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Facts for Life

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For Children and Families during Disasters

Give it a proper burial

All faeces, including those of babies and young children, should be disposed of safely. Making sure that all family members use a toilet, latrine or potty (for young children) is the best way to dispose of faeces. Where there is no toilet, faeces should be buried.

Everyone should wash their hands, always

All family members, including children, need to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with faeces, before touching or preparing food, and before feeding children. Where soap is not available, a substitute, such as ash and water, can be used.

Wash your hands and face to protect your eyes

Washing the face and hands with soap and water every day helps to prevent eye infections. In some parts of the world, eye infections can lead to trachoma, which can cause blindness.

Drink safe water

All water that people drink and use should come from a safe source or be purified. Containers for carrying and storing water need to be kept clean inside and outside and covered to keep the water clean. Where necessary, home-based water treatment, such as boiling, filtering, adding chlorine or disinfecting with sunlight, should be used to purify the water.

Be careful how you prepare food

Raw or leftover cooked food can be dangerous. Raw food should be washed or cooked. Cooked food should be eaten without delay or thoroughly reheated before eating.

Cleanliness is important

Food, utensils and preparation surfaces should be kept clean and away from animals. Food should be stored in covered containers.

Safe disposal of all household refuse helps to keep the living environment clean and healthy. This helps prevent illness.

Children have rights, whatever the circumstances

In emergencies, children have the same rights as in non-emergency situations. This is true whether the emergency is a conflict, disaster or epidemic.

Be Prepared

Girls and boys and their families and communities should plan ahead and take simple steps to prepare for emergencies – at home, at school and in the community.

Protect your children from…

Measles, diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition and neonatal complications are major causes of child deaths, particularly during emergencies.

An epidemic (or outbreak) of disease can cause an emergency because of the severity of the disease or responses to it. In the case of pandemic influenza and other diseases spread by close personal contact, those who are ill should be kept separated from others.

Remember: Mothers can still breastfeed under stressful conditions

Mothers, even malnourished mothers, can still breastfeed even under the stressful conditions of emergencies.

Children have the right to be protected from violence in emergencies

Children have the right to be protected from violence in emergencies. Governments, civil society, international organizations, communities and families have the responsibility to protect them.

Make your child feel safe in an emergency

It is generally preferable for children to be cared for by their parents or other usual caregivers because it makes children feel more secure. If separation occurs, every effort should be made to reunite the child with his or her family, if it is in the child's best interest.

Children need special attention and extra affection during emergencies

The disruption and stress caused by disasters and armed conflict can frighten and anger children. When such events occur, children need special attention and extra affection. They should be kept as safe as possible and supported in resuming normal activities. Children can be given age-appropriate opportunities to participate in the responses to and decisions regarding the emergency situation.

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