UNICEF appeals for a record US$2.5 billion to respond to children’s humanitarian needs and the COVID-19 pandemic in the Middle East and North Africa

One in five children in need of humanitarian assistance

07 December 2020
a boy holding Baloons

AMMAN, 7 December 2020 –UNICEF is appealing for a record high US$ 2.5 billion in emergency funding. The funds will be used to respond to the needs of 39 million childrenwith life-saving assistance in the Middle East and North Africa in 2021. This includes an increase of nearly US$ 500 million2 to continue responding to the COVID-19 pandemic amid a surge in cases across the region.

“The region is home to the highest number of children in need in the world. This is largely due to man-made crises including armed conflicts, poverty and economic stagnation,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa. “This appeal aims to reach children with critical humanitarian assistance and continue responding to the massive needs emerging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

Response to the crises in Yemen, Syria and Sudan make the lion share of the appeal. Ten years into the war in Syria, one of the longest and most brutal wars in recent times, 4.8 million children are in need of assistance. In neighbouring countries, 2.5 million children are Syrian refugees. In Yemen, 12 million children or almost every child, in the war-torn country is in need of assistance. In Sudan, 5.3 million children face a multitude of challenges including due to floods believed to be the harshest in the past century, political transition and an economic crisis.

“We hear of fatigue to fund long term crises like in Yemen and Syria. The solution to these conflicts is through a political track and a diplomatic process. Until a solution is reached, the world cannot turn a blind eye to the needs of children impacted by two of the most horrific conflicts in recent history,” said Chaiban.

Other crises have swept the region in the past year. In Lebanon, an economic collapse coupled with an increase in COVID-19 cases and the horrific explosion in August made nearly 1.9 million children dependant on assistance.

The largest portion of funds requested in UNICEF’s appeal will be mobilized to support children’s education. This is followed by water, sanitation, health and nutrition and pyscho-social support to address mental health.

Last year, UNICEF’s appeal only received half of the required funds.

“UNICEF is grateful to all donors who have been great friends to children across the region over the years. Their generosity has saved the lives of millions including through vaccination, treatment of malnutrition and clean water and hygiene. We do hope that these donors and others will continue to commit to children as we face more hardships and the ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic,” concluded Chaiban.

In 2020, UNICEF continued to respond to needs of children and their families across the region.

Key Highlights

  • Reached 270 million people with information on COVID-19 to promote health and hygiene practices and credible information.
  • Bought more than 10 million boxes of Personal Protective Equipment, 253 ventilators and 1,303 oxygen concentrators.
  • Supported local economies through buying supplies worth US$ 40 million from local markets, making this more than half of UNICEF’s total procurement in the region.
  • Provided over 15 million people with hygiene kits and cleaning products.
  • Supported governments in nine countries around the region to provide 12.5 million households with social protection assistance, including cash transfers in response to COVID-19.
  • Bought and distributed 83 million doses of routine vaccines against measles, tetanus, polio, diptheria, hepatitis B and rotavirus.


1. Nearly half are estimated to be girls.

2. The exact figure is 477 million US$



Notes to Editors:

  • The Humanitarian Action for Children 2021 and separate appeals for countries can be found here.
  • The Humanitarian Action for Children appeal for 2021 includes Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, the State of Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In addition to a regional appeal focusing on response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Djibouti, Oman, Egypt and technical support form the Regional Office in Amman. In total, the appeal constitutes to 40 per cent of UNICEF’s financial ask globally.
  • The appeal for Yemen is US$ 577 million, for Sudan is US$ 199 million, and for the Syria crisis including to respond to refugees and children in neighbouring countries US$ 1.4 billion
  • In 2021, working alongside partners, UNICEF aims to reach:
    - Over 2 million children to be immunized against measles, and over 18 million children against polio.

- Over 15.7 million people to have access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.

- Over 6.2 million children to have access to formal and non-formal education.

- Over 244,000 households reached with humanitarian cash transfers across sectors.

- 65 million people engaged in behavioural change and reached with messages on access to services.  

  • In December 2019, UNICEF appealed for US$ 2 billion to respond to children’s needs for 2020. In April 2020, the appeal was revised to include an additional US$ 357 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the total US$ 2.3 billion requested, only half of the funds were received.  


Media contacts

Juliette Touma
Regional Chief of Advocacy and Communications
UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office
Tel: 00962798674628
Hasan Nabulsi
Communication Officer
Tel: 00962791368405

Additional resources

Fast facts and multimedia products


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/mena

Follow UNICEF on  Twitter   Facebook   Instagram   LinkedIn   Youtube   TikTok


Join our UNICEF MENA WhatsApp group to get the latest news. Send us a text message at the following number and we'll add you to our list: 00962790082531