In a report published on Tuesday (26 January), UNICEF estimated that it will need €2.6 billion in 2016 in order to help 76 million at-risk people, of which 43 million are children, in 63 countries around the world. EurActiv’s partner El País – Planeta Futuro reports.
Due to the events of 2015, in which the refugee crisis in Europe took centre stage, displaced Syrians will need even more emergency aid this year, with the agency estimating that it will require €782 million to help children affected by the civil war.
The agency fears that failure to collect the resources it needs will condemn an entire generation of Syrian children to a life plagued by war, hunger and emotional turmoil or, even worse, share the fate of young Aylan Kurdi, who drowned when trying to cross the Aegean in September 2015.
In order to try and prevent this grim future, over half of the resources that UNICEF estimates it will need, around €1.5 billion, will be earmarked for the Middle East and North Africa. Caring for refugees from Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will be prioritised. The prolonged conflict in the Middle East “is the biggest humanitarian crisis to face the world in 2016,” said the report. The UN has indicated that 13.5 million people will need urgent aid in Syria, of which 6.5 million have been displaced and more than 4 million have fled across the borders.
There are, of course, further crises that also threaten to have serious consequences for children. “Nearly 250 million children live in countries affected by violent, often protracted conflicts,” wrote Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director. Furthermore, he added that climate-related emergencies have endangered child welfare. Conflict and natural disasters have become more and more frequent. “The humanitarian system is being pushed to and beyond its limits. Especially with the growing effect of El Niño, we expect 2016 to challenge us all the more,” Lake warned.
Africa, the north of the continent excluded, is the region most in need of aid in 2016 after the Middle East, with €916 million to be set aside. The situation is especially dire in the Sahel, mid-Africa, where 23.5 million people are threatened by food insecurity. The agency estimates that some 5.8 million children will suffer from malnutrition in 2016 as a result.
South Sudan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine: the list of countries where children are at risk continues to grow. The dangers range from the psychological scars of having to be in constant contact with hunger and death to being recruited as a child soldier or sex worker.
Education is a priority sector for the 2016 funds and 25% will go towards it. Providing access to water and sanitation will be given 21%, nutrition 15%, health 12% and child protection will receive 12%.
“Education and support to overcome trauma provide children with a sense of normalcy and hope for the future in the midst of violence, instability, and disaster. They also provide children with the skills to build better, safer, healthier lives for themselves,” Lake added. At a time when the world is facing the worst refugee crisis since the World War Two, the need for resources has never been higher. Earlier this year, UNICEF warned that Turkey did not have enough school places for the number of children arriving in the country from Syria. Ankara confirmed the situation by stating that it was facing a shortfall of 400,000 places. In other parts of the world that are not in the spotlight, the situation is equally bad. In Bangladesh, thousands of ethnic-Rohingya children from Myanmar were refused places at school. Their only other alternatives were informal education or Quranic schools.
For these extremely vulnerable members of society, schooling offers children more than just a place of academia and study, it gives them an environment where they can learn to overcome adverse situations, said Javier Martos, Executive Director of UNICEF’s Spanish office.
“Of huge importance is that children be given a place where they can feel secure,” said Martos. He explained that child trafficking from areas of humanitarian crisis is on the up, as more and more children are left without the protection of the family unit. This is where UNICEF, UN agencies and other NGOs need to strengthen their operations so other crises do not go the same way as post-earthquake Nepal, which provided an easy target for criminals.
The funds needed by UNICEF will be sourced from governments, multilateral organisations such as the European Union and individuals. Its 2016 appeal is lower than its 2015 plea, in which it outlined a need for €3.3 billion and eventually received €2.2 billion.
Ultimately, there was a funding shortfall last year. “Protracted crises in countries such as Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Niger and the Sudan struggled to attract resources and were less than 40 per cent funded,” said UNICEF’s report. Mali and Uganda suffered from 17% and 14%, respectively. What does this mean in practice? “It affects are programmes. There are things we are not then able to do. For example, guaranteeing education. Lack of funding means that we offer a lower level of education or that we cannot pay teachers… In those cases, if we cannot act, then we rely on the UN and other NGOs,” explained Martos.