Date Published: 27 January 2009

UNICEF appeals for over $1 billion for children in emergencies

Health News from around the world.

UNICEF's 2009 Humanitarian Action Report (HAR) highlights the plight of children and women around the globe in humanitarian emergencies.

The Humanitarian Action Report is UNICEF's annual funding appeal for protracted emergencies and is seeking just over $1 billion (approximately £730 million) to assist children and women in 36 countries. The amount sought is some 17% higher than UNICEF's 2008 appeal, largely because of increased needs in eastern and southern Africa.

"Many countries featured in the report are silent or forgotten emergencies," said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman. "Women and children are dying every day due to disease, poverty and hunger, but sadly their deaths go largely unnoticed."

The report notes that over half the funds are to continue UNICEF support to victims of the five largest global humanitarian operations: in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

"I have recently returned from Zimbabwe where the economy is crumbling and the cholera outbreak is not yet controlled," said Veneman, the first head of a UN agency to visit the country in over two years. "Over half the population is receiving food aid and basic social services are collapsing."

Natural disasters

In recent decades, the number and severity of natural disasters has increased significantly. The emergencies included in the Humanitarian Action Report represent only a small fraction of UNICEF's emergency response activities. Between 2005 and 2007, UNICEF responded to an annual average of 276 emergencies in 92 countries. Over 50% were caused by disasters, 30% were a result of conflict, and health-related emergencies, like epidemics, accounted for 19% of UNICEF's emergency response.

Martin Bell, UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies, said:

"In 2008 UNICEF's emergency relief work faced an increasing number of global humanitarian challenges which resulted in more vulnerable children and women than ever before requiring urgent support and protection. As well as the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza, there was renewed fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, worsening food insecurity and a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, catastrophic earthquakes in China and Pakistan and a devastating hurricane season which affected the Caribbean, to name but a few. The Humanitarian Action Report highlights the need for vital funds so that UNICEF can respond effectively and efficiently through its work in these regions."

David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF UK, said:

"The current humanitarian crisis in Gaza highlights the extent of the emergency relief work with which UNICEF is involved. There are no quick fixes for the lives of the thousands of vulnerable children who have been affected, both physically and psychologically, by the violence which has taken place over the past three weeks. The negative impact on them is immense and UNICEF is involved in vital immediate and long-term work to support these children and the millions more whose lives are threatened and disrupted by the hundreds of emergencies, natural and man-made, to which we must respond every year."

Nutrition insecurity

The report also notes that higher food prices and climate change have negatively affected most of the countries for which emergency aid is sought. UNICEF has initiatives in place to address nutrition insecurity, but more resources are required to ensure the response meets urgent 2009 needs.

The UNICEF report cites recent studies which find the risk of hunger could increase for some 50 million people worldwide by 2010 as a result of climate change. Some experts have estimated that in the next decade children and women will represent 65% of all those affected by climate-related disasters. If these predictions prove correct, some 175 million victims of climate change will be children.

UNICEF is present in more than 150 countries and is often among the first responders to crises.

"These funds will help UNICEF respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of children affected by emergencies," said Veneman. "As a result the lives of many will be saved."

Africa, DR Congo, South-Sudan, Republic-of-the-Sudan

Source: UNICEF Press Release

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