Responding to emergencies loud and silent
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Few people may get excited to read weighty, official reports. But UNICEF’s 2012 Humanitarian Action Report for Children is no ordinary report. Instead, it is a gripping portrait of the devastating toll of disasters all over the world and the unrelenting efforts of UNICEF and others to save those in their path.
In 25 countries, where calamity has unfolded — in the form of floods, famine, violence, and monster storms, to name a few — UNICEF is providing lifesaving assistance and also helping families and communities rebuild and prepare for future challenges. Within the next year alone, according to the report, UNICEF expects to come to the aid of 97 million people threatened by humanitarian crises (that’s more than 12 times the population of New York City). In order to do this, it will need $1.28 billion — not that much money if you consider how much will be spent on average per person.
Battling the famine and drought in Somalia — where 2 million children are in immediate need of food security — will account for nearly a quarter of those funds. There are many other longer-term crises covered in this report — so-called “silent” emergencies — that have been largely ignored by the news media. Take the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where ongoing conflict has left 1.5 million people displaced and where women and children are imperiled by cholera and measles as well as horrific sexual violence. Last year In the DRC, UNICEF provided 630,000 people with clean water and sanitation, helped immunize 5.6 million children, and cared for 15,000 survivors of sexual assault (half of them children). In the Horn of Africa, as noted in the report, early action enabled UNICEF and its partners have saved thousands of lives.
The HAC 2012 also spotlights UNICEF’s humanitarian successes on a global scale last year. In 2011, UNICEF and its partners immunized 36 million children, provided nutritional support to 19 million, and enabled 16 million gain access to clean water and sanitation. These are just a few examples. Achieving similar success this year — and to make sure those 97 million people suffering from myriad emergencies get the help they need — will require predictable and flexible funding. This will give UNICEF the ability to act quickly wherever and whenever the greatest needs arise.
The extreme and shocking toll of humanitarian crises — especially in impoverished countries — can seem hopeless. This report shows that it is not.