Millions of children living in countries affected by conflict and disaster lack access to vital child protection
services, putting their safety, well-being and future at risk, warned UNICEF today.
UNICEF needs NZ$5.7 billion to support its work for children in humanitarian crises, meanwhile NZ$2.4 trillion was
allocated worldwide to weapons and military.
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children sets out the agency’s 2019 appeal and its efforts to provide 41 million children with access to safe water, nutrition,
education, health and protection in 59 countries across the globe. Funding for child protection programmes accounts for
NZ$563 million of the overall appeal, including almost NZ$177 million for protection services for children affected by
the Syria crisis.
“Today millions of children living through conflict or disaster are suffering horrific levels of violence, distress and
trauma,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “The impact of our child protection work cannot be overstated.
When children cannot be reunited with their families, they do not have safe places to play, when they when they do not
receive psychosocial support, they will not heal from the unseen scars of war.”
UNICEF estimates that more than 34 million children living through conflict and disaster lack access to child protection
services, including 6.6 million children in Yemen, 5.5 million children in Syria and 4 million children in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Child protection services include all efforts to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation, trauma and
violence. UNICEF also works to ensure that the protection of children is central to all other areas of the
organisation’s humanitarian programmes, including water, sanitation and hygiene, education and other areas of work by
identifying, mitigating and responding to potential dangers to children’s safety and wellbeing.
However, funding constraints, as well as other challenges including warring parties’ growing disregard for international
humanitarian law and the denial of humanitarian access, mean that aid agencies’ capacity to protect children is severely
limited. In the DRC, for example, UNICEF received just a third of the NZ$31 million required for child protection
programmes in 2018, while around one-fifth of child protection funding for Syrian children remained unmet.
“Providing these children with the support they need is critical, but without significant and sustained international
action, many will continue to fall through the cracks,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes.
“The international community should commit to supporting the protection of children in emergencies.”
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 70th anniversary of the
Geneva Conventions, yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time
in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children.
UNICEF’s appeal comes one month after the children’s agency said that the world is failing to protect children living in
conflict around the world, with catastrophic consequences. Children who are continuously exposed to violence or
conflict, especially at a young age, are at risk of living in a state of toxic stress – a condition that, without the
right support can lead to negative life-long consequences for their cognitive, social and emotional development. Some
children impacted by war, displacement and other traumatic events – such as sexual and gender-based violence – require
specialized care to help them cope and recover.
The five largest individual appeals are for Syrian refugees and host communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and
Turkey (NZ$1.3 billion); Yemen (NZ$794 million); The Democratic Republic of the Congo (NZ$477 million); Syria (NZ$468
million) and South Sudan (NZ$262 million).