Social Media Week London

The Impact Of Digital On UNICEF’s Emergency Response

W2O’s London #PreCommerce Summit

“For us, emergencies are digital” says Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF.  The ability to use digital technology has revolutionised UNICEF’s response to humanitarian emergencies.


UNICEF estimate that they have helped over 2 billion people, in 109 countries, since their inception at the end of the Second World War, through their work in child protection, survival, education and emergency response.  Their work is truly global in nature and the ability to leverage digital in three key areas has shaped their response to these humanitarian crises.

  1. Speed

The ability to move and mobilise resources as quickly as possible. The lifecycle of an emergency has accelerated beyond recognition with the adoption of digital technology. Emergencies are now brought to our attention through social media, through photos and videos taken by the people directed affected by the crisis and shared across the world in an instant.

UNICEF has responded to this accelerated cycle through its own nimble use of their digital assets.  Within hours of an emergency, local offices have begun resource mobilisation in a way that, even five years ago, would have been impossible. Teams rely on this rapid ability to update their websites, place paid media on social and activate their networks whilst news of the emergency is still fresh. 90% of funds raised are now online with most of the money coming within the first 48 hours of a crisis, showing how critical this speed has become to their fundraising activities.

  1. Extend influence and reach

UNICEF has become a pioneer in its work with celebrity ambassadors to raise awareness of humanitarian issues. They are able to leverage the huge social following of ambassadors, such as David Beckham, to reach hundreds of millions of people worldwide. This has allowed UNICEF to reach more people than ever before, reaching into their lives, delivering news about a humanitarian crisis happening in real time.

  1. Authenticity

Digital technology gives UNICEF staff on the ground the ability to tell the authentic stories of the people affected by a disaster, directly to their supporters’ digital media feeds. Crucially, UNICEF staff are able to visualise these stories through images and video providing that emotional context so vital to raising funds.

Having helped children in over 300 emergencies in the last 12 months, UNICEF is uniquely placed to continue to lead the way in their use of digital technology to impact on social change.


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