How UNICEF plans to meet urgent and escalating needs of children in a number of conflict and crisis hot spots around the world, by leaning into local partnerships to accelerate and sustain impact and appealing for more flexible funding support.
UNICEF — which is funded entirely by voluntary donations from public and private sector donors — has launched an appeal for $9.3 billion to support Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) in 2024.
The extensive plan for the year ahead reflects an increasingly dire situation for children in the world today due to conflicts, natural disasters and the devastating impacts of climate change — from child displacement to outbreaks of preventable disease to mounting food insecurity. In many places around the world where UNICEF works, these crises tend to overlap and amplify one another.
Mission critical: flexible funding, local partners
In announcing the appeal, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said receiving flexible funding from donors is ideal. UNICEF specializes in emergency response, often being the first on the ground as a crisis unfolds and among the last to leave and supporting efforts to recover and rebuild; flexible funding allows UNICEF to respond quickly and deliver assistance to the most vulnerable children, when and where it is needed, and to adapt or pivot as needs and conditions change, sometimes hour by hour.
Flexible funding enabled UNICEF's South Sudan country office to quickly deploy social workers and set up Child-Friendly Spaces at remote border locations, where more than 130,000 women and children fleeing the conflict in Sudan had arrived by early August. Flexible funding also allowed UNICEF to kickstart its response in Gaza, including the prepositioning of essential WASH supplies such as bottled water, and the allocation of humanitarian cash transfers to conflict-affected households.
UNICEF's strategy for 2024 also leans into "localization" — UNICEF's term for collaborating with local partners, who play a crucial role in delivering immediate relief to children in hard-to-reach places and in longer-term resilience building and system strengthening.
"Millions of children continue to be caught in humanitarian crises that are growing in complexity and scale, and that are increasingly stretching our resources to respond,” Russell said. “With predictable flexible funding, UNICEF and partners can quickly support children in need from the moment an emergency strikes, while preparing for future risks to save and improve lives.”
With predictable flexible funding, UNICEF and partners can quickly support children in need from the moment an emergency strikes, while preparing for future risks to save and improve lives. — UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell
There are 43 separate action plans for 2024 — a global plan, 30 plans covering individual countries*, seven regional plans and five that cover multi-country crises. While each plan estimates funding needs for specific programs and interventions, UNICEF encourages supporters not to earmark their donations to a specific country or cause.
Here are some examples of how UNICEF plans to keep delivering for children in 2024.
Meeting the urgent needs of displaced children — and supporting their host communities
Between late September and early October 2023, over 100,000 ethnic Armenians — including 30,000 children — fled to the Republic of Armenia following a hostile military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, their region of origin. Around 98,000 refugees have been officially registered to date; they are located throughout Armenia, with the highest numbers in Yerevan, followed by Syunik, Kotayk and Ararat provinces. This significant influx of refugees is deeply affecting already overstretched host communities. UNICEF is already on the ground assisting the government-led response, helping to meet urgent needs in health and nutrition, education and child protection, with special focus on supporting separated and unaccompanied children and children with disabilities.
The plan for 2024 includes continuing to work with government and civil society partners to ensure inclusive and age- and gender-appropriate services for uprooted children, adolescents and families, providing social protection through humanitarian cash assistance or vouchers, and helping to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene support, among other measures. Learn more about UNICEF's humanitarian action in Armenia.
Coastal countries of West Africa
Addressing impacts of the Sahel crisis on northern communities in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo
Spillover from the ongoing crisis in the central Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger has become a permanent threat to northern communities in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. Violent incidents — some involving the use of improvised explosive devices — are happening more and more in the northern regions of these four coastal countries, disrupting the economy and local markets, prompting people to relocate. Growing insecurity is forcing families to flee to communities where social services — health, nutrition, education — are already strained and vital resources (food, drinking water, housing, etc.) are already limited.
UNICEF is on the ground across the region, working with partners to strengthen community and country-level emergency preparedness and response, looking for opportunities to strengthen capacities, systems and services and helping to build community resilience in the face of rising needs and pressures from incoming refugee and displaced populations. UNICEF is also focusing on strengthening the capacity and resources of local organizations to enable them to lead the humanitarian response and effectively deliver aid.
UNICEF applies a gender-sensitive approach and encourages and enables youth participation across all program work, prioritizing health, nutrition and water and sanitation programs, as well as child protection — including protection from sexual exploitation and abuse — and mental health and psychosocial support. Learn more about what UNICEF is doing in this part of West Africa.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to the world's highest number of UN-verified reports of grave violations against children. It is also home to one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people found in any one country.
Nearly 15 million children are experiencing the worst effects of an escalation in armed conflict, recurrent disease outbreaks, endemic sexual violence and growing humanitarian access constraints — making them increasingly vulnerable. UNICEF's approach in DRC is to protect and save lives while also working with its partners to enhance community resilience and social cohesion and help pave the way for the country's recovery.
Over 1.2 million children under age 5 require treatment for severe acute malnutrition. 4 million women and children need protection services. 6.6 million children require emergency water and sanitation and 1.6 million children require emergency education services. Protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, gender considerations and prevention and response to gender-based violence is a primary consideration across all of UNICEF's program work in the DRC. Learn more about what UNICEF is doing in the DRC for children and young people.
Staying and delivering for children in an extremely insecure, complex and volatile environment
A deadly combination of prolonged political turmoil, civil unrest, escalating armed violence, crippling poverty and natural disasters continues to jeopardize the survival, safety and well-being of Haiti’s children.
Armed violence is rampant in parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince and Artibonite Department. Gender-based violence has reached unprecedented levels. At least 200,000 people in Haiti are internally displaced; many reside in schools, which interferes with student learning.
