Health in emergencies
During conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies, children can be cut off from life-saving care.
Across the world, humanitarian crises are becoming more frequent, complex and persistent, affecting more children than ever before. During conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies, children’s health needs can be neglected – to devastating effect.
While encouraging progress has been achieved in improving child survival in recent decades, humanitarian crises continue to threaten development gains, and in many instances reverse them.
For children under the age of 5, mortality rates in ‘fragile countries’ are nearly three times higher than in other countries.
Newborns, children, and mothers are often cut off from basic and essential care, including life-saving medicines and supplies. The risk of disease and malnutrition soars. And adolescents become more vulnerable to sexual violence, a situation exacerbated by the lack of critical health care and services.
Children and adolescents face other threats in emergencies. Worldwide, attacks on children have continued unabated – in their homes and their schools. Closures of health facilities and shortages of health professionals can prevent children in emergency settings from receiving treatment for injuries.
Today, one in four children live in countries affected by conflict or disaster. In many of these places, more children die from diseases linked to unsafe drinking water and sanitation than from direct violence.
Children living in these contexts require humanitarian assistance to survive and thrive. UNICEF is working tirelessly to make sure they’re able to achieve their full potential.
Ensuring access to health services in humanitarian and emergency settings requires strong coordination among governments and partners. It also requires sustainable funding, strategic planning, and capacity-building on the ground.
UNICEF works closely with governments, UN agencies, and other partners to help countries prepare for and respond to emergencies. These are our key areas of focus:
Even under normal conditions, public health services can be stretched thin, especially in low-income countries. Challenges magnify in the face of public health emergencies. As the frequency, duration and severity of humanitarian emergencies increase, the need for global investments in risk mitigation and proactive preparedness is great.
UNICEF helps ensure minimum preparedness measures are in place for rapid response, including measures to strengthen the child- and newborn-health component in emergency preparedness plans, to minimize the risk of gender-based violence and to deploy human resources to affected areas. UNICEF also works to build local capacity by supporting training for the technical staff of governments and partners.
UNICEF helps to coordinate and align emergency response efforts in health; child protection; nutrition; communication; and water, sanitation and hygiene. We also provide quality medicines, vaccines and other health supplies to children and women during public health emergencies and other crises.
To ensure health programmes meet the highest standards, UNICEF engages affected communities in their design, planning and monitoring, and promotes safe and confidential feedback mechanisms.
When it comes to advancing development, planning for recovery can be just as critical as responding to an emergency.
UNICEF works with governments and partners to strengthen infrastructure, develop preparedness plans and re-establish routine health services in humanitarian and emergency settings.
Community health workers are integral to building strong, resilient health systems. We also help Governments decentralize primary health care systems in areas vulnerable to natural disasters, conflicts and public health emergencies.
UNICEF is committed to shifting the focus from response to prevention. That requires sustaining the progress of recent decades, strengthening risk analysis and building resilience in health systems. When incorporated effectively in humanitarian programmes, risk-informed programming alleviates suffering and lays the foundation for sustainable development.
In close collaboration with governments and partners, UNICEF strengthens coordination efforts at the global, national and local levels. We help ensure that humanitarian responses are synchronized, timely and adhere to agreed-upon standards and benchmarks. This includes during both the assessment of the emergency and the subsequent response. UNICEF focuses on interventions that are responsive to specific community needs and values, as well as creating community capacity building and resilience so that they are prepared and better equipped to face future crises.
In line with the United Nations’ call for the protection of civilians in conflict, UNICEF advocates for the protection of all children in humanitarian settings, as well as the protection of health facilities and equipment. Working with partners, we document the global situation of children in humanitarian contexts to develop advocacy mechanisms and strategies that support health programming in these settings.
|UNICEF||Case Studies on Newborn Health Policy, Strategy and Action Plan Implementation in Humanitarian and Fragile Settings|
|Global Health Workforce Alliance|