People sift through ruines of a house in Haiti after the devastating Hurricane Matthew struck. Unicef/2016/LeMoyne

Protecting children
when disaster strikes

Home > What we do > Natural disasters

In a natural disaster, children are hardest hit

Whether it’s a flood, an earthquake or a hurricane, too many children lose everything – their homes, their families, even their lives.

During disasters children are also left vulnerable to many other dangers, from disease and malnutrition to violence and exploitation.

As our climate changes, more severe and frequent natural disasters, food crises and changing rainfall patterns are putting children in increasing danger.

Children already facing poverty and violence are especially vulnerable.

A boy, in flood water up to his neck, holds on to a ledge outside his home, in Nucleo 38 Village, Bolivia. Unicef/Abramson


A boy cross flood hit village in the Philippines

children live in areas at extremely high risk of flooding

In an emergency situation, Unicef is there

We provide everything from clean water and sanitation, schooling, nutrition and psychosocial support to vital information on preventing the spread of infection.

We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure children get the help they need to stay safe and strong during a disaster, and the support and resources they need to rebuild their lives in the long-term.

Unicef is there before, during and after an emergency and for as long as children need us. By helping communities to know what to do when a disaster hits, we can save lives.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, thanks to Unicef-supported emergency preparedness training, students and teachers are now prepared to react appropriately for any future disasters. In early 2014, more than 1,000 Okiufa Primary School students and their teachers rushed out of their classrooms in a panic when a big earthquake hit the township of Goroka in Eastern Highlands Province. Six months later, the students experienced another earthquake, but no one ran out of their classrooms this time. Instead most students went under their desks or against a wall in their classrooms, protecting and keeping them safe from falling debris.

The workshops also boost children’s understanding of climate change and how they can care for the environment. This knowledge helps children to cope and reduces the psychological impact of disaster.

Ten-year-old Nellie Koko at the school’s assembly area during an earthquake drill

Ten-year-old Nellie Koko at the school’s assembly area during an earthquake drill
Unicef Papua New Guinea/2014/Alcock

UNICEF Philippines/2014/Hema Balasundaram Maria Rhonalyn Grabidio, 14, and Michael Lerios, 14, are friends who live in San Roque, Tanauan, one of the areas worst-hit by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Now I feel happy. not like before. After Typhoon Haiyan, the people were scared and traumatized, says Rhonalyn, adding, To those who helped us, thank you very much. I hope you get to help more especially when there are calamities.
After Typhoon Haiyan the people were scared and traumatised. Now I feel happy… not like before.

Maria, 14, The Philippines

Help keep children safe when an emergency hits

Donate now