Executive summary of Key Commitments to Children in Humanitarioan Actions

17.06.2013 09:28

In partnership with national Governments, civil society partners and other United Nations agencies, UNICEF works in some of the most challenging environments in the world to deliver results for millions of children and women whose rights are threatened by natural disasters or complex emergencies. In 2012, children and women continued to feel the brunt of complex emergencies, natural disasters and chronic humanitarian situations across the globe. In the Middle East, the internal armed conflict in Syria affected nearly 4 million people, almost half of them children, as it closed its second year, with regional implications from the increasing number of refugees. The food insecurity and nutrition crisis in the Sahel belt of West Africa put at risk the lives of a projected 1.1 million children under five from severe acute malnutrition. Compounding this was the conflict in Mali, which displaced families internally and prompted a refugee emergency in surrounding vulnerable countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), fighting continued and displaced a total of 2.4 million people while the number of malnourished children exceeded 1 million.

These were among the 286 humanitarian situations of varying scales that UNICEF and partners responded to in 79 countries in 2012. The response was a combination of support to programme delivery in nutrition; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); child protection; education; and HIV and AIDS, as well as support to inter-agency and national coordination structures. In many countries, UNICEF led or co-led clusters and areas of responsibility for nutrition; WASH; education; child protection; and gender-based violence.

The results of these responses included the following: therapeutic feeding programmes for 2.11 million severely malnourished children, and measles vaccinations for 43.8 million children to prevent outbreaks of disease. Some 18.8 million people received access to safe water for drinking, cooking and bathing, and 3.56 million children, including adolescents, gained access to formal and non-formal basic education, including temporary learning spaces, play and early learning for young children. Also, UNICEF supported 2.33 million pregnant women to access prevention, care and treatment through prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes. About 19,800 separated children were reunified with family members.

These included interventions in the following contexts: In response to the internal armed conflict in Syria, UNICEF supported the measles vaccination of 1.3 million children through late 2012 campaigns. In the Sahel, the work of UNICEF and its partners for the treatment of SAM reached more than 920,000 of the estimated 1.1 million children under five with severe acute malnutrition, surpassing 2011 admissions by over 300,000 children and representinged 84 per cent of the total caseload. Meanwhile, the response to the complex emergency in Mali included the provision of WASH materials for 490,000 people and continued access to formal and non-formal basic education for 15,000 school aged displaced children. And in the DRC, UNICEF with partners assisted almost 16,000 survivors of sexual violence and provided access to psychosocial support for over 80,000 children.

UNICEF‘s achievements also included systems to strengthen its own humanitarian action and that of its partners, as well as at the national level. As part of the broader organizational effort, UNICEF has continued to work to strengthen high-frequency results-based monitoring in humanitarian situations, appropriate to the given country context. To deliver results in high-threat environments, UNICEF continued to invest additional personnel and resources to support the safety and security of staff while maintaining its ability to remain present in the most  complex or threatening environments. In 2012, UNICEF continued to provide policy, guidance and direct support on remote programming, risk management and programme criticality in Afghanistan, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The year also saw the passage of Security Council Resolution 2068, which, among other things, called for strengthened measures to bring persistent perpetrators of grave child rights violations into compliance with international child rights standards. The Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Response, the first agreed upon standards in child protection, were published in October 2012, providing common guidelines for the global humanitarian community. UNICEF’s work to strengthen gender equality encompassed the integration of gender approaches into humanitarian response planning. At the field level, Country Offices worked to mainstream gender in their programmes – such as in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe – and globally UNICEF focused on developing global tools and platforms for Country Offices.

To support the Corporate Emergency Activation Procedure issued the previous year, new standard operating procedures now guide UNICEF’s efforts in the event of large-scale ‘Level 3’ emergencies. These are based on best practices and experiences from the response in Haiti, the Horn of Africa and Pakistan in recent years. They allow for a more efficient, effective and rapid deployment of staff and resources to places where capacity is most needed. This was reinforced in 2012 through the continuation of an Immediate Response Team (IRT) of 40 emergency experts ready for rapid deployment in large-scale emergencies. The IRT was trained alongside staff from partner agencies through the use of an emergency simulation exercise of a system-level response. These efforts to strengthen internal systems have improved the response to some of the most challenging crises in recent years. For example, in the Horn of Africa response, a Lesson-Learning Exercise completed in 2012 found the activation of the Corporate Emergency Procedure “was successful in quickly mobilizing very substantial resources from across the organization and from donors and UNICEF national committees.”

UNICEF’s work on its internal mechanisms informed the development of the normative guidance of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Transformative Agenda, particularly lending definition to the protocols relating to the response in a system-wide Level 3 crisis, as well as to improvements to the humanitarian programme cycle, cluster activation and deactivation, and monitoring for results in humanitarian situations.

