In emergencies — whether rapid onset natural disaster or armed conflict — children are often separated from their families and caregivers in the commotion of survival and flight.
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These children have lost the care and protection of their families at the moment they need them most. Timing is critical, the longer a child is separated, the more difficult it is to locate their family and the more at risk the child becomes to violence, exploitation and abuse. Experience has shown that most separated children have parents or other family members that can be located through organized tracing activities. Accordingly, UNICEF works to reunite separated children with their parents, relatives or caregivers as quickly as possible, in coordination with government authorities and communities, and to also provide services for interim care. If arrangements for temporary care are required, UNICEF works to preserve family unity, including of siblings, which is consistent with the aim of family reunification, and children’s overall protection and well-being.
Together with governments, and UN and NGO partners, UNICEF actively works to prevent the risk of family separation through emergency preparedness in disaster prone countries, as well as through emergency response by: supporting vulnerable families with access to basic relief supplies and services; limiting and restricting the use of residential care options unless absolutely necessary; ensuring that medical evacuations of children are undertaken in such a way as to support the reunification of children with their families, and raising awareness among communities about the risks of family separation and the importance of preventive mechanisms.
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