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UNICEF Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal 2019
by Manuel Fontaine, Director of Emergency Programmes
Jan. 2019
Millions of children living in countries affected by conflict and disaster lack access to vital child protection services, putting their safety, well-being and futures at risk, UNICEF warned as it appealed for $3.9 billion to support its work for children in humanitarian crises.
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.
“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 do not have safe places to play, when they cannot be reunited with their families, 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 protection or 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 funding 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.”
“There’s never been as much conflict in the world in the past 30 years as this year, so it is obviously a particular threat,” he said.
Amid countless reports of deadly attacks on civilians and places of shelter – both of which are prohibited under international law – Mr. Fontaine insisted that the long-held notion that children should be protected above all others is also being undermined.
He said it was “being accepted as a new normal of attacks on schools and hospitals and detention of children,” adding that increasingly, “children are being seen not only as victims, when they’ve been actually recruited by an armed group or used by a particular armed group, but also as a perpetrator and detained once they’ve been released by an armed group.”
A total of 59 countries are to benefit from UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2019 appeal, as the agency pursues its goal of providing 41 million children with safe water, food, education, health and protection.
“Nearly eight years after the conflict broke out, we still have 2.5 million Syrian children living as refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey where demand for basic services such as health and education outstrip the capacity of institutions and infrastructure to actually respond,” Mr. Fontaine explained, noting that aid was needed for Syrian refugees and host communities.
Asked if he expected a significant number of Syrian families to return to the country, the UNICEF official replied that such a development was likely premature.
“There might be cases of some families, some children who decide they want to go back and we accompany them,” he said. “I think it’s a bit early right now to see how that’s going to happen in practice.”
Needs in Yemen represent UNICEF’s second largest individual appeal, as a fragile and as-yet unimplemented ceasefire deal between Houthi militants and the internationally recognised government over the Red Sea port of Hudaydah continues to cause serious concern among humanitarians.
Nearly four years since conflict escalated, more than 22 million people need humanitarian assistance, including two million Yemeni children who will require food assistance this year. “Projections from 2019 are that nearly 400,000 children will suffer from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in Yemen during the course of the year,” Mr. Fontaine warned.
Other emergency situations include the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a vast country facing a significant escalation of violence and armed conflict linked to terrible rights abuses. An ongoing outbreak of deadly Ebola virus in the east of the country has made matters worse.
“Violations against children include forced recruitment by armed groups and rampant sexual abuse,” the UNICEF official explained. “The insecurity has also seriously hindered the response to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri and aggravated disastrous malnutrition conditions across the country.”
According to the UNICEF appeal, an estimated 1.4 million children are projected to require lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 2019.
Faced with such unprecedented needs, UNICEF is appealing for funding that can be allocated where it is needed most urgently, not least to under-reported emergencies including the Lake Chad region, where nearly 21 million people in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have been affected by ongoing conflicts.
Despite the challenges, Mr. Fontaine insisted that the agency has been successful in helping vulnerable children, not least those whose mental scars caused by the “toxic stress” of conflict often take longer than physical wounds to heal.
“At the same time, I would say we’ve also made great progress,” he insisted. “It is the behaviour of parties to conflict that actually creates this kind of situation. Should they give us more access, should they give us more ways to protect children and should they themselves respect the sanctity of the protection of children, things would actually go a lot better.”
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; Yemen; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Syria and South Sudan.
# In total, working alongside its partners, UNICEF aims to:
Provide almost 43 million people with access to safe water; Reach 10.1 million children with formal or non-formal basic education; Immunize 10.3 million children against measles; Treat 4.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition; Provide 4 million children and caregivers with access to psychosocial support.
In the first 10 months of 2018, as a result of UNICEF’s support:
35.3 million people had access to safe water; 5.9 million children accessed some form of education; 4.7 million children were vaccinated against measles; 2.6 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition; 3.1 million children and caregivers received psychosocial support.

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First-ever International Day of Education – 24 January 2019
by Audrey Azoulay
UNESCO Director General, agencies
Jan. 2019
Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility.
