Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)


  1.  UNICEF has over 50 years of experience in supporting children, women and their families in Afghanistan. The organisation has been active in the education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation and child protection sectors in Afghanistan before and during the conflict and, given the high levels of poverty and child and maternal mortality, it will continue its assistance in the medium- and long-term, especially in reconstruction and peace-building.

  2.  Programmes for and with children and young people are an ideal way of uniting Afghans from various backgrounds behind a common aim. Furthermore, children and young people are key to medium and long-term reconstruction and peace-building in Afghanistan. They must not only be considered in all stages of the recovery and rehabilitation process, they must also participate in such efforts.

  3.  In early November UNICEF organised a consultation with the Afghan Diaspora in Peshawar to discuss issues related to the sectors in which it has been and will continue to be active: health and nutrition, education, water supply and environmental sanitation, child protection and the involvement of women. The outcomes of this exercise served as the basis for a series of discussion papers UNICEF has helped to put together for the World Bank, UNDP, Asian Development Bank `Watching Brief' meeting in Islamabad (27 to 29 November 2001).

  4.  UNICEF has also actively engaged itself in the development of the UN strategy paper on recovery and reconstruction that will be presented at the Afghan Support Group meeting early in December. UNICEF will also participate in the upcoming meeting in Brussels on the involvement of women (organised by UNIFEM).

  5.  Planning for longer-term programmes is faced with major constraints due to a range of issues including uncertainty of political reconciliation, weak local government capacities and lack of physical infrastructure as well as absence of quality data in the social sector.

  6.  Bearing the above in mind, UNICEF's overall aim in Afghanistan is to promote the rights of children and women, create hope and build trust, support reconciliation amongst various communities and ethnic groups and support efforts for return and integration of the displaced civilians in Afghanistan.

  7.  To achieve this, UNICEF has adopted a two-pronged approach. As long as humanitarian crisis conditions exist, UNICEF will maintain life-saving emergency assistance.

  8.  Immediate Survival interventions will remain the priority over the next six months, through the winter. These will include:

    —  Health and Nutrition:

    a)  Emergency health—provision of emergency health kits, essential drugs, ORS;

    b)  Mother and Child Health—provision of midwife kits, hygiene kits mother and child health centre equipment;

    c)  Immunisation—support to mass measles campaigns;

    d)  Nutrition—provision of therapeutic and supplementary food including high energy biscuits;

    —  Water and Sanitation: provision of clean drinking water through water bladders, hand pumps, purification tablets, construction of wells and pit latrines;

    —  Shelter and protection from the cold: provision of family tents and tarpaulin, plastic sheeting, blankets, winter clothing and fuel for heating.

    —  Basic Education: Provision of learning opportunities as a means of restoration of normal life and psycho-social support.

  9.  At the same time UNICEF will launch parallel recovery and rehabilitation initiatives. Such initiatives will be based on the following principles:

    —  Participation: Afghan participation and leadership will be key elements in all recovery and rehabilitation efforts. A special effort will be made to involve traditionally marginalised groups, including women, ethnic minorities, adolescents and youth.

    —  Promotion of Respect for Human Rights: human rights standards (particularly those relating to women's and children's rights) will underpin and guide all reconstruction and rehabilitation actions.

    —  Promotion of Good Governance: UNICEF will support capacity building and systems strengthening particularly in the area of juvenile justice, based on human rights, democratic principles and participatory processes which are locally inspired and locally led.

    —  Partnerships: UNICEF will build on existing partnerships with Afghans, NGOs, educators, health workers, women's and civil society groups and academia. It will broaden partnerships with new governmental counterparts at local and national levels, and local and international non-governmental organisations and the returning Diaspora.

  10.  To date we have identified the following priorities for recovery and rehabilitation:

  10.1  Advocacy and Rights Promotion

    UNICEF will attempt to ensure that:

    —  any peace agreement or political settlement incorporates clear provisions for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of soldiers, including child soldiers;

    —  institutional frameworks are established and advocate for disarmament and the safe disposal of landmines, unexploded ordinance, small arms and ammunition;

    —  women participate in the peace and rehabilitation process;

    —  children are seen and used as a unifying force; this will entail ensuring that laws, social and economic policies and programmes in the post-conflict rehabilitation phase are child-friendly and in accordance with child rights.

  10.2  Support for Major Cities as Nodes of Development and for Children and Schools as centres of HOPE for Community-based Reconstruction/Rehabilitation Initiatives

    UNICEF will support:

    —  rehabilitation and re-equipment of schools, hospitals, basic health centres, and child care facilities;

    —  minor repair and rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities with an emphasis on health and sanitation education.

