Emergencies: preparedness and response
Why it is important
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Emergencies such as conflicts, disasters or epidemics, expose families to risks that make them especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and violence. With the right information and support, families and communities can establish measures that map out what to do in an emergency.
Girls, boys and women typically are the most affected by emergencies. An estimated 26 million people were displaced by armed conflicts and violence in 2007. Each year, up to 50 million people are displaced due to disasters. Climate change could increase these numbers.
Displacement undermines families' livelihoods and social support mechanisms. This can lead to family separations and increase children's vulnerability to discrimination, abuse, violence, poverty and exploitation.
Conflict and disasters put children at risk of disease and malnutrition. Access to health services is reduced, and food shortages are common. Water can become scarce, especially when access is limited by overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. Children's access to education is often undermined, since schools are frequently targeted for attacks and abductions, and teachers and materials are in short supply. The risk of HIV transmission increases in such contexts.
In situations of conflict, girls and boys are particularly vulnerable to forced recruitment by armed forces and groups. Along with women, they are also at risk of abduction, trafficking and sexual violence, including rape.
Epidemics (or outbreaks) of diseases can be caused by emergencies or can by themselves cause an emergency. The emergency can arise because of the severe nature of the disease or the community's response to it.
A pandemic is a widespread, usually global, epidemic. An influenza pandemic results from a new influenza virus against which the population has little or no immunity. It can spread rapidly across the world and is recurrent and unpredictable. The youngest children, under 2 years of age, are particularly vulnerable to influenza and other infectious diseases.
Children and their family members have the right to protection and the information and support they may need to prepare for and cope with such complex situations.
Families and communities must prepare for emergencies.
In disasters, conflicts, epidemics or pandemics, children and women must be the first to receive attention, including essential health care, adequate nutrition, support for breastfeeding and protection from violence, abuse and exploitation.
Children should have access to recreation and learning opportunities in safe, child-friendly schools and spaces that give them a sense of normalcy and stability.
Children should be cared for by their parents or other familiar adults, so that they feel secure.
1. In emergencies, children have the same rights as in non-emergency situations. This is true whether the emergency is a conflict, disaster or epidemic.Supporting Information
2. Girls and boys and their families and communities should plan ahead and take simple steps to prepare for emergencies – at home, at school and in the community.Supporting Information
3. Measles, diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition and neonatal complications are major causes of child deaths, particularly during emergencies.Supporting Information
4. An epidemic (or outbreak) of disease can cause an emergency because of the severity of the disease or responses to it. In the case of pandemic influenza and other diseases spread by close personal contact, those who are ill should be kept separated from others.Supporting Information
5. Mothers, even malnourished mothers, can still breastfeed even under the stressful conditions of emergencies.Supporting Information
6. Children have the right to be protected from violence in emergencies. Governments, civil society, international organizations, communities and families have the responsibility to protect them.Supporting Information
7. It is generally preferable for children to be cared for by their parents or other usual caregivers because it makes children feel more secure. If separation occurs, every effort should be made to reunite the child with his or her family, if it is in the child's best interest.Supporting Information
8. The disruption and stress caused by disasters and armed conflict can frighten and anger children. When such events occur, children need special attention and extra affection. They should be kept as safe as possible and supported in resuming normal activities. Children can be given age-appropriate opportunities to participate in the responses to and decisions regarding the emergency situation.Supporting Information
9. Children have the right to education, even during emergencies. Having children attend a safe, child-friendly school helps to reinforce their sense of normalcy and start the process of healing.Supporting Information
10. Landmines and unexploded devices are extremely dangerous. They can explode and kill or disable many people if touched, stepped on or disturbed in any way. Children and their families should stay only in areas that have been declared safe and avoid unknown objects.Supporting Information