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Facts for Life
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Emergencies: preparedness and response

Why it is important to share and act on this information


Why it is important - All key messages - Resources

Emergencies such as conflicts, disasters or epidemics, expose families to risks that make them especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and violence. With the right information and support, families and communities can establish measures that map out what to do in an emergency.

Girls, boys and women typically are the most affected by emergencies. An estimated 26 million people were displaced by armed conflicts and violence in 2007. Each year, up to 50 million people are displaced due to disasters. Climate change could increase these numbers.

Displacement undermines families' livelihoods and social support mechanisms. This can lead to family separations and increase children's vulnerability to discrimination, abuse, violence, poverty and exploitation.

Conflict and disasters put children at risk of disease and malnutrition. Access to health services is reduced, and food shortages are common. Water can become scarce, especially when access is limited by overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. Children's access to education is often undermined, since schools are frequently targeted for attacks and abductions, and teachers and materials are in short supply. The risk of HIV transmission increases in such contexts.

In situations of conflict, girls and boys are particularly vulnerable to forced recruitment by armed forces and groups. Along with women, they are also at risk of abduction, trafficking and sexual violence, including rape.

Epidemics (or outbreaks) of diseases can be caused by emergencies or can by themselves cause an emergency. The emergency can arise because of the severe nature of the disease or the community's response to it.

A pandemic is a widespread, usually global, epidemic. An influenza pandemic results from a new influenza virus against which the population has little or no immunity. It can spread rapidly across the world and is recurrent and unpredictable. The youngest children, under 2 years of age, are particularly vulnerable to influenza and other infectious diseases.

Children and their family members have the right to protection and the information and support they may need to prepare for and cope with such complex situations.

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