    In the community-based initiative, possible interventions include:

    —  development of schools as community centres to foster community mobilisation and life-long learning;

    —  community-based mine and unexploded ordinance awareness initiatives with a child/youth focus;

    —  community-based rehabilitation for mine and polio victims and other children/youth with physical disabilities;

    —  Reintegration of demobilised child soldiers, street and working children including education, livelihood and life skills development;

    —  (Re)construction of child-friendly kindergartens and playgrounds to encourage opportunities for early childhood development and parental networks;

    —  Youth radio programmes and youth magazines to increase access to information and possibilities for youth participation;

    —  Community Child Protection and Monitoring Network—building on traditional protection systems and mechanisms (shura, elders etc.);

    —  Support to local Women's Organisations to strengthen women's role in the community;

    —  Social mobilisation on community health and hygiene issues.

  10.3  Support to Policy Development and Institution Building at National Level

UNICEF will provide assistance in Education, Health, Child Protection and the Promotion of Women's Rights. This will include the promotion of relevant legislation, policies, processes, strategies, and programming and the provision of technical, financial and material assistance in the different sectors.


  11.  UNICEF depends entirely on voluntary contributions from governments and the private sector. In 2000, UNICEF raised a total of US$1,139 million. US$748 million (66% of total) was raised from Governments and US$343 million from the non-governmental and private sector. The remaining amount was derived from exchange rate fluctuations, interest payments and sundry adjustments. It should be noted that the very high percentage of UNICEF funds coming from the private sector is possible due to the work of UNICEF National Committees, which carry out fund-raising and awareness raising on development issues on behalf of the organisation in 37 countries, including the United Kingdom.

  12.  As with other UN funds and programmes, UNICEF funds fall into two broad categories Regular (core, unearmarked) and Other (earmarked) Resources. Under the rubric Other Resources, a distinction is made between contributions earmarked for ongoing UNICEF assistance through specific country programmes and those earmarked for emergency programmes. In the year 2000, UNICEF received US$ 563 million (49%) for Regular Resources, US$377 million (33%) for Other Resources allocated to ongoing country programmes, and US$199 million (18%) for emergency programmes.

  13.  Funding for major emergency programmes is usually generated jointly with other UN agencies through an inter-agency coordination mechanism or through the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) under the overall co-ordination of the Office for the Co-ordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). While the introduction of the Consolidated Appeal Process has improved planning and coordination among the different UN agencies active in emergency response. To facilitate a swift response in the first few days of an emergency, UNICEF have established mechanisms whereby country offices can access resources through re-programming or apply for a reimbursable loan from emergency reserve funds. In addition, UNICEF can also seek reimbursable loan from the Central Emergency Revolving Fund under OCHA administration.

  14.  In an attempt to simplify and streamline processes and procedures, UNICEF has been in discussions with several donors, including the United Kingdom, to secure flexible, `up-front' emergency funding, based on UNICEF's core emergency competencies. Under such a system, a donor would indicate an `envelope' figure for the amount of emergency funding that would be available in a particular year and UNICEF would be able to draw down on this amount, in consultation with the donor, but with minimum delay once emergency funds were needed. The above system would go a long way to increasing the speed and relevance of emergency response.

  15.  The other major constraint associated with current funding arrangements for emergencies is the extremely heavy reporting burden imposed by donors. In spite of co-ordination mechanisms such as the Consolidated Appeal Process, many donors require their `own' proposal and their `own' reports. This places enormous strains on field staff and keeps them away from work on the ground. The UNICEF Executive Board has asked the UNICEF Secretariat to set up emergency reporting systems that provide one narrative report per appeal per year for all donors. (Financial reports will of course continue to be produced for each contribution). Most donors, including the United Kingdom, have been able to accept this type of reporting.


  16.  UNICEF currently classifies 31 states as being in a state of emergency or crisis. An additional 35 states are on a watch-list of countries at risk of becoming crises or emergencies.

  17.  UNICEF reviews and updates its list of emergency countries and its watch list every month through an inter-divisional process involving the Programme Division (geographic sections & focal point for conflict prevention) and the Office of Emergency Programs.

  18.  UNICEF does not have a definition of "failing states." However, in establishing its `watch-list' of potential crises or emergencies or situations requiring humanitarian response, it uses criteria related to:

    —  conflict and/or violence: acute political tension; civil disturbance—local or large-scale incidents; acute economic distress/poverty; international conflict; civil war; localised armed conflict, ethnic/clan/tribal/communal incursions; criminality, banditry, kidnapping; terrorist acts—bombings, assassinations, disappearances; child soldiers; landmines; refugees; internal displacement; repatriation/forced return.

    —  natural phenomena: earthquakes; floods, riverbank erosion; landslides; cyclone, typhoon, hurricane, tidal waves; tsunami; volcanic eruption; drought; fires—forest, other; unusually cold weather/winter emergency.

    —  environmental hazards: air pollution; water scarcity or quality; arsenic- or fluoride-poisoning; radioactive hazards/nuclear contamination; poisoning—chlorine, cyanide, mercury, lead pollution; other (dam breaks, sea rise, biological warfare waste, anthrax).

