One enormous crisis, multiple little faces

We have a chance to ‘reimagine’ and ‘rebuild’ the region back better.

Alfonso F. Reca and Rocío Maradiegue
03 December 2020
A child protects himself from the heavy rain with a plastic chair
UNICEF/UN0372375/Ocon/AFP-Services
A child protects himself from the heavy rain with a plastic chair where his house used to be, after it was destroyed by the strong winds, swells and rains brought by Hurricane Iota in Nicaragua, in Bilwi, on November 17, 2020.

For the very first time since UNICEF has been working in Latin America and the Caribbean, all 36 countries and territories in the region are facing humanitarian crises, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a socio economic, political, and climate crisis.

Telma Paz and her children of 11, 9 and 4 years old benefit from the Bono Familia programme.
UNICEF/UNI38901/Mussapp
Telma Paz and her children of 11, 9 and 4 years old, benefit from the Bono Familia programme granted by the Government of Guatemala, thanks to the support of UNICEF and the World Bank.

In a region where children were already disproportionately hit by poverty and inequalities, the COVID-19 pandemic will further exacerbate and widen these existing gaps between children in poor and rich families if we do not act now.

Angélica Nurian, UNICEF Health Program Assistant, Carries Britanny
UNICEF/UN0361874/
Angélica Nurian, UNICEF Health Program Assistant, Carries Britanny (8) while her mother, Magdalena, finished organizing the documents she filled out during her visit as community watch in Monte Sinaí, Guayaquil.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Latin America and the Caribbean region was facing concurrent humanitarian crises, with 23 million people in need of assistance. The pandemic has led to rising unemployment due in part to a large informal sector and exposed fragile health systems.

These impacts, among others, could push millions into poverty, many of whom will rely on humanitarian assistance to survive. New findings from ECLAC show that 1 in 2 boys and girls are at risk of falling into economic poverty. Nearly 21 million people lack access to basic drinking water and 83 million lack access to basic sanitation and as a result of the pandemic, hygiene services and infrastructures have collapsed.

A student in an empty classroom in Panama City, Panama.
UNICEF/UN0359818/Schverdfinger
A student in an empty classroom in Panama City, Panama, on 16 September 2020.

Prior to COVID-19, 12 million children and adolescents were out of the education system and as of 30 November 2020, over 123 million children are still out of the classroom and have lost over four times more school days than children in the rest of the world.

School closures have deprived children of life-saving interventions, such as school feeding, and increased safety threats, particularly for women and girls, including mistreatment, violence, and exclusion. 

Romeu Mauricio and his son Jetfro (3) crossing the Darien dividing Colombia and Panama
UNICEF/UNI308584/Urdaneta
Romeu Mauricio and his son Jetfro (3) crossing the Darien dividing Colombia and Panama. 5 February 2020.

Millions of children uprooted from their homes are in desperate need of protection, humanitarian assistance and integration across the region. Both major migration outflows -from Venezuela and across Central America and Mexico - affect the entire region and reached unprecedented peaks this year. 

It is estimated that next year, 4.3 million children from Venezuela in host countries will need humanitarian assistance and 6.8 million other migrant children in Mexico and Central America will also be in need of humanitarian assistance.

Boy and girl await the arrival of food at the shelter set up by staff from the Permanent Contingency Committee (Copeco) at the José Simon Azcona sports complex.
UNICEF/UN0367875/Cálix/AFP-Services
Boy and girl await the arrival of food at the shelter set up by staff from the Permanent Contingency Committee (Copeco) at the José Simon Azcona sports complex. Together with their families, they were evacuated from their homes in the Altos de Edén neighborhood in Tegucigalpa because of the rains that Hurricane Iota left in Honduran territory, this November 17.

The 2020 hurricane season has been one of the worst in history. Hurricanes Eta (cat. 4) and Iota (cat. 5) have affected 2.6 million children in seven Central American countries and have damaged or destroyed critical infrastructures including schools, hospitals, roads, and water and sanitation services which will lead to an increase of waterborne diseases.

More than 175,171 people, including about 65,596 children, were forced into shelters which raises concerns regarding overcrowding and the inability to maintain social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Simon Geraldson from Cité Soleil, outside of Port-au-Prince.
UNICEF/UN0364550/Casares
"We need to educate people on how to take care of the environment for a better future,” I am Simon Geraldson, I am 17 years old and I live in Cité Soleil, outside of Port-au-Prince.

