and 2,800 adolescents in 200 shelters, and HIV and AIDS prevention for 12,500 people. UNICEF will provide health and nutrition services for 6,200 women and 25,000 children in order to prevent child undernutrition as erratic rains, high temperatures and rising food prices increase food insecurity. UNICEF will continue to support government institutions to enhance disaster risk reduction, especially for children.

Humanitarian Funding at Work: Highlights from 2011

UNICEF had received US$966,987 (7 per cent) of the requested US$13,000,000 by end October 2011. The regional office worked with partners to mobilize supplies and technical assistance, providing critical support during severe flooding in seven countries. In Haiti, UNICEF improved access to safe drinking water for more than 325,000 people at high risk of cholera, constructed 160 semi-permanent schools for some 85,000 students, and supported the registration of 10,000 children separated from family. In Guatemala, UNICEF delivered micronutrient supplementation to 22,000 children and provided emergency treatment to 650 undernourished children, as well as provided assistance to the earthquake-affected population.

The regional office worked with local government and partner groups in disaster risk reduction efforts. In Brazil, UNICEF supported the adoption of a national protocol for children in emergencies. A regional conference produced the Panama Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction for the Education Sector, which was signed by 18 education ministries. Efforts to build national capacities in emergency response and disaster risk reduction resulted in training Bolivia’s 99 most disaster-prone municipalities and the development in Guatemala of an Emergency Master Kit for the media to communicate about disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response, with a focus on children.

Funding Requirements for 2012

UNICEF is requesting US$12,000,000 for its humanitarian work in the Latin America and Caribbean region to improve preparedness, response and disaster risk reduction efforts to the severe weather, natural hazards and complex emergencies that characterize this part of the world.

More information on humanitarian action planned for 2012 can be found at and the regional office website at (in Spanish) and (in English).