How far would you go to make a child smile?

Humanitarian workers are at the heart of everything we achieve for children at UNICEF. They work in some of the world’s most remote and dangerous places. But no matter the challenges, we’re always there for children.  
 
Find out what it takes to be one of UNICEF’s humanitarian heroes.

 

Would you work from a cold bunker to protect children forced to flee their homes?


Australian James Elder is no stranger to sheltering in bunkers or walking for hours in the freezing cold.  As a UNICEF spokesperson, James is on the frontlines of some of the world’s biggest emergencies to tell children’s stories. 

Most recently he was in Ukraine and neighbouring countries where our teams are providing life-saving support to families forced to flee. Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have been forced to leave their homes, with many families separated along their journey.

 
"Encounters with people who I would
otherwise never have met keep me going.
UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder plays with 15-month-old Artur at an air-raid shelter in Lviv, western Ukraine. Fleeing for the second time, Artur's family hope to cross the border. © UNICEF/UN0599258/Golinchenko

“I spent a lot of time at the train station in the border just talking to people trying to get a sense of what was going on,” says James, about his arrival in Ukraine at the beginning of the war.  

“Everywhere I'd look was husbands and wives in this final embrace because husbands stay, they're not allowed to leave.”  

“Then dad trying to explain, sitting down with a seven-year-old daughter, that you're leaving and I'm staying. Parents are really strong.”  
 

Despite all the horror and heartbreak, our teams have been working for children from the very start of this war – from the frontlines to the borders.  

UNICEF has delivered emergency supplies to hospitals, shelters, train stations and schools. We have trucked in safe water for more than 1 million people. We have reached children with life-saving health care and education.  

We are always there for children, no matter what. Learn more about our work in emergencies here.
UNICEF emergency specialist Joseph Adiomo is offloading buckets from the boat in flooded Verteth. The buckets will be used for water purification. Another member from the outreach team is carrying dignity kits for women. © UNICEF/UNI375691/Ryeng


Would you wade through floodwaters to deliver life-saving supplies?  


Nothing stopped our team from reaching these children and families with supplies – not even waist-high flood water.  

In September 2020, flooding affected more than 600,000 people across three states in South Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes and escape to higher ground.  

Joseph Adiomo, UNICEF Emergency Specialist, made sure the supplies were distributed evenly between the boats to reach the town of Verteh along the Pibor river.  
UNICEF Emergency Specialist Joseph Adiomo hands a water kit to a woman affected by the flooding. © UNICEF/UNI375874/Ryeng

Families were provided with water kits – vital in the aftermath of a disaster to create safe drinking water. The kit contains water purification powder, a bucket for the purification process, a cloth for filtering the purified water and a collapsible jerrycan for safe storage of the water.  
 
When emergency strikes, UNICEF teams can deliver supplies to children and families within 48 hours. We won’t stop until we reach every child in need.  


Would you cross rivers to keep children safe from
deadly disease? 


You may think polio has been banished to the history books but that is not the case in The Gambia. In August 2021, the West African country declared a public health emergency after non-wild variants of polio were detected.  

These health care workers are determined to prevent another outbreak. They are boarding a boat to reach children on Jinak Island who would otherwise go unprotected.  
 
Health care workers board a boat to bring life-saving polio vaccines to children on Jinak Island, The Gambia. © UNICEF/UN0624137
 
On the other side of the River Gambia, the health team arrive to a rapturous welcome. Local musician Takatti has been drumming up support for vaccines – literally. 

Days before the polio vaccination rollout, the 60-year-old walked up and down the streets of villages, playing his drums and using his UNICEF-provided megaphone to encourage parents to vaccinate their children.  

“Families hear myths and rumours and get concerned about vaccines,” says Takatiti, who has been visiting communities in the region with health workers for almost four decades.   

“Because they already know and trust me, I try my best to give them accurate information and clear their doubts.” 

“It is my job to let people know this truth, without offending them, and encourage them to vaccinate their kids.” 
Takatiti, a town crier and community mobiliser, informs people via music about the polio vaccination campaign in The Gambia. © UNICEF/UN0624019/

Thanks to thousands of health workers and community influencers like Takatiti, our teams have helped to reach more than 380,000 children aged five years and under with polio vaccines. 

At UNICEF, we do whatever it takes to reach children with life-saving support. Learn more about our work in emergencies here.  

 

Would you enter a conflict zone to treat children with malnutrition? 


Our team go wherever children need us most – even if that means entering a war zone.  

Since November 2020, conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia has restricted humanitarian aid to the region. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. Living in crowded camps, children and families urgently needed food, shelter and clean water. 

As soon as access eased in 2021, our teams were there to provide much-needed support. 

In Wajira, the area was inaccessible for almost eight months, with children and families facing severe food insecurity and malnutrition. Dr. Muhammad Is-haq Khan, Health Specialist with UNICEF Ethiopia, explains the challenges of those most in need.  
UNICEF Nutrition Specialist and Emergency Response Team member Joseph Senesie (in blue) provides emergency food supplies for severely malnourished mother and children in Tigray, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/UN0494320/Nesbitt

“Delivering supplies is a challenge – the only route there is now closed, which has caused some of the delay in our response,” says Dr. Muhammad. 

“When we first got access to the region, we found that few of the health centres were functional, and many health workers had been displaced.” 

The first step was to reach children and families with health care through mobile health teams. We also helped to restore health facilities that had been damaged because of the conflict.  

Families were happy to receive supplies after struggling for months. Our teams distributed dignity kits, soaps, jerry cans, health kits and ready-to-use therapeutic food to treat malnutrition.  

 

UNICEF Ethiopia health Specialist Dr. Muhammad Is-haq Khan (centre wearing a black UNICEF t-shirt), takes a break from his duties to help a vendor (right) by selling fresh watermelon in Tigray, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/UN0494326/Nesbitt


When emergency strikes, UNICEF can deliver life-saving help to children in just 48 hours to more than 190 countries. 

Our teams respond to hundreds of emergencies every year. When disaster strikes, we act quickly to: 

  • Deliver essential medical supplies to prevent malnutrition and illness.  
  • Help new mothers give birth safely and protect their newborns.  
  • Protect children from deadly disease outbreaks.  
  • Supply life-saving clean, safe water to children in crisis.  
  • Keep children in school and safe from violence.  
  • Provide psychosocial support for children and families. 

Your donations help our teams to act quickly, whenever and wherever needed. Help UNICEF humanitarians deliver life-changing supplies and bring a smile to a child’s face.
 

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