In our line of work, it can often seem like no matter what we do, the world just keeps on spinning out of control.
Children suffer. Children starve. Children are out of school.
At UNICEF, we try our best to protect them. To feed them. To get them back in school.
We make a lot of noise, and sometimes the world hears us, sometimes it doesn’t. But we carry on anyway. We have no other choice because the cries and pleas of children are too deafening to our ears.
The ripple effect of UNICEF’s work is massive. From one girl to an entire family. From one family to a community. From one school to an education system. From one system to another. From one country to the next.
UNICEF’s 2017 achievements in South Sudan
South Sudan is the world’s youngest country that was once so filled with hope. But continued conflict has left an estimated 7 million people in urgent need of help, including 4.2 million children. Their basic needs are not being met. Too many children now find themselves alone, separated from their families and vulnerable to exploitation and violence.
In 2017, UNICEF has provided more than 266,000 children with psychosocial support, helping them deal with the trauma they’ve experienced.
- The country also faced its highest level of food insecurity last year, with an unprecedented 6 million people severely food insecure in September alone. Nearly 1.1 million children under five were estimated to be acutely malnourished by the end of the year. Despite funding gaps, UNICEF and partners were able to admit more than 206,000 children into various outpatient therapeutic program to treat severe acute malnutrition.
- In 2017, we provided education to more than 319,000 children in South Sudan, giving them the tools they needed for a better future.
- Last year, South Sudan also experienced the most persistent and deadliest cholera outbreak in its history. From the onset of the outbreak in June 2016 to the end of 2017, there were more than 20,000 cases, among which 18 per cent were children under five years and 28 per cent were children aged five to 14 years. As a result, UNICEF increased its cholera epidemic preparedness and response vaccinating more than 879,000 people. There were also special campaigns at the community level to distribute essential hygienic items such as soap, water purifiers and water containers for 80,000 vulnerable households in high-risk areas to prevent the spread of illness.
- Immunization: a total of 1,812,693 children were reached with measles vaccinations in South Sudan last year.
We also consistently advocated for the respect of international humanitarian law and protection, particularly of children and women.
All of these things are helping to lay a foundation for something better in South Sudan and the region.
UNICEF’s 2017 achievements in Bangladesh
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Bangladesh, where the Rohingya refugee crisis has overwhelmed local capacities. An estimated 700,000 people – that is the same as the population of Winnipeg, have fled Myanmar to safety in Bangladesh where they are living in makeshift camps. Camps which total the size of Winnipeg – and we are responsible for the water, the sanitation, the education and child protection. For a city the size of Winnipeg.
Our colleagues and partners there are doing a herculean task. They have helped keep hundreds of thousands of newcomers alive.
- Through 866 learning centres, UNICEF has reached almost 90,000 children in camps with non-formal education. We have trained more than 2,200 Bangladeshi and Burmese teachers on early learning and non-formal education.
- UNICEF led the world’s second largest oral cholera vaccination campaign in Bangladesh last year. 899,000 people aged one year and above received the vaccination.
- More than 234,000 children, adolescents and pregnant and lactating women received micronutrient supplementation in 2017
- Rohingya children in Cox’s Bazar are highly vulnerable with many having experienced severe trauma. More than114,000 children received psychosocial support and community-based child protection services last year that aimed to bring some normalcy to their lives.
People there see a role for Canada. The recent report from Canada’s Special Envoy on the Rohingya Crisis makes strong calls for more humanitarian assistance, more support to education and child protection, and humanitarian access into Myanmar (where there are still hundreds of thousands of Rohingya). It gives colleagues, friends and family there hope — hope that a major country is calling for serious action on this issue. UNICEF is there to pick up the pieces when the politics don’t work. But we need the politics to work more than ever. With the G7 in Canada this year, there is an opportunity for movement.
Canadians showed their strong support in response to the crises in Bangladesh and the famine in South Sudan, generously donating to two separate match funds established by the Government. We know Canadians care. But we need to do more.
We need you, our fellow peacebuilders, to help us take our mission further. Because if we get this right, if we can put in place the foundations of equity, equality and rights that UNICEF strives for every day, we’ll be building a world free from violence, harassment, inequality, and world we can all be proud of. Being better to one another starts right here and right now.