The world marks the first-ever International Day of Education on 24 January, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly last year in celebration of the role of education for peace and development.
UNESCO is calling on all countries to increase their political commitment to education as a force for inclusion driving the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals.
Today, 262 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school.
"Education is the most powerful force in our hands to ensure significant improvements in health, to stimulate economic growth, to unlock the potential and innovation we need to build more resilient and sustainable societies,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General in her statement for the Day.
“We will not succeed in breaking the cycle of poverty, mitigating climate change, adapting to the technological revolution, let alone achieve gender equality, without ambitious political commitment to universal education.”
Headline figures point to the challenges
UNESCO will release a new right to education handbook. It will also publish new data on education inequalities showing which population groups are lagging behind in achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.
According to new data released by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Global Education Monitoring Report:
The poorest children and youth in low-income countries are less than ½ as likely to complete primary school than the richest. They are less than ¼ as likely to complete lower secondary school. They are 1/10 as likely to complete upper secondary school.
Children in rural areas are over twice as likely to be out of school than children living in urban areas in low-income countries. Only 2% of the poorest girls in low-income countries complete upper secondary school.
These figures from the World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE) highlight the need for urgent action to reduce inequalities, which should be high on the agendas of countries and development partners.
"How we implement the global education goal will determine the success or failure of the entire push to end poverty, generate inclusive growth, strengthen peace and protect the planet," said Stefania Giannini, Assistant-Director-General for Education.
* Right to education handbook (270pp):
Jan. 2019
International Day of Education: Educators matter! (Education International)
Education International and education unions representing teachers worldwide celebrate the first ever International Day of Education, calling on governments to make quality public education for all a reality.
On 3 December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted, with consensus, a resolution (Resolution 73/25), proclaiming 24 January as International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education for peace and development.
This resolution, calls on all stakeholders, including UN Member States, UN agencies, and civil society, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, the private sector, individuals and other relevant stakeholders to observe the International Day of Education.
UNESCO, as the specialised UN agency for education, was tasked with facilitating the annual observance of the Day, in close collaboration with main education actors.
“We warmly welcome the first ever International Day of Education,” stressed Education International (EI) General Secretary David Edwards. “It is timely and overdue at the same time, as we are very much concerned about slow and uneven progress towards the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs).”
He went on to note that SDG4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – is key to achieving all other SDGs.
“We as education unionists and professionals have the deep-rooted belief that education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility,” Edwards explained.
“Investing in quality public education is investing in the future! That is why today, on International Day of Education, we reiterate our call for governments to invest in education and teachers: qualified educators make quality education for all possible. We also urge governments to take urgent action and make gender equality and inclusive education a reality!”
Jan. 2019
Education finally gets Global Attention, by Elin Martinez.
Today, the global community marks the first International Day of Education. For students, teachers, and organizations that support children’s right to education, it’s been a long time coming.
Since the 1990s, many activists have mobilized to try and ensure education gets more attention globally and nationally. The United Nations hopes to use this day to highlight education’s fundamental and transformative contributions towards peace and sustainable development.
It is also important to highlight that the international community has not provided sufficient or consistent global and national financing, or consistently tackled all barriers, to ensure all children benefit from a good, inclusive education.
Ironically, education is one of the basic human rights that global leaders frequently talk about. At Davos, the United Nations General Assembly, and G20 meetings, heads of state, government ministers, and UN agency experts widely agree that countries cannot develop without quality education for all. Many speak movingly of how education transformed their own lives.
If personal accounts of education’s importance translated into action, many of the problems and inequalities within education would have already been addressed. Yet, today’s education deficit – the tremendous gap between government’s international obligations to deliver on the right to education and what children actually experience in their local communities – shows that many challenges lay ahead.
Millions of children around the world should not continue to experience a complete denial of their right to education. Among them, millions of children with disabilities who are told there is no school for them, refugee children who are made to wait for years before host governments grant them adequate school access, children whose schools have been bombed or taken over by military forces during war, and children from minority backgrounds who are deprived of a quality education in their communities.
The right to education deserves more than one day. Let’s work to make 2019 the year education becomes a reality for millions more children around the world.

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