Humanitarian action is central to UNICEF’s mission for children. Learn more about current humanitarian crises and the UNICEF response.
Humanitarian crises are caused by one or multiple events that threaten people's safety, health, security and lives. Natural disasters, wars, famine and drought are just a few examples. Worldwide, humanitarian crises put children's lives at risk in countless ways, taking away their safety, education, health care and access to food and water.
Many children from countries experiencing large-scale humanitarian crises are forced to flee, leaving their homes and often becoming separated from their families. UNICEF is committed to providing necessary and urgent services for children facing these circumstances.
Here are some of the countries that are currently experiencing humanitarian crises and require urgent, immediate humanitarian assistance.
Natural disasters, war, chronic poverty and the 2021 change in leadership resulted in more than half the population of Afghanistan requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. Millions of families are living as refugees in neighboring countries and millions more are internally displaced inside the country. Half of the women in Afghanistan experience violence and millions of people are unable to access essential health care. The war in Ukraine has led to an increase in prices for food and essential goods, making it even more difficult for families and causing even more children to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
The war in Ukraine has caused the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. Over half of all children in Ukraine are displaced by the war; more than five million children need urgent humanitarian assistance. Since war escalated on Feb. 24, 2021, millions of Ukrainian mothers and children have fled to neighboring countries, seeking shelter, food water and safety. As of late 2022, four million children are at risk of being unable to continue their education. Over 100 hospitals and health centers and 870 schools and other learning facilities have been destroyed or damaged by the war. With winter approaching, the situation is becoming even more severe.
Years of armed conflict, violence and lack of food, water and other essentials in South Sudan have resulted in more than 2.3 million South Sudanese — primarily women and children — fleeing the country, mainly to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Millions of children face starvation. Food insecurity increased during the pandemic and as a result of severe flooding that has destroyed crops and ruined livelihoods. Many children are victims of forced recruitment into armed groups.
Nigeria has one of the highest maternal, neonatal and infant mortality rates in the world. Many children die from preventable causes like malaria, pneumonia and diarrheal disease. The number of children who lose their lives due to unsafe water and sanitation is one of the highest in Africa. Conflict in northeast Nigeria, led by the violent campaign of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, has resulted in ongoing violence for over a decade. Women and girls have been kidnapped, and many have been forced by armed groups into suicide bombing.
The civil war which began in 2011 has led to a large-scale and ongoing humanitarian crisis for the people in Syria. Over half the population — 11 million people, including 6 million children — require humanitarian assistance. For over a decade, children have lived in fear for their lives, under constant threat of violence, starvation and emotional duress. Homes, hospitals and schools have been attacked and destroyed and are under constant threat. Millions of children have fled to neighboring countries like Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon, living as refugees, or are displaced inside the country. Often this results in children becoming separated from their families and becoming even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Venezuela’s economic collapse is the worst in decades for a country not at war. Hyperinflation has wiped out people’s life savings and made it practically impossible for them to purchase food, medicine and necessary goods. Over one million children are out of school. Economic insecurity has led to increased violence and extreme poverty. Over six million refugees have fled Venezuela, in search of a brighter future in neighboring countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The pandemic has worsened the situation.
Yemen, at civil war since 2015, is considered one of the worst places in the world for children. The country has one of the highest rates of acute child malnutrition. Every 10 minutes, a child dies from a preventable disease. Over 10,000 children have been killed or maimed since conflict started. Two million children are displaced inside the country, and hospitals and schools have been damaged or shut down, restricting children's access to education and essential health care.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Ebola outbreaks are frequent and cholera is a public health threat in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The COVID-19 pandemic put a further strain on the health care system. DRC has the second-largest displaced population in the world, due to ongoing conflict inside the country. Displaced children often miss out on education, become separated from family and caretakers, lack access to food and water and face higher risks of abuse and exploitation. Violence against women and girls is high, especially in provinces most directly impacted by fighting. Almost 30 percent of women and girls in the DRC are survivors of gender-based violence.
What is UNICEF's history of responding to humanitarian crises?
Since its founding in 1946, UNICEF has been on the ground responding to humanitarian crises around the world — defending the rights of children, working to ensure children are healthy, educated, protected and respected, and that they have equitable opportunities to fulfill their potential.
When disaster strikes, UNICEF works with governments and other local partners to reach children and families in need with immediate relief; to support recovery efforts; and to provide long-term assistance to "build back better."
UNICEF's strategy is to link humanitarian assistance to development efforts, to help advance sustainable solutions to chronic problems that fuel humanitarian crises and put children in harm's way.
UNICEF provides emergency relief before, during and after emergencies. A look at how UNICEF provides emergency relief supplies worldwide during emergencies.
Millions of children are on the move, unable to return to their homes. A look at how UNICEF works to provide emergency assistance in the form of food, water, health care, education and shelter to address the refugee crisis and protect every child on the move.
As winter approaches, families in Ukraine are desperately trying to prepare themselves. UNICEF is providing essential supplies, cash assistance and other services to help families survive the hardships of winter.