UNICEF also continued to strengthen partnerships with other actors to leverage diverse approaches to achieve better results for children in humanitarian action. In 2012, UNICEF collaborated with a total of 1,248 civil society partners in the field for its humanitarian programming. It also continued strengthening its contribution to humanitarian coordination, by centralizing its global cluster coordinators in one unit of the Office of Emergency Programmes, to work more closely with partners and unify the response across sectors. Achievements have included strengthening or, in some cases, creating Rapid Response Teams across all UNICEF-led clusters and areas of responsibility. At the field level, UNICEF led or co-led sectors or clusters in nutrition (49, with 12 countries having a dedicated coordinator); WASH (64 with 16 dedicated coordinators); education (58 with 13 dedicated coordinators); child protection (48 with nine dedicated coordinators) and gender-based violence (20 with two dedicated coordinators). UNICEF also continued strong relationships through standby arrangements with 20 key organizations to deploy personnel to humanitarian and emergency situations. Standby partners provided a record 217 personnel to UNICEF, including 201 for field response.

UNICEF’s humanitarian action remained underpinned by its operations. In 2012, emergency deployments totalled 481 personnel. The supply function was again critical to supporting its emergency responses, with a continued shift and emphasis on local and regional procurement. As an example, for the Sahel food insecurity and nutrition crisis, over $45.9 million in therapeutic food was procured for malnourished children across the Sahel, a large portion of which was procured locally in Niger.

This work comes as UNICEF and its partners continue to operate in a challenging environment. The constraints faced included humanitarian access, staff security, reduced financial resources, and threats to specific programmes such as polio vaccinations and education that posed significant barriers to fulfilling child rights.

UNICEF’s humanitarian action continued to build off its long-standing comparative advantage of having a field presence before, during and after emergencies; the added value of delivering a multisectoral approach; and a vast network of partners, all of which position it to integrate humanitarian action and development. Its work supports national efforts, amid diverse contexts and capacities, and with respect for humanitarian principles in situations of armed conflict. This enables UNICEF to scale up and respond in a variety of contexts, be it the food insecurity and nutrition crisis across nine countries of the Sahel, the humanitarian situation inside and around Syria, or hundreds of other responses to new and chronic crises. 

UNICEF’s humanitarian action aims to link humanitarian responses with its ongoing development programmes. It encompasses interventions focused on preparedness, response and early recovery, to save lives and protect rights as defined in its Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs) in line with international standards. It also includes contributions that address underlying causes of vulnerability to disasters, fragility and conflict, through its response to humanitarian crises and through its regular programmes. Lessons from the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and other countries – notably in Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Pakistan and Zimbabwe – have highlighted the importance of building systems that strengthen resilience to prevent and mitigate the worst consequences of disasters. UNICEF’s focus on resilience includes community empowerment, strengthening social service-delivery mechanisms and safety nets, and capacity development to enable communities to better withstand and recover from shocks. These experiences are now informing the development of UNICEF’s next medium-term strategic plan.

Humanitarian action continues to represent a significant proportion of UNICEF’s global work. Utilizing 2012 income and limited resources from prior years, organizational humanitarian spending totalled $809 million in 2012. Overall UNICEF country-level expenditure remained concentrated in countries in humanitarian and fragile contexts, with those having humanitarian appeals being among the organization’s largest programmes. Thirteen of the 15 Country Offices that represented UNICEF’s top overall expenditure (all resources) were part of UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2012 appeal, and these countries consumed 52.8 per cent of the organization’s overall country-level expenditure. The top five in order of spending (Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Nigeria) alone spent more than a quarter (26.5 per cent) of UNICEF’s overall country-level expenditure in 2012.

These results were made possible by the generous contributions of donors who continued to support UNICEF’s humanitarian response even in times of fiscal austerity. Humanitarian donations from governments and National Committees for UNICEF totalled $837 million. In particular, UNICEF would like to recognize donors who contributed thematic funding, which allows the organization to invest in critical but underfunded sectors and provides the flexibility needed to enable needs to be met where they are greatest. Thematic funding constituted $89 million (or 10.6 per cent) of the total humanitarian contributions. The Governments of Norway and Finland continued to be bellwethers for providing flexible humanitarian funding, with National Committee contributions comprising three quarters of the overall thematic funding. The German National Committee (second overall to the Government of Norway), the United Kingdom Committee, the French Committee, the Spanish Committee, the Japan Committee and the United States Fund for UNICEF led National Committees in thematic humanitarian funding.

This report presents the threats to children and women in humanitarian situations, and challenges to respond to these; the scope of UNICEF’s 2012 response; the evolving internal and inter-agency systems to respond to this changing context; results against Programme and Operational Commitments of the CCCs; and an analysis of income and expenditure.

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. And we never give up.