A Last Mile Lifeline as UNICEF and KOICA Partner to Shield Children from Climate Shocks

A historic $39 million grant tackles the climate crisis head-on, empowering vulnerable children.

The partnership complements UNICEF’s emergency response to El Niño in Zimbabwe, aiding 1.34 million people.

Staff Writer

Harare, Zimbabwe – In a bid to develop climate-smart and gender-responsive social services for children amid a global climate change crisis, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) have signed a historic US$39 million climate grant.

This landmark collaboration, titled “Climate Action for the Last Mile: Reaching the Most Vulnerable Children,” aims to empower children on the frontlines of climate change by strengthening essential services in the most disaster-prone regions.

The three-year partnership will focus on East Asia and Pacific nations like Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste, alongside Comoros and Zimbabwe in Eastern and Southern Africa.

These countries were strategically chosen based on KOICA’s commitment to supporting vulnerable nations and aligning with the Korean government’s focus on bridging the gaps between humanitarian aid, development, and peacebuilding efforts.

“UNICEF is grateful to the government and the people of the Republic of Korea for their support for children on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “KOICA’s climate funding will help build community resilience and ensure that children have access to essential services and supplies like healthcare, education, water, and food, even when climate-related disasters strike.”

The urgency of this initiative is underscored by the alarming statistics. In East Asia and the Pacific, children today face six times more climate disasters compared to their grandparents. Similarly, Eastern and Southern Africa battle environmental degradation due to changing climates, leading to displacement and jeopardising access to basic needs.

With this grant, UNICEF and KOICA are sending a powerful message. As highlighted by George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Director of Programme Group Leadership Team, “This partnership is a major step in the right direction.”

The US$39 million investment, with a larger allocation towards East Asia and the Pacific, signifies a critical step towards a more sustainable future where children can thrive despite the challenges of climate change.

“KOICA’s climate grant will help UNICEF strengthen the climate resilience of essential service systems to protect children and communities, as the selected regions in Asia and Africa are among the most disaster-prone and vulnerable in the world,” noted Jungmee Sohn, KOICA Vice President. “The Government of the Republic of Korea, under its vision of a global pivotal state, is committed to leading the world on a sustainable path, pro-actively tackling the climate and environmental crises head-on.”

The grant has been agreed upon at a time when UNICEF has just issued an urgent appeal for USD 84.9 million to fund its emergency response aimed at assisting children and women affected by the El Nino crisis in Zimbabwe.

This funding will provide life-saving interventions to 1.34 million people, including 866,000 children, amidst exacerbated water and food shortages.

Zimbabwe is experiencing an El Nino emergency that is severely impacting children under five years, pregnant and lactating women, and adolescents. The challenges created by El Nino in Zimbabwe come at a time when the country is also faced with public health emergencies related to cholera and polio, putting Zimbabwe into a complex, multi-dimensional humanitarian crisis.

The El Nino-induced drought is increasing households’s poverty and vulnerability and the risk of school dropouts, violence, abuse, and exploitation against children.

In March of this year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the El Nino-induced drought a national disaster and appealed for US$2 billion to tackle hunger caused by low rainfall, which has wiped out about half of the maize crop.

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