An estimated 5.5 million people, including more than 3 million children, will require humanitarian support in 2024 – the highest number on record. That includes over 100,000 children under age 5 who are estimated to need treatment for severe wasting, and 1.9 million children who will need help accessing education.
Despite the extremely insecure, complex and volatile environment, UNICEF is on the ground and working with partners to step up efforts to protect children and families, provide lifesaving health care and nutrition support, contain an ongoing cholera outbreak, promote safe learning environments, provide psychosocial support and assist with disaster recovery and preparedness. Learn more about what UNICEF is doing in Haiti.
Mexico and Central America
Supporting migrant children and families — wherever they are, wherever they are from
The number of children and families migrating through Central America and across Mexico to escape violence and poverty is at a record high. The El Niño weather pattern (which puts approximately 1.7 million people at increased risk due to drought) and other climate-related events continue to threaten areas already facing food insecurity and still recovering from past disasters. An estimated 4.1 million children will need humanitarian assistance in Mexico and Central America in 2024.
UNICEF is committed to supporting children on the move and safeguarding their rights. As the increased flow of migrants across Mexico and Central America continues, straining national and local services, UNICEF will continue working alongside governments and partners, providing children and families with access to basic services throughout their migration journey and helping to ensure access to water and sanitation, education, health, nutrition and child protection services in host communities.
- supports policies and, with partners, provides services to assist children and families who face hardship, exploitation, abuse and very high risk to their health and safety on irregular migration routes
- helps strengthen national/local capacities for protection of migrant and refugee children
- works in communities, shelters and reception centers to provide psychosocial support or referral to specialized child protection and gender-based violence services
- provides technical support to improve the reach and effectiveness of humanitarian cash transfer programs
- supports strengthening of local health and nutrition services
- implements programs to identify out-of-school children and promote their educational reintegration
- backs initiatives to provide migrant children with legal identification
- raises awareness to fight discrimination against migrants
For communities still recovering from the impacts of climate change-related events, UNICEF will continue working to restore basic services and infrastructure — including water supply, health care and education — ensuring that these are resilient and better prepared to face future shocks. Learn more about UNICEF's ongoing work in Mexico and Central America.
A humanitarian crisis fueled by conflict and natural disasters
A number of factors are fueling Myanmar's humanitarian crisis for children: escalating conflict leading to multiple displacements, an economic crisis, deteriorating social services and intense monsoons on top of a destructive cyclone in May 2023 that caused widespread destruction in five states. More than 18.6 million people, including nearly 6 million children, need humanitarian assistance, including health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation and protection services.
UNICEF's humanitarian strategy in Myanmar reflects a growing emphasis on local partnerships as key to being better prepared ahead of a crisis, activating an early response at the very first warning signs, rapidly identifying emergency needs at a community level and supporting a sustained emergency response at scale. UNICEF will continue to work with local civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations and other United Nations agencies to deliver for children in all conflict-affected states and regions. Learn more about what UNICEF is doing in Myanmar.
Reaching children caught in conflict with lifesaving support and services
Sudan is now the largest child displacement crisis in the world. Over 3 million children have fled their homes. With the health system on the brink of collapse, UNICEF is especially worried about the youngest children, including the 1.5 million babies who will be born in Sudan in 2024. An estimated 3.5 million children are acutely malnourished — 700,000 of them severely so — and a staggering 19 million children have been unable to return to school, making Sudan one of the worst education crises in the world.
UNICEF will continue to work with local partners to support community-based, community-led interventions, the most effective way to reach affected populations. The 2024 action plan aims to reach 7.6 million children in Sudan with child protection, education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and cash assistance to save children's lives, alleviate their suffering and preserve their dignity.
The strategy is three-pronged: to deliver lifesaving supplies and services in conflict hot spots; to assist those displaced by violence and their host communities; and to work across the country to help preserve critical systems to avoid their collapse. This includes paying incentives to doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers — whose salaries have not been paid for months — to keep these critical frontline workers on the job.
Top priorities in 2024 include reaching children suffering from severe acute malnutrition with treatment with Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, scaling up preventive nutrition programs and providing children displaced by conflict with access to integrated learning, skill development and protection assistance in safe spaces. The Makanaa (our space) approach provides a place where children can learn, play and heal while accessing other support and referral services, including psychosocial support, family tracing and reunification, gender-based violence prevention and response, and mine risk education. Learn more about what UNICEF is doing in Sudan.
Sustaining services for children, strengthening critical systems and supporting recovery
War in Ukraine rages on. Some 4.6 million people have returned to the country; over 3.7 million remain internally displaced. Nearly 6 million refugees are living in Europe — 88 percent of them women and children — and 5 million have applied for protection services in their host countries.
UNICEF and partners are focusing on supporting children's mental health, learning and access to health, safe water and other essential services. Many children remain at risk of disease and violence, including gender-based violence, and becoming separated from caregivers.
UNICEF is working with the government of Ukraine and with its interagency partners to sustain child protection services and lifesaving support, while also working to strengthen critical national and local systems and support recovery. A humanitarian cash assistance program is helping families suffering economic hardships because of the war, including those raising children with disabilities, to get by. In refugee-hosting countries, UNICEF continues to work with national governments and municipalities to meet the needs of the displaced. Learn more about how UNICEF is helping children and families impacted by the war in Ukraine.
UNICEF is mandated to respond to the complex emergencies impacting children — but needs the world's support to carry out this mission. The 2024 HAC is a global call to action to close critical funding gaps and increase UNICEF's reach and impact. Read an overview.