Unicef appeals for record $3.6bn as wars trigger desperate need
The UN’s children’s agency has launched its biggest emergency appeal for funding, warning that conflict is creating unprecedented levels of need.
Almost one in four children live in a country affected by conflict or disaster, according to Unicef, which has $3.6bn (£2.6bn) to provide emergency assistance in 2018.
Mike Penrose, executive director of Unicef UK, warned that violence and war is intensifying in many countries. “The biggest increases in need have been in places like Yemen, where we saw a massive cholera outbreak last year on top of the conflict, and in places like with the Rohingya crisis,” he said.
The emergencies in South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic have also deepened, he added.
On Tuesday, Unicef warned that 60,000 children face potential starvation in North Korea, and that international sanctions are slowing aid deliveries.
There was a record number of cholera outbreaks last year, especially in conflict-affected countries where the collapse of public services led to the breakdown of water and sanitation systems. In Yemen, the number of suspected cholera cases reached , in what was the largest and fastest-spreading outbreak of the disease in modern history.
Despite the growing level of need globally, it is unlikely donors will contribute the billions required. Last year, Unicef’s humanitarian fund raised only 65% of the target amount by mid-December.
“We always hope we will [raise the full amount], but unfortunately experience shows we often don’t,” said Penrose. “One of the fears is that, with the number of crises we have at the moment, people might become inured to it. The names of these places shouldn’t just be sounds you hear on the news. These are real children affected by conflict, and it’s our obligation to help them.”
Nearly 50 million children have been forced to flee their homes as a result of violence, poverty or natural disasters, according to Unicef.
More than half of the funds raised in 2017 went to South Sudan and the Syrian crisis. Only 2% covered nine emergencies: in Angola, North Korea, Djibouti, Eritrea, Libya, Mali, Nepal, and to support Burundian refugees and those affected by the Caribbean hurricanes.
Some of the 10 biggest country appeals last year received less than half the funding needed. The DRC, where a surge in violent conflict in the Kasai and eastern regions forced more than 1.7 million people from their homes, received only 33% of the donations required, making it the least funded of the major country appeals. Last week, a found that the crisis in DRC is one of the least reported in English, German and French media.
The UK was Unicef’s second highest funder for its humanitarian appeals last year, donating $199.5m. The US government, which contributed $553.1m, was the biggest donor.
Approximately 84% of the 2018 funding appeal is for work in countries affected by violence and conflict. About a third of the appeal will be for the Syria crisis, now entering its eight year, including assisting countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, which are hosting refugees.
Another priority is helping Rohingya refugees sheltering in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where the monsoon season will begin in March. A violent crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state last year forced to cross the border into Bangladesh. Children make up more than half of the new arrivals, who are sheltering in flimsy tents made of plastic and bamboo.
Penrose said the consequences of the monsoon in Bangladesh could be catastrophic. “The biggest killer in these kinds of environments is poor sanitation.”
Funding raised through Unicef’s 2018 appeal will be spent on basic emergency needs such as water and sanitation, nutrition, education and protection.