UNICEF

Aboubacar is crouching amidst a group of children. All are holding their hands up.

“As long as they are treated in hospital, you see them communicating. And as soon as they get out of the hospital, they are pointing a gun at each other.”

Aboubacar Kampo is UNICEF’s Director of Health Programmes, but he has also worked as a physician and surgeon in some of the world’s most complex emergency zones, from Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this episode of Awake at Night, Abou shares with Melissa Fleming his experiences from the ER wards of Chad, where the government is forced to share beds between the rebel forces. He also recounts the harrowing story of Irene, a victim of rape and violence in Liberia. Abou’s life-changing work is proof that, even in areas facing gross atrocities, we can see the good side of human nature.

“The one thing that we learn with complex emergencies is that the condition of the peoples is always the same. In Liberia, they have been fighting a war for more than 10 years... [but] ...if you meet the local population, as poor and as deprived as they may be, they still share a meal with you.”

mother cuddling toddler

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the crisis of care and learning. With the disruption of school, playdates with friends and other beloved routines, regressive behaviours (difficulty with skills your child had formerly mastered such as toilet training and sleeping, and difficulties managing their feelings of anger, sadness and anxiety) have become increasingly common. UNICEF spoke to Nancy Close, PhD, Associate Director of the Yale Program in Early Childhood Education, about what you may be experiencing with your children (from toddlers to university students) and how to – with kindness and understanding – get through it together.

girl standing behind other children wearing protective gear

Across virtually every key measure of childhood, progress has gone backward in the 12 months since the pandemic was declared, leaving children confronting a devastating and distorted new normal.The past year has seen an increase in children who have been left hungry, isolated, abused and anxious. The education of hundreds of millions of children has been disrupted. Access to protection services and health services – including routine vaccinations – has been severely impacted. The pandemic is also affecting young people’s mental health and pushing their families into poverty.

young woman in a school room

COVID-19: A threat to progress against child marriage warns that school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, despite significant reductions in several countries in recent years. In the last ten years, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had decreased by 15 per cent, a gain that is now under threat.

Promoting self-esteem and well-being, BTS is renewing their commitment to the LOVE MYSELF campaign in support of UNICEF’s work to end violence and neglect.

Installation at UN Headquarters in New York with 168 empty desks with UNICEF backpacks.

Schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed for almost an entire year due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Furthermore, around 214 million children globally – or 1 in 7 – have missed more than three-quarters of their in-person learning. A UNICEF report notes that 14 countries worldwide have remained largely closed. Two-thirds of those countries are in Latin America and the Caribbean, affecting nearly 98 million schoolchildren. UNICEF unveils ‘Pandemic Classroom’, calling to prioritise the reopening of schools.

Two girls skipping holding hands

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of children and their families across the globe. UNICEF is working with experts to promote facts over fear, bringing reliable guidance to parents, caregivers and educators, and partnering with front-line responders to ensure they have the information and resources they need to keep children healthy and learning. UNICEF is working around the clock to provide tips and guidance on everything from how to talk to children about COVID-19, to how to wash your hands properly, to advice for teenagers on how to protect their mental health.

Yemen. A small child is fed a nutrition bar.

Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, four United Nations agencies have warned. Of these, 400,000 are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition and could die if they do not receive urgent treatment. The agencies also warned that these were among the highest levels of severe acute malnutrition recorded in Yemen since the escalation of conflict in 2015. Malnutrition damages a child’s physical and cognitive development, especially during the first two years of a child’s life. It is largely irreversible, perpetuating illness, poverty and inequality. The humanitarian response remains critically underfunded. 

Portrait of Henrietta Fore with the writing: Reimagine the future for every child, Vaccines for all, Revolutionize learning, Invest in mental health, End discrimination, Address the climate crisis.

In this year’s open letter, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore explains how we can reimagine a better post-COVID world for every child. COVID-19 is the first truly global crisis we have seen in our lifetime. No matter where we live, the pandemic affects every person – children most of all. The world needs to rally behind a plan to protect our children – a promise from our generation to the next to invest in health and education, build more resilient systems and services that can reach all children, and ensure that budget cuts and economic downturns do not harm them.

illustration of person being attacked online

10 things teens want to know about cyberbullying.

girl jumping over tires

Juana plays outside at a shelter in Campur in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Juana is one of more than 900,000 children in Guatemala affected by the two hurricanes, which struck in quick succession and left landslides and massive flooding across the region. UNICEF has been working with the government, which has been developing a strategy for the opening of safe spaces—a challenge complicated by the ongoing risk of COVID-19. The strategy includes training volunteers on ‘Return to Joy’, a play-based approach culturally adapted to each community that uses child-to-child techniques to help children cope with upheaval.

child after storm in Mozambique

Children living in the affected areas, particularly those who have been displaced, could soon be at risk of contracting waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrheal infections. The powerful storm, which made landfall on 23 January, brought with it torrential rain and strong winds of up to 160 kilometers per hour, leaving a swath of damaged and destroyed houses, farmland and vital infrastructure in its wake. UNICEF’s emergency teams deployed to Beira before Cyclone Eloise hit and are currently helping to assess the damage to ensure a swift and effective relief operation.