Emergencies and humanitarian action

We work to provide safe spaces for children to help them recover from natural disasters or man-made crisis.

A girl stands holding a pillow talking to a UNICEF worker, field of tents in the background,
UNICEF ROSA/2015/TNybo

Challenge

South Asia is prone to yearly flooding, landslides, droughts and earthquakes. The effects of climate change can be felt in the erratic nature and severity of these natural disasters. Conflict and political challenges often mean that emergency and humanitarian response is delayed – exposing children to high-risk situations. Children’s needs are often overlooked during emergencies, leaving them vulnerable to health issues. During a humanitarian crisis, they are often deprived of safe environments to learn and grow.

Of the 1.5 million people displaced due to the forced repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, Iran, and Europe, 60 per cent are children under 18. UNICEF is providing support for the safe reunification of unaccompanied minors, but clashes between government forces and armed groups continue to impact the provision of basic services like safe drinking water and access to improved sanitation facilities for refugee communities. 

The closure or destruction of schools and health facilities affects children stranded in conflict or post-disaster situations. In Nepal, children are still suffering from the effects of the 2015 earthquakes; their homes and schools have not been adequately reconstructed and landslide risks remain high. Droughts in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan have led to a steady increase in malnutrition among children under the age of five. UNICEF is the sole provider of nutrition supplies and malnutrition care in Afghanistan. 

Today, there are an estimated 720,000 Rohingya children in Bangladesh and Myanmar, in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Urgent efforts are needed to help the Rohingya children who are threatened either by the approaching cyclone season in Bangladesh or by ongoing violence and denial of their basic rights in Myanmar.

 

Solution

The UNICEF Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action helps to uphold the rights of children affected by emergencies and humanitarian crisis. We work with eight country offices in South Asia to ensure assistance is provided for children within the areas of nutrition; health; water, sanitation and hygiene; education; and child protection. We are leading partnerships at the regional level to ensure children’s needs are given priority in measures being taken by local governments to reduce risks from disasters and adapt to climate change.

Safeguarding the health and future of children during a humanitarian crisis requires multifaceted strategies and actions. We help our partners assess and analyze risks, conflicts and disasters so that they can provide holistic relief and protect children from long-term suffering. We also help them prepare vulnerable communities to face changes brought about by environmental, social and political upheavals.

Our education-in-emergencies interventions are designed to provide safe learning spaces with psychosocial support for displaced and at-risk children. We focus on strengthening school safety to ensure children are learning in a safe environment and to give communities a secure communal space in case of emergencies. We are also working to address the direct implications on the nutritional status of children in South Asia due to escalating droughts across the region.

We support emergency responders in South Asia through training, guidance, and support. We help our partners learn from each other’s experiences and share good practices in disaster preparedness through our extensive regional network. This ensures that responses are effective and the assistance is child-centered.

Our advocacy work in the region resulted in the adoption of the New Delhi Declaration and the Asian Regional Plan in 2015. Countries in the region have publicly pledged to reduce and manage risk in their respective countries and follow the roadmap to convert these commitments into tangible results. The evaluation of the UNICEF response to the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, acknowledged the added value of emergency preparedness and the availability of contingency stocks during a large-scale emergency – an invaluable lesson for other high-risk countries in the region.

Resources

These resources represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the region. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.