Adolescents in Humanitarian Action

Adolescents, defined by the United Nations as all human beings ages 10-19 are a population group profoundly affected by any crisis, at tremendous risk of death, injury, and nonfulfillment of their rights to protection, education, and participation. They are the age group most often recruited by armed forces as child soldiers. They are the primary target for sexual violence and commercial sex, run a high risk of HIV/ AIDS infection and are most likely to be trafficked for exploitative labour. However, historically this age group has been the least reached with effective, relevant programmes and support, as humanitarian assistance has typically focused on the urgent survival needs of under-five children. Fewer interventions still have been addressed to adolescents' unique needs across subgroups - boys, girls, those with disabilities, those affected by fighting forces, those from marginalized ethnic groups or clans.

Adolescents have the potential to be assets for their families and communities in humanitarian contexts, and often find ways to use their energy and creativity to solve problems and contribute to positive possibilities, with and without support from UNICEF and other actors. They have the right to voicing their own priorities and interests in recovery and peacebuilding processes, and to contribute as actors and partners. In recent years UNICEF had expanded its capacity to reach, support and collaborate with adolescents as agents of positive change in humanitarian contexts. These efforts have included strengthening institutional knowledge of this age group and how they are affected by conflict and other emergencies, especially by consulting with adolescents from diverse groups and perspectives. UNICEF at the global level is also leveraging innovative, promising approaches that have been undertaken in the field, using those to develop new programme resources and tools to support country programmes initiating timely, effective programming response for adolescents at all stages of the humanitarian action cycle.