UNICEF in emergencies

In conflict and disaster, children suffer first and suffer most. During emergencies and humanitarian contexts, children are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and violence. Children living in conflict areas are worst off – they are more likely to be living in extreme poverty, for instance, or not enrolled in primary school.

The chaos and insecurity of war threatens or destroy access to food, shelter, social support, and health care, and result in increased vulnerability in communities, especially for children. UNICEF focuses on these children and their families to provide them with the essential interventions required for protection, to save lives, and to ensure the rights of all children, everywhere.

UNICEF also works to strengthen the links between humanitarian action and development work. Our presence in many countries before, during, and after emergencies, delivers a continuum of support. For example, the rehabilitation and upgrade of water and sanitation systems serve vulnerable households in both the immediate crisis and the longer term.

UNICEF also builds the long-term capacity of health ministries and civil society partners to identify, treat and prevent chronic conditions such as malnutrition. Sustainable interventions are important because crises are not one-time shocks; their impact can last for years.

UNICEF’s humanitarian action is guided by its Strategic Plan and its Core Commitments for Children (CCCs), which outline what UNICEF commits to doing across all sectors – health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, and education – as part of any humanitarian response. The CCCs are aligned to international standards and are guided by humanitarian principles. Read them here.

To ensure adequate humanitarian response coordination and clear division of responsibilities at both global and country levels, the cluster approach was introduced in 2005 within the wider context of humanitarian reform. UNICEF has since been designated to serve as Global Cluster Lead Agency (CLA) for three Clusters: WASH, Nutrition, and co-CLA for Education (with Save the Children). In addition, within the Global Protection Cluster led by UNHCR, UNICEF leads the Child Protection Area of Responsibility. UNICEF’s cluster coordination accountabilities are enshrined in the CCCs and as per the Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidance.

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