Our emergency response

when a disaster strikes

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Rapid response, long-term support

When war breaks out or disaster strikes, children can lose their schools, their homes and their families. Their access to water, food and shelter can be seriously affected and they are left more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

UNICEF has a presence in 190 countries so can rapidly reach children and families with support when an emergency happens. We’re there to provide children with the care, supplies and protection that could save their lives.

We help communities to recover as quickly as possible and prepare them for the future. That means making sure children can continue their education and have access to the services that will give them the chance to not only survive but to thrive.

Our recent work in emergencies around the world

Emergency staff give a boy a cholera vaccine in Yemen

Yemen, 2018. A UNICEF worker vaccinates a boy against cholera. Conflict in the country damaged the water systems leading to the biggest outbreak in modern times.

Girl in Mali is able to attend an emergency community learning centre in Mali

Mali, 2018. 12-year-old Koumbéré is able to attend a UNICEF-supported Community Learning Centre. Her school is closed because of conflict in the region.

A Rohingya child receives emergency life-saving food

Bangladesh, 2017. A Rohingya child refugee receives life-saving food. A UNICEF screening programme found him to be suffering from malnutrition.

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Saving lives with rapid response missions

Because we are based in 190 countries we are in a unique position to rapidly respond to new emergencies. The long-term presence we have in these countries means that we have the knowledge, local partners and supply centres needed to lead the best response.

Our rapid response missions go to the most vulnerable and hard to reach communities. Experts assess the immediate needs of the people and quickly deliver life-saving support. This could be healthcare, life-saving food, or water purification tablets – whatever is needed to save lives.

In South Sudan, ongoing violence has destroyed schools and health facilities across the country and left 7 million people without access to enough food. UNICEF reached almost 1 million people with 51 rapid response missions in the country in 2017.


The Unicef/WFT emergency rapid response mission lands in Leer County, South Sudan in March 2017.

South Sudan, 2017. A rapid response helicopter delivers life-saving supplies to families displaced by violence in Thonyor, a remote part of the country.

Icon, graphic: tap, clean water, hygiene, sanitation

In 2017, 33 million people got access to safe water as part of a UNICEF emergency response

Protecting vulnerable children

Children in emergencies become much more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Beyond life-saving supplies, we prioritise making sure these children have somewhere they can be safe and start to regain a sense of normality.

In Bangladesh, we are helping Rohingya children to recover from horrors they have experienced fleeing violence in Myanmar. More than 130,00 Rohingya child refugees were able to access UNICEF-supported child-friendly spaces and psychosocial support in 2017.

Children in countries like South Sudan have been caught up in conflict and even recruited as child soldiers. In these situations, we work to release them from armed groups and help them reintegrate with their families and communities.

Rohingya children play at an emergency child friendly space in Bangladesh

2017. Rohingya refugee children play at a child-friendly space at a settlement in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee horrific violence in Myanmar.

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Preparing for the future

As well as saving lives, our emergency work also focusses on making sure the impact of conflict and disasters doesn’t stop children from having a healthy, happy future.

Often that means ensuring they have the services and infrastructure they need. In the Gambella region of Ethiopia, we’ve designed and built permanent water systems to serve 250,000 refugees. And we help communities be more resilient to future disasters, introducing technologies like drought-resistant wells and earthquake-resistant schools.

Preparing for the future also means making sure children caught up in an emergency don’t miss out on education.  From supporting early learning in child-friendly spaces to building temporary schools for older students, we ensure children of all ages can continue their development, even in a crisis.

Mali, 2018. 12-year-old Koumbéré from Diambadougou village attends a UNICEF-supported community learning centre following the closure of her school due to conflict.

Koumbéré Sankaré, 12, from Diambadougou village with the facilitator of her community learning center, Halala Tamboura.
Even though our school is closed, thanks to the centre, we meet every morning to have fun with our facilitator. I wish my school would open. I want Mali to return to peace

Koumbéré, 12

Help more children in Emergencies

Your gift will go directly to our Children’s Emergency Fund to save and protect children in emergencies around the world.

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