The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday issued an emergency fund appeal of $6.4bn to reach 300 million people, including more than 190 million children, in crises-hit areas in Africa, Asia and Central America.
The funds, the organisation largest-ever emergency fund appeal, will provide essential aide support and services through the end of 2021.
This appeal is a 35 per cent increase over funds requested for 2020, and a reflection of expanding humanitarian needs globally amidst protracted crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When a devastating pandemic coincides with conflict, climate change, disaster and displacement, the consequences for children can be catastrophic,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“Today we are facing a child rights emergency in which COVID-19 and other crises are combining to deprive children of their health and wellbeing. This unprecedented situation demands a similarly unprecedented response. We are urging our donors to join us so that together we can help the world’s children get through this darkest of times and prevent a lost generation.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the lives of children, particularly the most vulnerable. Routine immunization services for children have been disrupted in more than 60 countries, while nearly a quarter of a billion students worldwide are still affected by COVID-19 school closures. Economic instability is disrupting essential services and making it harder for families to make ends meet and increasing the risk of domestic and gender-based violence.
Meanwhile, new humanitarian crises emerged in 2020. The conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has left 2.8 million people in urgent need of assistance. In Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, more than 425,000 people, including 191,000 children, have been displaced. Reports of killings, abductions, recruitment and use of children as soldiers are on the rise. In addition, powerful storms devastated vulnerable communities in Central America and East Asia (namely the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia), affecting 2.6 million and 13.4 million children respectively.
At the same time, the pandemic has worsened protracted emergencies in countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Ukraine and Venezuela. This coming March will mark 10 years of conflict in Syria and six years of conflict in Yemen, leaving nearly 17 million children in need of humanitarian assistance in these two countries alone.
The number of climate-related disasters has tripled in the last 30 years, threatening food security, increasing water scarcity, forcing people from their homes and increasing the risk of conflict and public health emergencies. An estimated 36 million children, more than ever before, are living in displacement due to conflict, violence and disaster. Malnutrition among children is on the rise in countries around the world.
As part of its Humanitarian Action for Children which sets out the agency’s 2021 appeal, UNICEF plans to reach:
- 149 million women and girls and 7.4 million children with disabilities;
- 6.3 million children with treatment for severe acute malnutrition;
- 27.4 million children with measles vaccinations;
- 45 million people with access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene;
- 19.2 million children and caregivers with access to mental health and psychosocial support;
- 17 million children and women with access to gender-based violence risk mitigation, prevention or response interventions;
- 93.3 million children with formal or non-formal education, including early learning; and
- 9.6 million households with cash assistance.
As part of its response to COVID-19, UNICEF is putting its massive supply and procurement operation behind rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine, with a focus on equity to reach the most vulnerable children and families. This work includes coordinating with major global airlines and freight providers to step up efforts to deliver vaccines to more than 92 countries around the world as soon as vaccines become available. The agency is also co-leading efforts to help governments’ readiness to deploy the vaccines – including by prepositioning syringes, mapping out cold chain equipment, and tackling misinformation.
The top five appeals by funding requirements for 2021 are for Syrian refugees (US$1.0 billion), Yemen (US$576.9 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (US$384.4 million), Syria (US$330.8 million) and Venezuela (US$201.8 million).
Putting national and local organizations at the center of humanitarian operations is a key strategy in UNICEF’s humanitarian response. Key results in 2020 were made possible by UNICEF’s partnerships, including with humanitarian country teams, UN agencies, civil society and non-governmental organizations, national and local responders and resource partners. Notable results include:
- 1.5 million children treated for severe acute malnutrition;
- 3.4 million children vaccinated against measles;
- 3 billion people reached with COVID-19 messaging on prevention and access to services;
- 1.8 million health care workers provided with personal protective equipment;
- 45.5 million households benefiting from new or additional social assistance measures provided by governments to respond to COVID-19 with UNICEF support;
- 2.5 million COVID-19 test kits provided to 56 countries.
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