You’ve probably heard about the ongoing conflict in Syria. Or the typhoon that struck the Philippines. Or the food crisis in the Sahel region of Africa. But did you know that UNICEF responded to some 200 other emergencies last year? Each year, UNICEF publishes the Humanitarian Action Report, which provides a snapshot of emergencies around the world and describes what needs to be done to help children in their path.
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Mark Choonoo, UNICEF Emergency Specialist, was in Homs recently and shares his first-hand account on the situation there and the impact the destruction wrought by the conflict has on children and families.
It’s bitterly cold, with overnight temperatures dropping to below freezing. Many children I saw were wearing only light clothes and sandals, or only socks without shoes. All the children I talked to complained about the cold. Many expressed sadness about friends who had gone away and not returned, but despite all of this, they seemed happy to be home.
As we’ve been posting on our FieldNotes blog, the typhoon that hit the Philippines on December 4 was truly devastating. We recently received a situation report from the UNICEF office in the Philippines, and wanted to share with you some updates.
On the morning of December 4, Super Typhoon Bopha slammed into the southeastern coast of Mindanao in the Philippines. With winds of over 108 mph and heavy, intense rainfall, the storm completely destroyed homes and crops in the hardest-hit areas. So far, there have been 418 confirmed deaths, and 383 persons are still missing. More than 56,000 people were evacuated. UNICEF has been on the ground in the Philippines since 1948 and immediately began assisting families and children in need.
At the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Syria’s exiled children and their families are bracing themselves for the onset of winter. In Jordan’s northern and central regions, temperatures can easily drop below freezing during the winter months, and snowfall is not uncommon. Some of the displaced came prepared when they crossed Syria’s border to reach the camp, while other families came to Jordan with nothing. UNICEF is accelerating plans to winterize the camp and is scaling up assistance to Za’atari’s residents. Still, more help is needed as the temperatures continue to drop.
Freezing nights in winter are common in the U.S. That’s not a surprise. It turns out winter nights are also freezing in Syria. The days are often wet or snowy there and in other parts of the Middle East, where more than one million children are affected by Syria’s fighting. Now, in addition to facing danger, these children need hats and gloves, blankets and winter clothing. They need warm places to sleep and access to clean water, health care, and cooking supplies. Respiratory infections and other winter illnesses are a particular worry, since many of these children are especially vulnerable to getting sick due to the stress they have endured.