• With the new variants of COVID-19 and the recent waves of the pandemic, a total of 10,507,749 of confirmed cases and 197,722 deaths reported as of 11 July 2021 across the region. Conflict escalation and tensions in protracted humanitarian situations resulted in new displacements, increased vulnerabilities, and continued to affect the delivery of services to children across the region. Deteriorating economic situation, especially in the countries struggling with conflicts, domestic and international tensions, increased the number of asylum seekers, IDPs and children under poverty line. Considering increased vulnerabilities and humanitarian needs across the region, humanitarian operations are facing increasing funding gaps in their response planning.
• To maintain provision of essential services, UNICEF continued to provide frontline health workers and social service providers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and support school re-opening and safe school operations by providing Infection Prevention Control (IPC)/WASH in school.
• UNICEF led/co-led efforts to support national campaigns on COVID-19 vaccination and preventive measures. Yet there is a need to increase efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and further compliance with preventive measures.
• Addressing socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on children, UNICEF supported national efforts adapting social protection system with the COVID-19 context, evidence-based social policy making and building shock responsive social protection systems.
Situation in Numbers
32 million children in need
16 million people need nutrition services
49 million people need WASH services
24 million children need protection services
110 million children need access to school
Source: MENARO HAC 2021
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
In the first half of 2021, new waves of COVID-19 pandemic, with 10,507,749 confirmed cases and 197,722 deaths, COVID-19 crisis continued to affect all countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Iran, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates were the countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases. However, Iran and Iraq, followed by Morocco, reported the highest numbers of deaths in the region. The pandemic continued to increase pressure on already fragile health systems across the region and put at risk the achievements of the past years in reaching SDGs in the field of children health. In Algeria for instance, in the Sahrawi context, the recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases requires immediate action to build the capacity of the health sector and mitigate the impact of this crisis on children. The increased price of basic needs has steadily worsened the situation of chronic malnutrition, physical and mental well-being of people, especially children. Adopting restrictions in response to COVID-19, by suspending in-person education, millions of children lost their access to education. While schools reopened officially in several countries, considering the fragility of the context, the need for distance education still holds.
Along with the escalation of protracted humanitarian situations in the region, MENA is facing with new situations. Lebanon is sinking into one of the most sever global crises. Compounded by the effect of COVID-19 this could have grave consequences for children including refugee children in the country. The escalation of the conflict in Afghanistant has increased the risks of refugee influx in the neighbouring countries including in Iran. Increased hostilities in Yemen and Syria adversely affected humanitarian operations. Increasing grave violations against children, especially in conflict-affected areas, were reported during the first half of 2021.
The fragile context in conflict-affected countries, such as Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Iraq and Libya, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, has created complex challenges for the affected populations. In protracted humanitarian crises, where humanitarian needs are primarily driven by the effects of conflict and displacement, COVID-19 and restricted access to the affected populations have increased vulnerabilities and protection risks. At the same time, conflicts and hostilities hindered the implementation of the COVID-19 response.
COVID-19 has increased the need for humanitarian support across the region. The economic deterioration has increased the number of people living under the poverty line in the region. In Tunisia for instance, the population of people in poverty increased to 21 per cent in 2020 from 14 per cent of population pre-COVID-192. This implies a 15-year step back in the path to eradicate child poverty. With an increase from 19 to 29 per cent in child financial poverty, currently, more than one million Tunisian children live under the poverty line. Political uncertainties could further hinder a timely and effective national response to this situation. In Egypt, the ongoing effect of the pandemic, the renewed surge in the COVID-19 cases and slow vaccine roll-out could result a decline in growth forcaste from 3.6 per cent in 2019-2020 fiscal year to 2.3 per cent in 2020-2021 fiscal year. It is anticipated that the decline in economic growth and the income losses due to COVID-19 could increase the poverty rate in the country.