From famine in the Horn of Africa to flooding in Pakistan and uprisings across the Middle East, 2011 was a challenging year for families in the developing world. Report by Chris Niles
31 December 2011: Watch UNICEF’s year in review.
Extreme weather, rising food prices, and political conflict displaced millions and pushed families to desperation as they struggled to stay alive, and to keep their children from disease and starvation.
And as the global economic downturn continued, humanitarian agencies were challenged to meet growing needs with fewer financial resources.
Millions in need
The world’s largest refugee camp sprang up in Dadaab, in north-western Kenya, to cope with the hundreds of thousands of families who braved harrowing dangers to walk from Somalia.
In July 2011, a dust storm overtakes Kenya’s Dagahaley camp, one of three comprising Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world. UNICEF and partners are assisting residents with food, health services and other relief.
“I experienced hardship,” he said after he reached Kenya and received life-saving treatment for Aden. “I was alone day and night.”
Saeen Bukhsh, 9, experienced terror of a different kind. His home in Farooqabad, Pakistan, was destroyed by flooding in the second massive disaster to strike the country in two years. “All these houses have drowned,” he said. “We don’t even have anything to put on the ground and sit.”
Millions of families were affected by popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. Seventeen-year-old Abdul (not his real name) was recruited into a militia group that fought in Khoms, Libya.
“My brothers were dying in Khoms, so I felt that I had to do this. It was my duty,” he said.
Against the odds, stunning success
Against this background, UNICEF and its partners redoubled their efforts to provide assistance to the most vulnerable. And despite financial challenges, 2011 saw some stunning successes.
Figures released showed that under-five mortality has dropped further: The numbers declined from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010.
The Measles Initiative, which was launched in 2001, also reached an important milestone—it helped to vaccinate one billion children in more than 60 developing countries.
And Ghana became the twenty-first country to eliminate neonatal tetanus.
UNICEF’s work at the level of international policy bore fruit. Five countries added their names to the ‘Paris Commitments’, bringing to 100 the number of states that have pledged to prevent the use of children in armed conflict.
In Athens, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Special Olympics to uphold the rights and dignity of children with disabilities.
“By strengthening the partnership between Special Olympics and UNICEF, we will help to protect these rights for more children with disabilities,” he said at the event.
UNICEF used its flagship publication, State of the World’s Children, to emphasize that the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents are key to breaking entrenched cycles of poverty and inequality.
And international tennis stars Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic added their names to the list of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors who tirelessly dedicate themselves to protecting children’s rights.
Ms. Williams joined Yuna Kim, Ishmael Beah, Angélique Kidjo and Mia Farrow in the call for a coordinated international response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa.
That call was heard.
“Thanks to the strong support from donors around the world since famine was declared in July, thousands of children’s lives have been saved,” said UNICEF Representative in Somalia Sikander Khan.
UNICEF will continue to build on its successes in the coming year. Its commitment to the most disadvantaged children will remain at the heart of its agenda as it devises new methods and tools to ensure a better future for all children.