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May 23, 2016

Humanitarian Appeal for Children (2016)

Children are at the epicentre of today’s global emergencies. Nearly 250 million children live in countries affected by conflict and millions more face risks from natural hazards and fast spreading epidemics. Before, during and after an emergency, UNICEF is on the ground delivering life-saving assistance to children and their families. UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children highlights the situation of children living in the most challenging circumstances, outlines the support required to help them survive and thrive, and shows the results UNICEF and its partners have achieved and are working towards.

Every year, the lives of millions of children and their families are disrupted, upended or nearly destroyed by emergencies. Conflict, human-made disasters and wide-ranging, climate-change events challenge the lives of many who are already vulnerable. In all of these situations, UNICEF is there. This overview offers a clear picture of the many aspects of UNICEF's global work in humanitarian situations.

In 2015, UNICEF responded in the following ways:

  • 2 million children treated for severe malnutrition
  • 11.3 million measles vaccinations
  • Safe water for 22.6 million people
  • Psychosocial support for 2 million children
  • Basic education for 4 million children

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake has noted that "the number of children trapped in humanitarian crises around the world is both staggering and sobering."  Humanitarian action is at the core of UNICEF’s work, encompassing effective preparedness, early response and recovery to save lives and protect child rights.

A more in-depth report can be accessed at shows some of our joint efforts and the results achieved in 2015 for children in need of humanitarian assistance, and what we will be working towards in 2016.


May 10, 2016

One Year On, Children Express New Fears

One year after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal, children continue to face major difficulties. Alongside concerns over living conditions and access to a safe and supportive education, children report enduring feelings of fear and trauma that could compromise their wellbeing in the long term.

Five child rights organisations– Plan International, Save the Children, Terre des hommes, UNICEF, and World Vision – highlight the need to mainstream child protection and child safeguarding, including psycho-social support, within all recovery and reconstruction efforts.

The findings are based on a consultation with more than 680 children from five of the most severely earthquake-affected districts in Nepal. The research released today, “Children’s voices, children’s rights: one year after the Nepal earthquake” revealed that children’s challenges continue to be inadequate shelter, overcrowded classes, and lack of books and materials.

Children who took part in the consultation highlighted different sources of fear as a result of living in temporary shelters, including thieves and wild animals entering houses; of sleeping outside; and of being trafficked or forced into child labour.

"The doors and windows of our temporary house are not strong. The locks can be easily broken and I am scared of being [physically or sexually] abused. I have heard news of this kind through the radio," said one adolescent girl from Rasuwa, during the consultations.

Most worryingly, these compounding fears and feelings of instability are starting to have psychosocial effects on children. A staggering 50 percent of children stated that a year after the earthquake, they continue to overreact to loud noises and 23 percent do not sleep as well as before the earthquake.

“We feel scared even while dreaming. Also, we get scared hearing the sound of vehicles,” said an adolescent boy from Salmechakal, Kavre.

Save the Children’s Country Director, Delilah Borja, said: “Children are undoubtedly the most vulnerable during an emergency. It was no different when multiple quakes struck Nepal last year. Children’s lives were shaken beyond their comprehension, education came to a standstill and their overall wellbeing was under threat."

Girls and boys described the ongoing fear of another earthquake, potentially triggering further landslides, and the possibility of it occurring while they were on their way to, or at school.

“Time alone will not remove the children's fear. We need to make children feel safe again and find a positive way for them to live with their memories of destruction, insecurity and loss. Parents and teachers need to learn how to support traumatised children to help them regaining confidence for their future”, states Sebastian Zug, Country Representative of Terre des hommes in Nepal.

Despite emergency response efforts building 3,567 temporary learning centres - which enable children to return to school - more than one year after the earthquakes 30 per cent of children continue to report studying in unsafe schools, many complaining of cramped and noisy classrooms. More than 60 per cent prioritised the construction of earthquake-resistant schools as their top concern.

UNICEF Representative Tomoo Hozumi said: "The situation could have been far worse if the earthquake occurred on any other day than Saturday when schools in the country are closed. The geophysical conditions of Nepal mean there are no 'safe zones' when it comes to major earthquakes. We believe making schools earthquake-resistant through retrofitting or new construction is one of the up-most priorities not only in the earthquake-affected districts but in the entire country."

Children who took part in the consultation expressed desire to be consulted in further recovery discussions. Seventy per cent of children stated their voices had not been listened to during the response, and about 95 percent stated that they wanted to be consulted through discussions at the community and local level, child-clubs, at school, through their parents or directly through organisations.

Plan International Nepal’s Country Director Mattias Bryneson said: “All children have the right to grow up in a safe and protective environment. We hope the concerns of the children affected by this tragedy will be better taken care of in the recovery and reconstruction phase of the earthquake response."

Despite the huge challenges faced by aid agencies to reach all of the earthquake survivors, the large majority of children - 98 percent - reported to have received support in the months following the earthquake, by way of food items, cash, shelter, temporary shelter materials, mobile health camps and support for school items.

World Vision’s Nepal Earthquake Response Director, Jennifer MacCann said, “Moving forward, in the coming months we are hopeful to focus on recovery work that will benefit children and restore their sense of safety and normalcy in their schools, homes and communities.”

May 10, 2016

As Zika Spreads, UNICEF Helps Keep Families Safe

With the Zika virus now a public health emergency affecting more than 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNICEF is working with governments to mobilize communities to protect themselves from infection.

“Although there is still no conclusive evidence of the causal link between microcephaly and the Zika virus, there is enough concern to warrant immediate action,” said Dr. Heather Papowitz, UNICEF’s Senior Advisor for Health Emergencies. “We need to act fast to provide women and pregnant mothers with the information they need to protect themselves and their babies, and we need to engage with communities on how to stop the mosquito that is carrying and transmitting this virus.” 

Registered cases of microcephaly in newborn babies in Brazil have soared to 4,180 between 22 October 2015 and 26 January 2016. In 2014, there were 147 cases across the whole country. Working with the government and other partners, UNICEF is engaging communities in Brazil with messages on how to avoid mosquito bites and eliminate breeding sites.

With the virus spreading far and fast, simple measures that can help keep people safe include using insect repellent, covering as much of the body as possible with long, light-coloured clothing, removing places where mosquitoes can breed, and putting screens on windows and doors. Pregnant women who think they have been exposed to the virus should seek care by a trained health provider.

While the surge in microcephaly has so far only been reported in Brazil, UNICEF is also scaling up its support to other countries in the region and stands ready to support national governments as needed – using its network of 24 offices serving 35 countries and territories.

UNICEF has launched a nearly $9 million appeal for its programmes to limit the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact on newborns and their families across the region.


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