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UNICEF appeals for $856 million to aid children and women in emergencies

GENEVA, 12 February 2008 - UNICEF launched its Humanitarian Action Report (HAR) 2008 today, calling on donors to provide $856 million to assist children and women who are victims of emergencies in 39 different countries around the world.

The report includes information on countries currently affected by severe political crisis, such as Chad and Kenya, as well as on ongoing conflicts that no longer make headlines but where children continue to suffer.  It also addresses countries struck by severe natural disasters, such as Mozambique, which has experienced devastating floods. UNICEF’s relief activities are described in the report, alongside accounts of the financial requirements necessary to meet the needs of those children and women who are suffering.
“As a result of the crisis in Kenya, some 150,000 children are among the 300,000 people who were forced from their homes and into temporary camps. UNICEF estimates that some 80,000 of these children are under five years old. In Chad, the situation is a little less clear, but estimates suggest that 30,000 of the 52,000 who have been driven from the country are vulnerable and urgently need help. UNICEF is providing urgent assistance in health, education and nutrition,” said Hilde Johnson, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director at a press conference in Geneva. “In both these conflicts, and in the 37 other crises described in this report, children and women continue to bear the brunt of conflict and displacement.”

Funding is also being sought for humanitarian activities in Sudan. While recovery and development activities are underway across Sudan, large pockets of the population – most notably in Darfur – continue to suffer. The number of internally displaced persons in Darfur has grown to 2.1 million, and the conflict has damaged the safety and the livelihoods of large portions of the civilian population. The damage has spread across national borders, and thousands of children from Darfur are in dire need of assistance and protection in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad. UNICEF-supported programmes in Sudan, totaling over US$ 150 million, aim to boost health, nutrition and education, increase access to safe water and sanitation, and promote child protection and mine action.

Although the situation in West Africa is not widely reported around the world, as the 2008 Humanitarian Action Report reports, nearly one million people are currently displaced by conflict in that region and the resulting under-nutrition is a major risk targeting young children. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for which UNICEF is requesting US$ 106 million, more than half of the deaths of young children are attributed to malnutrition.

A worrying trend that the report highlights is the fact that women and children are increasingly falling victim to systematic rape, often used as a weapon of war by different groups.

“We must make sure that children and women are protected as much as possible from these atrocities, and that those responsible for these crimes are eventually brought to justice,” Ms Johnson stressed.

Conflicts often go hand-in-hand with natural catastrophes, blurring the lines between different types of disasters and re-enforcing the damage wrought on the lives of children and women. When the political crisis broke out in Kenya following the election in late December 2007, people were already suffering the impact of drought and of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

According to the report, better natural disaster preparedness has improved the situation in countries prone to emergency hazards. Cyclones that struck Bangladesh in 1970 and 1991 killed 500,000 and 140,000 people respectively. As a result of better systems of preparedness, when a cyclone of similar intensity, Cyclone Sidr, struck Bangladesh in November 2007, the death toll, although still unacceptable, was considerably lower (some 3,300 people lost their lives).

The report spells out the lessons learned from the tsunami catastrophe in 2004, including the importance of more efficient coordination between different stakeholders at all levels, improved funding mechanisms such as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) which enable the UN to react faster, and better preparation, including assisting communities to identify warning signs.

“Experience has taught us that communities and families on the ground must be equipped with knowledge and skills to better prepare and respond to disasters when they happen,” said Ms. Johnson. “Partnerships with communities, governments, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector are crucial not only to delivering the aid that is needed, but also to pass on information that can save lives.”

These lessons have been put into place in Mozambique, where early warning mechanisms and pre-positioned emergency supplied enabled a quick first-line response that has helped the 95,000 people –mainly children and women- who have been displaced by the disastrous floods that are devastating segments of the country for the second year in a row.

Last year, thanks to an increase in the contributions received from new funding mechanisms such as the CERF, 52 per cent of UNICEF’s requested emergency funds were received. UNICEF looks forward to continue working with all donors and partners to increase the efficiency of disaster preparedness and response.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Veronique Taveau: UNICEF Geneva: +41 22 909 5716, +41 792169401, vtaveau@unicef.org
Patrick McCormick: UNICEF Media New York: 1 212 326 7426, pmccormick@unicef.org





January 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reviews UNICEF’s 2008 Humanitarian Action Report.
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