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Looking Back at 2013 to Move Forward

By Layal Horanieh, Media Relations Specialist, UNICEF Canada

A range of conflicts and natural disasters continued to impact children’s vulnerability in many countries in 2013, from the complex emergency in Syria, the escalation of violence in the Central African Republic and chronic humanitarian situations across the globe.

As we reflect on the passing year, with many of us pausing to spend time with family and friends, it is very important to take a moment to consider the countless children around the world who are greeting 2014 happier and healthier.

Today, more children survive beyond their fifth birthday than ever before.  Less than half as many children under five died in 2012 than did in 1990 (12.6 million children died in 1990 compared with 6.6 million in 2012). Some of the world’s poorest countries have made the strongest gains in child survival – including seven high-mortality, low income countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Timor Leste and the United Republic of Tanzania) reducing their under-five mortality rates by two-thirds or more since 1990.

In taking a moment to celebrate results achieved, we must also thank governments, corporations and individual donors for the tremendous support provided to the disaster response as the global reaction to Typhoon Haiyan has been both rapid and very generous. The funding received and pledged to UNICEF thus far is covering the needs on the ground for both the immediate response and early recovery in 2014.

This year’s emergencies however, are sadly not limited only to the Philippines. We must also shine a light on emergencies in other parts of the world where resource constraints remain significant in the Central African Republic, Syria and now South Sudan. As the funding appeal for the Philippines went out, temperatures were dropping in Syria and violence was raging in the Central African Republic, while thousands of communities in South Sudan suddenly found themselves on the long lists of people displaced yet again by violence.

Today, the vicious conflict in the Central African Republic is currently affecting 2.3 million children. More than 785,000 have been displaced so far by the conflict, and latest reports show that an average of three people every hour were killed in fighting in the second week of December alone.

Today, over 1 million Syrian children currently live as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and other countries in North Africa, while over 4 million children, inside Syria are living in dire situations confronting poverty, internal displacement and tragically caught in the line of fire.

And, as the violence in South Sudan escalates, thousands of children are finding themselves yet again in grave danger with an estimated 180,000 civilians having had to flee their homes; the majority of them being women and children.

With the many emergencies underway, we know that we will have to continue unrelenting in the New Year being the voice for the voiceless and the strength for children who have lost their way. Together, we have proven that we can give all children in difficult situations the tools not only to recover but to realize their potential, nurture their talents and contribute to the growth of their nations.