Emergency and Disaster Relief
How UNICEF helps children in emergencies
One in four children in the world live in a conflict or disaster zone. And in a crisis, children often suffer first, and suffer most.
Children living in conflict are the worst off — more likely to be living in poverty, to be malnourished, vulnerable to disease and out of school.
War, natural disasters and other crises often uproot large numbers of children and families, leaving them struggling to survive. Extreme weather events have become more frequent and more intense due to climate change, causing widespread displacement and devastation.
UNICEF, a global leader in humanitarian relief, responds to about 300 emergencies every year.
UNICEF in action, delivering emergency and disaster relief
With a presence in over 190 countries and territories, UNICEF works with governments and other partners to mobilize a rapid and efficient response when disaster strikes. UNICEF is committed to reaching the most vulnerable children and families wherever they are, operating in difficult conditions and hard-to-reach places.
UNICEF is on the ground before, during and after an emergency to:
- preposition and prepare to deliver relief supplies to meet urgent needs for safe water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition and medicine
- care for children separated from parents and help reunite them with family
- when schooling is interrupted, get kids back to learning as quickly as possible
- provide mental health and psychosocial support for children with trauma
Emergency relief supplies can be shipped anywhere within 48 to 72 hours from UNICEF’s supply hub in Copenhagen, the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world.
UNICEF has also forged stronger ties between humanitarian work and development efforts — linking emergency relief to long term interventions to gird against future shocks. In areas affected by disaster and crisis, UNICEF makes it a priority to:
- support community rebuilding and recovery to increase community resilience, making sure children’s rights are upheld at every turn
- strengthen health and social systems so children are better protected from vaccine-preventable diseases and chronic conditions such as malnutrition
- rehabilitate weak or damaged water and sanitation systems and other critical infrastructure to better serve communities over the long term
- ensure social safety nets are in place and available for impoverished families
In 2020, multiple emergencies required all hands on deck: the global COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing crises in Syria and Yemen and the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while a brutal hurricane season compounded existing vulnerabilities in Central America.
UNICEF's appeal for emergency funding for 2021 was its largest ever — reflecting the impact of the pandemic and other intersecting crises.
As UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore explains: "For UNICEF and our many humanitarian partners around the world, COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our responses, adding a new layer of complexity in some of the most difficult and dangerous operating environments anywhere."