Submitted by Audrey Oettli, IFRC
8 Sep 2021

Anticipatory Action and Child Protection: Acting Early to Better Protect Children in Emergencies

Acting early to prevent short-term and long-lasting life-threatening risks to children is a humanitarian imperative. Yet, resources and services to protect children in emergencies are lacking. Unlocking the potential of anticipatory humanitarian action to reduce the protection risks faced by children is essential and must be accelerated.

This image shows a woman and a child
Photo by IFRC/Johannes Chinchilla

Children represent a major portion of the population affected by emergencies. They are also at high risks of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Climate related disasters and other humanitarian crisis are a threat multiplier, exacerbating vulnerabilities. They add pressure on the protective systems, leaving families in desperate situations, and reducing children’s chances of shaping their own futures, as highlighted in the IFRC’s study “We Need To Do Better”.

However children’s voices are mostly unheard.

I don’t know where to share my concerns and ideas.

I would like to be prepared, understand what needs to be done

Kim An adolescent from South East Asia (1)

Children are still rarely consulted about their needs, the barriers they face, and the priorities they identify for their own survival, safety and development.  They are in fact  hardly asked about the solutions they envisage to address the problems that they face. This is especially the situation for children who are marginalized such as those living with disabilities, involved in labour or connected to the streets.

Although it is their right and in their direct interest, children seldom have their say in the decisions affecting them. Hence, they have little opportunities to be well informed and contribute to their community’s emergency preparation and response: “I would like to be prepared, understand what needs to be done” continues Kim.

Preventative actions can have a crucial impact in ensuring children’s rights and best interests.

In order to improve child protection in emergencies, the IFRC, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, and the Anticipation Hub, with the support of the Child Protection Area of Responsibility have developed a new Issue Brief exploring the links between anticipatory action and child protection.

“We need a transformative approach to counter the lack of attention, systems and inadequate investment in child protection” states Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary-General.

This Issue Brief stresses the urgency to prioritize child protection in anticipatory action, an area still largely unexplored and lacking investments.

For example, including child protection and education-related concerns as part of the anticipatory actions, triggers and indicators is essential to meet the needs of children in emergencies.

A man helps a child with homework
Photo by: Victor Lacken / IFRC

Anticipatory action, with a focus on acting prior to the impacts of a hazard lends itself to an increased focus on actions that seek to prevent child protection violations from occurring.

There is an opportunity to increase investment in preventative measures, alongside work on establishing safe, accessible and appropriate child protection services and mitigating child protection risks.

- explains Dr. Amjad Mohamed Saleem, IFRC Manager of the Protection, Gender & Inclusion team 

In addition, fostering coordination between local government authorities, youth-led and community-based organizations, United Nations, and Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies to jointly develop in-depth analyses of local child protection risks and drivers is necessary to establish relevant, and ideally joint, inter-agency early actions that can help protect children and safeguard their rights and access to essential public services at all times.

“Strong Child Protection coordination is critical to ensure that Child Protection targeted actions are integrated into anticipatory action approaches. Effective local coordination will allow for key actions to be agreed upon in advance, integrated into the protocols and effectively implemented by all the actors” details Ron Pouwels, the Coordinator for the Global Child Protection Area of Responsibility (CP AoR).

Other crucial actions often overlooked include understanding local laws, ensuring access and referrals to support services, building linkages between child protection and education and health sectors, having internal organizational child safeguarding systems, and evaluating responses with children’s leadership.

We need to do better to protect children and guarantee their rights in emergencies. By including child protection within anticipatory action and financing we can take proactive, locally coordinated steps that are driven by children’s own perspectives. By doing this we can improve prevention of and response to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children of diverse backgrounds right from when we forecast an emergency, we can also mitigate the consequences of the emergency on children’s equitable, safe and continued access to essential public services such as health and education.

A woman infront of several screens
Photo by: Alexia Webster / Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine

Issue Brief: Anticipatory Action and Child Protection

This issue brief addresses the opportunities to support the mainstreaming of child protection into anticipatory humanitarian action. It includes recommendations to stakeholders on how anticipatory humanitarian action can reduce risks to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation against children.

The issue brief is available in English, Spanish, Arabic and French.

Read issue briefs here

This blog was written by Audrey Oettli, IFRC and a version of this blog also appeared on

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1The name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.