The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today appealed for over $1 billion to fund its emergency relief operations as thousands of vulnerable women and children die on a daily basis from hunger, disease, violence and poverty in crises that are mostly overlooked.
“Of the more than nine million children under the age of five who die each year, malnutrition is a contributing cause in a third of those deaths,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.
“Sadly, their deaths go largely unnoticed,” Ms. Veneman added at a press conference in Geneva, launching UNICEF’s 2009 Humanitarian Action Report (HAR), which highlights the plight of women and children around the globe in humanitarian emergencies and is used as the agency’s annual funding appeal.
Ms. Veneman said that the report demonstrates that more must be done to help the millions of children and women whose lives are impacted by conflict, natural disasters and other humanitarian crises including epidemics and hunger.
“UNICEF is requesting just over $1 billion to provide children and women in 36 countries with life-saving assistance. This includes medicine, clean water, hygiene, nutrition, temporary shelter and safe places for learning,” said Ms. Veneman.
This year’s funding appeal is 17 per cent higher than in 2008, largely because of increased needs in eastern and southern Africa.
Over half the funds are to continue UNICEF operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, the economy is crumbling with the highest inflation rate in the world, the cholera outbreak is out of control, over half the population is receiving food aid and basic social services are collapsing.
“The cholera outbreak has already killed thousands of people. Since I left [Zimbabwe] just over a week ago the number [of infected] has risen from around 42,000 to over 57,000. The deaths have risen from 2,200 to over 2,800,” Ms. Veneman told the press.
The UNICEF report highlights recent studies warning that the risk of hunger could increase for some 50 million people worldwide by 2010 as a result of climate change.
“An estimated one billion people lack access to adequate nutrition. It is a silent emergency that desperately requires immediate resources and sustained solutions,” said Ms. Veneman.
Some experts have estimated that in the next decade children and women will represent 65 per cent of all those affected by climate-related disasters, making some 175 million children victims of climate change.
The emergencies described in the Humanitarian Action Report represent only a small fraction of UNICEF’s activities. Between 2005 and 2007, the agency responded to 276 humanitarian emergencies in 92 countries each year.
Over half of the emergencies were caused by disasters, while 30 per cent were a result of conflict, and 19 per cent were health-related crises, such as epidemics.
“These funds will help UNICEF respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of children affected by emergencies,” in over 150 countries where it has a presence, said the agency’s Executive Director, adding that “As a result the lives of many will be saved.”