NAIROBI (AlertNet) – The emergency needs of women and children have soared this year largely due to last year’s massive floods in Pakistan and earthquake in Haiti, the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF said on Monday as it launched a record $1.4 billion appeal.
The sum represents a 21 percent increase over UNICEF’s 2010 appeal, reflecting the growing severity and frequency of natural disasters.
“The past year was one of unprecedented challenges,” said UNICEF director Anthony Lake in a report accompanying the appeal.
“While we hope that 2011 will not bring a similar onslaught, we must be ready to respond quickly when disaster does strike.”
UNICEF’s appeal covers 32 countries with one-third of the money destined for Pakistan and Haiti. The request for Pakistan alone accounts for 21 percent.
In Pakistan, 12 million children need emergency assistance in 2011 due to last year’s flood, which submerged a fifth of the country, as well as conflict and a landslide. UNICEF is asking for $296 million for 18 million people in Pakistan.
“Pakistani families are experiencing a bewildering array of humanitarian needs rooted in ongoing instability, temporary displacement and widespread poverty,” the report says.
HAITI AND SUDAN
The second greatest need is in Sudan, home to the largest number of displaced people in the world, at 4.3 million.
UNICEF’s priorities in Sudan are to provide water, sanitation, health and nutrition services, reunite separated children with their families, rehabilitate 2,200 former child soldiers and give emergency education to 1.7 million children.
More than 200 people have been killed in clashes since South Sudan’s peaceful referendum on independence in January.
“That calls on us to be more vigilant in responding in anticipation of people’s needs when we go to independence and eventually the birth of a new nation,” said Elhadj As Sy, UNICEF’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, at the Nairobi launch of the report.
“We want to invest to prevent those catastrophic emergency situations from happening in South Sudan, while we need also to scale up our efforts in Darfur.”
South Sudan is due to become independent in July.
Another priority is to combat cholera and malnutrition in Haiti. Over 1 million people are still living in camps in the Caribbean island, following last January’s earthquake. UNICEF is asking for $157 million for Haiti.
The Humanitarian Action for Children report stresses the need to help vulnerable communities prepare for disasters before they occur.
UNICEF is placing increasing emphasis on disaster risk reduction, which means analysing and preparing for local hazards, such as floods.
“Hazards do not become disasters if they do not affect people’s livelihoods or people’s lives,” UNICEF’s Regional Emergency Specialist Yodit Abdisa told AlertNet.
“If you know that an area is flood prone, you educate the communities not to let children walk in flooding or swelling rivers because that could wash them away.”
Most emergencies are recurring, with climate change exacerbating the frequency and intensity of natural hazards like droughts and floods.