    —  health conditions: HIV/AIDS; health systems crisis; acute malnutrition/food distress; diarrhoea, cholera, measles, polio, meningitis; acute respiratory infection; tuberculosis; malaria, other fevers; drug use/transit.

  19.  UNICEF defines an emergency as: "any situation in which the lives and well-being of children are at such risk that extraordinary action, i.e. urgently required action beyond that routinely provided, must be mobilised to ensure the survival, protection and well-being of children." (from UNICEF Executive Board document E/ICEF/1997/7 and 15.)

  20.  Natural or technological disasters, epidemics or conflicts may create emergencies. Emergencies are usually characterised by severe disruption of family life and community services. This typically overwhelms the normal coping capacities of the affected people and society. UNICEF distinguishes between three main types of emergency: `sudden disaster', `slow onset' and `complex, conflict-related' emergencies.

  21.  The UNICEF Security Team is finalising a new field reporting system to standardise the collection of data on security incidents. The new system will make data collection more routine and increase the flow of information on security incidents from field-level to headquarters. This will allow for more accurate assessments of baseline levels of insecurity and better informed analysis of overall trends. The UNICEF Security Team works in close collaboration with the UN Office of Security Co-ordination, which in turn maintains a list of high-risk countries based on recommendations from country-level Security Management Teams.

  22.  UNICEF also participates in several inter-agency processes related to early warning and conflict prevention.

    —  The UN Common Country Assessment and the UN Development Assistance Framework (CCA-UNDAF) provide the opportunity to work with other UN agencies and, to use vulnerability analysis to target those in greatest need, and to address those factors that can precipitate conflict. Country offices also develop emergency profiles to assess and project possible threats to peace and early warning or contingency plans to assist in readjusting programmes to take account of potential conflicts and crises.

    —  Since 1998, a UN framework team, composed of senior representatives of 14 UN departments, agencies, programmes and offices, has been meeting monthly to exchange information on different areas of competence, and to assess the potential for armed conflict, complex emergencies, or other circumstances that may lead to UN involvement. The framework team is becoming an important forum for preventive strategies within the UN system.

    —  A number of UN inter-agency task forces have provided the opportunity to address "failed states" more systematically. UNICEF has participated in these task forces and has been able to call attention to complex emergencies in the making. The task forces undertake vulnerability assessments of selected countries, which can help lead to more targeted support by the UN system.

    —  Draft Inter-agency Contingency Planning Guidelines have been prepared as part of the Inter-agency Standing Committee's (IASC) work on contingency planning. These guidelines are intended to help UN country teams develop contingency plans.

  23.  Support received from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for Strengthening UNICEF Humanitarian Action and Response has made much of UNICEF's intensified work in early warning, preparedness and response possible.


  24.  Vaccination against measles is the most effective public health intervention in reducing childhood mortality during the current crisis. Large population displacements provide fertile ground for measles outbreaks. Worsening malnutrition, particularly vitamin A deficiency, will further increase the case fatality rates associated with measles.

  25.  While regular Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) activities continue in Afghanistan, measles campaigns are taking place in all provinces except Nimroz. UNICEF will continue and intensify its focus on immunisation against measles, building on the campaigns carried out earlier in the year. All children from nine months to five years of age will now be targeted (estimated 5 million). In addition, Vitamin A will be administered alongside polio vaccination during National Immunisation Days.

  26.  The region of Afghanistan and Pakistan accounts for 30% of the total number of polio virus cases registered in 2001. This region is thus a major priority for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. During National Immunisation Days, doses of oral polio vaccine are given to all children under five years. Immunisation days usually take place in two rounds, with the second round occurring approximately four to six weeks after the first.

  27.  The first round of polio immunisation days in Afghanistan was undertaken in September 2001. Reports indicate that 33,400 volunteers, 3,300 social mobilisers, 2,500 cluster supervisors and 400 provincial and district co-ordinators throughout Afghanistan reached over five million children through house-to-house visits.

  28.  Coverage results from the second round, which took place in November, are still being finalised. So far, it is known that at least 1.6 million children were reached with polio and vitamin A inside Afghanistan. Some areas, however, were not accessible during the fighting.

  29.  Given that polio eradication is a global initiative, Afghanistan was part of a regional polio campaign involving the neighbouring countries in a synchronised manner. In Pakistan, 30 million children under five were the goal, including Afghan refugees. The coverage rate is expected to be very high. Initial data also suggest that in Tajikistan 97% of the goal of 700,000 children was reached. This included Afghan refugee children. In Turkmenistan approximately 395,000 children were reached and in Uzbekistan the goal was 2.46 million children.

  30.  In Iran, sub-national polio immunisation days took place in the eastern provinces bordering Afghanistan, (Sistan, Baluchestan, Khorassan, Kerman and Hormozgan provinces) in mid-November, with a goal of reaching 1.3 million children under age five. A report on coverage will be available in early December.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

3 December 2001

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