Strengthening protection to children and women in humanitarian emergencies through thematic support to UNICEF

Situation Report
Originally published


Location of operation: Global

Amount of Decision: EUR 1,800,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/THM/BUD/2006/04000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

Children are amongst the most vulnerable victims of humanitarian crises. They are the most exposed and at-risk group in unstable situations. According to UNICEF, an estimated 20 million children have been forced to flee their homes and some 300,000 child soldiers are involved and exploited in armed conflicts in over more than 30 countries. Their protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect is often inadequate even in times of stability. In addition to being human rights violations, these abuses are under-recognized and underreported, which is a barrier to child survival and development.

Emergencies make protection programming particularly difficult, due to lack of humanitarian access, breakdown of family and social structures, collapse of basic social services, weak governance, the absence of accountability and the prevalence of violence. At the same time, the direct threats to child protection are compounded through forced displacement, abduction, labour and sexual exploitation by armed groups, disability due to combat or natural disasters, landmines and unexploded ordnance, and trafficking. Armed conflict and periods of repression may increase the risk that children will participate as combatants, will be tortured, may also witness war crimes, and come before truth and justice-seeking mechanisms.

The field of child protection is complex and relatively new. Despite the explicit references to child protection in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the implementation of those provisions has remained slow and nowhere more so than in humanitarian crises - be they conflict-related or natural disasters.

Children and women are a natural target of all humanitarian operations funded by the Commission through its Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and they have been considered as priorities in DG ECHO's aid strategy since 2002. In 2006, DG ECHO will finalise its internal guidelines on children in emergencies and continue to promote the mainstreaming of child related activities in humanitarian operations.

Child protection is an important component of DG ECHO's overall strategy in supporting children affected by humanitarian crises and is at the core of UNICEF's mandate. Child protection is a core part to UNICEF's organizational principles and an integral component of their Core Commitments for Children in emergencies (CCC)(1).

There is a clear expectation among all actors that UNICEF will provide leadership in setting standards, elaborating tools and policies, and gathering and analyzing information on the situation of children.

These principles were clearly highlighted in the 2003 DG ECHO funded Evaluation of UNICEF programmes. The Evaluation recommended that: "DG ECHO should set up thematic funding for activities and training in Child Protection and also possibly in Emergency Preparedness, a cross-cutting concern in the agency's humanitarian mandate. Synergies should be built up between DG ECHO and UNICEF for better protection of vulnerable children in crisis situations, such as e.g. child soldiers, orphans, family reunification, psychological support, forced labour or sexual exploitation, and for training of staff".

Consequently, DG ECHO envisages funding to continue the funding of measures designed to reinforce UNICEF capacities to ensure coherent, timely and consistent response to child protection needs in emergencies.

The activities will also contribute to the implementation of the EU guidelines on children and armed conflict.


(1) For details see: - Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies, UNICEF, Revised March 2005.