Why is assistance important?
Natural disasters and human-made crises affect children in multiple ways. Boys and girls can be killed or injured, recruited by armed groups or criminal gangs, separated from their families, forcibly displaced, sexually exploited or trafficked. They suffer disproportionately from malnourishment and illnesses with a high mortality rate, and also make up a large proportion of mine victims. They often cannot go to school during and in the immediate aftermath of emergencies. In addition, the violence experienced or witnessed during conflict has long-term repercussions for children.
UNICEF estimates that 230 million children live in conflict-affected areas; almost 10 million children are refugees; an estimated 19 million children around the globe have been displaced in their country due to conflict. There are currently 34 million conflict-affected children out of primary school and in 2014 there were 300 000 child soldiers. Yet, child protection and education in emergencies are among the least funded humanitarian sectors.
How are we helping?
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) dedicated in 2014 approximately 14% of its budget to child-focused relief organisations, much more than the global average among relief organisations. In 2014, ECHO distributed over €110 million to projects implemented by UNICEF and Save the Children alone. Yet, the real total amount of funding directed to children is certainly much higher, since most of ECHO's mainstream operations also target children, among other groups.
ECHO has strengthened its commitment to ensure that the specific needs of girls and boys are taken into consideration in humanitarian assistance by introducing a Gender-Age Marker in January 2014. The Marker assesses how strongly all ECHO-funded humanitarian actions integrate gender and age, which also include the specific needs and vulnerabilities of girls and boys. Whether in the nutrition and food assistance sector, water, sanitation, hygiene, and health care or medical and psycho-social support and protection, ECHO ensures that children's needs are taken into account in planning and delivering aid.
Education in emergencies is another area where the EU acts. The EU's Children of Peace initiative funds education projects for children in conflicts providing boys and girls with access to learning opportunities and psycho-social support in safe environments.
ECHO and its partners also strive to raise awareness of children's specific vulnerabilities and frame humanitarian aid to address these.