UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell Remarks at the Launch of UNICEF’s 2024 Humanitarian Action for Children appeal

12 December 2023

NEW YORK, 12 December 2023 - "Excellencies, partners, friends and supporters of UNICEF,

"Thank you so much for joining us today as we launch our 2024 Humanitarian Action for Children appeal.

"This appeal comes, as you know, at an especially critical time, with children facing a broad array of intensifying and converging crises … and with global humanitarian needs at near record levels.

"Around the world, war continues to upend the lives of children. We estimate that today, 460 million children are living in, or fleeing from conflict zones. And wherever violence occurs – in places like Burkina Faso, Haiti, the State of Palestine, Sudan and Ukraine – children suffer first, and they suffer most.

"Many children living in areas affected by conflict are injured, killed or sexually violated. They may lose family members or friends. Some are recruited and used by armed forces or groups. And many are displaced multiple times, risking separation from their families, losing critical years of education, and fraying ties to their communities.

"As the Executive Director of UNICEF, I have seen firsthand too much of the horrible toll that conflict exacts on children. Just last month, I visited southern Gaza, and met with children, families, and UNICEF staff on the ground. I remain haunted by what I saw and what I heard when I was there.

"At the Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Yunis, I spoke with a 16-year-old girl lying in her hospital bed. She had been badly injured when her neighborhood was bombed, and the doctors told her she will never walk again.  While in the hospital’s neonatal ward, I saw tiny babies clinging to life in incubators … as doctors worried how they could keep the machines running without fuel.

"This is just a snapshot of what conflicts take from thousands of children every single day. It robs them of their wellbeing, and it extinguishes their hopes for a brighter future.

"Making matters worse, these new and protracted conflicts coincide with other devastating crises. These include disasters like catastrophic flooding in Libya or the earthquakes in Afghanistan and Morocco … disease outbreaks like the cholera epidemic in Haiti … and food insecurity like that experienced in the Horn of Africa. Climate change also continues to wreak havoc on young lives by causing severe droughts, heatwaves and more intense storms.

"None of these crises occurs in a vacuum. Each has the potential to amplify the consequences of the others, and as ever, it is children who are the most vulnerable. For example, nearly 2.4 million children in South Sudan and the central Sahel suffered from severe wasting in 2023 because of both conflict and drought linked to climate change.

"The only way to approach these complex and interconnected challenges is by working together within the multilateral system. UNICEF has a unique role to play in this – as part of the UN family, and as a valued partner to a broad range of actors … including those in Government, the private sector, international financial institutions, and local NGOs. Through these partnerships, we can leverage more resources, capacity and innovative thinking to reach the most vulnerable children in the most difficult to reach places.

"UNICEF also works across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. This means that we are providing immediate life-saving assistance, while also strengthening the systems that children rely on … like health care, water, sanitation and education … to support longer term development goals.

"Our approach to humanitarian action continues to deliver impactful results for children.

"In 2023, this included providing treatment for severe wasting to more than 3 million children under the age of five … reaching more than 23 million people with safe drinking water … helping nearly 14 million children access both formal and non-formal education … and vaccinating 27 million children against measles. We also reached nearly 9 million women and children with response services for gender-based violence.

"With humanitarian crises growing in complexity and scale, our resources are increasingly being stretched. The proportion of flexible funding as part of UNICEF’s overall income continues to shrink. But we rely on predictable flexible funding to respond quickly based on need, and to prepare for future risks. Our lifesaving work for children will come under increasing strain if we do not urgently reverse this trend.

"For 2024, UNICEF is appealing $9.3 billion dollars to reach 94 million children impacted by humanitarian crises. And we need your support to help us reach this target.

"Working together through principled humanitarian action, we can reach the most vulnerable children, and protect them from violence and abuse. We can provide them with essential services like health care, education, clean water and sanitation. And we can ensure that all children’s rights are protected and upheld. I hope that we can count on you to help us achieve these goals for children.

"Thank you so much."


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Christopher Tidey
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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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