© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0021/LeMoyne

A boy recovers from a broken arm in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an injury sustained during the January 12 earthquake that hit the country, already the poorest in the hemisphere. Complex emergencies continue in Colombia and Haiti, while climate-related crises have risen throughout the region.

The Humanitarian Action Report 2010 is going to press a few days after the devastating earthquake measuring 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale struck Haiti on 12 January.  This disaster, affecting an estimated 3 million people, has severe consequences for children and women already struggling for their right to the basic necessities of water, sanitation, education and protection from violence.

While urgently scaling up life-saving relief, UNICEF is simultaneously working with the Government and other partners to support recovery and risk reduction efforts, to strengthen resilience and to reduce vulnerabilities to future disasters.

UNICEF anticipates that the emergency requirements for Haiti and the region detailed in this report will be significantly revised and increased as the scale of the devastation caused by the earthquake and its impact on children and women becomes clearer.

Critical Issues for Children and Women

The Americas and the Caribbean region is extremely prone to natural hazards which can affect up tol 10 million people yearly.  In 2009, the El Niño phenomenon led to severe drought in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in Central America and in Bolivia and Paraguay in the Chaco region, resulting in serious food and nutrition emergencies. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay were additionally subjected to torrential rains and flooding, while seismic activity destroyed infrastructure and damaged the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands vulnerable people in Costa Rica and Honduras. Hurricanes occurred along the Pacific coastline and in the Caribbean region, affecting El Salvador, Mexico and Nicaragua, and there are concerns that the return of El Niño could lead to an intense hurricane season in 2010.  In Haiti, women and children are still bearing the consequences from the very intense series of hurricanes in 2008, compounded by the global economic and food crisis. In Colombia, intensifying pockets of armed conflict are adding to already high levels of displacement and gender-based violence, especially against women and children. The region is also bearing the brunt of the Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak; to date it has the highest number of reported cases in the world.

Planned Humanitarian Action for 2010

In 2010, the UNICEF Americas and the Caribbean Regional Office (TACRO) will continue to work with UNICEF country offices, governments, United Nations agencies and NGOs on preparedness to respond to the humanitarian needs of children and women in emergencies.  TACRO will also seek ways to improve mechanisms to ensure the delivery of vital immediate operational support and technical assistance to countries when large-scale emergencies overtake local capacities to respond.  In addition, TACRO will strengthen advocacy for disaster risk reduction measures among governments and partners throughout the region, especially in the most emergency-prone countries.  Following are the expected results of UNICEF emergency interventions:

Emergency Preparedness and Response: TACRO will continue to work towards improving the capacity of country offices, governments and partners to deliver quality emergency assistance to children and women in the core areas of water, sanitation and hygiene, education, nutrition, health and protection and to fulfil UNICEF’s cluster leadership responsibilities in these sectors.  A harmonized ‘risk management’ framework to improve timely emergency response will be put in place through merging early warning and emergency preparedness, business continuity and national capacity building plans into a single process and on-line planning tool.

Operational and Technical Emergency Support: TACRO will create a regional rapid response mechanism to be operational within the first 72 hours of an emergency.  This will allow for quick delivery of supplies, technical staff deployment and rapid funds disbursement to support country response to sudden large-scale emergencies as needed. This regional operational mechanism will be based on partnerships and draw upon existing inter-agency mechanisms.

Disaster Risk Reduction: Advocacy for disaster risk reduction will be strengthened throughout the region, but specifically among the most disaster-prone countries, some of which have not yet initiated basic steps to reduce the risk of disasters to vulnerable communities. Emphasis will be placed on working with national partners to enhance education to disaster risk, disaster resilient safe water and sanitation systems, and the development of improved nutrition early warning and response mechanisms.

Summary of UNICEF Emergency Needs to fulfil
Core Commitments for Children for 2010
Sector US$
Emergency Preparedness and Response 800,000
Operational and Technical Emergency Support 500,000
Disaster Risk Reduction 500,000
Total 1,800,000