UNICEF in 2011: The year in review

 

UNICEF in 2011: The year in review

Global News 00:43

NEW YORK/ HONG KONG, 18 January 2012 – From famine in the Horn of Africa to flooding in Pakistan and uprisings across the Middle East, 2011 was a challenging year for families in the developing world. Extreme weather, rising food prices, and political conflict displaced millions and pushed families to desperation as they struggled to stay alive, and to keep their children from disease and starvation. And as the global economic downturn continued, humanitarian agencies were challenged to meet growing needs with fewer financial resources.

Millions in need

On 9 July, a woman and several children walk through a dust storm to their tent, in an area for new arrivals in the Dagahaley refugee camp in North Eastern Province, near the Kenya-Somalia border. The camp is among three that comprise the Dadaab camps, located near the town of Dadaab in Garissa District.  On 26 August 2011, the crisis in the Horn of Africa  affecting primarily Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti  continues, with a worsening drought, rising food prices and ongoing conflict in Somalia. Some 12.4 million people are threatened by the regions worst drought in 60 years. Hundreds of thousands of children are at imminent risk of dying, and over a million more are threatened by malnutrition and disease. In Kenya, 1.7 million children have been affected by the drought, including 220,000 Somali refugee children in the north-eastern town of Dadaab. UNICEF, together with the Government, United Nations, NGO and community partners, is supporting a range of interventions and essential services, especially for the displaced and for refugees, including feeding programmes, immunization campaigns, health outreach, and access to safe water and to improve sanitation. A joint United Nations appeal for humanitarian assistance for the region requires US $2.4 billion, of which 58 per cent has been received to date. A majority of UNICEFs portion of the appeal has been funded.The world’s largest refugee camp sprang up in Dadaab, in north-western Kenya, to cope with the hundreds of thousands of families who braved harrowing dangers to walk from Somalia. Abdile Mohammed made the journey, which nearly killed his son, Aden, 3. “I experienced hardship,” he said after he reached Kenya and received life-saving treatment for Aden. “I was alone day and night.”

Saeen Bukhsh, 9, experienced terror of a different kind. His home in Farooqabad, Pakistan, was destroyed by flooding in the second massive disaster to strike the country in two years. “All these houses have drowned,”
On 13 September, a boy pushes a cart along a narrow strip of land between utility poles and expanses of flood water, in the city of Hyderabad, Sindh Province.  By 26 September 2011 in Pakistan, over 5.4 million people  including 2.7 million children  had been affected by monsoon rains and flooding, and this number was expected to rise. In Sindh Province, 824,000 people have been displaced and at least 248 killed. Many government schools have been turned into temporary shelters, and countless water sources have been contaminated. More than 1.8 million people are living in makeshift camps without proper sanitation or access to safe drinking water. Over 70 per cent of standing crops and nearly 14,000 livestock have been destroyed in affected areas, where 80 per cent of the population relies on agriculture for food and income. Affected communities are also threatened by measles, acute watery diarrhoea, hepatitis and other communicable diseases. The crisis comes one year after the countrys 2010 monsoon-related flooding disaster, which covered up to one fifth of the country in flood water and affected more than 18 million people, half of them children. Many families are still recovering from the earlier emergency, which aggravated levels of chronic malnutrition and adversely affected primary school attendance, sanitation access and other child protection issues. In response to this latest crisis, UNICEF is working with Government authorities and United Nations agencies and partners to provide relief. Thus far, UNICEF-supported programmes have immunized over 153,000 children and 14,000 women; provided nutritional screenings and treatments benefiting over 2,000 children; provided daily safe drinking water to 106,700 people; and constructed 400 latrines benefiting 35,000 people. Still, additional nutrition support and safe water and sanitation services are urgently needed. A joint United Nations Rapid Response Plan seeks US$356.7 million to address the needs of affected populations over the next six months. Only US$9 million has been received so far.he said. “We don’t even have anything to put on the ground and sit.”
Millions of families were affected by popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. Seventeen-year-old Abdul (not his real name) was recruited into a militia group that fought in Khoms, Libya. “My brothers were dying in Khoms, so I felt that I had to do this. It was my duty,” he said.

Against the odds, stunning success

Against this background, UNICEF and its partners redoubled their efforts to provide assistance to the most vulnerable. And despite financial challenges, 2011 saw some stunning successes.
Figures released showed that under-five mortality has dropped further: The numbers declined from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. The Measles Initiative, which was launched in 2001, also reached an important milestone—it helped to vaccinate one billion children in more than 60 developing countries. And Ghana became the twenty-first country to eliminate neonatal tetanus.

On 10 June, boys dive into the coastal waters of the Mediterranean Sea, in the city of Benghazi.  By 15 June 2011, over one million people had fled the conflict between government and rebel forces in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and an estimated 243,000 had been displaced within the countrys borders. Intense fighting continues, particularly near the cities of Brega and Misrata and in the Nafusa Mountains. United Nations inter-agency missions to Tripoli, the capital, and to Misrata have confirmed that children are experiencing increased stress and anxiety. Conflict zones are also experiencing medicine shortages; UNICEF has delivered vaccines and other medical supplies to some areas in need. In the eastern city of Benghazi, which is controlled by rebel forces, children and their families exist in an interregnum between peace and war. Many have sought refuge from other parts of the country, and many men of these families are away fighting. UNICEF and partners are assisting the provision of safe water in the city and supporting workshops to raise awareness of the risks to children and others of explosive remnants of war (ERW). Child protection workshops are training volunteers to provide psychosocial support to children. Workshops will be expanded to other parts of the country as access to other areas is restored. Most formal education has been halted since the onset of the crisis. In Benghazi, UNICEF is working to provide recreational and educational activities for children. The mass exodus from Libya  including over 550,318 people who have escaped to Tunisia and over 347,900 who have fled to Egypt  has also created emergency conditions in neighbouring countries. To address the regional crisis, a joint United Nations flash appeal for US$407 million has been issued; UNICEFs portion of the appeal is US$20 million.

UNICEF’s work at the level of international policy bore fruit. Five countries added their names to the ‘Paris Commitments’, bringing to 100 the number of states that have pledged to prevent the use of children in armed conflict.

In Athens, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Special Olympics to uphold the rights and dignity of children with disabilities. “By strengthening the partnership between Special Olympics and UNICEF, we will help to protect these rights for more children with disabilities,” he said at the event.

UNICEF used its flagship publication, State of the World’s Children, to emphasise that the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents are key to breaking entrenched cycles of poverty and inequality.
And international tennis stars Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic added their names to the list of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors who tirelessly dedicate themselves to protecting children’s rights. Ms. Williams joined Yuna Kim, Ishmael Beah, Angélique Kidjo and Mia Farrow in the call for a coordinated international response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa.
That call was heard.

“Thanks to the strong support from donors around the world since famine was declared in July, thousands of children’s lives have been saved,” said UNICEF Representative in Somalia Sikander Khan.

UNICEF will continue to build on its successes in the coming year. Its commitment to the most disadvantaged children will remain at the heart of its agenda as it devises new methods and tools to ensure a better future for all children.