Reimagining Disaster Response in a Post-Pandemic World
COVID-19 is worsening humanitarian crises, but UNICEF is working to protect the most vulnerable in Africa.
This World Humanitarian Day, UNICEF is highlighting the need to prevent, respond to, and protect children from crisis.
Long before the emergence of COVID-19, children in many countries were suffering from violence, natural disasters, hunger, and other crises. The pandemic and climate change are exposing how vulnerable we are to crisis, while entrenching inequality and pushing us further from the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals. As we respond to and recover from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to tackle the failings that left us so exposed.
One of these challenges is child malnutrition, which remains stubbornly high. Wasting – the most severe form of malnutrition – is increasing and it can raise a child’s risk of death by up to 11 times that of a healthy child. UNICEF estimated that before the pandemic, 47 million children under 5 suffered from wasting. We now fear that an additional 9 million children may suffer from wasting by 2022.
This year UNICEF China is highlighting three health and nutrition projects in Africa that build on the momentum of pandemic recovery. Each project is designed to build collective strength and resilience.
All three projects are carried out in partnership with China's South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF) and are examples of South-South cooperation in action. South-South cooperation is the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries. Here are some snapshots of these projects.
RUTFs in Liberia
In humanitarian situations children’s nutrition is often a pressing need, both in the short term and as communities recover. To this end, UNICEF worked to meet the immediate nutritional needs of children in Liberia, and provided training to build the long-term resilience of the community.
UNICEF treated 12,000 children between 6 months and 5 years old with 90,000 cartons of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), a tasty, nutrient-packed paste UNICEF has found to be the most effective tool for treating acute and severe acute malnutrition. UNICEF uses RUTF to help the millions of children threatened by acute malnutrition worldwide. The peanut-based paste doesn't require refrigeration and stays fresh for up to two years. Best of all, no mixing with potentially contaminated water is required.
Training and mentoring of health workers builds strength and resilience. UNICEF supported the job training, mentoring, and coaching on prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition for 52 health workers including nurses, physicians, assistants, and nurse aids.
Kangaroo Chairs in Ghana
Humanitarian projects seek to ensure that the next generation has a better life than the last. This means mothers and newborns are provided with the tools they need to improve their quality of life.
Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) uses skin-to-skin contact — usually a parent's own body — to warm and nurture a newborn baby, particularly pre-term and low birth weight newborns. KMC has been in practice for several decades in many parts of the world.
Kangaroo care can help premature babies thrive. To help mothers administer kangaroo care, five hospitals received KMC chairs that allow babies to experience skin-to-skin contact with their mothers, by making it easier for mothers to hold their babies on their chest for longer periods.
Essential Medicine in Senegal
To ensure a fast, fair, and future-proof recovery, humanitarian projects must put the most disadvantaged children and communities first.
In Senegal, UNICEF is distributing essential medicine to prevent and treat diseases that affect children, adolescents and their caregivers. These medicines include those for acute respiratory infections, sepsis and other infections that affect newborns, and severe acute malnutrution.
Ensuring a reliable supply of quality, child-appropriate medicines is a critical step towards a better post-COVID world.