Construction at UNICEF
Building safe and sustainable environments to help children thrive.
UNICEF supports its programmes with tailored construction solutions to meet the needs of children, including education, nutrition, health and health emergencies, immunization, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
Globally, nearly a third of primary schools lack basic water services, a quarter do not have electricity and approximately one half are lacking disability-adapted infrastructure, according to a joint study by WHO/UNICEF. As a result, many children around the world do not have adequate classrooms where they can learn in a safe and comfortable environment.
Nearly 1.2 billion children – almost double the number in 2019 – now live in countries experiencing emergencies where urgent responses are required to restore essential school or health infrastructure.
Support to UNICEF's programmes
In other cases, countries do not have the warehouse capacity or physical infrastructure to safely store the vaccines and other life-saving supplies that UNICEF delivers for children. Indeed, close to 48 million children under age 5 will die of preventable causes between 2020 and 2030, many of whom will lack access to basic health care infrastructure.
UNICEF works with local governments on building projects that work towards our mission to ensure that every child has the chance to grow up healthy, happy, and safe. Our construction initiatives directly support UNICEF’s programmes and the five goal areas of the UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2022-2025.
We drive innovation to meet the needs of children whether it means rapid scale-up of new classrooms to get children back to school after an emergency or the use of sustainable local materials to build health facilities in hard-to-reach locations.
UNICEF construction projects are always a collaborative effort between UNICEF country offices and host country stakeholders, with technical support from UNICEF Supply Division. UNICEF leverages its technical expertise and organizational capacity to provide coordination between:
- Host country government actors
- UNICEF implementing partners, such as NGOs
- Contractors, including engineering and quality assurance firms
- Local communities
Country office teams collaborate with Supply Division to develop a project-specific construction strategy. UNICEF country office engineers and programme leaders work with government counterparts to define the need, select the sites, and design the construction project. Supply Division also provides a host of construction-related tools and services to our country offices including:
- Project design
- Risk management
- Implementation strategies
Managing complex construction projects
For many years, UNICEF has carried out basic construction projects including classrooms, water and sanitation facilities, and local health facilities. More recently, it has started to engage in much more complex projects, using innovative construction techniques to solve some of the most intractable development challenges, like building a seawater desalination plant in Palestine or regional vaccine warehouses for the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Read more about UNICEF's complex construction projects.
Sustainability at every step
UNICEF is committed to integrating the three pillars of sustainability - economic, social and environmental - at every stage of construction, from project planning to building methods. Since many projects take place in remote, rural areas with limited access to building supplies and equipment, UNICEF prioritizes construction with local labour and materials. This approach reduces transportation costs and encourages the use of innovative construction materials, such as recycled plastic bricks.
Learn more about sustainability in UNICEF construction.
UNICEF Construction Database
A searchable and interactive tool that documents UNICEF-supported construction projects since 2019. For each project, the tool provides general information through a brief description, photos and videos.
Construction project stories
Construction projects supported by UNICEF vary in nature, size, and complexity. These stories capture some of UNICEF’s construction initiatives and the impact that they have on vulnerable children, families, and communities.