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Emergency assistance

Un empleado de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Refugiados (ACNUR)

An aid worker of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) distributes blankets to the survivors displaced by the cyclone "Nargis". Location: Yangon, Myanmar.

Photo Credit: UN/UNHCR

In the face of disaster, the UN family of organizations supplies food, shelter, medicines and logistical support to the victims — most of them children, women and the elderly.

To pay for this assistance and deliver it to those in need, the UN has raised billions of dollars from international donors. On average, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs launches some 15 humanitarian appeals annually to meet the requirements of some 40 million people around the globe. The Office is headed by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, who also serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

Providing humanitarian assistance requires that the United Nations overcome major logistical and securityconstraints in the field. Humanitarian workers have been denied accessto people in need, and warring parties have deliberately targeted civilians and aid workers. Every year, more than 20 UN civilian staff members are killed while serving in humanitarian operations. In the effort to prevent human rights violations in the midst of crisis, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has played an increasingly active role in the UN response to emergencies.

The UN coordinates its response to humanitarian crises through a committee of all the key humanitarian bodies, chaired by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. Members include the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Other UN agencies are also represented, as are major non-governmental and intergovernmental humanitarian organizations, including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.