How UNICEF Responds to Emergencies like Indonesia: 

How UNICEF Responds to Emergencies like Indonesia:


There has been a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Palu, on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Over 1.5 million people have been affected.

Since its creation, responding to emergency crises like this has been the core of UNICEF’s mission. Working in more than 190 countries and territories means that we are often on the spot long before, and long after, a crisis happens.

In every emergencies speed is key, with children most vulnerable in those first crucial day. Central to UNICEF’s work is that we provide emergency supplies within 24 to 48 hours of an emergency – making sure children get the help they need as soon as they need it.

When an emergency strikes, like on Friday in Indonesia, we focus on what children need in 4 Key Areas:

  1. Health and Nutrition.
  2. Water Supply and Sanitation.
  3. Child Protection.
  4. Education

Health and Nutrition:

Following a natural disaster, children often need immediate medical attention. Dealing with injured children is our first and greatest priority. Emergencies can also create situations in which disease can spread quickly, putting already vulnerable children at even more risk. Food can also become hard to come by – putting children, especially new born children at high risk of malnutrition. It is because of these risks that UNICEF immediately focuses on doing the following:

  1. Vaccinating all children between 6 months and 14 years of age against measles.
  2. Providing essential medicine, emergency health kits, oral rehydration salts, fortified milk and emergency food.
  3. Providing other emergency supplies such as blankets, tarpaulins and cooking sets.
  4. Providing emergency food programmes with particular focus on new borns and the most vulnerable.


Clean Water is essential for children and in most emergencies, it can be the hardest thing to find. Water pipes can burst, reservoirs can be damaged, and children can be forced to drink unclean water. This can lead to the spread of deadly diseases like cholera, that can kill a child in a matter of hours. To make sure that outbreaks like this don’t happen and that children can get access to clean safe water, UNICEF in emergencies:

  1. Makes sure that the minimum safe drinking water supply is available to children, taking into account the privacy, dignity and security of women and girls.
  2. Provides bleach, chlorine or water purification tablets, including detailed safety instructions in the local language.
  3. Provides jerrycans including user instructions and messages in the local language on handling of water.
  4. Provides soap and highlight the dangers of cholera and other water-based diseases.

Child Protection

Children are always the most vulnerable in an emergency, especially following an earthquake or Tsunami like in Indonesia. Children who become separated from their families are in real danger of abuse and explotiation. To minimise this risk as much as possible, UNICEF teams in emergency situations will immediately focus on:

    1. Examining the safety situation of children and women and begin child protection programmes.
    2. Stopping the separation of children from their parents and guardians, and helping with the identification, registration and medical screening of separated children, particularly those under 5 years of age and adolescent girls.
    3. Ensuring that family-tracing systems are implemented with appropriate care and protection facilities.
    4. Preventing sexual abuse and exploitation of children and women



UNICEF will also focus on restarting schools in emergencies. School gives children structure and a return to some form of normality. It also protects them from some of the dangers that follow an emergency and helps keep them safe. This is particularly true for girls. It also allows them to have fun and deal with some of the trauma they have experienced. For these reasons during an emergency UNICEF will work to:

  1. Set up temporary learning spaces.
  2. Resume schooling by reopening schools and organizing structured recreational activities.

Every emergency is unique and has its own challenges. UNICEF’s focus however remains the same – helping every child affected. We cannot do that with the support of people like you, so please donate today and help provide life saving help to children, like those in Indonesia.

Help protect children
UNICEF | for every child

Stay informed

Add value to your inbox!
Sign up to keep up to date on what's going on around the world.