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UNICEF issues largest-ever emergency funding appeal to reach historic numbers of children in need


UNICEF released it’s US$ 4.2 billion 2020 emergency appeal to reach 59 million children with life-saving support in 64 countries across the globe. It is its biggest ask of donors yet, representing 3.5 times the funds requested in 2010.

“Around the world today, we’re seeing the largest number of children in need of emergency assistance since we began record-keeping. One in four children lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Historic numbers of children forcibly uprooted from their homes urgently require protection and support. Conflict remains the major driver, while hunger, infectious disease, and extreme weather events related to climate change force millions of others to seek life-saving aid.”

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children sets out the agency’s 2020 appeal and its work to provide conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services. Overall, including adults, the appeal covers emergency support to 95 million people.

The five largest individual appeals are for Syrian refugees and host communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey (US$ 864.1 million); Yemen (US$ 535 million); Syria (US$ 294.8 million); the Democratic Republic of the Congo (US$ 262.7 million); and South Sudan (US$ 180.5 million).

Reaching the growing numbers of children affected by crises worldwide – especially in countries that typically receive less funding – requires not just additional funding, but funding that is more “flexible”, Fore said.

“Our ability to provide children with support from the moment disaster hits until they can get back to their normal lives requires funding that is quickly available, multi-year and isn’t tied to particular countries or issues. Flexible funding helps us save more lives and protect more futures.”
In 2019, flexible funding enabled UNICEF to respond to a dramatic increase of insecurity and displacement in Burkina Faso and Mali, two countries whose emergency appeals are still less than one-fifth funded.

The 2019 appeal – set at $3.92 billion and revised upwards to $4.13 billion mid-year, was 57 per cent funded as of 1 November, including $761 million in multi-year funds carried over from the previous year.



In 2020, working alongside its partners, UNICEF targets include:

  • 5.1 million children to be treated for severe acute malnutrition
  • 8.5 million children to be immunized against measles
  • 28.4 million people to have access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene
  • 4.5 million children and caregivers to have access to mental health and psychosocial support
  • 1.4 million children and women to have access to gender-based violence risk mitigation, prevention or response interventions
  • 10.2 million children to have access to formal or non-formal education, including early learning
  • 1.7 million people to be reached with cash assistance
  • 49 million at-risk/affected children and adults to be engaged through communication for development/community engagement 

In the first 8 months of 2019, UNICEF and partners reached nearly 51 million people including 29 million children. Specifically:

  • 2.1 million children treated for severe acute malnutrition
  • 28.9 million children vaccinated against measles
  • 32.2 million people provided with access to safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene
  • 2.6 million children and caregivers accessed mental health and psychosocial support
  • 3.9 million children accessed formal or non-formal education, including early learning
  • 850,000 people provided with cash assistance


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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