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.
The UN estimates that one billion children live in conflict-affected areas, of which 300 million are under the age of five; seven million children are refugees; an estimated 11.2 to 13.7 million children around the globe have been displaced in their country. There were 28.5 million conflict-affected children out of primary school and 250 000 child soldiers in 2013. 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) dedicates over 10% of its budget to child-focused relief organisations, much more than the global average among relief organisations. In 2013, this added up to €158 million, in addition to €144 million of funds to projects implemented by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and 'Save the Children'. Yet, the real total amount of funding directed at 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 healthcare or medical and psycho-social support and protection, ECHO ensures that children's needs are taken into account in planning and aid delivery.
Education in emergencies is another area where the EU acts. Thanks to the EU's Children of Peace initiative which funds education projects for children in conflicts. The Initiative provides boys and girls the access to learning opportunities and psychosocial support in safe environments.
Finally, ECHO and its partners strive to raise awareness of children's specific vulnerabilities and frame humanitarian aid to address these.