More than 29 million babies born into conflict in 2018

Source: UN Children's Fund
Country: Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, World, Yemen

Armed violence across the world meant that more than one in five babies often spent their earliest moments in deeply unsafe and highly stressful environments.
UNICEF calls for increased support for parents forced to raise their babies and young children in conflict-affected areas

NEW YORK, 20 September 2019 – More than 29 million babies were born into conflict-affected areas in 2018, UNICEF said today.

Armed violence across countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen meant that, throughout last year, more than 1 in 5 babies globally spent their earliest moments in communities affected by the chaos of conflict, often in deeply unsafe, and highly stressful environments.

“Every parent should be able to cherish their baby’s first moments, but for the millions of families living through conflict, the reality is far bleaker,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "In countries around the world, violent conflict has severely limited access to essential services for parents and their babies. Millions of families lack access to nutritious food, safe water, sanitation, or a secure and healthy environment to grow and bond. Along with the immediate, obvious dangers, the long-term impacts of such a start in life are potentially catastrophic.”

When young children experience prolonged or repeated adverse and traumatic events, the brain’s stress management system is activated without relief causing ‘toxic stress’. Over time, stress chemicals break down existing neural connections and inhibit new ones from forming, leading to lasting consequences for children’s learning, behaviour, and physical and mental health.

Examples of the impact of conflict on babies and young children – given by UNICEF staff working in conflict zones – include:

“Some of the young children we see shake with fear, uncontrollably, for hours on end. They don’t sleep. You can hear them whimpering, it’s not a usual cry but a cold, weak whimper. Others are so malnourished and traumatized they detach emotionally from the world and people around them, causing them to become vacant and making it impossible for them to interact with their families,” UNICEF worker in Yemen.

“My son, five-year-old Heraab, finds himself in a community where he is constantly exposed to the sounds of explosions, smell of smoke, accompanied by the regular shrieking of sirens, be it police or ambulance, or the persistent honking of cars and motorbikes rushing the injured to hospital. He shudders and wakes up at night if a truck passes by with speed, sometimes shaking the windows of our house, thinking it must be another attack,” UNICEF worker in Afghanistan.

“Some of the children are scared and look very anxious, others are very aggressive. They are frightened of visitors and flee when they see visiting vehicles coming. The cars remind them of fighting, war weaponry they need to flee from,” UNICEF worker in Somalia.

“I’ve travelled to the hardest to reach areas of South Sudan to help provide humanitarian assistance to children who have been forced to flee their villages because of violence. With no basic services, no health facilities, poor sanitation, no food, and deep-set trauma, families struggle to survive. I see despair in the eyes of the children I meet. The conflict has taken away their childhood,” UNICEF worker in South Sudan.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which, among other things, governments pledged to protect and care for children affected by conflict. Yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children. Hospitals, health centres and child-friendly spaces – all of which provide critical services to parents and babies – have come under attack in conflicts around the world in recent years.

Providing safe spaces for families and their young children living through conflict – where children can use play and early learning as outlets for some of the trauma they have experienced; and providing psychosocial support to children – and their families – are critical parts of UNICEF’s humanitarian response.

When caregivers are given the support they need to cope with and process trauma, they have the best possible chance of providing their young children with the nurturing care needed for healthy brain development – acting as a ‘buffer’ from the chaos around them.

“Parents who interact with their babies can help shield them from the negative neurological effects of conflict. Yet, in times of conflict, parents are frequently overwhelmed,” said Fore. “Ultimately what these families need is peace, but until then they desperately need more support to help them and their children cope with the devastation they face – 29 million new lives and futures depend on it.”

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Notes to Editors:

Methodology: Estimate is based on projections using UN-DESA, 2019, “2019 Revision of World Population Prospects” accessed at https://population.un.org/wpp/, filtered for conflict-affected areas based on population density projections published by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network - CIESIN - Columbia University. 2018. Gridded Population of the World, Version 4 (GPWv4): Population Count, Revision 11. Palisades, NY: NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). https://doi.org/10.7927/H4JW8BX5, and data on “organized violence” incidents (including state-based armed conflict, non-state conflict, and one-sided violence) from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) Georeferenced Event Dataset (GED) https://ucdp.uu.se/downloads/#d3; and for countries where no UCDP-GED data existed, drawing on data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED); acleddata.com, screened for “political violence” events with fatalities, all using the definition of conflict zones/areas impacted by conflict consistent with the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) definition as “areas within 50km from where one or more conflict incidents takes place in a given year, within the borders of a country”. See definitions in Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University: http://pcr.uu.se/research/ucdp/definitions/ (all websites as accessed 09-09-2019).

Media Contacts

Georgina Thompson
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 238 1559
Email:gthompson@unicef.org

Joe English
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 893 0692
Email: jenglish@unicef.org


HLA inaugurates new Advisory Group

HLA announces the creation of a new Advisory Group to support the delivery of its core mission.

The group is composed of distinguished professionals with deep knowledge of the humanitarian logistics sector, including many who have been closely involved with the work of HLA over the years. They are:

Andrew Parkes, Global Operations Manager, Malaria Consortium

Nick Murdoch, Independent Logistics & Supply Chain Consultant

Will Holden, Managing Director Emergency Logistics Team, CMILT

Martijn Blansjaar, Head of Supply and Logistics, OXFAM GB

Jane Tikhwi Muyundo, Castelbarco Capacity Building Consultants

Stuart Smith, Global Director, Humanitarian, Volga Dnepr Group

Neil Rodrigues, Director Global Supply Chain, International Medical Corps

Jarrod Goentzel, Director, MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab

Michael C. Whiting, independent humanitarian logistics consultant

Ilse Larkin, independent humanitarian logistics professional and guest lecturer at University of Cranfield

John Cropper, Lead, Program Management and Humanitarian, Humentum

Frank Clary, VP Sustainability, Agility Logistics

The first meeting of the newly-constituted board took place on May 30, 2019 where they discussed among other things the draft HLA strategy, and the new ‘HLA Connect’ – which is an enhanced web platform which aims to make it less challenging for stakeholders to engage with the humanitarian logistics (HL) sector, and other related humanitarian initiatives / activities.

The group will meet remotely every two months, with the next call scheduled for the end of July.

“I am immensely pleased that HLA has now been able to launch a new advisory group to help steer the organisation through the implementation of its latest three-year strategy. HLA is extremely grateful to the members that have joined the group; they bring a broad range of expertise and wealth of experience. Their commitment to supporting the aims of the HLA and to building humanitarian logistics as a recognised sector is hugely important.” George Fenton, Chief Executive, HLA


HLA joined NCVO

HLA joined UK National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in November 2018 as a member organization. NCVO acts as the major connector in the volunteer sector. NCVO promotes volunteerism and serves the organizations that recruit volunteers, as well as volunteers themselves. Since HLA’s team consists of some volunteers at different levels of expertise, joining NCVO will help the organization in volunteer performance assessment and management. Apart from being a platform for volunteers and non-profit organizations to connect and network with one another, NCVO provides a wealth of learning materials for professional development of volunteers and their associated organizations on its website. Its wide range of training courses covers topics tailor made for trustees, board of directors, volunteers’ supervisors, fundraisers, advocacy officers, campaigners and financiers. For more details on what NCVO has to offer, you can visit their website: www.ncvo.org.uk