Emergency Relief | UNICEF USA

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 works with governments, civil society, NGOs and local partners to speed delivery of urgently needed supplies in the wake of disasters like Tropical Cyclone Yasa. Above, supplies are loaded onto a tourist boat for delivery to Fiji’s northern island of Vanua Levu. © UNICEF/UN0384349/Stephen/Infinity Images 

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

Multiple emergencies require all hands on deck: the global COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing crises in Syria and Yemen, extreme weather events and other natural disasters related to the effects of climate change. 

UNICEF's $9.4 billion emergency funding appeal for 2022 is the largest ever, reflecting the impact of the pandemic and other intersecting crises. Learn more about UNICEF's plan for Humanitarian Action for Children.

Daniel Timme, Chief of Communications for UNICEF Mozambique, checks in with families in the Praia Nova neighborhood of Beira, Mozambique, as Cyclone Eloise bears down on the area. © UNICEF/UN0403969/Franco