In a Year of Conflict & Climate Change, UNICEF Stepped Up for Children
Wherever children are in need, UNICEF is there to help. A look back at UNICEF's impact for children in 2022.
UNICEF won't stop until every child is healthy, educated, protected and respected
Climate change, armed conflict and crumbling economies had a disastrous impact on children in 2022. From flooding in Pakistan and severe drought in the Horn of Africa to the escalation of war in Ukraine and the rise of armed groups in Burkina Faso, this past year, humanitarian needs have never been greater.
Wherever children are in need, UNICEF is on the scene, working with partners to provide kids with the humanitarian assistance they require to survive and thrive. Below, a look back at some of the many ways UNICEF made an impact for children in 2022.
Protection and mental health support for children displaced by war in Ukraine
More than 14 million people have been forced out of their homes across Ukraine since hostilities escalated in February 2022 — the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II. UNICEF quickly ramped up humanitarian relief operations, rushing emergency medical supplies to hospitals and neonatal care centers, setting up 36 Blue Dot support hubs in seven countries with UNHCR to coordinate child protection services for fleeing families, and providing education and mental health programs to help traumatized children resume their childhoods.
"Most of the time we are inclined to [think] that the children's experience is not [as] impactful as the adults, because they don't see reality with the same eyes as we see," said Andreea Vrinceanu, refugee coordinator at a Blue Dot center in Brasov, Romania. "But actually, they are the ones most hurt by these kinds of changes. They are actually suffering deep down inside."
Emergency aid after catastrophic floods in Pakistan
A climate disaster unfolded in Pakistan after torrential monsoon rains and flooding inundated large swathes of the country, impacting at least 33 million people. "This is a calamity of biblical proportions," Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, told the BBC World Service on Aug. 29. Whole villages were washed away — more than 2 million homes were destroyed, leaving stranded families camped out along roadsides surrounded by flooded fields as far as the eye could see.
UNICEF rushed to deliver prepositioned humanitarian supplies, truck in safe drinking water and set up temporary learning centers, sanitation facilities and health clinics. As snow started to fall in the north, UNICEF accelerated distribution of warm clothing, blankets and other basics to help vulnerable children survive the cold winter months ahead.
Safe water and nutrition support for families devastated by drought in the Horn of Africa
An unbroken stretch of four failed rainy seasons in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia deprived people of their livelihoods, leaving them struggling to survive. UNICEF worked to find and treat severely malnourished children with lifesaving RUTF (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food), rehabilitate water systems and help communities become more climate-resilient to prevent future shocks.
Worried mothers walked for weeks with their children in their arms to reach UNICEF-supported health facilities. Iman Magan's young son was one of many treated at a UNICEF mobile clinic in Ethiopia's Somali Region. "I came seeking medication for my child," she said. "He was given medication and nutritious meals. I was met with great care."
Hope and opportunity for children in Afghanistan
More than a year after the de facto authorities seized power and UNICEF pledged to "stay and deliver," the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has continued to deteriorate, with over 65 percent of the population unable to meet their basic needs.
To prevent the collapse of the national health care system, UNICEF covered the operating costs of 2,200 health centers and paid the salaries of 24,000 health workers. To keep children learning, UNICEF paid the salaries of all public-school teachers for months and provided cash assistance so teachers could maintain their livelihoods, while a donor-funded humanitarian cash transfer program helped devastated families heat their homes and feed their children. In the first eight months of 2022, UNICEF reached more than 877,000 children and caregivers with mental health care and psychosocial support.
Education amid conflict in Burkina Faso
In 2021, Burkina Faso became the epicenter for violence in West Africa's Central Sahel region, as the number of attacks on villages and abductions by non-state armed groups, who now control about one-third of the country, increased sharply.
Despite the rising dangers, in 2022 UNICEF continued to deliver supplies and essential support including safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, lifesaving nutrition support for severely malnourished children — UNICEF is the largest supplier of RUTF peanut paste in Burkina Faso — and education materials to prevent young learners from missing out on education.
Water, sanitation and hygiene in war-torn Yemen
After eight years of conflict in Yemen, infrastructure and social systems remain on the edge of total collapse. By late 2022, more than 17.8 million people, including 9.2 million children, lacked access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.
To help families maintain their dignity and stay safe from diseases like cholera, UNICEF stepped up direct emergency assistance — trucked-in water, hygiene kits, sanitation services — and worked to increase sustainability by scaling up the solarization of water systems to avoid reliance on expensive diesel fuel.
Emergency nutrition and health care for Syria's children
Syria's 11-year-long conflict has left a full two-thirds of the population in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Almost 7 million people — 3 million of them children — are internally displaced; many are now struggling to survive in makeshift camps. UNICEF continued to reach Syria's children with vital services including WASH, education, nutrition support and health care.
Earlier this year, at Al-Zhuriah makeshift camp in Rural Homs, 21-year-old Outor — who was a child herself when the war in Syria began — brought her three young daughters to a UNICEF mobile health team headed by a pediatrician. Two were diagnosed with severe wasting and treated with RUTF. “I was feeling dizzy and tired all the time and I wasn’t able to breastfeed my baby," she said. "We feel much better after the treatment. I am able to take care of my children; I was so worried about them."
Vaccinations amid gang violence and cholera in Haiti
A resurgence of cholera coupled with escalating gang violence and political turmoil made life in Haiti even harder for vulnerable children and their families in 2022, and complicated the delivery of vital services.
UNICEF continued to help the Ministry of Health strengthen routine immunizations and COVID-19 vaccinations, supplying vehicles and motorcycles to transport vaccines and mobile vaccination teams, installing solar panels in hospitals to ensure vaccines are stored at optimal temperatures even when the power grid fails, and reaching almost 225,000 children and women with essential health care in the first six months of the year.
Emergency aid for families on the edge in Sri Lanka
In 2022, Sri Lanka suffered its worst economic and political crisis in 70 years, pushing food and fuel prices sky high and creating shortages of medicines and other basic goods. By October, UNICEF had reached nearly 1 million people, including 712,000 children, with humanitarian assistance including safe drinking water, RUTF for severely malnourished children, education materials, mental health and psychosocial support, and emergency cash transfers for families struggling to stay afloat.
Support for young climate activists in the fight to save the planet
UNICEF continued to advocate for climate action, and to create and advance sustainable solutions for building community resilience to future climate shocks. At COP27, the international climate conference, UNICEF amplified the voices of young climate activists who urged world leaders to take action to drastically reduce emissions and establish a global loss and damage fund.
"Young people are not just passive victims," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in May. "They have an active role to play as leaders, collaborating and co-creating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation solutions."
Around the world in the coming year, wherever vulnerable children need life-changing support, UNICEF will be there to help. Help UNICEF stay at the ready in 2023. Please donate.