Unicef: Attention to Afghanistan and global vaccine equity: the two challenges for children in 2022 | Future Planet

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Since the United States announced the withdrawal of its troops in Afghanistan, last April, the alerts jumped in all international organizations. The return to power of the Taliban, after more than 20 years, represented a clear setback for advances in gender, inequality, education and, ultimately, for the advancement of the rights of women and children, especially girls .

The Afghan population, mired in poverty, deep chaos and health collapse, sees 13 million children in urgent need of humanitarian aid and one million of them facing severe acute malnutrition. “It will be difficult to meet the needs in time if the donors put conditions that are too strict,” said David Hervé Ludovic de Lys, UNICEF representative in Afghanistan, who warned of the critical situation that the country would experience in the next six months, accompanied of the arrival of winter.

To try to alleviate this crisis, Unicef ​​on Tuesday launched the largest appeal for funds for Afghanistan that has been made in its history for a single country: 1,771 million euros. And he does it the same day that he announces the call Humanitarian Action for Children 2022, the annual request for funding to cover the needs that arise in emergencies around the world in which this UN body in defense of children works. “Millions of children suffer the effects of conflicts, extreme weather events and the climate crisis”, recalled in her presentation the executive director of Unicef, Henrietta Fore.

UNICEF launches the largest appeal for funds for Afghanistan in its history for a single country: 1,771 million euros

This is a collection that, for the third consecutive year, wants to become the most ambitious: 8,300 million euros to reach more than 327 million people, including 177 million minors affected by humanitarian crises and the covid -19 in the world. “Two years after the start of the pandemic, the situation of these children is getting worse due to faltering economies, growing poverty and increasing inequality. As always, those who are already immersed in crisis are the most affected and need urgent help ”, added Fore.

826 million euros will be allocated to the Accelerator of Access to Tools against covid-19 (ACT-A)

The substance of this call to face 2022 It is 31% higher than that already carried out last year, as humanitarian needs continue to increase, according to UNICEF in the same report. Climate change is one of the reasons that is aggravating the scale and intensity of emergencies, as the number of climate-related disasters has tripled in the last 30 years. Today, more than 400 million children live in areas of high or extremely high vulnerability to water sources.

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In addition to the deep crisis in Afghanistan, the world is witnessing the lack of equity in the distribution of vaccines between the global North and South, to which is added the new threat with the omicron variant two years after the start of the pandemic.

To try to address this inequality, 826 million euros will go to the Accelerator of Access to Tools against covid-19 (ACT-A, in its acronym in English), a philanthropic alliance that was born in March 2020, to make a global effort for the development, production and equitable access to tests, treatments and vaccines against covid-19, on which the Covax platform also depends. “As the pandemic continues to weigh on the education, health, nutrition and well-being of children, urgent help is needed to provide tools to help control it,” the report highlights.

In addition to these two great challenges, 805 million euros will be allocated to the refugees from Syria, a country that is still mired in a war that is going to turn 11 years old, and for Yemen, another of the great forgotten crises, they want to give a wide answer with almost 429 million euros.

These chronic tragedies are joined by new ones, such as the war in Ethiopia, where 15.6 million minors need humanitarian aid and the fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of them in the north. Almost 311 million euros will be needed to continue saving lives in the African country.

Migration, the other great challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean

The number of infants affected by migration in Latin America and the Caribbean could reach 3.5 million in 2022, 47% more compared to last year. “Never before have such a high number been seen,” warned Jean Gough, UNICEF’s regional director for the region. “Families carry their young children, sometimes babies, for thousands of kilometers, crossing almost the entire continent, in search of a better life. For more than a year, COVID-19 and strict lockdowns dragged them further into poverty and left them no choice but to emigrate. Many of them are alone during the trip and run the risk of being exposed to trafficking, exploitation, kidnapping, violence and even death ”.

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A girl waits in the port of Necoclí (Antioquia, northeast Colombia) to cross into the Darien jungle.
A girl waits in the port of Necoclí (Antioquia, northeast Colombia) to cross into the Darien jungle.Mendez | Unicef

In addition to Venezuela, a humanitarian emergency that will already enter the list for UNICEF in 2019 has been added as a priority, the Darien jungle pass, which stretches between Colombia and Panama: almost 30,000 children and adolescents, of which three out of four have not reached the age of five, have survived the treacherous journey through the jungle. The number of minors who crossed this border crossing in 2021 is greater than that of the previous four years combined. “Such a large flow is not a cross-border issue between two countries; It is a continental problem that requires a continental solution, ”Gough said.

To address the needs of migrant children, in addition to other assistance programs against violence, poverty and the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic in the region, 667 million euros are urgently sought, which would alleviate the situation of 14 million people.

The economic and social cost of closing schools

In addition to funds, one of the latest appeals made by Unicef, together with the World Bank and UNESCO, is the need to reopen schools as before the pandemic due to the economic and social cost that this prolonged closure will produce in future generations. .

According to the report The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Road to Recovery, Published this Monday by the three organizations, the generation of students that has suffered the ravages of covid-19 now risks losing 14% of the current world GDP -15.130 million euros-, as a result of the closure of schools. The new projection of this study reveals that the impact is more serious than previously thought, and far exceeds the estimates of almost 8.9 billion euros expected in 2020.

Furthermore, these calculations reveal that in low- and middle-income countries, the proportion of children living in learning poverty – which was already 53% before – could reach 70% due to long school closings and the ineffectiveness of distance learning to guarantee the full continuity of learning. “Now, 21 months later, schools remain closed for millions of children, and others may never return to the classroom. The learning loss that many are experiencing is morally unacceptable. And the possible increase in educational poverty could have a devastating impact on the future productivity, income and well-being of this generation of students, their families and the world’s economies, ”laments Jaime Saavedra, the Bank’s Global Director of Education. World.

Eight-year-old Ágata Melo conducts school activities at her home in Vigia, in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, in the Amazon region.
Eight-year-old Ágata Melo conducts school activities at her home in Vigia, in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, in the Amazon region.Luiz Marques / UNICEF

The analysis shows that in some countries, learning losses are roughly proportional to the duration of closures. However, there is great heterogeneity between countries and according to subject, students’ socioeconomic status and gender. For example, regional data for Brazil, Pakistan, India, South Africa, and Mexico, among others, show substantial setbacks in math and reading. Furthermore, the same experiment reveals that younger students, low-income students and girls were disproportionately affected. All this, added to the digital divide suffered by more than 200 million students living in low- and middle-income countries who are not prepared to pursue their education at a distance. “We must make children and youth a real priority amidst all the other demands of the response to the pandemic. Their future and our collective future depend on it ”, underlined Stefania Giannini, Unesco’s Deputy Director-General for Education.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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