It isn’t too late to create stronger capacities to urgently support emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction to mitigate the impacts of climate change and COVID-19 on vulnerable communities.

In the Latin American and Caribbean context, where natural and man-driven hazards are not declining, resources dedicated to emergency response are limited, and where the most vulnerable populations are repeatedly the hardest hit, preparedness is key.

A woman washes boy’s hands at Bethesda health centre, Cap Haitien, Haiti.
UNICEF/UNI349984/
A woman washes boy’s hands at Bethesda health centre, Cap Haitien, Haiti.

We have a chance to ‘reimagine’ and ‘rebuild’ the region back better, where children are safer today, and for days to come.  There is an unprecedented opportunity to create resilient solutions that respond effectively to COVID-19 now, but that also strengthen the already existing systems to better respond to future crises – whether they be pandemics, natural disasters, violence, sociopolitical instability, or forced migration.

There is a clear window of opportunity to provide humanitarian support and save children’s lives as we prepare for next year to be even worse for children, and their families in the region as the pandemic continues and we enter a possible post-COVID-19 era.

A girl is receiving health primary care.
UNICEF/UNI390641/Vilca
The protection and care kits and the game kits have been delivered to the health facilities of San Juan Bautista, Santa Clara and América (Loreto, Peru), reaching a total of 1,357 expecting mothers and 2,356 underage girls and boys of 24 months, who go to said primary care services to receive care and information.

Protecting frontline healthcare workers is to protect the most vulnerable. UNICEF’s COVID-19 response has reached over 314 million people with information on prevention and access to services, particularly critical as containment measures start to soften.

More than 267,000 health workers have received protective equipment and 4.7 million people have received WASH supplies and services. Psychosocial support services have also been provided not only face-to-face but also through remote channels and have benefited over 3.1 million children and caregivers.

UNICEF El Salvador delivered to Civil Protection El Salvador a donation of 200 hygiene kits for adults and 200 kits for boys and girls in response to tropical storm ETA.
UNICEF/UN0361048/Leiva
As part of the Humanitarian Country Team and in coordination with the Office of the First Lady and the El Salvador Agency for International Cooperation (ESCO), UNICEF El Salvador delivered to Civil Protection El Salvador a donation of 200 hygiene kits for adults and 200 kits for boys and girls in response to tropical storm ETA.

UNICEF has been taking humanitarian action in every single country and territory across Latin America and the Caribbean to protect and support the well-being of children. Flexible funding is critical to meet the needs of every child -anywhere, anytime.

UNICEF is requesting US$503 million to ramp up its regional humanitarian response and ensure enhanced coordination and support for emergency preparedness, response and humanitarian/development linkages.

Wileynis Solórzano,8, holds two Super Cereal delivered by UNICEF.
UNICEF/UN0373992/Cabral
Wileynis Solórzano,8, holds two Super Cereal delivered by UNICEF during a nutrition screening in a school located in La Bombilla neighborhood, Petare, Venezuela, on October 28, 2020.

Crises in the region are not felt just once, they are felt repeatedly and for years. Generations to come will live with the impacts of the pandemic including a socioeconomic decline, increase in natural disasters, forced migration and violence. 

There is no easy or quick fix for a child affected by a hurricane or who fled their home because of violence and lack of educational and professional opportunities; their needs are immediate but will persist over time. Multi-year funding enables UNICEF to provide help at every stage of a humanitarian emergency and its aftermath.

hygiene kits, cleaning products and food baskets donated by UNICEF reach an Amazonian community in Ilha da Cotijuba, Brazil.
UNICEF/UNI347985/Batista
On 28 June 2020, hygiene kits, cleaning products and food baskets donated by UNICEF reach an Amazonian community in Ilha da Cotijuba, in the surroundings of Belém, the capital city of the state of Pará in northern Brazil

UNICEF estimates that next year there will be at least 23.4 million children in need and if UNICEF is fully funded, at least 11.7 million children will be reached. With UNICEF requesting nearly double the support from last years’ appeal, if fully funded, UNICEF will be able to support and reach:

  • 2 million children with the minimum set of vaccines;
  • 1,3 million people with critical WASH supplies (including hygiene items) and services;
  • 375,000 children, adolescents and women with gender-based violence response services, including risk mitigation interventions and prevention;
  • 1,7 million children with access formal or nonformal education, including early learning;
  • 91,500 households with cash transfers through an existing government system where UNICEF provided technical assistance and funding; 
  • 15,000 unaccompanied and separated children with family-based care/alternative care services and reuniting them with family and care-givers.