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One Canadian's Perspective

UNICEF staffer Chris Tidey has seen a number of UNICEF emergency operations in action. In 2010, Chris visited both the Horn of Africa and the flood-affected areas in Pakistan. He spoke to us about what he saw and learned while in Pakistan. His commentary is especially poignant today, as Pakistan has once more been overwhelmed by monsoon flooding.

What unique challenges did UNICEF face in Pakistan?

More than 5 million people were affected by the floods, in an area still recovering from the devastation of the previous year. In a sense, we were dealing with an emergency on top of an emergency. As a result, the flooding exacerbated problems like malnutrition and access to health care and education. There are no quick fixes in such instances, but UNICEF is committed to helping Pakistan's children for as long as it takes. Fortunately, UNICEF donors were – and remain – committed to helping, too.

What creative strategies have you seen employed by UNICEF?

The floods damaged infrastructure essential to the delivery of healthcare services for children and families. UNICEF responded by going mobile. We supported 30 mobile and 30 static health teams focused on basic maternal, newborn and child health assistance. We also supported 90 mobile immunization teams that administered almost 175,000 vaccines against measles and polio. As well, UNICEF trained “Lady Health Workers” (public health educators), who focus on treating diseases like diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia.

Three-year old Shama stands outside her family's makeshift tent in Sindh Province, Pakistan. She is sick with diarrhea, a potentially serious condition.

What did you see as UNICEF’s unique contribution in the Horn of Africa?

The underlying causes of this emergency—increased global food prices, successive years of failed rains, conflict and political instability—are complex and not readily solved. The challenge was compounded by the massive outflow of refugees from Somalia to the other affected countries. Within Somalia itself, ongoing conflict hindered humanitarian access.

Fortunately, UNICEF worked with partners on the ground in Somalia to deliver lifesaving services and supplies to vulnerable children. Donors really stepped up to try and meet the enormous demand for basic necessities.

The political instability in Somalia prevented many humanitarian agencies from operating on the same scale as UNICEF. We supported 800 feeding centres, reaching 17,000 severely malnourished children every month. Nearly 14,000 families inside Somalia received monthly food rations through UNICEF, while more than 12,000 hot meals were provided every day to families near the borders with Kenya and Ethiopia. Thanks to UNICEF’s construction and repair of water systems, 1.2 million were able to access clean water.

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Read another interview with Chris.

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