© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1649/Pirozzi

A baby’s arm is measured during a growth-monitoring session in the Anseba Region. A fragile economy, frequent droughts and ongoing political instability are adding to chronic food insecurity among the country’s already vulnerable children and women.

Critical Issues for Children and Women

Poor and erratic rainfall characterized much of the first half of 2009 in Eritrea, a country located in one of the driest parts of Africa and where seasonal rains are vital for subsistence. The worsening situation has been compounded by the effects of high food prices which have impacted heavily on the coping mechanisms of many households, pushing an increasing number of people into displacements and forcing women and children to live or work on the streets. Malnutrition is on a stark rise as a result, with admissions to therapeutic feeding centres as much as six times higher in 2009 than last year.  The presence of landmines in Eritrea remains a major threat, with children comprising around half of the casualties and fatalities caused by the detonation of unexploded ordnance. 

Planned Humanitarian Action for 2010

In addition to working to reduce levels of moderate and severe malnutrition and to meet the needs of over 1 million displaced and relocated persons, host communities and other vulnerable populations, UNICEF is planning to increase its preparedness to provide immediate response to emergencies in partnership with the Government of Eritrea, local administrations and United Nations agencies. UNICEF also leads the Nutrition, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and Education Clusters, and the Child Protection Sub-Cluster, and participates in the Health and Protection Clusters. Joint United Nations programmes will continue to address the needs of resettlement areas holistically.  Following are expected results of UNICEF emergency interventions:

Health and Nutrition: As cluster lead in nutrition, UNICEF will respond to the needs of over 1 million people, especially children and pregnant or lactating women, with therapeutic and supplementary feeding to prevent further deterioration in their already poor nutritional status.  Blanket supplementary feeding, initiated in late 2009, will continue into 2010 in the three most drought-affected regions of Anseba, Gash-Barka and Southern Red Sea as a priority.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): The UNICEF-led WASH Cluster will tackle the problem of access to safe water and sanitation facilities among 80,000 people living in drought-affected areas and displaced resettlement communities by building and rehabilitating water supply systems, as well as providing emergency supplies. The WASH Cluster will also improve the coordination of emergency preparedness in terms of planning and in the pre-positioning of supplies. 

Education: A total of 4,100 primary-school-aged children in two of the most affected displaced resettlement areas will have access to a safe, protected and child-friendly learning environment through the construction of classrooms equipped with sanitation, water storage facilities and the provision of learning materials to ensure resumption and continuation of their education. 

Child Protection: UNICEF will focus on the needs of at least 2,000 children made vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by food shortages.  Support will include the establishment of drop-in centres and several child-friendly facilities that offer psychosocial care, vocational training, family tracing and reunification assistance for separated or unaccompanied children.

Mine Action: UNICEF’s primary concern is for the safety of those currently living in some 480 areas impacted by mines and unexploded ordnance.  At least 180,000 students will have access to mine risk education, either in school or via community-based mobile teams.  Mine or unexploded ordnance survivors, including children with disabilities, will benefit from increased levels of psychosocial support and vocational training.

Summary of UNICEF Emergency Needs to fulfil
Core Commitments for Children for 2010
Sector US$
Health 4,000,000
Nutrition 13,000,000
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) 5,000,000
Education 1,200,000
Child Protection 800,000
Mine Action 800,000
Total 24,800,000